Breaking Bad [5.01, "Live Free or Die"]
[Ryan Douvlos (@rdouvy on Twitter), a great friend and fellow fan, will be joining me on these Season 5 recaps. Welcome to the Family! Parts of this conversation were edited for clarity]
MZ: So your ricin cigarette made an appearance.
RD: Yep. Suspected it would. Most important part of the episode is what’s behind that picture.
MZ: I think it was an address to an offshore bank account. Like Cayman islands. But it could be anything. What was the crucial scene for you?
RD: Aside from what i’ve just mentioned, the flash-forward. Walt was 52 and had a new last name — Lamberg. In the back of the vehicle he had purchased in the bathroom was an M-4 with plenty of ammunition. It’s apparent that Walt has unlimited disposable cash, as he tipped the waitress $100.
MZ: I thought that was the Big Scene. At least a year later — Walt’s birthday contrasted with the pilot where he eats veggie bacon. The waitress says “Free is always good,” which obviously means a number of things for Walt, who appears to be on the lam. (Lamberg?) In addition, we got a peak at the placemat underneath his breakfast and it was a bright pink milkshake — matching the color of the infamous teddy bear. I’m assuming that was deliberate. My favorite thing about that scene was how long they lingered on the breakfast plate before showing anything else. That happened one other time in the episode — Skyler visiting Ted in the hospital. We see her reaction and it’s pretty devastating to watch. I thought that scene was particularly heartbreaking. How about you?
RD: Very sad scene. We see the relationship between Ted and Skyler still exists on some level, as he tells her that he said the trip and fall was an accident and that he’s not going to say anything. I’m not sure the milkshake symbolizes the teddy bear. I realize that the teddy bear is thematic in that it displayed the grief and tragedy Walt had caused those around him earlier, and also that the half-burned, one-eyed teddy bear also symbolized Gus, but i’m not sure the meaning and importance of it is much deeper than that.
MZ: I agree that the milkshake is not a symbol. I was merely pointing out that it’s probably a deliberate reference. Walt will not be killed by a milkshake or anything. The interesting thing about Ted’s scene and all of these people connected to Walt is that we’re starting to see casualties of Walt’s business. Obviously there have been serious ones in the past, but the death and pain is creeping into his family and into his loved ones. That scene where Skyler and Walt Jr. come home is arresting because we are all thinking about the fact that Walt is a genuine murderer and Bryan Cranston plays Walt with so much kindness towards his daughter and wife. And there’s absolutely no music or street sound or anything in that scene. The calm that has washed over Walt and his family is still filled with some deep anxieties. Also, since we know that opening scene is so far in the future and Walt is at such a low point, we’re allowed to enjoy all of this season — even the triumphs — without worrying that Walt won’t get to some desperate position again. The shape of this episode was particularly nice, I thought. Calm, but still caper-esque.
RD: ”The calm that has washed over Walt and his family is still filled with some deep anxieties.” Absolutely, Skyler said it herself that she is scared of Walt.
MZ: Not only her. Saul is as well. And Mike is only working with him because they’re both in the same deep shit. And his relationship with Jesse is based on a string of increasingly serious lies. The function of all of that — the scenes with Skyler/Walt and Saul/Walt — seems to show that Walt is enjoying and feeding on his new power and control. He is victorious. He just outsmarted his mortal enemy. He’s hungry
RD: Saul absolutely. That was the first time that we see Walt threaten Saul in a way. Usually, Walt is begging Saul for help. The tables have turned, and Walt has pulled Saul down with him. Everyone, for that matter. You’re wrong about mike. Mike still has trust for Walt and Jessie and that’s important. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have participated in their stunt. He would have skipped town and not looked back. He trusts Walt and that’s why the three of them will continue to have a fruitful relationship.
MZ: Are you joking? Were you in the bathroom when he was about 2 feet from filling Walt with bullets? “Because I say so?” in the car. That was sincere. Every scene that they had together was a standoff. The only way they got Mike into that gig was because Walt told him that he’d be on that footage as well. Mike isn’t a stupid person. The only reason Walt isn’t dead right now is because Jesse hopped between them and Walt said that they’d both get caught. If we just disagree, that’s fine; but I think the audience is supposed to understand that Mike is not with Walt on anything.
RD: I agree that there is serious friction between Walt and Mike, but all I am saying is he trusts him enough to work with him. Even if it is to save his ass.
MZ: That said, what did you think of the whole caper sequence — the three of them wrecking the evidence — ?
RD: It didn’t quite go according to plan. The truck was left behind. That’s bad for several reasons — the possibility of fingerprints, being led back to the junkyard, et cetera. Did Walt have gloves on? Because they zoomed in on the device Walt used to increase the magnet.
MZ: It seemed to me that they were being pretty careful. And Walt was confident about not leaving things behind. The fuckup seems to have been that they revealed the Cayman bank account in the picture inadvertently. Finally, what do you make of this premiere in terms of the future of the series? Breaking Bad premieres have had pretty complex and interesting relationships with their ultimate context in the past. Any predictions?
RD: An obvious prediction would be that he called the guy Saul recommended that could make him “disappear.” So my only prediction is that Hank finds out – and Hank finding out means everyone finds out. He’s not going to be a little bitch and flee unless he gets caught, somehow.
MZ: He does need a machine gun for whatever trouble he’s in.
RD: Serious trouble if he’s not with his family on his birthday.
MZ: Good point. I absolutely agree that Hank will find out. That’s always needed to happen. He’s also taking some medication during that intro. Do you think his cancer could be back?
RD: Yep! he coughed. He took medication and the cough came back, which was gone for, what, 2 seasons? Did you notice that he put that poisonous flower in his car? It’s still in there.
MZ: That cough! Haven’t heard it since the end of Four Days Out, the great episode in season 2. And yes, the lily of the valley is laying right next to a garbage bag full of all of his bomb-making, Gus killing chem lab equipment.
We’re in for a great season. First episode delivered with some great suspense and excellent form. Perfectly ambiguous introduction that sets the stage just as well as we’re used to. And that chilling final line and telling look from Skyler. It’ll only be getting better if the show follows its standard trajectory. Thanks for joining us on the recaps! See you next week.