Something else to learn from Breaking Bad: always pre-screen the new people you bring into your group.
After an emotion-heavy episode last week, Breaking Bad decides to give something to the process geeks out there in "Dead Freight." Walter White is an unrepentant, irredeemable, awful human being at this point, but dammit it's still fascinating to watch him work. Our natural inclination to watch smart, talented people do what they do well happens to be one of the reasons we love watching Walter White every week. Sure, he's become the embody of all evil in his universe, but he's just so good at it!
This week, for example, Walt first lets us watch as he figures out a way to bug Hank's new office (breaking down in sadness and tears over his failing marriage, and then laying the bugs when Hank is out getting him coffee), and then, most impressively, we get to sit back and watch as Walt, Jesse, Mike, and new recruit Todd pull off a daring and complex train robbery. Yup, a train robbery. Something we haven't seen in decades, and Breaking Bad gives us a good one.
It comes about when Walt, Jesse, and Mike capture Lydia, chain her down, and threaten to kill her if she doesn't comply with their orders to call Hank and ask if he laid a tracking device onto a bottle of methylamine. After she does so, the four of them listen in through the bugs in Hank's office as he calls around asking if anyone knows anything about a GPS, and, as it turns out, Lydia is telling the truth. She didn't lay the tracking device at all, and it was some DEA agent overstepping his bounds (and doing it shoddily). So, that's a bit of a twist. Mike wants to kill her anyway, figuring she's still too close to snapping and telling the feds about the whole meth operation. After all, with the DEA tracking the methylamine, she isn't going to be able to act as a pipeline for Walt and the gang. She does, however, have another idea. She's aware of a train carrying 24,000 gallons of the stuff passing through New Mexico (reminding us of when Walt decreed that "nothing stops this train"). At first, Walt and Mike argue about whether the train can be robbed without kiling the two-man crew aboard, when Jesse, as he did with the magnets in the season premiere, figures out a way to theoretically rob the train without anyone getting hurt (or anyone even know the train was robbed). It's interesting to see Jesse become the idea man, while Walt, enjoying his criminality as much as he is, becomes the guy who has to figure out how to carry out Jesse's good ideas.
The train robbery itself is another fantastic setpiece, one that includes a lot of moving parts and a real sense of tension in its pacing. With Kuby, the Saul Goodman henchman played by comedian Bill Burr, stopping his truck on the tracks and pretending it's broken down, Jesse and Todd (played by Jesse Plemons from NBC's Friday Night Lights) whom they recruited from the exterminator, get to work on running hoses to and from the train compartment carrying the methylamine. The plan doesn't go completely smoothly, but the group gets the chemical they were after, and nobody knows that it even happened. Unfortunately, there was one witness: a young boy riding his dirkbike around in the desert who just happened to see what went down (or maybe just part of it). With Jesse's warnings about how nobody can know about the crime probably ringing around in his head, Todd simply guns down the young boy without any hesitation.
We first see the boy in the cold open, riding around through the desert and playing with spiders – just doing what boys do. Innocently, and harmlessly. Bookending the episode with the boy's death drives home just how far Walt's actions over the past year (in TV time) ripple out. A young kid can play outside with no idea of what's waiting for him, or how quickly he will be wiped out. It's a part of the process Walt doesn't really anticipate, but it is something else for him to figure out.
Written or Contributed by Royal Nonesuch
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