Friday, July 8, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 2 Episode 8 Better Call Saul / 9 4 Days Out

"Better Call Saul"

The arrival of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) comes with the shift from a small-time operation to a large-scale operation and with his distinct personality and the situation at hand, "Better Call Saul" is very funny most of the time while still maintaining a degree of tension.

This all starts when Badger is arrested, tricked by a detective played by DJ Qualls who exploits his stupidity. Jesse turns to Saul who apparently helped Emilio with serious charges. As Jesse tells Walt, they don't want criminal lawyer; they want a criminal lawyer. Saul is that sleezy kind of lawyer, the one with cheesy commercials and everything else crass.

The plan starts going awry when Walt, talking to Saul, learns that the DEA is involved and hunting down Heisenberg. Of course, this means Walt tries to do everything possible to stop any deal from going through, something Saul doesn't quite understand. After Walt and Jesse kidnap him and threaten him, Saul figures out what's going on and gets with the program. He's perfectly fine getting into the drug business--as long as he gets thousands of dollars. There are a few more snags, but Badger is out in the end and a fake Heisenberg is fed to the DEA.

An interesting scene in the episode is when Saul asks why they don't just have Badger killed. After all, if the goal was so Badger couldn't spill the beans, then the easiest solution would be to have him killed. Compared to the eventual, complex solution, this would be much easier. But Walt and Jesse aren't those kind of people--yet. They're not entirely comfortable killing people, much less an associate, in cold blood. For now, they are able to avert this situation, but it's definitely something to think about.

Jesse's new girlfriend seems very normal, but she admits she has been 8 months clean. Oh uh...

Score: 9.3/10

"4 Days Out"

While "4 Days Out" is a great episode with all the hallmarks of a special Breaking Bad episode, I have a complaint to levy against it. Part of the appeal of the episode is the sense of danger, that someone may die or that someone may get hurt. Each plot development sinks Jesse and Walt further and further into danger, but in the end nobody is seriously hurt and the crisis completely averted. At some point, situations in which Walt and Jesse are placed in immediate harm will become tired if there aren't fatal consequences.

In need of quick cash, Walt lies to Jesse about the methylamine going back in order to go to the desert for a multi-day cooking session by lying, and lies to Skyler about visiting his mother for a few days. Already, Walt is on shaky ground, but it only gets worse.

The episode takes us through the biggest of ironies once the trouble beings, using brilliant callbacks to items--keys, water, cell phone, etc--referenced earlier in the episode. With over a million dollars worth of meth in the RV, the battery dies, leaving them stranded. They try to use the generator to start the battery, but it fails and blows up in flames. Jesse's boneheaded response is to dump all the water on it. Then, Jesse calls Skinny Pete but Skinny drives to the wrong place and the phone dies while calling him back. After hand cranking the generator fails, they are left in the desert to die.

In the end, Walt rigs up a battery to start the engine and they get out fine, but not before serious contemplation. Walt cannot believe that he's really in this position, stranded in the middle of nowhere with his punk Jesse. Each fateful decision he's made has put him closer to this position and now he'll face the consequences. But in a last twist, when Walt gets back to see the doctor, he learns that the cancer is in remission. Now what?

Walt's final outburst, striking the paper towel dispenser, shows up perfectly what Walt must be thinking. Originally setting out to get money for his family before dying, Walt has become another person, unrecognizable from when the series began. And this wouldn't be too bad if Walt was indeed going to die. But now Walt learns he won't die, and that he'll have to live with himself far longer than intended. This twist of fate is disturbing and Walt surely knows it.

Score: 9.5/10
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