‘Breaking Bad’ Talk: “Madrigal”
ScreenCrush.com editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Sam Zimmerman and Brian Collins to discuss the latest episode. Sam is a contributing editor for Fangoria, and you can tweet him @samdzimmerman. Brian runs the Horror Movie a Day blog and you can tweet him @brianwcollins. You can tweet Britt @MissBrittHayes.
Britt: This week we got a peek at Madrigal, the German corporation that owns Los Pollos Hermanos and several other fast food chains, according to the signs in their lobby. That opening was, for lack of a better word, bonkers. Do we really think the German suit that killed himself (in the most original way I’ve seen on television in years) was the only one involved in the drug ring and the rest of the co. is oblivious, or do we think this goes much deeper?
Sam: It definitely goes deeper. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a list of 11 names (unless I’m a bit mistaken about who those folks are, but it seems clear Lydia, Chow and the like are tied to Madrigal). Their offer of transparency seems more in line with the Gus Fring modus operandi. Hide in plain sight and s—. I really enjoy just how far Walt’s path of destruction gets to extend. Madrigal has probably been operating for years without incident.
Britt: I was thinking the same last night. This one string of acts by this one former chemistry teacher might have very well upended an entire empire. I also wonder if the other fast food franchises are fronts, too. Like, maybe the Chinese place sells opium.
Brian: I wonder if the other 11 guys all run their own food chains. Maybe the dude in charge of Burger Matic is the biggest coke dealer in New England.
As a ‘Lost’ fan, I am weary about opening up such a potentially huge plot thread when they don’t have time to deal with it properly, along with tying everything else up (there are only 14 episodes left in the series — blah). In this case, Madrigal = magic temple/Dogan. However, I trust Vince Gilligan more than I do Damon Lindelof, so I’m not too concerned. As Sam said, it’s fun to see how far Walt’s reign of destruction goes, and perhaps that’s all it is (except for the girl who talked to Mike — we’ll be seeing more of her I’m sure).
Sam: You’re probably onto something, regionally! Los Pollos operates in four states, and it’s likely the other places are similarly small operations, acting as certain fronts for whatever is most popular in their regions.
Britt: I do like that the burger place would have coke. And then you could order your coke with extra ice and get crack or something. I don’t think I know how drugs work.
This Lydia person intrigues me. As someone who is incredibly neurotic, [I think] it’s nice to see my kind portrayed honestly on television. She’s someone with some power who obviously has a lot to lose, which brings us to Mike.
I was thrilled that we got so much of Mike this week, and it seems like he’s exhausted from the drug business and this life. He’s just looking to retire in his modest home (I thought the detail of his house was fantastic) and give all the money to his cutie patootie granddaughter. His change of heart when he confronts Lydia has me curious to know what exactly it is that he’s up to. Did he change his mind because he empathizes with her? Did using her daughter in that heated moment work to her advantage? Is he really going into business with these guys, legit style, or does he have something up his sleeve?
Sam: I really hope he has something up his sleeve. It probably took me way too long to do so, but I finally realized while watching this episode, the son-father parallel between Jesse and Walt, and Jesse and Mike. Everyone on this show is a terrible person, but Mike is least so. He’s a gentleman criminal, and I can only imagine these last 16 episodes will turn into something of a struggle for Jesse between which bald man he wants to grow up to most resemble. I hope it’s Mike, and I hope they give Walt the business (not in a profit sense).
The last thing Mike wanted to do was kill Lydia, it seemed. He’s a realist, so he had to rationalize keeping her alive. Maybe a larger plan is what does that.
Brian: I took it as him realizing that she was just doing what she did to protect her family, something he can understand. And also now that the money’s gone, he needs lots of money, fast, to provide for his granddaughter. So if she can provide the methylene, he wins — he’ll have money, and something over her.
And we win, because now we get more Mike. Hopefully he’ll get to finish ‘The Caine Mutiny’ someday.
Britt: I like the theory Sam has about Jesse/Walt and Jesse/Mike. These two bald guys are like Jesse’s Highlander. I always imagined that the end of the series would be a showdown between Jesse and Walt, and I don’t want to discount that possibility, but the more that Walt manipulates Jesse, I’m starting to believe in what Sam’s saying — the real showdown could be between Mike and Walt.
This, of course, brings us to the ricin cigarette and the special guest appearance by that partying Roomba robot. The scene between Walt and Jesse as Walt attempts to comfort him had me almost nauseous. Where last season was Walt finally becoming the villain he’d been working toward all that time, this season is completely dispensing with any notion that Walt is a good guy. Every time he’s on screen I want him to die. That’s not healthy.
Brian: Yeah, part of me admires how despicable a person they’ve turned our main character into, but I also kind of miss the rather aloof Walt who would walk into a Pollos and wave around a tracking device, or throw a pizza on a roof. If you consider the compressed time frame of the show (it’s been, what, eight months or something since he was first diagnosed?), it’s almost absurd.
That said, if it makes Mike look all the better, so be it. I’m also down for a Walt vs. Mike fight, but it seems it’s no contest should Jesse ever find out about the Lily of the Valley (and he must do so).
Sam: I think we had a hint of that absurdity in “Madrigal,” what with the goofy cleaning/looking for a deadly cigarette montage. I liked that, and I liked this episode because it felt like we were settling into the season, rather than the heightened nature of the season 4 finale/season 4 opener.
Brian: On that sequence — I like that Jesse only owns Sony movies (mostly for children, actually).
Britt: I didn’t notice that, but I did notice his massive bucket of crayons. I’d like to think they aren’t for Brock and that Jesse does some amazing Crayola-doodled designs for t-shirts he’d like to wear.
Sam: JESSE HAS AN ARTIST’S SPIRIT, bitch.
Britt: Yo, be careful with my Crayolas. I got those limited editions.
Brian: Obviously they’re for Badger.
Britt: Christ, where is Badger and when can he come back?!
Brian: I just want to go back and reflect on the episode title — is it usually clear from the first scene what the title refers to? It’s usually a reveal of some sort (let’s use “I.F.T.” as the best example).
Britt: I don’t think it’s ever been made that clear so soon. I was trying to think of what the word meant, and I had totally forgotten about the German corporation until the opening sequence. I remembered having a Madrigal choir in high school, and I hate to go all wedding toast here, but the dictionary defines it as a song sung by several voices in counterpoint fashion, without instrumental accompaniment.
Sam: That definition is indicative of the company when you look at it as an entity made up of various, seemingly unrelated branches (the laundry, fast food, whatever their primary concern that I’m forgetting is), singing a song of drugs.
Also, I guess the title works as our introduction to the last rung of the ladder. Walt’s at the top floor of this s—, we’ll see what he does.
Britt: I thoroughly enjoyed Mike getting interrogated by Hank this week. Hank seems to be a bit full of himself right now (and rightfully so, to a point), and Mike matching wits with him was such a stellar moment in the episode. Also, the reveal that Mike used to be a cop, while not very shocking, was pretty solid. Now I just want to know what shenanigans he got himself into that forced him out of the uniform.
Sam: I’m so ready for a Mexican standoff with our three bald leading men.
Brian: I thought we already knew Mike was a cop? Didn’t he tell Walt a story about it back in season 2 or 3? Something about a domestic disturbance call… my memory is hazy.
Sam: You are correct, sir.
Britt: Oh! You’re right. How did I forget about that?
Going back to Walt and how creepy he is for a minute — every time he was on screen this week seemed framed to make him look as evil as possible, ending with that scene with Skyler in bed, which gave me a serious case of pepper spray trigger finger. I think after the hospital bombing, Skyler is realizing that Walt isn’t all talk anymore. He’s gone from being mostly harmless to being incredibly sinister. And there is no way I’d let that fool get in my bed and start rubbing and kissing on me. She looks so disturbed and horrified! What’d you guys think?
Sam: Yeah, Skyler didn’t tell him she was afraid for nothing. I think she tried to play tough-ass, crime momma bear, and now with Ted in the hospital, and Walt such an evil presence, she’s realizing they’re all in way over their heads. This week’s final moments were absolutely unsettling, as if to break us out of the grim fun of Jesse and Walt’s cleaning jaunt.
Also, if this season is going further with Walt/Mike parallels, they both had significant moments in bedrooms this week. One, where Mike showed great empathy (even if it’s ultimately self-motivated) and one, where Walt showed no self-awareness, in regard to boundaries or his home life. He still believes he can come home like he just left school for the day.
Brian: That was a supremely icky moment. And I hate Skyler, so for me to feel sorry and almost afraid for her was quite a foreign experience. I’m curious how long they plan to keep her in this state — how is she going to protect this family from the man who protects this family if she can barely get out of bed? Maybe Walt Jr., now much more healthy since he got his Raisin Bran Crunch, can take over as protector.
Britt: Walt Jr. had breakfast this week! Sam, I know how you hate Walt Jr. — thoughts on your arch-nemesis and his choice of breakfast?
Sam: Listen, a word about Walt Jr. — some (read: my girlfriend) believe my hatred for Walt Jr. stems from a cruel place. No, my dislike of the utterly useless Walt Jr. has nothing to do with that. Rather, I have a severe intolerance for s—-y websites, people who give themselves nicknames and those who deny themselves good breakfast.
However, now that Walt Jr. has been brought up, I’m noticing parallels all over this bitch, yo. Jesse has Walt/Mike, and Flynn has Walt/Hank. Again, I’m sure I’m the last to reach this earth-shattering conclusion, but maybe the series ends with Jesse and Walt Jr. getting down in the kitchen in a new enterprise? Probably not.
Brian: Earlier, I was trying to decide if Walt Jr. or Mike was the least despicable person on the show, but then I remembered Walt Jr.’s font choice for the Save Walter White website. Mike wins.
Britt: I think Raisin Bran Crunch is a totally viable breakfast option. And that product placement had me and my boyfriend ready for a late-night run to the store for a box of that tasty business.
As for Walt Jr.’s place in the series, we discussed in our talk last week the possibility of Walt Jr. siding with good ol’ Uncle Hank and helping to bring his own dad down. Though one of my friends seems to think Walt will end up killing him, maybe with that ricin he so did not discard responsibly.
Brian: The ricin “disposal” was really weird. I assume it’s for later, but it stuck out in a way that this show usually isn’t so awkward with. It can learn a thing or two from the Roomba.
Britt: I want more Roomba POV shots. Jesse needs to get crackin’ and throw some more parties. Was there anything else that stuck out to you guys in particular this week?
Brian: YES. I have to ask — does Mike carry pig toys around with him at all times just in case?
Sam: I’m excited by Lydia’s arrival. I think her, Mike’s possible push to the forefront and Jesse will bring a good deal of humanity to the series, after the ridiculously compelling, but very ugly last half of season 4.
Brian: I think Skyler might have been scared into being more human again too. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end, everyone had redeemed themselves and it’s all vs. Walt.
Britt: I hope they confront him, ‘Intervention’-style. “Walt, your evil business plans, poor choice of facial hair, and your insistence upon wearing that stupid hat and having everyone call you Heisenberg has affected my life negatively in the following ways…” And then Walt Jr. cries and begs for someone to feed him a sensible f—ing breakfast for once.
As we end this chat: Favorite moment(s) this week? Mine was most definitely a tie between the cold open and the Mike/Hank interrogation. I would really like to try this Franch sauce. Seems totally in my wheelhouse.
Brian: I gotta go with Mike’s awesome skills taking out that would be assassin. Runner-up: Jesse breaking down for thinking what we all know was true about Walt. Poor Jesse.
Sam: My favorite thing in the world is when anyone who speaks a different language than I, is forced to say words there are no translations for. So, easily, this week’s best moment was “Cajun Kick Ass.”