Breaking Bad 5.5 – Dead Freight

“Out burying bodies?”

What better place to look for creepy tarantulas to take home than the New Mexico desert? That’s certainly what the kid on the dirt bike in our opening scene thinks. After he’s caught his new pet, he gets on the bike to head home. In the distance, a train whistle blows. Fade to credits.

What this all means is a mystery. Maybe David Lynch directed this episode, who knows.

Hank’s settling into his new office as Lord God Emperor of Drug Enforcement when who should come for a visit but Walt. Hank is surprised but not necessarily in a bad way. After Hank admires Walt’s new watch (“as long as you’ve got the money to spend”) and asks after Skyler (“as long as she’s all right on her own”), Walt gets down to business. He confesses that Skyler doesn’t love him anymore and thinks he’s a bad father. Of course, he neglects to mention WHY she thinks that. When he starts to cry and grabs at Hank’s hand in distress, those are more than enough feels to drive Hank out of the room on a coffee run to give Walt a minute to pull himself together. Interestingly, Walt does need a moment to take a breath and wipe his eyes. Perhaps he still has enough humanity to be honestly ashamed of what his wife thinks of him. Tears aside, after Hank departs he wastes no time in getting to what he’s really doing there: planting a couple of bugs in Hank’s office. Not nice! Yet so smart!

The bugs come in very handy when they kidnap Lydia and force her to call Hank and tell him how she discovered the tracker on the barrel of methelmine. When they then overhear Hank double-check with Gomez to make sure his team didn’t plant it, that’s all the proof Mike (and Walt) needs to decide to kill Lydia with his Merciless Pistol o’ Doom, very much over Jesse’s objections. At the last second they hear Hank figure out it was some other department who planted the tracker – good thing for Lydia he’s such a smarty pants. Mike still wants to kill Lydia regardless, and when pressed for a reason admits with chagrin that she ordered a hit on him. “Like the mafia?” Jesse asks, shocked. Lydia knows she’s bargaining for her life when she starts to babble about an ocean of methelmine she can access for them. They’re listening.

This gives Walt and Lydia their first chance to go head to head as Walt decides whether to trust her or not. They’re both wily, high strung and over-confident; they’re perfect for each other. I’d call their meeting a draw; Lydia lives and Walt gets his methelmine information. As it turns out, part of Lydia’s job is tracking shipments of chemicals from China to their warehouse. Part of the journey includes a cross-country train ride right in their back yard, through the desert. All they’d have to do is rob the freight train in a certain spot that’s a communication dead zone. It’s a good idea, but Mike points out that the only way it would work is if they kill the two guys manning the train: “I’ve done this long enough to know there are two kinds of heists…those that get away with it and those that leave witnesses.” That’s definitely enough talk of murder for Jesse to need to use his inhaler. He’s never going to get over shooting Gale, is he? Lydia is disgusted at his reluctance. “I thought you were professionals,” she snaps, and by professionals she means soulless killers. Not quite yet, my dear.

Uncle Hank is taking care of baby Holly, and aren’t they the cutest couple EVER. I’m sure both he and Marie are thinking about what might have been for them as they enjoy the hell out of having an adorable little baby in their lives. Not so much Walt Jr., or as Hank likes to call him, Emo McGee. Ha! Jr. spends his days angrily shut up in their spare bedroom, unable to understand what’s happening between his parents. Ah, teenagers who are obviously 25 in real life.

Back at the Ponderosa, Mike and Walt are at each others’ throats yet again. Mike doesn’t want to do the stupid train heist, he wants Walt and Jesse to make a lower-grade meth using cold pills. After all, making less money is better than making no money. Walt reminds him that the only reason they’re making less money is because of having to pay for the silence of Mike’s stooges. And they’re at it again. As Jesse anxiously plays with the straw in his Big Gulp as mom and dad fight, he gets a brilliant idea – for the second time, I might add. He does his best work under emotional duress, doesn’t he?

So this is what they decide to do: bury two huge tanks underground, one filled with water, the other empty. They’ll get the train to stop and while it’s stationary they steal a thousand gallons of methelmine and replace it with the same amount of water so nobody will know it’s been taken. And once someone figures out the shipment is diluted, the finger will point to the manufacturers in China. Foolproof! So why am I so uneasy?

They get Todd (the eager beaver from the extermination company they’re using as a cover) to help with the job. They’re uncertain of Todd’s loyalty or intelligence, so they make sure to impress upon him the fact this robbery has to be kept a secret – nobody but them can ever know about it. But Todd is smart and anxious to prove himself as an obedient and capable member of the team. He’s even a brown-noser, which is always appealing. “Damn, you guys thought of everything>/i>,” he gushes to Walt and Jesse, and they admittedly preen a little.

Walt Jr.’s mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore. He’s come home and locked himself in his room until somebody tells him what’s really going on. Skyler is patiently knocking on his door (and calling him Flynn, remember that?), trying to talk to him without upsetting him further. Walt comes home, takes one look at the situation and…handles it. He firmly orders Jr. to open his door. When he does, Walt doesn’t try to endlessly explain the situation and reason with him. He simply says they’re the parents and they know what’s best and Jr. is damn well going to listen to them because that’s how these things work. He’s so calm and commanding that Jr. does what he’s told and goes back to his aunt and uncle’s without an argument. Funnily (and tragically) enough, becoming Heisenberg has made Walt a more effective father.

Yeah, Skyler doesn’t think that’s very funny, either. She tells Walt that if she’s going to be his hostage, she’ll be his perfect partner in crime as long as the kids are away from the house in case some bad guy comes to kill them all one of these nights. Walt very reluctantly agrees to her terms; she’s already bouncing back to her old strong-headed, it seems. I know a lot of people don’t like Skyler, but I think she’s a good foil for Walt and is really his only reminder that he’s now a monster. She’s not ever going to allow him to think that his drug making, people killing new life is simply a smart career choice. She notices the dirt on his pants. “Out burying bodies?” she sneers. “Robbing a train,” he corrects.

As soon as Lydia gives them the all-clear, the guys snap into action. They get Saul’s buddy Kuby (the one who fast-talked Bogdan the old car wash owner so effectively way back when) to drive a dump truck over the tracks and pop the hood as if it’s broken down. So far so good. Mike keeps watch from a distance as Walt, Jesse, and Todd prepare themselves underneath the train trestle. As planned, the train stops and the engineer and conductor hop out to give the truck diver a helping hand. As soon as they’re sufficiently distracted, Mike give the all-clear for them to start stealing the methelmine. Yay! It’s a mad dash for Jesse to fill the tank with methelmine as Todd empties the other tank of water back into the tanker before the train gets moving again. It’s going perfectly to plan…at least until a good Samaritan in a big old four by four arrives and offers to push the dump truck off the tracks. Um.

He can’t very well say no, so off the tracks it goes, while Mike grimly warns Walt that they’re now officially out of time. Walt wants that tank full, not almost full, so he holds off giving Todd and Jesse the signal to stop until the train is literally in motion. In fact, he cuts it so tight that Todd has to leap from a moving train and Jesse has to lie on the tracks to prevent the train from squishing him as it rolls over him. Damn! But in the end, they get their full tank of methelmine, the train guys are none the wiser, and they’re back in business. As Jesse so eloquently puts it, “Yeah, bitch!” They’re screaming and laughing and back slapping, celebrating the fact they got away with their bad-ass plan. It’s a wonder the theme from Rocky doesn’t start playing.

It’s all perfect. Perfect! And that’s when they notice the kid on his dirt bike with his tarantula jar, who has witnessed the entire crime. Trust me, that puts a stop to the celebration. The three of them stare at him, shocked and aghast. They all know what he is: a witness who’s a little kid. A truly innocent bystander who knows much too much. Jesse and Walt freeze, anguished confusion on their faces. What the hell are they supposed to do now? Jesse’s probably already hatching a plan to tie up the kid, threaten him, pay him off, rough him up, scare the shit out of him to ensure his silence. But before anyone can say anything, the boy waves uncertainly at them. Todd waves back – then pulls out a gun and shoots the kid dead without even flinching, just like Walt and Jesse wanted. Didn’t they say as much before? It seems Skyler’s guess as to what they were up to in the desert has turned into a tragic prediction. In the end, young Todd turns out to be the professional where Walt and Jesse are mere amateurs when it comes to breaking bad. As you might imagine, Jesse screams, “No! No! No!” as his soul breaks into a million little pieces. Shit just got real.

As gorgeous as this episode was (one the prettiest ever, I’d say), it was also the darkest. If Jesse or Walt had any pretensions left that they were somehow good guys thrust into the world of bad guys, they’re long gone now. Remember when Jesse told Walt that he knows what he is in the grand scheme of things – one of the bad guys? He was kidding himself. NOW he truly understands what that means.

And let’s get it straight that Vince Gilligan is a genius. How long did he plan this entire plot out, and how many clues did he leave for us in earlier episodes that this is where we’d end up? My favourite: when Walt coldly declared that “nothing stops this train. Nothing.” Brilliant foreshadowing which is even more satisfying in retrospect.