||SPOILERS|| This episode opens with Jesse (Aaron Paul) standing in the street, with his friend Skinny Pete squishing a bug underfoot, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Hank's comment last week about criminals being cockroaches to stomp on. Now that Jesse's taking proactive action in becoming the city's new druglord, how long before he and Walter (Bryan Cranston) get squished themselves?
"Peekaboo" split the story in two parts; we had Jesse using Walt's gun to get his stolen meth and $1,000 back from Spooge (David Ury) and his "skank" girlfriend (Dale Dickey), with typically incompetent results. After breaking into their ramshackle home, Jesse finds the place empty beyond a small red-haired little boy he takes a shine to. The boy's dirty, half-dressed, hungry, lonely, and only has a mind-numbing home shopping channel to entertain himself. Jesse slowly bonds with the boy through the titular game, before Spooge and "Skank" return and all hell breaks loose. Jesse's hardly an expert at this kind of intimidation, and while he has the upper-hand with a loaded weapon to shove in their faces, the thieves are adamant they don't have his drugs. But maybe they can come to some kind of arrangement, as Spooge has a stolen ATM machine in the backyard, full of cash. If only they can break inside...
The second part of the "Peekaboo" concerns Walt, whose house of cards threatens to collapse under the weight of his lies, when Skyler (Anna Gunn) thanks their family friend Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) for paying for Walt's cancer treatment. Of course, Gretchen and her millionaire husband are doing no such thing -- they offered to pay the medical bills, but Walt refused their help, yet told Skyler he'd accepted to explain his incoming cash from selling meth.
Walt himself is back at work teaching chemistry, in a scene that gives us a little glimpse at why Walt feels so hard-done by in life. He tells the class the true story of H. Tracy Hall, a scientist in the '50s who created artificial diamonds and made his company billions, only to be rewarded $10. Walt clearly feels he's been similarly swindled out of a fortune by Gretchen's husband, whose company "Grey Matter" he used to be a partner in, and whose success he thinks is down to his earlier research.
Arriving home, Walt discovers that Gretchen has called round to see Skyler, but fortunately hasn't revealed she's not paying for his treatment. He manages to speak with her afterwards at a diner, but isn't willing to explain himself fully, so he just apologizes and hope that's enough. It's not. And Gretchen's attitude soon angers him enough unleash the hatred that's been poisoning him for years, about how he feels cheated and used by her family. They leave on very bad terms, and Skyler later reveals to Walt that Gretchen called to apologize for having to stop paying their medical bills. Walt manages to convince Skyler that the Schwartz's have been crippled by the economic slowdown and are having to tighten their purse strings. This seems to satisfy Skyler's inquisitive mind, and has just the right level of social embarrassment to prevent her chasing the story up. Well, Walt hopes.
"Peekaboo" is an episode that saw Jesse try to overcome his naturally gentle nature, and create the alter-ego necessary to ensure his customers don't think they can get one over on him. But, he can't quite manage it. The lure to protect an innocent little boy is too much. Even after he's knocked unconscious by Skank and Spooge, awakening to see Skank crush her unkind boyfriend's head by tipping the ATM machine, Jesse may steal the ATM's cash before leaving... but he also can't resist dialing 911 and hoping they'll find the little boy and take him into custody. Of course, he's very possibly alerted the cops to a crime scene they'll recover his fingerprints from, or interrogate Skank and discover his part in Spooge's death. Jesse's been very lucky, again, but has his luck finally run out?
There was also some great stuff with Walt -– in how he made a brief connection with Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) by joking about torturing the people who graffitt'd a "missing" flyer with his face on (which was also rather dark), and the line from Gretchen about a fourth of July weekend where he walked away from her and disappeared. Was that inferring they had an affair, but he chose Skyler and possibly sacrificed a lot of wealth by sticking with Gretchen? And is Walt just bitter about the Schwarz's riches, or was he genuinely conned out of a millionaire's lifestyle?
Overall, a really great episode with the emphasis on character. This season hasn't been as consistently gripping as last year (which wrapped up in a heady seven episodes because of the writers' strike), but it's no less fascinating and brilliantly acted.
12 April 2009
Writers: J. Roberts & Vince Gilligan
Director: Peter Medak
Cast: Bryan Cranston (Walter), Aaron Paul (Jesse), Anna Gunn (Skyler), RJ Mitte (Walt Jr), Carmen Serano (Carmen), Charles Baker (Skinny Pete), David Ury (Spooge), Jessica Hecht (Gretchen Schwartz) & Dale Dickey (Spooge's Woman)