Breaking Bad went pretty literal with this week’s episode, in which an actual freight train rolled over one of the meth masters – and that was one of the least harmful events that took place during the hour. Without further ado, don your porkpie hats, and let’s review the major events of “Dead Freight.”
THE TRAIN JOB | Walt visits the DEA, where a fancied-up Hank in a suit is settling into his new office. The former chem teacher works himself up and starts crying, ostensibly because Skyler doesn’t love him anymore, but really because he knows Hank will be so uncomfortable at the show of emotion that he’ll hightail it outta there at first opportunity. And when he does, Walt quickly sticks surveillance gear on his computer tower and a bug in a framed picture of the Schraders. I’m simultaneously disgusted by his fakery, impressed by his telenovela-worthy ability to muster up quality tears and amused by his dead-on prediction of how his brother-in-law would react. The bugs come in handy later, when Walt, Jesse and Mike have Lydia handcuffed to a table at a Texas industrial plant. The place kind of looks like where Syd used to meet Vaughn when he was her handler. Sigh. I miss pre-Lauren Reed Alias. Anyway, Mike gives Lydia a script and has her call Hank – with them listening to both sides via the bug’s transmission to Jesse’s laptop — so they can discern who GPS-tagged the methylamine barrel at the Madrigal warehouse. Lydia’s call is clearly the first time Hank’s heard anything of the sort, and Mike wants to finish off Lady Banjo Eyes right there for lying to them. Jesse objects; he thinks she’s telling the truth when she says she’s not involved. “Everybody sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head,” Mike says. Walt agrees, and just as it’s looking like Lyd’s kid might be an orphan real soon, the bug catches Hank learning that the Houston DEA was behind the inexpert surveillance… and that they’d planted a tracker on each of Madrigal’s barrels. Soon, Lydia’s promising the trio “an ocean” of the methylamine that’s suddenly in even shorter supply by setting them up with a train car full of it – and the ballsy little broad wants to be paid for her efforts. “We can talk percentages later,” she quickly says off of Walt’s look. Ha! One problem: Her heist idea kinda requires killing the freight train’s two-person crew. While Mike and Walt once more argue about what to do, Jesse once more comes up with a far better idea – it’s not “Magnets!”, but it’s close.
ALONG CAME A SPIDER | With help from the Vamonos Pest crew, the guys set it up so that the car holding the methylamine will stop exactly where they’ve buried a few tanks in the desert; they’ll siphon some of the chemical into one container and then replace it with water from the other so no one’s the wiser. The liquid’s slight dilution, Walt explains in Mr. Wizard mode, will be blamed on the Chinese supplier. Todd’s eating it up. “You guys thought of everything,” he says with a little awe, which I’m sure plays into something pivotal that happens later. The scenes where the heist actually goes down are what’s amazing and awful about this show: You’re rooting for the bad guys, because you want them to succeed mainly so the incredibly tense moment where everything is riding on a complex series of highly variable events will just FOR THE LOVE OF GOD pass. Of course, one of those variables gets out of whack when a Good Samaritan shows up in the middle of the New Mexico desert and volunteers his pickup to push a “broken down” dump truck out of the stopped train’s way. Mike’s yelling at Walt to pull out, Walt’s telling Jesse and Todd to keep going, and the whole thing ends with Jesse flattening himself out under the train and Todd leaping from the car as it picks up speed. But they’ve got their precursor, which is cause for one of Jesse’s celebratory “Yeah, bitch!” whoops. And they didn’t even have to kill anyone! Isn’t that aweso— oh wait, there’s a little boy on a motorbike watching them. It’s the same kid we saw in the cold open, and he waves to the guys. Todd waves back… and then pulls out a gun and shoots the kid. So… although it was a good theory, Todd’s probably not an undercover cop, right? Jesse is beside himself; Walt says nothing. Side note: When I watched that kid jar up the big hairy spider in the opening sequence, I was half sure that he was collecting a highly poisonous species at the behest of some terrible person, and that the spider’s venom would become Lily of the Valley 2.0 later in the series. Happy, Breaking Bad? I am officially suspicious of every single moment of this show.
THE SKYLER PROBLEM | Walter Jr. and Holly are still at their aunt and uncle’s place, which is good, because Holly’s delicious cuteness is the only thing keeping me from gouging my eye out over that purple zebra-stripe chair and shag rug. An understandably unhappy Junior is upset about the situation and attempts to move back home, but his parents present a united front and make him leave again. Once he’s gone, Skyler asserts that she will not, in fact, change her mind about her husband. “I’m not your wife, I’m your hostage,” she says plainly. (Psst, Sky: That didn’t work out so well for Krazy-8 – and that was back when Walt was nice. Grab some broken pottery the first chance you get.) But if ol’ Heisenberg will let the kids stay at the Schraders’ indefinitely, “I will be whatever kind of partner you want me to be,” she promises. As he agrees, she notices the dirt on his jeans. “Out burying bodies?” she quips. “Robbing a train,” he shoots back. Heh. And as we close, a brief note about how literally dark this beautifully shot episode was: At so many moments, the characters’ morally murky ways were represented by only smidgens of light in the scene. It looked great, but if things continue apace, Walt and crew are going to have to wear glow sticks around their neck so we can pick them out.
Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments with your thoughts about Lydia, your theories about Todd and your bets on who will win the eventual Walt-Mike showdown. (You know it’s coming…)