Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 6 Peekaboo / 7 Negro y Azul


Just when you think, "Oh, it's the middle of the season and Breaking Bad will serve up a dud soon," we get another stunner of an episode, each minute more gripping than the last, further exploring these characters we've come to know and the world they've created.

Vince Gilligan masterfully strings viewers along, as Jesse is sent to retrieve drugs and/or money from Spooge and his woman before running into trouble. In true Breaking Bad fashion, things just don't work out as they should. First, Jesse shows up to their house, gun drawn, and is prepared to do whatever it takes. But they aren't there. Instead, there is a small child whose non-reaction to everything sums up how he's been brought up by these druggies. Jesse gets the jump on Spooge when they return and Spooge begins cracking open an ATM to repay Jesse. Of course, the tables are quickly turned when Jesse pays a little too much attention to the kid. As quickly as that happens, though, Spooge gets ahead of himself, calling his woman "skank" one too many times and gets his head squashed by the ATM.

There is some levity afterwards, cash pumping out of the ATM at Jesse's feet, but it's a terrifying experience overall, much like the earlier captivity by Tuco. Spooge and his woman are disturbing to the fullest degree--how they look, how they act--not to mention the wake of dead bodies they left behind at the store. The cinematography, with the green lights shining into the house, works wonders, making Spooge and his woman look scarier than they already are.

Through all of this, Jesse comes off as a sympathetic guy (in contrast to Walt). He makes sure to keep the kid safe, feeds him, and even entertains him. Jesse has to realize that selling drugs isn't exactly helping the kid's situation. But at the end of the day, Jesse has to walk away and not turn back. Shit happens in the world and you gotta move on.

Possibly more disturbing is Walt in the episode. I'm not sure anyone could be supportive of him at this point. He's a real asshole. There is a mean bitterness to him now, the feeling that he deserves what he wants and that he is always in the right. Coupled with his lies, Walt becomes this unrecognizable creature who is almost as despicable as Tuco was. His worst moment comes when he's talking to Gretchen about the situation, trying to explain why he lied to his wife about receiving money from her and her husband. His statement: I'm very, very, very, very sorry, but I won't tell you why. When she pushes him further, he strikes back, unleashing all his resentment on her and blaming her for everything. The most telling moment is when Gretchen explains the situation--that Walt was the one who abandoned her. And does Walt state his side of the story? Nope. He's right and she's wrong, no matter which way it went down.

Walt's final act in the episode sums up who he has become, a lying bastard who has strayed far from his original path. After Skyler tells Walt that Gretchen told her that she and Elliot could no longer pay for Walt's treatment, Walt the mastermind comes up with a set of lies to fit the situation. He drove to Santa Fe earlier in the day to talk to they and found out they have no money. It perfectly explains Walt's long absence and why Gretchen didn't want to elaborate.

Score: 9.5/10

"Negro y Azul" 

After a half season of the drug trade slowly getting back on its feet and expanding, "Negro y Azul" sows the seeds for further expansion and the very real perils it brings, tying together Walt and Jesse's plot on the American side of the border, and Hank's plot on the other side of the border. It's a volatile mix--one that Walt indirectly continues to push for.

Walt's initial dismay over Jesse's attitude fades once he learns that people actually think it was Jesse who squashed Spooge. Cunning as ever, Walt sees this as an opportunity: if people think Jesse is a big badass, everyone will be scared of him, even drug dealers currently controlling other parts of the city. Jesse is the blowfish! At the end of the episode, Heisenberg meets up with Jesse's three dealers and Jesse later tells them to start hiring more people to expand their empire.

Hank is off in El Paso and out of his element, unable to speak Spanish and still reeling from his experience with Tuco. It doesn't help when he and others go down to Mexico, only to find the head of their informant Tortuga on top of a tortoise. Yeah, freaky stuff and well-directed. Then the tortoise blows up, not harming Hank who thankfully walked away to the car but killing several and gravely wounding others. In the chaos, Hank runs out to help and, along with the viewer, sees the absolutely gruesome sight.

The implication of all this is that the growing elements of Walt's drug trade in New Mexico is not just local, but also international, where the gangsters are not mindless hardasses like Tuco but smart, sadistic killers who can pinpoint targets from far away. Walt has no idea what he's stepping into, believing Jesse's new reputation of head-stomper is enough to protect the trade. Those who rigged the tortoise would probably laugh off Jesse and his supposed exploits.

Without an A-plot that really drives the episode, there is a lot of other stuff going on in the episode. Jesse befriends his landlord Jane and by the end of the episode, they hold hands in front of a blank television. Of course, since this is Breaking Bad, we have to wonder when this cute stuff will descend into madness. Skyler, thinking the family needs money, gets her old job back very easily. It's clear something was going on between her and her boss before she quit and it makes her uncomfortable, but it also seems like she enjoys the allure of having a boss that caters to her.

The narcocorrido at the end of the episode was pretty catchy, I guess, just as long you don't pay attention to what's being depicted.

Score: 9.2/10
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