The third season of the best show currently broadcasting Breaking Bad begins somewhere in Mexico. Two mean looking hombres in sharp suits crawl along the ground commando style with the other pilgrims, in supplication to some pagan deity before they travel to Albuquerque to kill chemistry teacher, cancer survivor and crystal meth kingpin Walter White. They don’t speak but they exude the kind of menace that that sick piece of shit Billy Cudrup does to any woman who is planning on being supported through a pregnancy. These guys are ill and, like Patty Hewes, they do not play, well illustrated when they massacre then torch their travelling companions on their back-of-a-truck journey into the land of the free, presumably in some protest against illegal immigration. Well, someone’s got to take a stand.
167. That’s how many deaths Walter White has on his conscience after the crystal meth he manufactured caused the death of Jane, which caused the bereavement of Donald, which caused the distraction that caused the midair collision between two commercial airliners that rained body parts down on Albuquerque. Kicked out by his wife after one lie too many, more money than he can count but as alone as any person breathing, Walt is a fundamentally decent guy so how can he possibly deal with this? By denial, of course.
As the children at his school gather in the gym in remembrance of the dead, the Principal hands the microphone to the ever-popular Mr White. He receives a spontaneous ovation from the crowd – he’s loved and he’s beaten cancer. What else can his speech be but a case study in delusion, insensitivity and hypocrisy? The calamity wasn’t all that bad, he tells the huddled masses. No one killed on the ground – that’s practically a miracle. Tenerife! Now there was an air disaster. It’s horrible to watch. Walt is so broken, utterly detatched, compromised beyond belief. He’s a hard man to love right now.
“It’s horrible to watch. Walt is so broken, utterly detatched, compromised beyond belief. He’s a hard man to love right now.”
Just ask Skyler. She’s finally worked out the truth about the unexplained absences, the lies and the huge amounts of cash floating around. “You’re a drug dealer” she tells him. “Manufacturer” he corrects her, because that makes all the difference. She won’t rat him out to the Feds but only on the understanding that he grants her a divorce and stays away from the kids. You might want to rethink playing hardball with Walt, Skylar. He’s a dangerous criminal with nothing to lose.
Complicity in death will affect you in surprising ways. Jesse seems to have embraced his guilt, made some kind of peace with himself. He’s 45 days sober and trying to reconcile with his mum and dad. At least he would if they would let him inside. So he does what any loving son would and lowballs them on the property price and buys the house from under them, Saul the scumbag drug lawyer providing leverage when he realises their failure to declare Jesse’s meth lab constitutes property fraud. And he’s a guy who knows a fraud when he sees it.
But Walt? He can’t even recognize himself. He looks in the mirror and sees a man wronged. A wife who doesn’t understand him, business partners who run at the first sign of trouble and a world that seems fixated on this stupid plane collision. He can’t acknowledge the murderer staring back at him so it’s all repressed. “I can’t be the bad guy” he tells Gus when the burger kingpin offers him $3 million for three months work. Trouble is, he can’t not be the bad guy – the Rubicon has been crossed, Anna has spilled the sunflower oil, the abyss already gazes back.
Two episodes in and there is no letup in this terrific, solemn, principled show. Just like The Shield, no one’s actions occur in a vacuum, everything has consequences and everyone is called to account like it’s the Day of Judgement. And everyone is trapped by everything they did leading up to this point. You want the best for Walt, you really do, but you know he’s on tilt – out of control, losing sight of what counts and unable to pull it back round to something approaching normality.
This can’t end well. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
The verdict on Breaking Bad Season 3: Still cooking up some incredible shit.
Marks out of 10: 8.5