Jesse’s distribution breakage requires some immediate action in order for their street reputation to be restored, according to Walt. Meanwhile Hank’s promotion comes at the price of overwhelming stress and anxiety; he knows very well that working on the Blue Crystal case means trouble.
We’d like to dedicate this article to the memory of The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini who added an extra layer of complexity to his everlasting roles and helped us look at antiheroes in a different light.
WARNING: Spoilers from Breaking Bad Seasons 1-5 follow
In a similar fashion to the cold opens of “Grilled” or the season’s episode chain “737 Down Over ABQ”, we’re introduced to one of the many signs of Hank’s post traumatic stress from the shootout. The panic attacks, the claustrophobic aura surrounding Tuco’s demise and the uncertainty of the case’s resolution lead Hank to toss his well-deserved grill trophy into the river. We all know that Hank is destined to get involved in a deadly mission and this is just the beginning; a mission which requires him to hit bottom and rise, to deal with fear and distress.
- Submergence of his trophy, perhaps best symbolizes Hank’s need to repress the burden of responsibility. Other examples of figurative repression from the this episode are the submergence of the pink teddy bear or Skyler’s almost-empty cigarette pack. Ironically enough, such objects seldom stay beneath the waves and instead resurface, lingering on. In fact we see two guys finding Tuco’s grill that has been washed ashore, just like the way Walt manages to plunge the pack or the infamous eyeball. Hank’s destiny is entangled with the cartel.
- At the DEA, Hank does his best to avoid the trophy sitting on his desk. Compare the focused shot of the grill lining up with Hank’s mouth with a similar shot from 2.03 in which we see the same effect used on Walt. Clearly, Hank’s repulsed by all of this nastiness, unlike Walt who, as we’re to witness in this episode, gradually steps into and eventually fills Tuco’s shoes, becoming the next drug lord in town.
- Merkert’s remark doesn’t help either: sharks stay on top of the food chain because they pursue their prey for miles. In fact this could be the reason Hank experiences a panic attack in the elevator. Where will this perilous path take him? How far is Hank willing to go to catch Heisenberg? You can even hear the lowrider’s bouncing sounds echoing in Hank’s head (technically, in the soundtrack) when he’s experiencing the attack in the elevator which brings us back to the opening/closing of “Grilled”. The sliding doors open and he puts on brave mask on again.
- Hank finds another way to distract himself from the responsibility that comes with this long-awaited career-boosting promotion and to repress the anxiety, by spending time brewing in his man-cave of a workshop down in the garage. Ironically, this very distraction method becomes a source of dread when the bottle caps starts popping off like gun shots in the middle of the night! This breakage in the “repressor” Schraderbrau bottle caps perhaps foreshadows the El Paso incident from 2.07 or future shootouts (“One minute”). In fact Marie does a bit of unintentional foreshadowing at the White/Schrader reunion when she mentions that the cartel tends to litter the place with human heads. And of course we know what happens to Tortuga’s severed head in 2.07.
Above all, it’s shocking how the seemingly badass, no-nonsense-type Hank is revealed to be anxious and distressed deep inside, while the cowardly harmless Walt proves to be capable of inflicting horror. (More on their parallel yet distinct roles from this episode in “Subconscious breakage”.)
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