‘Breaking Bad’ Talk: “Hazard Pay”
ScreenCrush.com editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Kate Erbland and Germain Lussier. Kate is the Associate Editor at Film School Rejects and a contributing writer for MSN Movies and Box Office Magazine. You can tweet her @katerbland. Germain is a contributing writer for Slashfilm.com and you can tweet him @GermainLussier. You can tweet Britt @MissBrittHayes.
Britt: It looks like this is the season of Mike, and "Hazard Pay" continues that trend, offering us more insight into the character -- specifically, his business acumen. This runs directly counter to Walt's idea of how a business should be run; namely, that this is the Heisenberg show and everyone should do what Walt says. He doesn't understand overhead costs or business ethics, even though these very things are what will keep him from getting caught. He's a pure force of greed, selfishness, and downright shadiness this season. Am I the only one who feels a constant sense of dread every time he's on screen? This man is bad and cannot be trusted, and I fight the urge to yell "RUN AWAY!" to everyone around him on my television each week. What do you guys think of Walt's unfortunate and willful misunderstanding of the way a business should be run? How are you feeling about how clearly villainous he is this season?
Kate: I am just going to get down to brass tacks on this one -- Walter White repulses me on every single level possible. It's a remarkable thing, really, how his meek chemistry teacher has turned into one of fiction's greatest villains over the course of the series, and how he somehow keeps getting lower and grosser and more evil with every week. Walt's on-screen appearances instantly set me on edge, because while we may know what he thinks he's trying to do, who knows how the hell he's going to go about accomplishing it. He's more inscrutable by the minute, and his complete disregard for basic morals just makes him all the more terrifying. And, of course, while he may understand what needs to be done (particularly in terms of what Mike is accomplishing), because none of that stuff feeds his ego or his demand for power, he doesn't have the time or inclination for it. Take his money? How dare you. Pay off other people who aren't doing anything? Ridiculous. Worry about things like hiding from the law? Insane! You can almost understand his line of thought - even as it makes your mind explode and your skin crawl.
Germain: I agree with everything you both said and just love it. LOVE IT. Gilligan's juxtaposition of Walt's world in this episode with his increasingly frightening persona had me riveted. Seeing him simply converse with Skyler or Walter Jr. can be viewed as damn near a horror movie. He could snap at any moment, either because Skyler knows too much and Walter Jr. knows too little. Then there's the scene with Walt and the kid he tried to kill. You can't help but hate the fact Walt is innocently sitting there with that kid and no one knows the truth except him and us, the audience.
Which gets us back to Mike. This has been his season so far, but that speech at the end of the episode definitely foreshadowed Walt is not happy with the way he's doing business and that Mike will soon be added to the list of people whose mere presence alongside Walt will make you uncomfortable.
And that's why I love this show, and this episode in particular. There's incredible tension set up by the most seemingly simple scenes. We hate Walt, but we can't take my eyes off him. Also: Jesse Plemons. ‘Nuff said.
Britt: The speech Walt gives at the end of the episode was such a horrifying moment. We all know there's no way Walt could successfully kill Mike (and maybe that's who he's running from in the premiere episode's flash-forward?), but the can of worms he's opening there is intense. Part of me is excited for an escalation of drama and the inevitable Walt/Mike stand-off, but another part of me is terrified.
And Walt brings his manipulation A-game this week, first by acting mega shady and telling Marie about Skyler's affair so she'll back off of him, and I guess it's understandable, but the cavalier way with which he walks over to the kitchen and just starts eating an apple, ignoring his broken-down wife in the bedroom is just so cold. I don't think Walt really cares about his family anymore. And he certainly doesn't care about Jesse, when he orchestrates the break up with his girlfriend. Right before he gives the speech about flying too close to the sun, Jesse tries to explain how he broke up with his lady, and Walt interrupts him because he only cares about things that directly affect him, like money. Do you guys think Walt cares about his family at all, or as he lost sight of the reason why he began cooking in the first place? Did he ever truly care? This season has me rethinking Walt's motivations from day one.
Germain: Yes yes yes to all these examples. So much good badness in this episode.
Kate: I think that Walt has become totally consumed with power and with finally being in control of SOMETHING that he's lost sight of everything else. Moreover, I don't think he can come back from that. I don't think there's ever anything that could snap him out of it. He's gone.
Britt: There was one shining moment for Walt this week -- one glimpse of the man we used to like a lot more. The moment when he comes up with the idea of using Vamonos Pest as the cover for a mobile lab was pretty brilliant, but I think involving this many people in it is risky, and surely one of these homeowners will break the contract and come home one day when they shouldn't to find Walt and Jesse cooking up some meth. And yes, we need to appreciate the majesty that is Jesse Plemons. I am so stoked that he's a series regular, and I wonder what his involvement will be. Will he be someone that Walt uses to manipulate his situation with Mike, or will he become useful? Will he eventually be the key to Walt's undoing? I HOPE SO.
Kate: Todd seems like the sort of dude that would kick it with Jesse, so my immediate thought was that somehow, some way, those two would end up involved in something together.
Also, I must acknowledge the brilliance of Walt's plan -- well, its immediate brilliance. While it sounds awesome the first time you hear it, it also comes packed with more issues than Entertainment Weekly. Too many people, too much time, too many variables. They're asking for it. But we all are.
Germain: First, I don't think Walt's "gone." I think he's "going" and that, ultimately, maybe the reaction of Walter Jr. when he finds out the truth will be what either sends Walt totally to the Dark Side, or give him his 'Return of the Jedi' switch back to the loving father.
I really feel like this cold, calculated evil streak is simply because he's in a position to dictate so much right now. The drugs, the money, the people. He's power hungry. But what we haven't seen a lot of this season is how that's going to play with his family, especially with Hank. That's such a major, major part of the show that until we see how that plays out, and how that affects his family, I can't truly believe he's gone.
And yes, Britt, the genius of sort of blending the mobile lab of the early seasons with the super-lab of the next two seasons was vintage Walt. It was almost as brilliant as casting Plemons who, I honestly don't feel will have a huge role to play.
Britt: Whatever. You don't have the faith I have. Jesse Plemons is going to own this show.
I also enjoyed the return of Marie this week -- in all her purple glory -- and the mental breakdown she facilitated for Skyler (I need a GIF of "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP"). After last week's creepy closing scene with Walt and Skyler in bed and Walt's too-casual return home, not to mention seasons of dealing with this jerk and trying to keep the money clean, her breakdown was inevitable. I for one support the smoking, shouty Skyler. I wish she had the courage to leave, but they've really given her character such complexity, and I often feel as though viewers of the show underestimate or undervalue Anna Gunn and what she does with Skyler. That woman is strong, but she's utterly terrified of her husband right now, and when she walks in on Walt, Walt Jr., and the baby watching 'Scarface' (of all things), it's such a simple scene that captures her feeling of being stuck and the way Walt is just rubbing her nose in this, either ignorantly or selfishly. What do you guys think about Skyler and her part in all of this?
Kate: I think that Skyler made some great strides last season, and that she's been a bit left out for the first two episodes of this season, so I am overjoyed that she was given something to do (and a breakdown to have!) in this episode. While I don't "like" Skyler, I understand her, and I get her (totally valid) fears as they apply to Walt and their situation. I think that Skyler's breakdown signals some major changes and emotional reactions coming up, and I look forward to someone on this show exhibiting some real emotion (other than Jesse).
Germain: Yeah, I've read numerous interviews stating that something will happen major with Skyler in the coming episodes and I'm sure "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP" is a major step toward that. And while I'm sure some kind of steamy, metal and sweat Beneke scene is probably asking for too much, I think she'll get back at Walt for this week's Marie chat with, maybe, her own chat with Hank.
Kate: Can we take a moment to reflect on two of BB's boring "love interests"? Ted Beneke is BORING, but not nearly as BORING as Jesse's girlfriend, whose name I cannot even remember.
Germain: Which is why Gilligan has systematically gotten them out of the way. Though, to be honest, the dismissal of Jesse's girlfriend this episode seemed a tad bit tacked on, did it not?
Kate: I can't even remember, I think I fell asleep anytime she was mentioned.
Britt: First, I would LOVE a Hank/Skyler chat. I think Skyler can be just as manipulative, and once she gets past this moment of weakness, Walt should watch his back. I don't think she'd out him blatantly, but I do believe that she's smart enough to plant some tricky seeds.
And yes, I never liked Jesse's lady (she played Epyck on 'Friday Night Lights,' and her character there was also tossed aside in a smart move by the show's writers to keep things tight), or Ted. Ted is the worst, and I feel bad, but I combo gasped/cheered when he slammed his head last season.
Germain: Oh yeah, I forgot she was the bad girl on ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Totally pushed aside again. She should talk to her agent. I do have a feeling we'll see her again, though, simply because her son represents the straw that will eventually break the camel’s back in terms of Jesse and Walt.
Speaking of Jesse, he's been almost an non-entity this season so far, hasn't he? We need more Aaron Paul and we need it now. The romantic return of the cook was a good start and hopefully, now that business is back up and running, we can get back to those huge, multi-season story arcs this season has kind of put aside: Walt vs. Jesse, Hank's hunt, etc.
Kate: I'd like to think that, with three episodes down, we've moved past set-up and can finally get to some meat.
Germain: This episode was certainly that. My favorite of this season thus far. Romance, tension, foreshadowing, all the stuff that makes ‘Breaking Bad’ the best show currently on TV.
Britt: I agree. I think Aaron Paul has had some great moments so far (him crying last week broke me; he's incredible), but he's feeling like a secondary character this time around, with Walt and Mike silently vying to be his father figure -- Walt just wanting to manipulate him, Mike wanting him to do the right thing if he's going to play this game -- and his relationship taking up much of his time. I did like the added touch in "Hazard Pay" of him saying he didn't care if Mike took the legacy pay out of his cut, letting us know not much has changed with Jesse and how he feels about the money. He has enough of it, he's just happy to get what he can, and this indicates a lot of personal growth. It's just sad to me that he's obviously somewhat intelligent and his perception of the business and his own world have really grown since the start of the series, yet he still can't or refuses to see how horrible Walt is. He keeps him on this pedestal, and I fear that it could cost him his own life.
Germain: As long as it doesn't mean the death of Jesse's friends, who triumphantly returned this episode as well. Love those guys!
But yeah, the father analogy is a pertinent one. The scary part is that Mike cares so much more about Jesse than Walt does. And that will end up being very bad for everyone.
Kate: Big ups to Badger.
Britt: BADGER! When that dude showed up I whisper-shouted "Yessssss!" I've never been so happy to see Badger in my life. I want him around always. That man is a bottomless well of joy.
Kate: Also, why can't Badger and Skinny Pete have a band?
Germain: Probably because Skinny Pete did NOT age well between seasons. Badger, on the other hand. Always the coolest. I secretly harbor a desire that, once Walt and Jesse are dead or gone, those two will walk into the lab and start cooking. Credits. End of series.
Britt: Yes to this. I am so into this idea.
Germain: Is it just me or once we start coming up with Skinny Pete and Badger fan fiction, has the conversation almost reached its conclusion. Do you ladies have anything else to say about last night's episode?
Basically, I'm just glad to see the show get back on track narratively, with our main characters, their problems, Saul back in the mix, family issues, everything. The first two episodes were solid for resetting but last night really kicked things into high gear. Everything was working and it just was great edge of your seat television.
Kate: I want more screaming.
And I'm spent.
Britt: I'd like to wrap this up by asking you guys what your favorite moments/quotes were in "Hazard Pay." Mine: the triumphant return of Badger, and Jesse grabbing that tortilla off the conveyor belt in the factory. Amazing.
Kate: I greatly enjoyed the entire sequence of Saul showing off the prospective locations.
Germain: It was totally on the nose and obvious, but seeing Walt and Walt Jr. watching Scarface made me geek out just a little bit.
And Landry forever.
Britt: TEXAS FOREVER!