Sunday, April 5, 2009

Breaking Bad - Episode 2.5 - "Breakage"

What is the cost of sin?

The Bible says, "The wages of sin are death." Whether you believe in the holy writ or not, one thing is for sure: bad shit will never make good shit (unless we're talking about art, in which bad shit makes the best shit).

There is always a price tag on the bad things we do, and in this latest episode of "Breaking Bad," we are given a new label for it: breakage.

According to Jesse Pinkman, every store has to make due with things being broken -- it's just the cost of conducting business. But, according to Walt, this breakage has a cost of its own. But what is that cost? And to what lengths should they go to mitigate it?

Let's take a look at that more in a moment.

To recap -- this episode focused on three stories:

A) Walt tries to re-establish his and Jesse's meth making business in the wake of the Tuco disaster.

B) Jesse rebuilds his life and works to create a network of dealers so he and Walt can cut out the middleman.

C) Hank gets a promotion in the aftermath of killing Tuco, but struggles to deal with it.

All three of these stories are about breakage.

Walt has lost the respect and love of his family. His pregnant wife has been smoking on the sly. He doesn't know where his son is. And his household is as quiet and empty as the New Mexico desert.

Over the last couple episodes, Jesse has lost everything. His home. His money. His parents. His self-respect. Now, he is trying to get his shit together. We haven't even seen him smoking meth for the last couple episodes. But his problem, as Walt clearly points out in the episode's climatic moment, is that he doesn't have a lot of foresight. He doesn't consider the repercussions of his action, or lack therof.

Hank, usually the loudmouthed, boastful DEA uncle full of grisly stories about drug busts, had to face his feelings for the first time. Over a barbeque, he confesses to Walt Jr. that he was scared when he faced Tuco, but he says it with whimsy, like it didn't matter shit. Yet, on the elevator at work, in his garage bottling beer, and in the middle of the night, Hank is shaky, anxious, and overwhelmed by the fear he hasn't dealt with. This leads him to take the paperweight made of Tuco's grille and toss it into the Rio Grande at the end of the episode. For him, the breakage is emotional.

Breakage may be the most important episode of this season. It is the transition into the second half of the season. Because the first season ended after only seven episodes, this one would have been the 12th, making it essentially the end of season one (as it goes for a cable TV series). So, Breakage is a season finale with a cliffhanger: Walt bringing Jesse a gun and telling him to kill the addicts that robbed Skinny Pete.

And that is the length Walt is ready to go. He brings Jesse the gun that has been sitting in the air vent of the nursery for awhile now, and tells him to take care of the breakage. A dealer without muscle isn't much of a dealer at all, his action tells Jesse. If you're going to jump into being a drug broker, you need to take shit from no one. Tuco may have been one crazy motherfucker, but he was right: break bones first, ask questions later -- that way no one will ever try to take advantage of you. When you have power, you have to can't get fucked.

Will Jesse be willing to go there? When the show started, he was the badass punk and Walt was the guy in over his head. Now...Walt has killed two people, blown up cars, gone head-to-head with big time dealers (and won). What about Jesse? He's had his ass kicked several times, been shaken down by the DEA, and been kicked to the curb by his parents. Walt is the badass, pure and simple. He seems to have come to an understanding about the cost of his sins, and doesn't give a flying fuck anymore. His wife is smoking, won't talk to him, and sees through his lies. Not to mention he's dying. Fuck it. He has a mission, and at this point, for him the end justifies the means. But Jesse...Jesse is more sensitive. He is the romantic who has to manipulate his way through trouble. The consequences do matter to him. In a lot of ways, he has more to lose than Walt.

So, what is the cost of sin? I don't think that's so much the question. The real question is: how much are you willing to pay it?

No comments:

Post a Comment