[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 2, "Madrigal"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Over the past month or so, creator Vince Gilligan was been talking, be is jokingly or seriously, about a Saul spin off of Breaking Bad. And while I'm sure there are enough less then legal avenues such a series could take, may I suggest a half hour comedy, in the vein of Better Off Ted, about the German food stuff laboratory at Madrigal. As the cold open here proves, nothing contains more comedic opportunity then Germans being utterly humourless.

Also, the German for ketchup is 'ketchup'. Good to know.

Hit the jump for the review.

'll praise them until the day something better comes along, but no other show to my reckoning does cold opens better then Breaking Bad. In sitcoms they are an opportunity to get in a short joke that played well in the writers room, but didn't have a place in the main plot. In episodic shows, like Buffy, or X-Files, or LOST, they're a chance to hook the audience with that week's plot of the week. And some shows, especially those on HBO, forgo them entirely. But Breaking Bad has made a master class of them. You could study their use of the cold open as it's own narrative device, divorced from the episode, but intrinsically entwined with the arc, the season, or the series.

Which made the fact that Madrigal had two all the more shocking. Because the scenes that followed the title sequence felt more like they should have had a home before hand. The utter silence of Walter working, while what sounds like a recorded phone conversation (a glimpse of the future maybe?) plays ominously while Walter fakes a poisonous cigarette. The systematic dissection of Jesse's home until the missing smoke is found inside the Roomba. My own assumptions got the better of me, and assumed this would be the focus of the episode, but this is a smarter show then I, and Walter and Jesse took a much deserved back seat this week.

Mike, played with grace and dignity by Jonathan Banks, got the spot light this week, running parallel to the DEA and their building case against Fring's former empire. Mike's confidence that things will be alright so long as no one bothers them might have been misplaced, but I believed him by the force of his convictions. If Lydia hadn't went and messed things up, maybe everything would have went smooth. But then we wouldn't have gotten that climatic scene where she begs that her body must be found, for the sake of her daughter's mental health. I honestly didn't know which way Mike was going to go, with help from the previous scene where he dispatched his would be killer without hesitation. The tension in the bedroom scene was played perfectly by both actors. Credit to Laura Fraser for playing it solid, not simpering and pathetic like every other staring down the barrel scene. And Walter was proven right again, that the universe provides when patience is shown.

I have to give the writers credit for one scene in particular. In any other series, Hank getting told the "right under my nose" speech would have happened during Mike's interrogation. It would have been a subtle betrayal on Mike's part, but he doesn't like Walt, and it would have been a gift to Hank, who could then connect the dots and take down Walt. But on this show, it is given by his boss. Which means that there is no intention behind the words, just a cold fact. It also means that if Hank ever does put the pieces together, he'll have figured it out on his own, proving his quality as a character, and not having to be dependent on the pettiness of criminals. And if he doesn't, it just another highlight of how successful Walter is. By moving it from one scene to another, you either remove or introduce a narrative mechanism that moves the plot along a very clear, almost cliched path. This show doesn't do that, it fully eschews that path, and takes the longer, more realistic path. There are no hand outs here. And it means that we as the viewer have no idea what will happen next, which is exactly how I like it.

I have a new theory, because this show excels in fostering them: when the show first began we assumed that Walter was the hero, and Jesse the stooge, and the Mexicans and eventually Fring was the villain, and it would be the examination of one man's desperation tearing him apart. Then last season is became clear it was actually the story of one man's desperation building him up. The best allusion I can come up with right now is Star Wars. Fring was the Emperor, and Walter Darth Vader. He wanted what he couldn't have, and was forced to do terrible things for it, eventually giving himself over to the dark side.

Which means, and as Jesse broke down after finding what he thought was the cigarette this week it became clear, that Jesse is Luke. He is the hero of the story. The directionless youth who falls ass over teakettle into a situation far beyond his ability, and stumbles through, gaining the skills and responsibilities he'll need to overcome his foe. I think this episode, despite Walter and Jesse having minimal time, was the clearest it's been yet that when the time comes, Jesse will be the only thing standing between Walter and whatever else he's staring down.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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