[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 5, "Dead Freight"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Televison
Last spring, Graham Yost, creator of Justified, said that the one idea he had for the show, that he could never figure a way of doing on a cable show budget, was a train robbery. Turns out, Vince Gilligan figured out a way, and beat him to the punch. And if anyone ever tells you that a stationary train robbery isn't tense and thrilling, then you go right ahead and punch that person in the throat.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that smile and wave, then shoot you in the face.


In many ways, this was the least Breaking Bad-like episode of Breaking Bad that we've had in a while. Not that is wasn't well written, brilliantly acted and perfectly produced, that really can go without saying. But, when compared to last week's emotional meteor shower, this week's episode is just a heist story. In fact, it shares a lot of similarities to the season premier. Walt, Jesse and Mike have a problem, brain storm in someplace poorly lit, and steal something. And I'm not complaining. I think we need these breather episodes from time to time, to remind us of the thrill of the simple victory, and to remember to watch out, because Vince Gilligan likes to sweep the legs.

This episode had a lot going for it beyond the heist. Once again, I was certain we had seen the last of Lydia, and I can't help but think that her not getting killed is going to back fired on them, because the universe seems to be going out of it's way to keep her alive. She's a great character to have around: she's desperate, manipulative, bad, but not all bad, and every time she appears on screen, all I can think is "nobody puts baby in the corner."

Perhaps the best scene of the episode was the introduction of Hank's new office. I think someone needs to get extra credit for this scene, I'm just not certain who. Walt was clearly manipulating Hank, in order to access the computer and plant the bug. But watching Cranston's performance, I think he was being genuine. I think, whatever his initial plan was, once he got sitting down, he had a moment of honesty. I think that break down was a little of the old Hank breaking through. And the only thing I can think to compare it with is Heath Ledger's Joker.

There is a substantial debate online as to whether or not the Joker ever 'tells the truth' in The Dark Knight. Some peg the hospital scene, with Harvey, as a genuine moment for the character, though I personally believe he lies more in that scene then in any other. But, the argument remains, considering that the Joker is a master manipulator, that all of his intricate plans rely on people behaving and reacting either exactly as he thought they would, or exactly as he makes them, is there ever a moment in the film where we see the real man behind makeup, or is he basically a living set of motivations?

The same discussion must now be asked of Walter White. Can we believe anything he says, and any action he takes, as being truly genuine? Up until last season, he was still Walt with his family. But this season, we've seen that disappear. Skylar is no longer his wife, as she makes clear in this episode, she's an employee. He even goes Heisenberg on Jr, the first time he hasn't been himself with his son (conversely, he's only been 100% honest with the baby). Even his long speech about his cancer, and the previous year, from last week, when Skylar tried to huck herself into the pool, seemed deliberate.

I think that is his tell. I said a couple weeks ago that Walt was a decent guy, that things only work out when he had a chance to think about them. When he paints with broad strokes, things fall apart. I think the easiest way to judge Walter is by listening to him. When he is speaking from the heart, he stops and studders. He falls over himself, trying to think as he talks, and gets ahead of himself. But when he's Heisenberg mode, his dialogue is steady, calm (even if angry) and commanding. He speechifies. He orates. He plots out his words like they are an equation. So, now I'm going to have to listen to the show more carefully now, to see if there is any good left in him.

And lets hear it for some good old fashioned foreshadowing: "You out burying bodies?" "Robbing a train."
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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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