Breaking Bad: “Hazard Pay”

Scaling back from last week’s wide reach, the series offers an old-fashioned Walt and Jesse-centric episode… but of course, things have changed since the old days (of merely a year ago in the BB timeline).


After the widened reach of last week’s episode, it seemed appropriate to scale down and settle in for a nice Walt and Jesse-centric story. This episode was full of small reminders of the original Breaking Bad setup. Marie turns up for the first time this season, her motor-mouthed pushiness finally sending Skyler over the edge. Remember when Marie’s shoplifting was one of Skyler’s main problems? It seems like an eternity ago (even as this episode reminds us that the show’s entire timeline has only been a year — wow). And when was the last time we saw Walt and Jesse chill out on a couch with a couple of beers?

Walt comes up with another one of his schemes, this time to turn the lab mobile again, and with the exterminator/burglar team we get yet more insight into Saul’s deep web of small-time criminal connections. Courtesy of Mike, we’re reminded of how organized Gus’s operation was, and how complicated it’s going to be for them to step into his shoes.

When Walt and Jesse set up once again to cook, the snappy montage is a reminder of how at some level, for them it’s all about the craft. And in the nature-doc-like flashes of chemical creation, we share the joy that both Walt and the show’s creators take in the beauty of chemistry itself. The scene is also, whether intentionally or not, a reality check for the viewer — you can’t help but be excited to see them in action again, until you remember just what it is they’re doing (the show hasn’t focused on the end result of their business for quite some time).

Skyler has been at the periphery of the show so far — hopefully she isn’t getting sidelined à la January Jones in Mad Men. The sonic transition from the gunplay in Scarface to the money-counting machine is uncharacteristically unsubtle by Breaking Bad standards, but Anna Gunn’s expression is poignant.

Meanwhile, Walt’s pronouncements are becoming more and more inscrutable. When he urges Jesse to think about being honest with Andrea, is he really telling him to dump her (as Jesse interprets it)? And who exactly is “flying too close to the sun” in his concluding musings? Though this episode was comparatively low-key, it’s clearly laying the groundwork for some explosive drama.


Best lines:

–       Saul, nicely describing Mike’s patented glare: “He gave me the dead mackerel eyes.”

–       Mike, the show’s other reliable purveyor of memorable phrases, calls Walt’s materialistic focus “putting on the green eyeshade.”


Random thoughts:

–       Early on, when Walt stumbles through his house carrying a box, it’s a brief reminder of his old image as a bumbling klutz.

–       Seeing Walt, Jesse, Mike and Saul all together in a car is truly enjoyable, even if it’s just for a brief expository scene.

–       Always nice to see Jesse’s comic-relief crew of Badger and Skinny Pete, although one glance from Mike reminds Jesse that these guys aren’t cut out for the big time.

–       When a cockroach crawls through the frame near the mobile lab, we’re reminded: oh yeah, their whole plan is to set up in a succession of infested homes. Gross.

Leave a Reply