This is an exceptionally strange season of Breaking Bad so far, and one that gets more and more curious as time goes on. That’s not necessarily an insult, though I’m not sure it’s a compliment either.
It seems like it’s taken five episodes to just get our characters to the way they used to be, but after doing so, there is still relatively little semblance to an overarching plot this season, and I just keep waiting for a moment when things kick into gear, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
The major development from “Shotgun,” the third gun-themed titled episode of the season, is that at long last we have Jesse back. But how we got him is the strange part, and it came from a source that we probably didn’t expect.
We last left Jesse despondent and on his way to the gallows, riding in a car into the desert with Mike, surely a death sentence mere minutes or hours away from being executed for being a liability. We wondered how he would get out of it. A daring escape? A rescue from Walt?
The face of a man who is about to save the day.
Both almost happened, with Jesse clenching his keys in a way that could put Mike’s eyes out, and Walt attempting to storm into the chicken shack to confront Gus at gunpoint. Neither avenue panned out however, and the ultimate plan was far from what was expected. Jesse was merely Mike’s point man for money pick-ups all throughout the county, with no execution on the docket.
At the final stop, Jesse has to step up and defend the money stash from a gang of robbers, which he does so with great presence of mind, but we learn it’s all a set up, a ploy orchestrated by Gus to do…what exactly?
It’s a very interesting strategy by Gus, and one that makes me appreciate his genius all the more. A normal criminal would kill a troublesome worker, not give him a confidence building exercise to boost his spirits, but Gus knows that it would push Walt over the edge if Jesse was harmed, as evidenced by his crazed almost-rampage in the episode’s opening minutes. But if he could somehow reform him? That would be the most valuable thing he could do.
A different kind of evil genius.
It is kind of hard to buy that this worked so well though, as to see Jesse go from completely vacant over the last four episodes to his talkative old self in a matter of minutes seemed unusual. I guess you could argue when faced with the ACTUAL prospect of death, rather than just wishing for it, he snapped out of his coma, grabbing his keys and prepared to fight for the life he pretended not to care about. But when that wasn’t necessary, he was already back “on” and the subsequent boredom got to him and made him his old hyper self again. Top that all off with a heroic maneuver to “save” the stash, and I suppose it could be enough to get him back on track, but it did seem like quite a switch flip turn around, as he has been spiraling downward for so long.
Walt was less of a focus this week, but still went through some important transformations, albeit more toward the negative as opposed to Jesse’s newfound upswing. He is now fully reunited with Skyler, as a lovemaking session and move-in date cemented the deal, but almost immediately he seemed a bit annoyed having his old life back. He gets drunk and lets his pride get the better of him, hinting to Hank he might have the wrong man in the Heisenberg case and the “real genius” is still out there.
Does he want to get caught? Or does he just like the game too much at this point? For all Walt’s proclamations about being safe and what not, it’s becoming pretty clear this season he’s embracing a lot of the danger, first buying a gun and now using it to storm into his bosses’ headquarters, allegedly prepared to use it.
One hell of a mid-life crisis.
Through Walt’s hint, Hank discovers the possible chicken shack connection, which would seem to be one of the only developments that could contribute to the larger plot of this season, whatever that ends up being. Also curious are Jesse’s new “duties” with Mike, indicating that the duo’s time together is not over, and Gus didn’t just have one Training Day-ish team-up in mind. What is he planning?
I will still say that this season is struggling to find a firm direction. There must be one, but it’s being kept purposefully vague, with nary even a hint of what exactly the conflict is going to be? What’s the major issue? Walt vs. Gus? Gus vs. Cartel? DEA vs. Gus? There are only brief hints at any of those, and none appear to be the major focal point as of yet.
However strange the journey was, it’s nice to have Jesse back, and now I’ll look forward to seeing where he and the show go from here.