Seriable’s Aria Mohtadi reviews Breaking Bad 5.02 “Madrigal”
Strangely, this time around Walt’s ripple effects have caused a major drug trafficking breakdown, for all the good reasons. With the DEA closing in on the blue meth empire, Walt decides to rebuild it from the ashes, with the help of Jesse and possibly the reluctant Mike…What would it take for Mike to join them?
In this section we go over the episode’s major developments.
You coming to me or am I coming to you?
Addiction comes in different shapes…as Vince Gilligan has put it perfectly in the recent “Inside Breaking Bad” video features, Walt has grown addicted the to sense of power and authority; much like the addiction his blue product brings to customers. And in all his pride and glory, he’s got absolutely “no idea” whatsoever how far Gus’ business tentacles reach. This episode pretty much gave us an idea of the ‘higher’ stakes, going through the story with Mike, the veteran who was going to take a break…but things got complicated along the way.
Sympathizing with the late Herr Schuler, the prominent vibe in that opening sequence has to be one of shock, or being stunned to his bones; from his obvious distraction during the flavor testing to his lifeless stroll down the mall, and finally the stunning electro-shock suicide. He was doomed; thanks to the ingenious plan of Heisenberg and Gus’ lust for revenge resulting in the face-off. The same level of bewilderment was apparent in George Merkert from the DEA, who let Gus slip right under his nose…cue to Hank; will he let Heisenberg go that easily?
Walt’s long con finally resulted in an agonizing twist; drowning Jesse much further into oblivion, throwing all the guilt on him just as it always tends to happen with poor Jesse; if only he knew what tricks his partner/friend/teacher-in-crime was capable of. And what do we make of the ‘stashed’ ricin? Judging by the significance of objects in Breaking Bad, it’s safe to bet that it will come in handy someday.
Walt’s desperate, clumsy decision-making has morphed into dirty manipulation: “What happened, happened for the best”, is to say the end indeed justifies the means. The puppeteer now awakens fear in the depressed Skyler, and through her eyes we only see him from below the waist. She’s truly sleeping with the beast now. And sadly, as we saw with Walt’s situation in a year (the opening of “Live Free Or Die“), the consequences are coming…again.
Now, let’s get to the narrative focus of the episode, Mike Ehrmantraut; grandpa, head of security and hitman.
The essence of Mike’s adventures, from the cold conversation to his final change of heart, emerged from Walt’s offer that he ultimately couldn’t refuse…“Sleep on it” he said, assured that Mike would join the team. Guess that’s why Walt wasn’t terribly surprised when Mike called him later; seems Walt has inherited portions of Gus’s tranquility. Was it Hank and Gomie’s trace on his granddaughter’s account that forced Mike to go (or rather hide) in business once again? Was it Lydia begging him not to let her simply disappear in the eyes of her daughter? Was it out of care for Jesse, his life-saver? Or was it simply Mike’s realization that life outside the business proves to be more threatening?
The great thing about Mike in this episode was that he managed to convey all the factors in regards to making the final decision. But the catalyst for his coin-flipping (recalling Skyler’s Tails-make-heads decision in season 4’s “Cornered”) was in fact the hasty, unmatched game Lydia started by “Coming to him” through the ‘solid’ guys…she should have known better; You don’t wanna mess with Mike, ‘cause eventually he’ll “Come to you”…
In sparing Lydia, did Mike take another “Half-measure” like the time he hesitated to kill the wife-abuser (Episode 3.12)? Oddly, it seems both Jesse and Mike (the moral anchors of the show, if you will) have gone through similar half-measure situations: Jesse failed to kill Walt last season when he correctly unveiled most of Walt’s ‘Brock plot’, missing the crucial “Lily of the valley” piece, and now he thinks he owes the cunning Heisenberg a proper apology. Then, Mike failed to make Lydia disappear. Will Lydia prove worthy of Mike’s trust?
Obviously there is a difference between Walt and Lydia’s motivations for their criminal goals, at least judging by Lydia’s hopeless ‘final’ wishes. Walt is using his family as an excuse for his main goal of “restoring power and authority”, whereas Lydia’s only concern was the memory/ image she’d leave for her daughter. And it also seems Mike’s main drive is to protect Kaylee and provide for her future. No matter how many assassinations, the audience still roots for Mike… he killed “two good men” due to Lydia’s actions, after all!
Lydia too seems to be a mess of a time-bomb like Walt. She certainly pulled off a failed “Heisenberg” attempt on Mike; I wonder what she’d think of “the” chemist. With the help of Saul, the four of them seem to be on a “bright-blue” track, but will Mike and Jesse ever come to regret their decisions?