*Spoilers Found Within*
When you want to have Walter White meet up with some random gun seller in a cheap motel room, casting-wise you could hardly do any better than to have Jim Beaver (Bobby freakin’ Singer of Supernatural) play the role. Not only was he effortlessly badass, but he also got to give us our ‘Breaking Bad metaphor of the week’ by claiming that because New Mexico is not in a retreat jurisdiction that it’s okay to carry a gun and fire in defense--more than slightly making allusions to the days of the Old West there . I loved hearing him tell Walt that in the name of self-defense, shooting a man dead was a perfectly acceptable act--calling him ‘boss’ was an added bonus as well.
And what better thing to mention to Walt so he could feel further justified in his future actions than to equate his need to shed Gus’ blood to that of the quintessential bastion of male masculinity: the gun-slinging cowboy taking down the black hat wearing villain of the story. So much of what happens on this show can be traced back to the modern man’s struggle to prove his masculinity and to display it for other men to envy. The quest to prove what a man is made of has turned Walter into Heisenberg, put his brother-in-law Hank into a hospital bed incapable of even walking without assistance, and has found Jesse circling the drain as he attempts to cope with taking his first life by spiraling head-first into former vices.
And then there’s the continuing story of Walt and Gus' associate, Mike. I gotta admit it was pretty satisfying to watch Walt get his ass handed to him by Mike during another fantastic Mano a Mano meeting scene between the two characters. Even after he watched Victor’s blood spill out onto the floor, and onto his shirt, Walt continues to think he has the capability to persuade people into doing things he assumes they’ve never had the balls to do themselves. Not to mention that Walt is being very condescending to someone who has been a step ahead of him more than once already. But even though Mike was, and remains, visibly shaken up by his employer’s actions--by refusing Walt’s offer he’s exhibiting the ugly truth of loyalty and honoring one’s own commitments in a way that Walt himself only claims to do for his partner Jesse. The man can follow orders and he was right in suggesting that Walter start to learn to do the same--not to mention how cavalier Walt is about taking lives must really rub an ex-cop the wrong way all on its own. Even if it’s achingly clear that Walt desires to never again have a boss to answer to now that he’s gotten a second chance of sorts at living as the kind of man he thought he always wanted to be.
After a subdued showing in the premiere, Jesse was back full force in this episode and he brought his dim-witted friends back onto the scene with him. I love Brandon and Skinny Pete so much and they manage to be both comic relief (a completely serious argument between the two about zombies in video games was perfectly written drug-induced blather) in addition to a support system that Jesse should be utilizing. He had a special visit from Andrea in a brief appearance where we learn that before Jesse went into hiding he left her a huge envelope of his own cash--remember it was her little brothers killers he was going to gun down before Walt came and did it instead. Rather than open up and let her in, he chooses to posture and cover up his immense pain at murdering the hapless Gale all in the name of protecting his and Walt’s lives and job security. It’s hard to tell if Jesse is merely looking toward his former distractions to make him forget his despair, or if he’s just throwing three day non-stop parties for what could well be his last days.
During the epic house party scene we were treated to yet another shout-out to something from a previous episode. I grinned my ass off as Brandon showed up with a stack of the massively over-sized pizzas that were clearly from the same place Walt got the one he flung on the roof of his house out of frustration last season. Jesse calling attention to the absurdity of the size of the unsliced pizzas was a nice little wink to the audience. A much less appetizing callback could be found in the way Victor’s body was stuffed into a barrel and dissolved with chemicals by Walt and Jesse last week. Perfectly mimicking the first time they unsuccessfully did the same thing back in season one but with an easily corroded bath tub instead--I say bring on the year of self-referencing props and set-pieces! The latest Better Call Saul commercial also deserves mention for it’s cynical tastelessness for having a graphic of the 737 mid-air collision from season two turn into money falling out of the sky for those who can claim personal or property damage from the accident--that Saul Goodman is always a class act indeed.
It’s easy to be immediately shocked by displays of physical violence on this show, but I feel like such displays, while intense, are pretty obvious. Someone getting their throat slit isn't anything that hasn’t been shown on something like The Sopranos Fring has finally given Walter White a true adversary--this is not going to be an easily won battle. But why would it would be so damn good to watch if it was?