Three episodes into “Breaking Bad” this season, Walter White is feeling pretty great about himself, the business is up and running again, and he and his partners just made a million bucks from a single cook.
It’s great — except for all the ominous signs that Walt doesn’t seem to see piling up around him. If this season’s bad guy is Walt’s own arrogance, as creator Vince Gilligan suggested to Zap2it, then “Hazard Pay” made a pretty good case that he’s going to be his own worst enemy.
Walt’s idea to create a roving lab disguised by the pest company’s tents really is ingenious, and the first cook goes off without a hitch. Walt’s agreement to let Mike handle the business end of things (“And I handle him,” he confidently tells Saul after their meeting), however, is more problematic.
After subtracting what Jesse fronted to get the operation started, payoffs to the pest company crew, the dealers’ cut and most contentious, the “legacy costs” to Mike’s guys who worked with Gus, Walt ends up with only about a third of his original take.
It’s less than what they made under Gus, but Jesse astutely notes they still cleared more than $100,000 each on a cook about a quarter the size of what they did at the Superlab. Still, Walt seethes at the idea that Mike is not recognizing his ascendancy. (Mike, naturally, is unimpressed and has maybe the episode’s best line: “Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”)
Then there’s Skyler, who is absolutely coming apart over the realization of who her husband really is. Walt puts Marie at ease (for the moment, anyway) with a story about Ted Beneke’s accident and his affair with Skyler that, again, is pretty nimble thinking. Everything he tells Marie about Ted is true, which also helps, even if it’s not remotely the reason for Skyler’s breakdown.
At this point, though, something has to give with Skyler and Walt — if she doesn’t confess everything to Marie or Hank or someone, she’s going to crack some other way, and none of it can be good for Walt. His self-conception as master of his own universe has started to blind him to all the things he can’t control, and that’s not a good thing.
Other notes from “Hazard Pay”:
– That’s “Friday Night Lights” star Jesse Plemons (Landry!) as Todd, the pest-control guy who disabled the nanny-cam in the cook house. Presumably the show wouldn’t hire him for just a two-line guest spot, so we’re curious to see how his character fits into the story.
– Another thing that might come back to bite Walt: His manipulation of Jesse to break up with Andrea. She was an anchor for Jesse, and with her out of the picture he could become more of a wild card.
– The titles of all three episodes so far have been taken from something in the pre-credits scene. Next week’s episode is called “Fifty-One,” so based on the pattern and Marie’s mention of it at the car wash, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing Walt’s birthday and marking one year in show time since we first met Mr. White.
What did you think of “Breaking Bad” this week?