‘Breaking Bad’ Talk: “Everybody Wins”
Welcome to another installment of 'Breaking Bad' talk, where we're joined by two critics to discuss this week's episode, "Everybody Wins." Unfortunately, not everybody really wins this week, as we discover Walt's new plan and Jesse finally takes a stand.
Editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Brian Collins and our own Jacob Hall to discuss the latest episode of 'Breaking Bad.' Brian runs the Horror Movie a Day blog and contributes to Badass Digest. You can tweet him @BrianWCollins. In addition to ScreenCrush, Jacob contributes to Movies.com, and you can tweet him @JacobSHall. You can find Britt on Twitter @MissBrittHayes.
Britt: This week's episode featured an open that seemed pretty divisive, judging from the responses I saw from people on Twitter. We're introduced to Walt's "everybody wins" plan (also the name of the episode), which involves him offering his cooking services to his competitors in exchange for the $5 million Mike requested to exit the operation. Walt lays the Heisenberg on pretty thick, asserting that he is the one who killed Gus Fring, and demanding that the drug boss say his name. Personally, I found this scene incredibly uncomfortable to watch. It was almost embarrassing. Knowing Walt the way we do, it's still hard for me to embrace this dominant posturing from him. But others seem to have cheered on his macho freak show. How did you guys feel about the opening scene this week?
Brian: I realized while watching this one that there is one drawback to watching the show's first four seasons in one big lump, as I did (and I'm sure many others did as well) -- the compression of time makes Walter's descent into full-blown villain a bit harder to accept. If you've been watching all along, then sure, four years seems about right for a decent enough guy to become an asshole without much of his humanity intact (and yes, I know it's only been a year on the show, but with Marie acknowledging that it "seems much longer" a couple weeks back -- it seems that the show's writers are admitting that perhaps the timeframe is a bit TOO compact). But for me, Walt was a somewhat pathetic family man just a few short months ago. Thus, I'm actually fooled by Walter sometimes, like a couple episodes back when he was asking Jesse about how his relationship was going -- at first I thought he was sincere!
So for the opening, I was a bit taken aback by how quickly the other drug dealers accepted his proposition. Tuco's initial response to him is a bit too fresh in my mind, and even with everything that's happened I still think of Walt as a guy trying to do the right thing for his family and have to constantly remind myself that at this point he's just saying so.
Jacob: I've never had a problem with the timeframe, but then again, I didn't marathon them all in one go. I gave up on Walter sometime in season four.
As for this week's opening, I was in a unique situation for it. My usual host (I don't have cable) had to bail out, so I watched this episode at the Alamo Drafthouse with a packed audience. As much as I dislike Walt, and even though I'm totally aware that he's a total monster, his declaration of "You're god damned right" got my blood pumping. In fact, it caused the entire crowd to applaud and cheer as we cut to the titles. Walt may be despicable, but man, he sure has a flair for the badass/dramatic and I've got to give him that.
Naturally, the conclusion of the episode once again revealed what a weak coward he truly is. The same crowd who applauded the opening left the theater in total silence as the credits rolled.
Britt: Before we get to the episode's ending (saving the best for last!), I want to talk about Jesse. I was so proud of him this week I could have cried. I think he realizes what a monster Walt is, and while he may not realize the full extent, he's seen enough in the last couple of episodes to open his eyes. Walt no longer cares about helping his family, and he sure as hell doesn't care about Jesse outside of what Jesse can do for him. And maybe not even that -- I think a lot of it is exertion of control, and Jesse symbolizes that, being the first person Walt was able to guide and then manipulate like clay. I think there is sentimental value in Jesse, but only as that symbol. Walt losing Jesse represents, in my opinion, the beginning of a true loss of control. So far he's been able to play the game with everyone else, but Jesse isn't having any of it. He wants out, money or no. And of course, as we all assumed, Todd has taken Jesse's place.
Brian: With Mike gone, Jesse is once again my favorite character by far, because I'm more interested in redemption than a fall from grace, and kudos to Aaron Paul for morphing what was once an annoying, somewhat generic dipshit character into the show's most fully realized one. While I've had trouble accepting Walt's fast turnaround, I have no such issues with Jesse. (Okay, maybe he got sober a bit too quick , but since I've seen Jack Bauer beat a heroin addiction over the course of TWO HOURS, it's hardly worth even mentioning.) The writers and Paul have done an amazing job taking him from where he was in the pilot to where he is now. And now that Walt has taken my beloved Mike away from us, I now eagerly anticipate Jesse discovering the truth about Brock so he can (I assume) be the one to tell Hank who he's been chasing all year.
Or maybe he'll just beat the piss out of him again.
Britt: I would love nothing more than Jesse beating the crap out of Walt. Nothing.
Jacob: Eventually, Jesse is going to learn about what happened to Mike. And then he'll learn about Brock. And then he'll learn about Jane. Jesse may be out of the business, but he's definitely not done with Mr. White, who has truly ruined his life in every way possible. We've talked about how much we love Jesse and want him to get out of this alive before, but it bears repeating: he's the only guy left on this show who deserves a second chance.
Britt: As much as Jesse has changed, I'd love to believe that if he found out about Jane and Brock and Mike that he'd run straight to Hank and strike up a plea agreement, but there's still that chance that he might flip out and do something bad. How do we see that playing out? My impossible hope is that it's Jesse Walt is running from in the opening from the season premiere -- because, amazing.
Jacob: I had a ludicrous theory that Jesse would take over Walt's empire and attempt to have him killed, hence the opening. It still feels unlikely, but hey, it's possible, right?
Sadly, I can't see Jesse running to the man who beat him into the hospital for help. Hank is second only to Walt in the "life ruining" department. As much as he's grown up, Jesse is still a little dumb and still makes emotionally charged decisions without using his brain. I think we're heading toward the final Jesse/Walt confrontation with horrible speed...and I don't think Jesse will be the one walking away.
Mike's death wrecked me, but Jesse's death, if it happens, will ruin my week.
Brian: Oh wow, that'd be incredible. At the time I assumed it would be a new badass character akin to the twins of season three, but apart from Declan (wouldn't do it himself) and Lydia (come on), there haven't been any new ones of note, and they can't leave us hanging for another year on that subplot, can they? We have to at least get a clue next week, right? RIGHT?
Ah, who am I kidding, it's ‘Breaking Bad’ and they can do whatever they want. Short of having Walt Jr take over the business I'm pretty sure they could never kill the love folks have for this show.
Britt: I don't know that Jesse is still that dumb... A little slow on the take, but not necessarily dumb. If anything, I agree he has always been more emotionally inclined, but his emotions have gotten wiser, if that makes sense. He's matured so much, and maybe he can't overlook Hank beating him in the name of joining forces against Walt, but I think he could definitely get a plan together to bring Walt down (and hopefully it will totally involve Badger and Skinny Pete). I also loved the moment when Walt was talking about his superiority and said, "You're looking at the best cook... the two best cooks..." and the look on Jesse's face was priceless, like, "Man, this guy is full of it."
Brian: I dunno, Jesse has seemingly fully recovered from his injuries, and I don't see him reverting back to being a bit of a thug any time soon, at least with relation to Hank. As the "student", he might find value in playing Walt against Hank, not unlike how Walt played him against Fring. And Walt would, somewhere deep down inside, possibly even appreciate that. "You finally applied yourself!"
Britt: I think he's capable of putting his personal problems with Hank aside in a scenario like that, for sure.
Brian: I also think he's going to hook up with Skyler and enjoy a lifetime of fine cuisine instead of the microwave meals he usually eats (and that Walt now eats).
Jacob: As good as Jesse was this episode, can we talk about the man who owned this hour? As Britt requested, we'll save the final scenes for the end of our discussion, but this episode was full of all kinds of Mike goodness. Watching ‘The Big Heat’ while the DEA searched his home. Dumping an arsenal down a well. Forced to abandon his granddaughter to save his own skin. We finally got to see ‘Breaking Bad’'s Superman take a fall and it hurt. Badly. Seriously: how cool is Mike and how good is Jonathan Banks?
And also, the lawyer's method of bribing the bank lady with snacks? It works. Leave cookies for maintenance people and watch your apartment get instant repairs the moment you need it.
Britt: Mike is the baddest dude who ever lived, seriously. I loved him silently watching TV while Hank raided his home and turned up empty-handed. I loved how smart he was, ditching his car and keys with his getaway gear at the airport. But as smart as Mike is, it was a total reality check to see that even he was capable of a misstep in choosing that smarmy lawyer to perform the drops for the imprisoned Fring guys at the bank. (But also, I would accept bacon banana cookies and cake pops, no question.) I guess now is the portion of the conversation that turns to Mike's undoing. Hank getting that lawyer to crack was a wake-up call during an episode that was relatively quiet until the end of the second act. And how badly I wanted Jesse to go get his getaway bag instead of Walt. Why would Mike let Walt do that?! WHY?!
Jacob: That's been the big discussion online this week: why would Mike let Walt, a man he hates, bring him his bag? A lot of people don't buy it and think it was out of character, but it was down to Walt, Jesse and Saul. Saul was being watched. Mike loves Jesse too much to risk him getting caught. Mike's only choice was Walt. Man, where's Huell when you need him?
Brian: The granddaughter scene was the most heartbreaking of its type since DeNiro walked away from Amy Brenneman in ‘Heat.’ In fact, more so, because at least she saw him do it. Poor Kaylee was just blissfully swinging away... man.
In retrospect, it's not too shocking what happened at the episode's end, because Mike got so much focus here, and more or less was tying up all the loose ends even if he didn't realize it. Scoring a victory over the DEA, "saying goodbye" to Kaylee, dumping his awesome collection of weapons and the laptop which he probably used a lot during his vetting process (which I would have loved to have seen), etc. If he was alive next week, what the hell would he have done?
I'm curious what you guys think, though -- was Walt calling Mike because he genuinely gave a s---, or was he just afraid Mike would talk if he was caught? I can't imagine Mike ever turning on them because of his man-love for Jesse.
It would have been a fine time for Walt Jr. to step up to the plate. Just saying.
Jacob: Walt called Mike because he knew that if Mike fell, his guys in prison could turn snitch. Walt has no love for Mike. It was an act of pure self-preservation. Mike would never be a rat, but you can't say the same for his guys, who no longer have money being deposited by a treat-wielding lawyer.
And Brian, if Mike was alive next week, he'd be fishing and living in a cabin and sending Jesse Christmas cards and being the grandfather I wish I had. Sniff.
Brian: Good call. These mostly unseen nine guys are one of the show's few weak spots, narratively. We keep hearing them and using them as an excuse for stuff, but they're total enigmas. Like the other survivors on ‘Lost,’ but without the benefit of being blurry extras on the beach. Thus, I keep forgetting that they have any bearing on anything.
Also, did a month go by in this episode or do they need to be paid off every week (we see two drops)?
Britt: I think we got a flashback of the previous drop to get us acquainted with the process. It would make sense for Walt to call Mike and warn him, keeping the nine guys in mind. That's why it's so much more infuriating when Walt kills Mike. I knew it was coming as soon as Walt grabbed that bag. When Mike tried to turn and walk away from the conversation (twice!), the camera seemed fond of the back of his head -- a little too fond for my comfort. It's just worse knowing that it's coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it. When Mike snapped at Walt about his stupid pride, that was the final nail in his coffin. Walt knows Mike is telling the truth. He knows deep down that these things are his fault, that his ego is too big, and his pride is eating everyone alive. But it's that same pride that will not allow him to hear the truth. It made me absolutely sick to my stomach, but I loved that at least Mike was able to sulk down to the pond and die with a tiny scrap of dignity intact, asking Walt to stop blathering on and on so he can die in peace.
Brian: I think I'm still in denial or something -- I think it'll really hit me next week when he's not around. He gave the show a pleasurable dynamic that will be sorely missed, and worse, his death will likely just lead to more scenes of Walt and Jesse arguing, of which there have been maybe a bit too many. Meanwhile, Walt Jr. and Marie, who add next to nothing, are still there. Fictional life is cruel.
P.S. There's a video on the AMC site about Mr. Banks' last day on set, and it's a real gut-punch. Really gonna miss that cranky bastard.
Jacob: This episode showcased the absolute worst way to say: slowly bleeding out while Walter White babbles excuses at you.
I agree with Brian that it doesn't feel quite real yet. Sure, characters die on ‘Breaking Bad’ all the time, but Mike may be the first death of a character we know and love (and he certainly won't be the last). His entire final confrontation with Walt is incredible: a desperate Mike tells an equally desperate Walter exactly what he thinks of him at the exact wrong moment and the result is not some badass fight to the death, but cold-blooded murder motivated entirely by a hurt ego. The most painful thing about Mike's death is how quiet it is. Mortally wounded, he manages to discover a beautiful place to die in peace... but that peace is immediately interrupted by Walt pretty much telling him "Whoops! Didn't need to kill you!" Mike dying is bad enough, but Mike going down without a fight and having to demand his murderer shut up so he can die in peace? I don't think I've ever seen a death quite like this before.
I love watching Heisenberg confront and intimidate gangsters, but at the end of the day, he's no hardened criminal. He's Walter White. And that's worse, somehow.
Britt: That moment, when Walt realizes what he's done and starts babbling about how he didn't need to kill Mike -- it might be harder to watch for me than the opening. For a moment we get a glimpse of the old, nervous and insecure Walt. Equal parts freaking out over what he's done, shocked by the person he realizes he is in this moment of clarity, and able to let his guard down in front of this old dying man, this Walt is the closest we'll get to the one we used to know. And it's just so damn sad. Of course he didn't need to kill Mike, and things are going to be even harder without him. Even if Mike was exiting the operation, there was always a chance he could be counted on for advice, and to continue keeping the nine guys in prison quiet. Without him there to keep their mouths shut, Walt is going to be scrambling to figure it out, and I doubt the neurotic wreck Lydia is going to be much help in that department.
Brian: Yeah, I never thought Mike would be away for long. I can see maybe Saul being written out by leaving town forever, but they always would have needed Mike for SOMETHING.
At least he goes out with a great line. I may buy this season on Blu-ray just to hear it unedited.
Britt: What were your favorite lines or moments in this episode? I think my favorite moment was a tie between Jesse finally telling Walt enough is enough and Mike telling Walt to shut up so he could die in peace.
Jacob: Mike's final line is mine. I'm distressed just thinking about it.
Brian: Mike's final line is one of the SERIES' all time best lines, so it's definitely the winner for this episode.
Also, not actually a line, but the beeping of the microwave was a nice little button.