Jane, who has long dark hair, looks askance at Jesse, who is out-of-focus on the right-hand side of the frame

Bad Nauseam: Breakage

Jesse convinces Walter that they will make more money if they hire a crew to deal drugs on their behalf – they start with Jesse’s friends. Meanwhile, Hank struggles with his mental health.

This is a very dense episode of Breaking Bad – important decisions are made, plot points are set up and new characters are introduced. While I like all of these changes, they do feel a bit rushed, as if the writers are struggling to depict everything they want to. I think Jesse’s scene with Clovis1 is the most obvious example of this. The writers seem to think that questions like “how did Jesse get a new car?” and “why doesn’t Clovis try to steal the RV back?” need to be answered in their own dedicated scene, instead of just using a few lines of dialogue.

As it happens, I really like Jesse in this episode. He has a new found sense of purpose and the confidence that goes with it. Where this new attitude comes from is a little ambiguous – maybe from surviving his run-in with Tuco or forcing Walter to give him more money – but the change makes sense to me. Jesse strong-arms Walt into outsourcing their drug dealing so the pair can take on the more profitable role of distributor.2 He also manages to find a place to live, successfully negotiating a cash payment plan with Jane – supervisor of the property and Jesse’s new next door neighbour.

Don’t worry Jane – we are going to be talking about you a lot more in the future…

The other major development in this episode concerns Hank, who begins experiencing PTSD symptoms in the aftermath of his shoot-out with Tuco. I appreciate that the majority of this subplot is portrayed without dialogue – it works thematically (Hank doesn’t want to acknowledge what is happening to him) but it also gives Dean Norris’ acting talents a chance to shine. For example, the scene where Hank is asleep and is woken by some popping sounds – he jumps up and immediately grabs a gun, his muscles tense and his breathing belaboured. We feel the character’s fear, but it also shows how foolish he was when he insisted that killing criminals was just like stepping on a cockroach. Hank is unable to live up to the ideal of the “indestructible” police officer but he must suffer and pretend everything is fine, even though it clearly is not.

Odds and Ends

  • Hank mentions the name “Heisenberg” for the first time – Walter’s alias/alter-ego is now well-known enough that the police have heard of it, an early step on the road to building a criminal empire.
  • The shoplifting subplot finally comes to an end with an actual, dramatic conversation between Skyler and Marie, followed by a tearful reconciliation – where was this level of care and seriousness in the other episodes?!
  • I enjoyed the scene where Walt asks Skyler where their son is, only for Skyler to ask why it is her responsibility to know that. It helps demonstrate some of the sexist expectations Walter has about his marriage.
  • There is a montage of Jesse’s friends selling crystal meth to various people, including truck drivers, bodybuilders and gang members. One of Badger’s customers appears to be a trans sex worker, who is framed quite sympathetically by the camera – something I think is noteworthy in an episode that was first broadcast in April 2009.

Please use spoiler tags in the comments, as some Avocadians are watching Breaking Bad for the first time