"Breaking Bad" -- "Madrigal": Sleeping With the Enemy
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"Breaking Bad" — "Madrigal": Sleeping With the Enemy

By Daniel Carlson | TV Reviews | July 23, 2012 | Comments ()


My wife does not watch "Breaking Bad." At least, she doesn't watch it regularly. She saw fragments of last season over the edge of her laptop, sitting next to me on the couch while I wrestled with Heisenberg and she mostly watched British sitcoms on Netflix. She's seen enough to be somewhat caught up, though, and she couldn't help but watch when Gustavo Fring met his end. She even watched most of last week's premiere, after which she was prompted by Walt's actions to ask: "Maybe I shouldn't say this since I haven't seen the whole show yet, but it's like he's not trying to provide for his family anymore. What's he doing?"

This is not an unreasonable question to ask, and it's one that's clearly been on creator Vince Gilligan's mind. So many of Walt's decisions, especially the little ones, led him irrevocably down a path of danger and evil that his original goal of providing money his family can use after his death has been clouded by layers of intrigue, lust, and greed. For a while there, Walt's journey wasn't about making money or even managing it, but about winning a power contest with Gus. Accordingly, this week's episode, "Madrigal," brought the focus back to Walt's simple quest for cash. After the fallout from Pollos, the car wash, and the money Skylar funneled to Ted, he's down to the felt, which means he needs to start cooking again. This is a great way to bring Walt's initial goals back into focus for the show's final season, but it's also a subtle reminder that everyone in the game is doomed to suffer the same fate: murder or bankruptcy. After a year of crawling to the top of the heap, Walt's essentially back where he started.

That theme of walking in circles showed up everywhere. The laptop that Walt and Jesse went to great expense to destroying with a giant magnet was encrypted anyway, so who knows if the DEA would've been able to use it. Instead, for their efforts, they left another few clues for law enforcement, from Mike's phone call to APD to the Cayman bank info secreted behind one of Gus's photos. Walt spoke of moving forward, but he could just as well have said "starting over." Even Mike saw the inevitability in it, and not just because he needs a way to keep earning cash for his granddaughter. It's because really, what else is there to do?

"Madrigal" was packed with so many amazing moments, too, especially the little ones that make "Breaking Bad" so magnetic. For instance, I loved watching Hank walk and talk with Gomez in their lobby before actually asking for help as they moved toward the elevator. That's a minor thing, but a huge change from the brash, self-centered Hank that started the series and the depressed, defiant one who spent most of last season confined to his bed. I keep reminding myself that, narratively, it hasn't even been a year since this whole thing got going. Everyone's changed in big ways, but Hank seems to be the one doing the most positive growth. It's fantastic to see him reasserting himself as law enforcement, too, and his interrogation scene with Mike was a reminder that he's real police, and determined to get his man. Gilligan's been milking the cat-and-mouse of Hank getting closer to Walt for years now -- Hank wasn't far from him when he took down Tuco Salamanca in the desert, and he almost had him in the junkyard one time, when Walt and Jesse were hiding in the RV -- and I've got a feeling things will only get hairier as we close in on the end.

I found myself again marveling at the depths of Walt's calculation: consoling an utterly heartbroken Jesse as if he didn't know the truth, planting a new cigarette, and making sexual moves on Skylar in a horrifyingly calm and quiet way. Walt may be broke, but he's never had this much power or drive before. He answers to no one, and he's more determined than ever to reclaim his crown as meth king of the Southwest. "There's a market to be filled, and no one to currently fill it," he says, as if talking about opening up a restaurant. It was a nice touch having Mike watching The Caine Mutiny when Walt and Jesse came to call: this episode, and the current story, are all about murky leadership, and uneasy trust, and grabbing power while you can. He's determined to win, even if he can't remember why he started fighting.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a member of the Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. You can also find him on Twitter.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • chad

    Remind me who Lydia is? I don't recall seeing her before.

  • wildsoda

    She's the Madrigal employee who met with Mike in the diner: http://breakingbad.wikia.com/w....

  • JQ

    I laughed aloud when we saw Walt Jr for the first time, and, lo and behold, he was eating cereal.

  • winged chorus

    The end scene with Walt kissing Skyler was one of the creepiest TV moments I've ever seen.
    I love Jesse's Roomba. I almost feel like its a lovable pet or something.

  • NoPantsMcLane

    For some reason i started humming the theme for Malcolm in the Middle during the final scene of this episode. It was weird.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I read a tweet from Weird Al this weekend to the tune of: "I like Breaking Bad that much better when I pretend it's a prequel to Malcolm in the Middle."

  • googergieger

    Also while I felt it was a bit heavy handed and on the nose for my tastes, I did enjoy the scene where the police chief was talking about Gus in the same exact way we have all been thinking of Walt and Hank's relationship over the years.

  • googergieger

    Not evil, just recklessness. When Walt is at his most desperate, he is also at his best. He thinks clearly. He has a clear goal in mind. Be it get what is rightfully mine from Tuco that Jesse lost. Be it find a way to replace Tuco. Be it find a way to work for Gus. Then find a way to kill Gus. Now it is find a way to replace Gus. He is still desperate after all is said and done. However he is used to that feeling. To that situation. He is also used to thriving in that situation. Therefore a certain calmness and yes, arrogance, arises.

  • Weck

    I'm glad you noticed the bit with Hank reaching out to Gomey for help in the lobby. This is a version of Hank we can more easily root for.

    Also, it's good to know that if I'm having a bad day at work, a defibrillator is only a stone's throw away.

  • Stacey Bryan

    I think things with Skylar are going to go one of two ways: She is going to crack and rat on Walt, or she is going to crack and kill Walt herself. I vote for the latter. She gets a lot of shit from a lot of fans but she has put up with a lot from Walt and I am surprised she hasn't broken already. Last night was the second time during this series Walt has forced himself upon her and, unlike the first time, last night she was too scared of him to even fight back or say no.

    And there is no way that this series will end without Hank finding Walt out. He has been close many, many times.

    I also can't shake the feeling that Mike made a huge mistake with Lydia last night and it's going to come and bite him in the ass later.

  • googergieger

    And Walt has put up with a lot of shit himself as well. Not condoning the forcing himself. Just when the dude had cancer she expected him to still be the obedient little husband and broken down man we met at the beginning of the series. Any deviation from that and she hated him for it. Almost any excuse to just be done with him. Then the whole Ted thing. Skylar is probably going to fall in line. Family and all. Would be something if Walt would be forced to kill her though.

    Lydia is a tough call. On the one hand, yeah kill her. On the other, Walt has shown he will do anything to stay alive and come out on top. Lydia is not unlike that. Though she seems to try to kill the people on that list out of ignorance more than anything. Walt puts himself in these situations sometimes(sometimes because of Jesse) and then destroys everything around him only to come out on top. All the more dangerous it seems.

  • branded_redux

    During the scene in her apartment when Mike's battling internally, I actually said aloud "No half measures, Mike!"

  • Stacey Bryan

    That is exactly what it was! I was thinking the same thing.

  • The scene where Walt was consoling Skylar and giving her the completely unwanted advice that it only gets easier made my god damn skin crawl. He's become a near apathetic monster and I'm loving it.

  • Ted Zancha

    This show never ceases to amaze me. I was on the edge of my seat in those last moments with Mike in that woman's house. Her begging "not to disappear" sent chills down my spine.

    On the flip side, the scene at the end with Walt talking to Skylar was almost revolting.

  • PyD

    I can't help but feel that the actual details of the off screen conversation between Mike and Lauren before Mike gets in the car and calls Walt are going to be of significant significance.

    Mike is so far the single most likely person against whom you would want an assault rifle by your side.
    Mike sees giving the DEA Walt as his best option to get some money to his granddaughter, either by a deal or by screwing Walt after they make some money.
    Mike is doing this for family too - but with less of a vanity motive, he still has a selfish motive in taking down the so called smartest guy in the room.
    He hates Walt and he probably suspects he can leverage Hank's vanity against him.

    As always I hope I'm wrong as whatever these guys can come up with is invariably better - but that's my current thoughts as the events unfold following the rule of 'who benefits'.

  • googergieger

    Mike's one weak point is his family. So I have a feeling Walt is going to use them as leverage before all is said and done.

  • Wednesday

    Aaron Paul is knocking it out of the park. The scene with him in the beginning, feeling like a total loser and having Walt so cold-bloodedly "console" him, that was incredible.

    My teenage daughter watches this with me, and at one point she asked, "Are you supposed to hate the hero of the show?" In this case, I think you pretty much are good with that.

  • I did enjoy the scene where the police chief was talking about Gus in the same exact way we have all been thinking of Walt and Hank's relationship over the years...2HoursDailyTo6kMonthly.blogspot.com

  • aroorda

    I can't decide if Walt Jr. or Skyler is gonna get killed first.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I've got to figure that this season is going to be about Walt vs. Hank. That scene with Hank and Gomez in their boss's office (I can't recall his name) where the boss it talking about how he couldn't believe how Gus had fooled him - that he'd had a psychopathic murderer and drug kingpin over for family bar-be-que's, laughing, joking, telling stories - all the while framing Hank's face.
    Is it just me, or is there a lot more foreshadowing in Breaking Bad compared to other high-end dramas of its ilk? It certainly seems like it.

  • Stacey Bryan

    That scene also gave me the impression that either Hanks suspects something or already or he is soon to figure it out.

  • googergieger

    I think Walt and his family in general are Hanks blind spot. He loves Walt after all is said and done. He only sees the Walt we saw at the start of the series. So it is going to take something big in order for him to start suspecting something. Then after that, I suspect he'll figure some things out.

  • CliffTorres

    I agree Stacey. Maybe at a BBQ Walt also wrapped chilean sea bass in a certain manner...

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