WARNING! Train Coming! And spoilers! LOTSA SPOILERS!!!!!
This week, I am trying something different. My friend Wastro aka King of Seattle had the great idea for us to exchange emails about Sunday night’s “Breaking Bad.” So that’s exactly what we did Monday. I swear I need to do this more often.
If you are a “Breaking Bad” fan and haven’t seen the “Dead Freight” episode … Wow! You must see this episode! And then read Wastro and I’s conversation. Oh, and share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Cajun Tomato: So here’s what I have been chewing on since I watched last night. Did the characters die last night? Not a literal death, but a figurative death. Can we as viewers root for them anymore? Walt and Jesse’s killings have all involved people who were “in the game”, as Omar from “The Wire” would say. Now that they were accessories in the murder of a child they can no longer even say that. This has to send Jesse spiraling out of control, right? He would, then, reflect the viewers’ reaction to the child being murdered.
Interesting that the audience I watched the episode with cheered after Jesse and Todd made it off the train tracks alive. They cheered again as the credits rolled. Does that mean we’re desensitized to what just happened on the screen?
Wastro: Have we as viewers been able to root for them for some time now? Jesse might have matured over the past few months, and Mike regularly tosses off pithy one-liners, but let’s not forget: They’re in the business of making crystal meth. (I didn’t include Walt, and for good reason: We haven’t been able to root for him for the better part of the show.)
But can we root for them over the final few episodes? I think a lot depends on the fall-out from the final 10 seconds. Mike has long prided himself on working clean, leaving no loose ends, and not hurting innocent people. All of that was thrown out of whack last night; I can’t imagine he’ll be a willing contributor to Walt’s burgeoning empire, if he remains a contributor at all. But how does he make a clean break? Will Walt let him?
Jesse won’t take this very well, either. He’s had a history with kids dying (or almost dying) during this series; Andrea’s brother Tomas was killed in season three, and her son Brock was hospitalized (at the hands of Heisenberg) late last season. You have to think that’s not far from the surface. Jesse has been the closest thing “Breaking Bad” has to a moral compass; it will be fascinating to see how he makes sense of what just happened.
As for Walt, he’s been dead for some time. It wouldn’t surprise me if he brushes the death off and worries more about covering their tracks than stopping to think about the young life that was just taken. More crocodile tears, perhaps?
Are we desensitized to what just happened? Perhaps, though I can’t imagine devoted fans shrugging off the final few seconds that easily. There’s nothing sensational or attractive about the violence in “Breaking Bad.” It’s all very gritty, and it’s never presented as exciting. The most notable deaths have been lump-in-your-throat tortuous to watch, and last night’s was different only in that it seemingly came from nowhere. I guess the cheering could also be an odd sign of appreciation for an exhilarating, thrilling hour of television.
Last night’s death was — once again — the tangential byproduct of Walt’s hubris. Does this death make him rethink his lot in life at all? What kind of impact will it have on him — or the other characters?
Any other thoughts on the episode — or the season so far?
Cajun Tomato: You’re right. We’re not rooting for anyone at this point, so much as we are waiting for the 16-car pileup that will inevitably come at the end. So we’re on this ride, eyes glued to the screen as Walt, Jesse, and Mike encounter new complications that can never totally be removed – sort of like Walt’s cancer. The kid being killed at episode’s end felt like a punch to the gut. I felt like Jesse when watching the scene. I think that was Vince Gilligan’s intent to leave the audience jarred and reeling. There’s only so much you can take before you tap out, before you say this is not worth it. I feel like once Mike learns of the boy’s death he will be at that point. Walt could have had both Jesse and Todd killed due to his selfishness. Instead an innocent kid died. That seems even more selfish.
There’s no way Mike makes a clean break. At this point there’s no such thing as a clean break. Mike just participated in a train robbery. He has as much blood on his hands as anyone. Skyler, it’s worth noting, knew about the train robbery – even if only vaguely. She’s in a world of pain too, if the feds learn about what happened.
There’s no way Jesse takes this well, as you pointed out. But who does he blame? Does he blame himself for having the idea to swindle the train without a trace? Or does he blame Walt for being the mastermind of the criminal operation? Or Todd for pulling the trigger? In essence, all of them pulled the trigger. Todd did what was needed in the context of the situation – they could not leave witnesses. It just so turned out the witness was an innocent kid.
Quick tangent: It’s interesting that as much as Walt planned everything out – to the point Todd complements him on thinking of everything – he did not think about what would happen if a bystander came along. I agree with you about Walt. This kid’s death will be seen as a casualty to the cause. Nothing more. Walt will be king. It doesn’t matter who he hurts – an innocent kid, Walt Jr., Skyler, etc. This ship is burning, and it will be best for the people who can jump overboard now. But how? Who?
The cheers from the crowd – I watched the show at Hollywood Theater in Portland – were definitely a show of appreciation for the show’s riveting climax. However, it still felt weird. Perhaps I was too shaken to cheer. It definitely felt like the gang crossed a bridge Sunday night and then burned it. There’s no going back.
As for specific predictions going forward, I still think either Walt kills Skyler or she kills herself. I think before this is done he will wind up with no family. And he will have to live with the realization that the wrongs he committed were not to better his family but rather to stroke his own ego, pride, vanity, etc.
Wastro: You made an interesting point when you said that it will be best for the people who can jump overboard — just a few paragraphs after you mention Mike and how he can’t make a clean break.
They’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole at this point, no one can make a clean break. Walt’s too engrossed to make a break — or WANT to make a break. We learned last week that Skyler can’t. Mike can’t, not with his guys locked up. Lydia can’t, lest she incur the wrath of Heisenberg. The only one who can seemingly make a clean break is Jesse, but drug-making and drug-dealing is all he’s ever known.
And this show’s way past the point of anyone making a cleaning break or jumping off the sinking ship. That’s partly why it’s so compelling — and why people cheer after such a horrific ending. “Breaking Bad” has taken us to a very uncomfortable place.
I’m with you, though; I was too stunned to cheer. I was in too much shock to muster any kind of real reaction. As it was, I sat in my apartment, able only to stutter and stammer something unintelligible like “WARRRGHHH” for five solid minutes. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I would love to ask someone why — or how — they cheered as the credits rolled.
I feel like this season has been like riding up the roller coaster; the train heist was the top of the ascent, and Todd’s shot will start a very steep and rapid descent. Where it stops, nobody knows. It feels like everything that’s happened so far this season set up the final few seconds of last night’s episode; in terms of where the show goes from here, it feels like nothing’s off the table. No matter what, I think we’re past the point of thinking that anyone is going to get off the ride alive.
There are now three episodes left in this mini-season. Do you think we’ll have any kind of wrap-up or closure by Labor Day? I’m not suggesting that there WON’T be any loose ends, but will it end like season three, which saw Jesse kill Gail as the camera faded to black? Or will it end like season four, where Walt had seized control after a scorched earth campaign? Either way, Sunday can’t arrive soon enough.
Cajun Tomato: My best guess is the eighth episode ends with an event that leads Walt to New Hampshire. Then the first episode of Season 5’s second half starts in New Hampshire. I imagine that’s why the 52nd birthday was featured earlier this season – to show Walt was a man without a family, a country, etc. Why he needs the gun is anyone’s guess. Walt’s never been the gun type. Seems like an odd, misguided choice for him. I’ll be interested to see whether Gilligan can convince us by the series’ end to root for Walt to get killed. That would be some trick.