Breaking Bad “Madrigal” Review

Breaking Bad "Madrigal" (Season 5 Episode 2)

When Gus Fring died at the end of season 4, much of the tension for the previous two seasons was wiped away. In many ways, the slate has been wiped clean. As a result, some viewers may be perplexed by the unusually slow nature of the first few episodes. I will comfort you by saying we are only beginning. The pacing is exactly where it needs to be at this point in the season. The madness will start flying soon enough. There is no need to get impatient.

While the start has been slow, there has been plenty of brilliant work being done. For starters, Jonathan Banks now has his Emmy submission episode. Breaking Bad is the most visually outstanding show on television, and everything that Banks does as Mike Ehrmantraut only enhances the show’s reputation. Nobody does a better job of looking annoyed than he does. This week, he was incredibly annoyed by Walt, Lydia, Chow, the other one of his guys he had to kill, his devastating loss in Hungry Hungry Hippos, Hank, Gomez, and the fact that he is stuck with Walter and Jessie. It’s the last thing on the list that sticks in his side the hardest. He doesn’t want anything to do with Walt or Jessie, but Hank’s discovery of Gus’s offshore bank accounts, and Lydia’s refusal to “disappear” from her daughter’s life forces Mike to reevaluate his situation. He’s stuck with Walt and Jessie. He’s tired and annoyed by the proceedings, but he can’t escape them. When he calls Walt to tell him that he’s in, you can feel the disgust from his end of the phone. However, I’m not sure what makes him more angry: The fact that he’s still involved in the business, or that Walter White got we wanted yet again.

A big part of these first few episodes has been positioning our new drug kingpin as a megalomaniac. He has emerged victorious over Gus Fring. Now he wants to take over his empire. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do first. The vast infrastructure that Gus had is long gone. While those pieces are continuing to fall into place, Walt’s ego only goes. The show has effectively traced and shown the step-by-step process from meek chemistry teacher to Hall of Fame monster. Not even Tony Soprano reached these heights of sadism. Still, he chooses to paint himself as a man doing something to help provide/protect his family. Only Skyler seems to know the true depths of the monster within. The scenes between Skyler and Walt this season have been some of the most uncomfortable moments of the entire series. From his “forgiveness” last week to his pseudo-rape this week, Walter White is no longer a man to be pitied or identified with. He’s a man to be reviled.

The counter to this increasingly evil man is Jessie. Jessie further positioned himself as the audience’s rooting interest as Walt sunk deeper. First off, Walt has to make a fake version of the ricin-laced cigarette because Jessie is concerned that an innocent person will find it. Considering where we started in season one, to position Jessie as the moral compass of the show is quite surprising. However, the best work by Aaron Paul this week came after he found the fake cigarette in the Roomba. Watching Jesse beat himself up over his perceived mistakes (instead of seeing Walt’s manipulations) is a stark reminder of why Aaron Paul should win the Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy when he is eligible. He hasn’t had a whole lot to do thus far, but that scene in his house shows you why he’s the best. I’ll take these small moments of genius right now, but I’m ready for Jessie to be more involved.

Hold on tight, folks. The ride is about to get a lot bumpier.