The push, and then the shove

10 May

Sometimes, there are problems too big to death with all at once. You can’t do them partly, or do nothing at all, so the only option is to find the smallest possible problem and fix that, pretending that you’ve really achieved something. It could be re-lacing a shoe, throwing all the unneccessary crap out of your handbag, or trying to fix a wobbly table. The idea is to alleviate that feeling of worthlessness, of having to live in a world where everything is beyond your control. If there’s ever been a character who embodies that feeling, it’s Walt.

Breaking Bad pulled a hard shift in tone this week, and for the first half of the episode everything was very low-key. No loud music, no yelling, slow transitional shots. The waiting room scenes were some of the show’s best, and for the second week in a row I felt like was intruding on a private family moment. Anyone who’s had to wait a night in hospital could identify with it, and it’s a testament to the quality of the writing that it felt so real.

The second half was some moving-the-pieces action to set up bigger conflicts later. Most shows fumble this (hello there, Lost) but for the most part it felt like a natural progression. Walt’s expression when he sees what looks like every cop in town is waiting in the lobby for word on Hank was classic, and you can only assume that Jesse’s friends are having a magical police-free holiday out on the streets, selling meth to their little hearts content.

As always, the last 5 minutes was big on reveals, as Gus Fring made a season-3-Ben-Linus level jump from cool guy with mysterious plans to machiavellian genius.With nothing more than some free chicken, a smile and a few handshakes he shattered Walt’s temporary sense of control. He’d been spending too much time in the wonka-den, so it was satisfying to see him go up against somebody with real power and fail miserably. While they aren’t enemies (at least, not yet) their conflict will shape the rest of the season, and,if he’s lucky, how long he’ll live.

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