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Breaking Bad Watch: Train in Vain

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SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, put off watching that DVD of Heat you just picked up and watch last night’s Breaking Bad.

“Swear on your children’s lives.” –Lydia

He does it for the kids. Whatever sins Walter White has committed, whatever compromises he’s made, he’s always, at least, been able to tell himself that he was doing it for his family, and in particular his kids. “Dead Freight,” through the framework of another heist story, forced him more than once to confront that moral question and to face what he’s willing to do when the innocent become obstacles.

Last week, Walt spared Lydia–no innocent herself–not out of mercy but expediency; the cook must not stop. This week, he was just as ready to dispose of her, but first he confronts her, handcuffed, across a table. And he finds someone whose rationalizations are much like his own. Why did she put out the hit on Mike, and try to have all of Mike’s guys killed? Because she’s a single mother with a daughter, and if she went to jail, her little girl would end up in a group home.

(MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: Pool Party)

Lydia is no more principled than Walt, if less skilled (but maybe potentially just as dangerous?). But in this one sense, Walt could just as well be looking across that table at a mirror, at someone whose sense of duty and scruple is probably real but very narrow. Above all, she’ll protect her own, and the world can go to hell.

Like many things on Breaking Bad, of course, it’s just an operatic version of moral decisions that people make in little ways every day. Do you acknowledge any duty to your colleagues, to your neighbors, to the world at large, or is every family an island? Walt has made this decision already for himself, clearly, but Lydia proves herself useful again and so lives–for now. (The staging of this scene is fantastic, by the way. Three powerful men, a prisoner, like a dungeon in some totalitarian country—it frames Walt not just as a danger but a full-on gangster villain.)

Everyone in Breaking Bad–everyone, at least, on the criminal end–has to confront some form of this question. (Including Lydia, who, as soon as she gets her reprieve, immediately signs off on killing the train crew: “I thought you guys were professionals.”) It comes up again, overtly, when Jesse hits upon the idea of the methylamine train job and Mike lays it out: for it to work, someone’s gotta die.

Mike, you could argue, is the cruelest and coldest figure on Breaking Bad when it comes to eliminating people in his way. But you could argue that–relative to his criminal peers–his “no half measures” philosophy is about avoiding violence. In a peculiar way, his mindset is more moral, at least in its practical effects. When you have to kill, you kill, and you don’t mince words about it. You don’t debate it, you treat it logically, and you take the sentiment out of it. (The few times he’s shown mercy, he regrets it: “That’s what I get for being a sexist.”)

But in facing the honest truth about who has to die, you also face the problems it can cause, and you look for ways to avoid it. It’s Mike, after all, who would rather pay his guys off than off his guys; he’d rather do a cheap old-school cook than risk a bloody holdup. When Walt and Jesse, finesse guys, try to engineer ways around this bloody math, it often just leads to blood later, and more of it–this, probably what he means when he talks about being exasperated with dealing with amateurs like them. He’s like the general who believes that when you go to war, you do it with overwhelming force–and when you can avoid it, you don’t do it at all. And that’s how Jonathan Banks, masterfully, plays him. He’s not a man who loves killing. He’s a man who KNOWS killing, and thus knows it’s better avoided.

(MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: Do You Want To Know a Secret?)

Not for the first time, no one listens to Mike’s first thought. And the bloodshed does get kicked down the road—just down the road, heartbreakingly, to a kid on a dirt bike. What no one sees coming–well, I didn’t–is the triggerman’s being arguably the one least invested in the outcome of the job, the quiet, yessir-nossir bagman Todd. You probably felt something horrible coming at the end of this job for most of the episode–like, well, a train coming down a track. So the end of “Dead Freight” wasn’t surprising, in that sense, but it was horrifying and stunning.

But I’m a little ambivalent as to how it played out. Breaking Bad has sometimes seemed to take the easy way out when facing Walt and Jesse with horrible moral choices. Earlier in this episode, for instance, they were on the verge of killing Lydia in cold blood when, first the phone-tap and then Jesse’s train-heist plan stayed her execution.

Here, having Todd kill* the kid had a definite surprise-twist value. It also–I’m guessing–set up a conflict among the team. For Jesse, now the moral center of the show (or, at least, of Walt’s team), killing children is inconceivable and unforgivable, as we’ve seen before and as was underlined by his horror at the shooting.

*Or at least shoot the kid; in any case, the decision here was plainly to kill him, even if he somehow survived.

But it also staved off a tougher moral confrontation: if Todd hadn’t drawn, no way Mike and company were not going to have to face that some tough conversation about the only successful heists being those that leave no witnesses. (Though again: we don’t know the kid is dead. If he’s not–and we have to go by the no-head-wound, no-dead-wound rule here–and if he could be saved medically, then there is one hell of a conversation coming up in the next episode.)

There’s another way of looking at it, though, which the show has earned enough goodwill for me to embrace. Breaking Bad has steadily moved Walt up, incrementally, to a certain moral line. He would cook drugs, not kill. He would kill, but only gangsters. He would let a drug user die, but he wouldn’t kill in cold blood. He’d kill in cold blood (well, he’d have Jesse do it), but he wouldn’t harm a child.  He’d harm a child, but he wouldn’t kill one.

(MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: Special Sauce)

In “Dead Freight,” he added to the list: but he’d benefit from someone else doing it, or at least trying to, in front of his own eyes. There are few remaining moral lines for Walt to cross, or, finally, to refuse to. But if there’s one thing five seasons of Breaking Bad have promised, it’s that those terrible choices are coming, unavoidably, like a train hurtling down a track.

Now for the hail of bullets:

* Aaron Paul hasn’t had a real spotlight episode in this half of season 5 so far, but he has been quietly effective making Jesse the fulcrum between Mike and Walt, his wheels spinning desperately to keep them from killing everyone they deal with, or each other. With Todd having shot the boy witness—crossing Jesse’s one firm line—I have to wonder whether Jesse is in play here. (It also reminds me that, I’m sure, we have not heard the last about what happened to Brock.)

* I’m going to write this down to a confused viewing of the scene (because of travel, I haven’t had a chance to re-watch before scheduling this post) but I was a little confused by the scenes at the White homestead, especially vis a vis Jr and Holly. Just last week, we saw Walt refuse–coldly, terrifyingly so–any option that would involve Skyler removing the kids from the house. This week, they have essentially a calmer version of the same discussion about the danger Walt presents, and Walt apparently goes along. As I said, I expect I simply missed something simple that I’ll catch on re-viewing, but feel free to shed some light here.

* And in any case–given the “all for the kids” theme I just wrote about–if Walt is no longer doing what he does to keep his family by his side, what reasons does he have left?

* Breaking Bad Visual of the Week: the cold open was notable not just for all the usual reasons (without dialogue, telling a story by the simple addition of images to the frame) but for a different one—there was no “punchline” cueing you in to the scene’s significance until it dawned terribly in the desert later.

* Again, love how Breaking Bad’s attention to the infrastructure and mechanical processes of modern life. It’s like the Ocean’s Eleven of industrial supply chains, manufacturing equipment and food science.

(MORE: Breaking Bad and the Downfall of the White ‘Anyman’)

* Though, OK, one more question on the methylamine siphoning: isn’t there an extremely low margin of error when it comes to how short the train stops? That overpass isn’t that wide. What happens if the train manages to stop a few hundred feet shy of the intersection?

* Love that “Flynn” is still with us.

* Question on the relocation of the kids to Hank and Marie’s, by the way: if the home of a drug dealer is not a safe place for them, is the home of the principal DEA supervisor investigating that drug dealer a safer place for them? Extra credit: do you think any good can come of this?

* Speaking of Hank: Walt could have gone to his office under any number of pretexts. What I liked about his confessing his problems with Skyler—”She doesn’t love me anymore”—is that it’s not just plausible to Hank but plausible to us. Of course Walt is capable of faking the emotion, but I think it’s just as likely that he’s drawing on someone real, that somewhere down there is a part of him that’s actually hurt by her rejection. Or am I just a sucker?

48 comments
EeZed
EeZed

Did anyone notice that in Episode 2, Mike says (paraphrase) "you're a time bomb...tick tick tick...and I don't hope to be there for the boom"...and the episode ends with the tick tick tick of the watch...?

Dan Tayag
Dan Tayag

I highly recommend listening to the Breaking Bad insider podcast with Vince Gilligan to find out trivia about the episode and other things (it's on iTunes or the show's main site under extras>podcasts).  For episode five, it really patched up A LOT of the plot holes I was worrying about.

The Breaking Bad production team hired an expert involved in trains to find out where chemicals are usually are on a train.  The production team was told that chemicals are usually six cars from the end just in case the train derails.  The scene where Jesse measures the distance is there because they know how many cars that particular train usually holds every week.  Lydia then gives them the exact car from the last six that they need to steal from.

And for those wondering how the heck those engineers didn't hear the heist going on, a train idled is still pretty freaking loud.

Timmyhb2
Timmyhb2

Remember the title of the show is, of course Breaking Bad, sorry to those of you who, five years in are just realizing that this aint gonna have a happy ending. I guess this is a good time for u to bail and go watch the Hallmark channel.

Timmyhb2
Timmyhb2

Only stating the obvious here, but funny how Walt, Mike and Jesse have become addicts to the Blue without using it (Jesse excluded) also thought it was great to put Heisenberg in the DEA office sitting across from the very guy who earned his new job hunting him

DEDC
DEDC

That bug Walt put on Hank's modem is found as soon as the  IT guy get involved.

Tom Porter
Tom Porter

Killing the child was pointless and unnecessary. There were any number of convincing lies the crew could have told the boy about their work under the RR trussle. I'm done with this show...there's enough doom and gloom in this world. Don't need anymore.

Sean Daniel Shortwinter
Sean Daniel Shortwinter

I am well aware that the screenwriters used a feel-good 'train robbery' to build me up...then purposefully yanked the rug out when the kid is shot. I still hated it, though. 

It goes against everything Walt and Jesse stand for - which is still twisted and wrong - but they didn't hurt innocent kids. I hope they fix this next week.http://sdanielshortwintercom.blogspot... 

Shelly_Dee
Shelly_Dee

Maybe the kid was shot with a stun gun?  I hope so because this was a disgusting ratings thing otherwise.  Since the whole episode was not believable, how about having the bad guys just so happen to have that date rape drug in their bag of tricks and give the kid a shot/dump him where he'll be found and move on.  The anal dissecting of this gross episode gives it more respect that it deserves.  Unless redeemed early on next week, I'm history.

Shelly_Dee
Shelly_Dee

Maybe the kid was just shot with a stun gun, after which the bad-ass guys just happen to have some of that date rape drug that they shoot him with and he doesn't remember a thing.  Or maybe that nasty spider gets out and does him in.  That was an appalling scene no matter how you try to spin it.

Shopping Directory
Shopping Directory

(Possible spoiler if you didn't see the teaser) Regarding the kid possibly not dead: we see child like fingers poking out of the dirt that are burried.  The dirt looks identical to where the underground tank was dug.

Shoot the Critic
Shoot the Critic

I totally agree about your last point. I also felt that while he was "acting" for the sake of getting the camera into the picture frame, he was indeed drawing from real sentiments of fear and rejection. That's what was so perfect about it. I still think he considers himself a family man, despite his kids no longer being at home. His goal now seems to get them back - and to prove to Skyler that he's worth staying with. - Shoot the Critic, http://shootthecritic.com

Kathryn6277
Kathryn6277

This is the sloppiest episode in BB history; there haven't been many. The train heist was ludicrous on multiple fronts. In the first place, why would they go along with anything suggested by Lydia? Why would they rely on her information? (How does she have this vast, almost-unfathomable scope of info, anyhow?) Could go on and on, but what's the point...

More absurd than anything else: that Walt, Mike and Jesse would bring in another party - someone they barely know! - to take a critical close-up part in this heist. Naturally, that's the guy who blows it at the end, whipping out his six-gun and blowing away a kid on a bike?

One or more of Walter's children are certainly going to die before his egomania reaches its inevitable conclusion. The death/injury of increasingly-innocent children is a recurring theme here. But the setup for this was poorly done.

No way, no way, no way. Gimme a break. Vince, please take over!

 

Ellen B
Ellen B

Having a kid get killed - and there seems to be little doubt, per next week's preview, that he's dead - heightens the severity of the consequences of these endeavors.  Todd pulled the trigger because he was following Jesse's strict directions that NOBODY can know about this.  He was following orders.  Jesse was definitely against it (and will now feel the guilt.)  The only question now is: how will Walt take it?  Well, it not HIS kid so he's not going to shed a tear.  He will be more concerned about the murder becoming a liability.  Mike will hate it more than Walt.  Walt is becoming increasingly worse, which is almost unbelievable that he reaches a new low every episode.

And the "outs" - as in who lives or dies - certainly don't come easy.  Walt risked a child last season in his quest to kill Gus.  He risked his neighbor.  And he's only going to have Jesse's back as long as Jesse is still his buddy.  The minute Jesse finds out about Jane or Brock or any number of things, Jesse will be on Walt's hit list.

Nobody is safe from Walt - least of all his family. The kid had to die for a couple of reasons and one of those is to prove Skyler right, which, judging by audience reactions to Skyler, is necessary. Vince Gilligan must be frustrated that he has to hit people over the head with which one of the Whites has a stronger moral compass, because a lot of people don't seem to see that.

To answer the question about the safety of Hank and Marie's house: we saw, last season, how well-guarded they were in the face of a threat.  Hanks got big guns and muscle behind him.  That makes Skyler feel good about her kids being there.  Heck, they did it before!

DEDC
DEDC

Please with your moral pontification. All Skylar knows about is the murder of Box-cutter Gus and she perhaps has an inkling of  the murder of Gale. You give too much credence to her' intuition'. Her concern is for the safety of her children as would any mother's be. And you have no reason to think Walt is also not concerned for the safety of his children if not the safety of others.

The fact is, neither you nor I know Walt's real reasons for continuing on his quest. We may not know till show's end, nor even at all.

But there is a piece of Skylar, who, instead of doing the 'right thing' and turning him in and claiming hostage status herself - which she could do - hell she suggested it herself to Walt back in season 4 - has not only accepted it but finds it a bit exhilarating. Note her comment "I will be any kind of partner you want me to be".

Note the smoking (while pregnant!), the affair during the height of Walt's illness, the guilting Walt for Junior's despising of her every chance she gets, the attempted suicide guilting, so on and so on. Do you really want to get into this lesser of two evils moral compass bullshit?

jenny5555
jenny5555

Re: the kids at Hank's and can any good come of that -  the scene with Skyler and Marie, "there's a lot you don't know and if you did, you'd never talk to me again".... Skyler just lit a match on long fuse with a powderkeg at the end. She's cracking.  And Marie telling Hank what she said is gonna start the tumblers falling into place about his suspicions about Heisenberg.

jenny5555
jenny5555

Wow, so much in this episode.

That cold open gave me such a sense of dread in the first two minutes....when he was handling the tarantula, then when he put the jar inside his jacket, Next To His Heart, I was thinking oh, no no no. Was the kid gonna crash his bike and get bitten? And what would that have to do with the story....it seemed symbolic somehow, this innocent and seemingly innocuous decision of his to take a dirtbike ride with a lethal force tucked next to his chest.

Maybe it was meant to give a sense of foreboding, but being that on this show every thing means something, it felt like a metaphor for choices turning deadly on a dime.

Chuck Mann
Chuck Mann

This has nothing to do with the story, but tarantuala bites are not as poisonous as commonly thought of - less than a scorpion's bite, and about the same as a bee sting.  Also, their bodies are quite fragile, so if the jar was broken by the kid being in a crash, the tarantula likely would have been killed instantly.   Still made for a good metaphor/symbol within the story tough.

James  Sweet
James Sweet like.author.displayName 1 Like

Regarding Walt's acquiescence to Skyler...  I don't think it was a specific point, I think he's just been convinced.  First, we KNOW it's not about his family any more, that is just the nominal justification, and possibly a part of Walt knows this too.  Second, Walt does depend on Skyler for money laundering, so she does have a little bit of leverage there.  Third, last week's episode was the first time Walt was forced to admit the fact that Skyler hates him/is terrified of him, so it's not at all implausible that his initial reaction would be different from his reaction 12 hours later.  Fourth, as indicated at the end of last episode, Walt still believes he can make Skyler love him and get on board with this plan, so he may feel that letting her get what she wants in this regard for now is a tactical decision.  Fifth, Walt's got bigger things on his mind right now, and so may be doubly willing to tolerate a short-term retreat on this issue.  And lastly, the fact that in the end Skyler leaves it as a "decision" of sorts for Walt -- rather than unilaterally removing the kids, she offers a trade of laundering services in exchange for removing the kids -- that plays better into his need to perceive him to be in control, a least somewhat better than her approach in the last episode.

In other words: I think it's totally plausible that he would agree to Skyler's deal, at least for now, despite any contrary indications from their confrontation in episode 4.

Austin Vela
Austin Vela

(Possible spoiler if you didn't see the teaser) Regarding the kid possibly not dead: we see child like fingers poking out of the dirt that are burried.  The dirt looks identical to where the underground tank was dug.

James  Sweet
James Sweet

Yep, I noticed that too.  The kid is pretty clearly dead, and the next episode is going to be dealing with the aftermath.

I predict that one big plot point coming up is that they now have a buried tank of methylamine, in the same area where a missing kid was last seen.  Whoops.

dgbb
dgbb

re: Kids out of the house....kids out of the house=rebellious teenager with fancy new car=acting out=new friends=time to party=blue stuff on a table=.....

sanchezjb
sanchezjb

Some quick thoughts ... Lots of foreshadowing in this episode and perhaps the beginning of a very significant turning point in the series.  Lydia's statements referring to the train's remote tracks as "dark territory" and "a dead zone" proved to be prophetic given the episode's ending.

One of the recurring themes of "Breaking Bad" has been the terrible impact, directly or indirectly, that the manufacturing, selling, and use of illegal drugs like crystal meth can have on our children.  This is one of the main points that Vince Gilligan, the series creator, has been pushing via the mini-stories in the series. We've seen  a child's teddy bear fall from the sky after two planes had a mid-air collision over Albuquerque (indirectly caused by an air traffic controller's stress and inattention resulting from his daughter's drug overdose and death), a young boy and gang member shot based on Gustavo "Gus" Fring's orders after Walt complained to him, the poisoning of Jesse's girlfriend's son by Walt, and in last night's episode, the shooting of a young boy by Landry ... err ... Todd in front of Walt.  That's a key point.

These killings have been moving closer and closer to Walt. We also have Skyler's worry, vocalized in just about every episode this season, that someone will show up at the door of their home looking to do harm to their children.  Some may view this as needlessly repetitive.  It is not.  Vince Gilligan has been doing this deliberately to foreshadow a significant breaking (pun intended) point in Walter's relationships and family.  "Breaking Bad" is now moving to breaking points.

The killing of these young boys moving closer and closer to Walt combined with Skyler's repeated concern for their children's safety foreshadows Walt Jr.'s death.  In the first episode of this season (a brief preview into Walt's future), he no longer had that confident stare and looked, based on his demeanor and actions in that restaurant, like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  His hair (and the cancer?) had returned. He looked like the Walt that we saw in season one.  Clearly, something major had happened prior to this point in Walt's life - like the death of one of his children.

There was another foreshadowed breaking point last night.  The young boy on the bike symbolized Jesse and the tarantula symbolized Walt.  Last season, Jesse came within a trigger pull of killing Walt.  He didn't.  This season, we have seen Jesse taking care of Walt - from loaning him money to coming up with ideas to keep them from getting arrested (the giant magnet) and keep them in business (the train heist's method).  We've also seen Jesse's increasing focus on not wanting to take lives, whether it be Lydia's or the train's engineers.  Similarly, the young boy on the bike did not kill the tarantula. He put it in a glass jar (taking care of it) and put the jar in his jacket pocket - symbolic of the close relationship that Jesse has with Walt.

Vince Gilligan has proven to be very adept at the showing the implications resulting from the show's characters' decisions and actions - another major theme.  We don't know what will result from this boy's death.  However, we were given some clues.  When Todd, who clearly has no reservations about taking lives - unlike Jesse, shot this boy, this episode's last shot (again, pun intended - there was more than that one "bullet" fired) was that of the glass jar on the ground, no longer next to the boy but intact, with the tarantula still inside.  This shooting will serve as the beginning of the break in the bond between Jesse and Walt.  Perhaps most significantly, the tarantula (Walt), even though it can still see the environment around it, is now really trapped.  It and Walt just don't know it.

vrcplou
vrcplou

 I have to say I love coming here and reading everyone's thoughts.  I always come away with something new and watch the episodes in a smarter way.  And thanks for reminding me of the opening of  this season.  Walt indeed looked broken.

willylee
willylee

As a literary critic by training, I love how the show manages, again and again, to make its crucial points about morality and human nature at the formal level.  We aren't simply told in dialogue, for example, what to think, but are shown in the course of the building conflict as the narrative unfolds, how to think about the major issues the show loves to mull over.  In "Dead Freight", what's on display (as much as I might argue against this particular polemic) is how science, rationality and all of Walt's "perfect planning"--or as Todd says, "You've thought of everything!"--can't account for the random variables in life, like the tarantula boy.  It is these "random variables" that must be controlled by cold cunning or, if not, expunged.  The fact that the entire episode is a contrivance of the typical heist narrative mirrors perfectly Walt's devotion to scientific expectancy.  Like all good genre films, this episode stays true to the conventions of the high-speed train heist story, and, for this reason, is a corollary to the notion that good science, too, proceeds by careful planning and disciplinary standards.  Interestingly, though, this analogy collapses in the final scene with the death of the boy, showing us in purely formal terms how all the care, devotion and knowledge of one's ideology collapses--literally. As a representative of a space "outside" of this ideology that cannot be incorporated into this safe (because known) structure, the boy signifies all of the excesses (power, narcissism) that Walt and arguably all the character in Bad are trying to master but like us all, cannot. 

Charles Zigmund
Charles Zigmund

Walt's devotion to scientific expectancy cannot account for the train's stopping in  exactly the right place so that the targeted tank car happens to be right on top of the underground tanks. There was only one place for the broken-down truck to be -- at the crossing. The targeted tank car could have been anywhere on the train but ends up at the exact right spot? This was a whale of a stretch.

Jennifer Brangers
Jennifer Brangers

As I understood it, this was explained by Lydia. She said that when she recieved the manifest it would tell her exactly how many cars were on the train and which position "their" train car would be in. She passes that information along to them as soon as she has the manifest. 

4frankie4
4frankie4

Kevin: I've thought about this a bit. Jessie may have been measuring the distance that it takes for the train to stop before the road crossing, as to determine if they would hit the "stalled" truck once the train came around the bend and they saw the truck in their path. (After all, a train can't just stop on a dime) However, There is still a bit of a plot-hole to me, and yes Charles, it is a bit of a stretch, as they didn't have any way of knowing which car would have the methlamine. What if it was the car right behind the engine car? The engineers would surely have seen them in that case. And it was pretty convenient that the car stopped just on the bridge, which was the perfect spot. Still, all artistic license granted, I think it was a great scene, very suspenseful, and one of those brBa moments that make me forget where I am since I'm so focused on the TV. And I love that con guy they use in the decoy truck, from the EPA agent, to roughing up Ted Beneke with Huel, he is a great peripheral character

Kevin Driscoll
Kevin Driscoll

 Yes that is correct. But that statement is also what makes it implausible. In addition to making Jesse's measurements rather irrelevant.

According to Lydia, they would have 6-8 hours to prepare for this. They measured the length the day before she calls Walt from her home after seeing the manifest on her computer. There is no way that the specific cars placement could have been determined before hand. It could have been directly behind the engine for all they knew, which would obviously kill the plan, regardless of length of hoses etc but because they'd be right in front of the truck scene.

And yet, Jesse measures 800 (feet, yards, meters?) and the methylamine car ends up right on the spot where they decided to bury a 1000 gallon tank. There would be no reason for Jesse to measure because what exactly is he measuring? They don't even know how many cars would be on the train, it might have not even been long enough to reach the bridge.

So while you are correct in saying that Lydia had it all figured out, that statement is the lynchpin in making it implausible. She also said this while the killing of the train employees was still on the cards. It makes sense if they are killing the guys, because they could take their time and put it in a tank with fireworks attached because no one would be there to bother them, except for mr. dirt-bike. However, by saying she could only get the manifest 6 hours before, the entire plan of siphoning the stuff, burying a tank, getting a dump-truck would be totally ludicrous.

BillyMozart
BillyMozart

Jesse's tortured "NOOOO" when he sees Todd pull the gun was so well-deliverered, that scene needed the perfect blend of script and performance.

Also, "Ocean" "814."  "Dead Freight."  I wonder if the  writer wanted to do shout-outs, but at the same time saying Breaking Bad isn't the kind of show that does direct shout-outs or easy pop culture references.  If only they had an indirect Wire reference and I would have had my four favorite shows occupying the same space-time.

Alejandro Roggio
Alejandro Roggio

He is hurt by her rejection, but he is also in denial. He is confident she will take him back at some point. Once he realizes that there's no going back, it will be clear that Skyler is no longer part of the family he wants to protect. Then, she'll get a ricin cigarette shoved down her throat. 

Zack Handlen
Zack Handlen

It makes more sense to me that Todd pulled the trigger for a couple of reasons. 

1.) I don't think the kid needed to get shot. An adult witness would've put everything together, but a kid? You scare him enough, or you feed him the right story, and there won't be problems, especially since there's never going to be any direct evidence of the crime; he's not going to hear about the train job on the news and make the connection. Sure, he'd have been a loose end, but with Jesse there, and Mike (I don't buy that Mike would kill the kid either), Walt would've had a tough argument to make. Besides, I don't think Walt would be willing to actually shoot a child--poison one with a good chance he'll recover, sure, but cold-blooded kill? Nah. 

2.) It fits better thematically. The point isn't "Can Walt shoot a kid?" The point is, Walt can convince himself he can control everything, that he's a mastermind and his genius can get him out of every corner--but the choices he's made make this kind of outcome inevitable. Making him the trigger man would've allowed him the ability to draw the line. He justifies his behavior to himself by saying, "I'll only go this far, and no further," but these justifications are hollow because of situations like this. By choosing to do the evil he does, he's put himself in a position where he's responsible for situations where he can't actually prevent violence from happening. He no longer has the luxury of not pulling the trigger when he keeps giving everyone guns.

James  Sweet
James Sweet

I agree strongly with point (1) there.  It's not at all clear that the kid needed to die, and in fact this may be worse than feeding the kid a cock-and-bull story and sending him on his way.  A missing child means that police will be combing the area (which means that tank of methylamine stays buried for now), whereas sending the kid home would have AT WORST possibly resulted in a delayed police response.  Seriously, the kid goes home and says, "There were some weird guys doing some weird thing with a train" and... what?  His parents call in the FBI?

Todd wasn't making a cold calculating tradeoff of risks, he was blindly following the "no witnesses" edict.  I don't think Mike (or Walt) would have chosen to shoot the kid, not necessarily because of a moral choice, but because of a pragmatic choice.

Zack's point (2) is really fascinating as well, thanks for that insight.

Jason Mittell
Jason Mittell

I agree with Zack, and talk about the thematic reasons why Todd being the shooter is the better choice in a blog post

The other big point to add to Zack's is that now Jesse amp; Walt are in charge, and they must grapple with the challenges of leadership amp; managing. And it's no coincidence that the thing that turned Jesse (and then Walt) on Gus was when Gus's crew killed a kid to tie-up loose ends amp; Gus treated it as a business decision. So how will Walt amp; Jesse deal with their own employee doing the same thing?

def4
def4

About your last question: the easiest to act out lies are the ones in which 99% of what you say you actually believe to be true.

charlieromeobravo
charlieromeobravo

"isn’t there an extremely low margin of error when it comes to how short the train stops?"

I thought the same thing but if you watch the train, there are actually several tanker cars.  They knew how long the train was, they knew how far the bridge was, etc...  I think the real risk was just making sure the train stopped before hitting the truck more than anything else.  Freight trains don't exactly stop on a dime.  That the train stopped 20 feet from the truck, well, I'm willing to accept that :-)  At any rate they had a three or four car margin of error at the end of the train.

"I’m going to write this down to a confused viewing of the scene..."

I debated that myself but I watched the scene again and came away thinking that maybe Skyler had actually convinced Walt that she either had a point or that he has a lot more work to do to bring her around to his point of view. I think Walt's resolve with Skyler is deteriorating. His little performance in Hank's office was an act but I don't think it was entirely an act of fiction.

James Poniewozik
James Poniewozik

 Ah, my bad then. I had a sense from their earlier conversation that there was one single car on the train (thought Lydia referred to it in the singular?)

James  Sweet
James Sweet

No no, this is really a (albeit minor) plot hole.  The entire point of Lydia phoning them from her office is that she was able to tell them which of the tanker cars held the methylamine.

There were a couple of other minor plausibility problems with the heist as well, but not enough to ruin my suspension of disbelief.

Ian I. Bullock
Ian I. Bullock

You know, you have a good interpretation of this episode. It really made me think about a few things that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. Your view of Mike is pretty spot on and you seem to really understand. People really seem to not understand his character well enough.

 

Although, I think Skyler wouldn't think of Hank being in the heat too if something went wrong because he's an agent and that's her family. So she would very easily not think about it, so it wasn't a flaw, it was more her having the kids in her house with her Meth cooking husband or her DEA Agent brother-in law and she said in the last episode her plan wasn't very good either.

I also think that Walt may have felt that Skyler is falling out of love, but I think he knows better, hes going out and making millions of dollars for his family. He wouldn't let her be cut off, he'd do his best to stay with her and get her to provide the money for the kids when he dies. But really I'm sure he just thought it was a great enough excuse to get into Hank's office and I'm sure he knows him well enough that he'd leave to get him coffee rather than stay and comfort him.

One last thing, I thought it was great how they came to the conclusion of just doing a switch, and how the kid is thrown in after they think they had a job well done, it was brilliant. They may not have had to kill the kid, but it was very unexpected and dark and it really introduced Todd's character on the show. It may even bring about a conflict among the crew and maybe even push Jesse to his breaking point.

Jessica Austin-Luce
Jessica Austin-Luce

I know in her first description of the heist she said there is always "at least" one car of methylamine but I don't remember if she confirmed it in her phone call!

ccinnc
ccinnc

 That was my impression as well.

charlieromeobravo
charlieromeobravo

Maybe I'm wrong but there were like 4 or 5 tanker cars at the end of the train.  I assumed they were all 

methylamine cars.  Now I have to go back and check :)

ipfletch
ipfletch

Regarding your last bullet- no, I don't think you're a sucker at all. I think Walt went that route for a couple of reasons:

1) Because yeah, it's true, he IS hurt- and nothing could work better than the truth in this situation...just, y'know, with a couple of details omitted.

2) Telling Hank this now works to set up the framework for a "she's crazy and will say anything to hurt me" defense, should she start letting more serious details slip- which I'd say is inevitable.

This whole kids-out-of-the-house thing is a real stretch for me, honestly- I'm having a hard time swallowing it (or more to the point, Hank amp; Marie's swallowing it). This isn't something that can go on forever- and yet that appeared to be what Walt and Skyler have agreed to last night, which just doesn't make sense.

auh2064
auh2064

The significance of Hank noticing Walt's expensive watch can't be overlooked.  With that and the new cars, Hank's going to start putting the pieces together.

Paul Doro
Paul Doro

Prior to this episode wasn't it mentioned that Mike is under surveillance?

James  Sweet
James Sweet

(Semi-spoiler warning for those who didn't watch the teaser)

I've been wondering about that.  It appears to come to a head in episode 6.