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BREAKING BAD, “Hazard Pay” Episode Recap

“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” — Mike

Walt figured that with Gus out of the picture, he’d be free to reign over Albuquerque as the new drug lord no questions asked. But, of course, in the Breaking Bad universe, nothing is so cut and dry.

He’s got a new, ballsy, ingenious method of cooking in anonymity and has Jesse and Mike on his side. He’s got a hungry marketplace where the demand far outweighs the supply. His first cook generated nearly 50 pounds of the blue stuff netting $1.5 million for just a night’s worth of work. But after giving twenty percent to the mules, paying back Jesse for fronting the operation, giving Saul his cut, paying Mike’s guys their hush money, and splitting the rest an even three ways between the partners, Walt’s left with just $130,000 — not exactly what he envisioned being The King would be like.

Of course, we all know it’s not really about the money with Walt. It was in the beginning, but now, it’s all about being The King. He wants what Gus had. He wants people to fear his face and his name, to never question anything he says, but as Mike so eloquently put it, that’s not how it works. As pointed out by the immortal chess scene from The Wire, no matter how well you play the game, nobody just gets to be the king.

Once Walt backs down from Mike on the money issue (whose in charge of the business side of the operation), he begins to think deeper into the mind of Gus Fring, more specifically the time when he sliced open Victor’s throat in front of Walt and Jesse in the season four premiere. Walt confides in Jesse: All this time, I was sure that Gus did what he did to send me a message. Maybe there’s another reason. Victor trying to cook that batch on his own, taking liberties that weren’t his to take. Maybe he flew too close to the sun, got his throat cut. 

Flying too close to the sun is something Walt’s been doing since his meth cooking days began, but when other people start to interfere with his ultimate goal, you better believe he is going to do something about it. Walt’s learning that maybe Mike is right, one doesn’t simply step into the king’s shoes overnight — that he needs to embody the “stay out of my territory” mindset he had before he even knew Gus Fring’s name. The ruthlessness of Walt’s ways have no bounds, and we as the audience know this, but with Jesse hearing this side of Mr. White for the first time, he was left speechless. The look on his face as the episode came to a close was all you needed to see.

It’s a chilling moment that we all expected but still have trouble comprehending — Walt as a cold-blooded villain. The slow build to this season continues to simmer until we reach an eventual boiling point. Who knows what’s up Walt’s sleeve. Taking down Mike or his guys, maybe. But the show is far too unpredictable to even try and prognosticate what is going to happen. But Walt’s genius, psychotic mind will strike, and it will leave us all with our jaws on the floor.

Other Thoughts

– The “Hazard Pay” in the episode title is in reference to the hush money Mike needs to dish out to his guys in order to “make them whole.” Even though they were apart of the Fring operation and not Walt’s current one, Mike needs to make sure they are well compensated so that they can do the time behind bars with good mental health and won’t squeal. Mike gives these guys his word that they will be made whole, and as far as I’m concerned, Mike’s word is stronger than pretty much anybody else’s.

– Walt owns Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Whitman was a romantic who appreciated the small things in life, so the connection to Mr. White couldn’t be farther apart in that distinction. But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way.

– One thing that isn’t quite working for me so far this season is Skyler’s apparent nervous breakdown, which has become a distraction to parts I truly care about. Skyler has always been a polarizing character for me, and oftentimes her stories work well with Walt’s, but I just hope that her zombie-like state about this whole situation turns around soon.

– Some great lines in Saul’s one scene: “We don’t need a fourth amigo.” “Let it be noted that I do this under duress.”

– Walt in regards to Mike: “He handles the business, and I handle him.”

– No matter how many terrible things Walt has done to Jesse, seeing those two work together on a batch is one of the more beautiful things on television. They make a great team. I screamed “Yeah!” and did a fist pump when they showed the two in their yellow Hazmat suits, giving each other the look right before they start cooking.

– Likewise, I know I’m harsh on Walt (as I should be), and his manipulation of Jesse is well documented. But I truly believe that he still cares about Pinkman deep down, even if this conquest of absolute power has blinded him with ambition. They share a few fine moments in this episode, and even though I know that he’s more than likely playing me for a fool as much as he is Jesse, I can still believe it, right?

– Walt’s “Everything we do matters” speech to Jesse is very Gatsby-esque. There’s no escaping where we came from.

– Skinny Pete and Badger show up to see just how “major league” Jesse has become. Also, Skinny Pete apparently lost his calling as a virtuoso piano player.

– LANDRY CLARKE, EVERYBODY! Jesse Plemons joins the cast as Todd, one of the pest guys who interacts (briefly) with Walt. I can only imagine his character will have more importance later.

– Walt meeting with Brock for the first time since the Lilly of the Valley incident. Heartbreaking.

Find Nick DeLorenzo directly on Twitter @nick_delorenzo and remember to follow @ScreenInvasion!

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Nicholas DeLorenzo

Nicholas DeLorenzo

television writer/social assassin