Tuesday, 24 July 2012

BREAKING BAD, 5.2 - "Madrigal"

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Nothing's simple. If Walt (Bryan Cranston) thinks he's just going to step into Gus Fring's shoes and become the city's drug lord, he's in for a rude awakening. Obviously he knows it won't happen overnight and needs careful planning, but after destroying Gus's incriminating laptop, Walt is blissfully unaware of the other repercussions Fring's death has set in motion...

"Madrigal" served to remind us that you can't eliminate someone like Gus Fring without shock-waves. First there's Madrigal Electromotive, the German company who bankrolled Gus. The teaser suggests it was the work of a minority element—headed by taste-testing executive Peter Schuler (Norbert Weisser), who duly commits suicide with a defibrillator in a toilet after noticing police searching his office—but how true can that be? Madrigal's CEO seems to be a decent person when brought in for questioning by the DEA, but then again Breaking Bad villains have a tendency to be masters of disguise. As if to underscore that, we had the scene where Hank (Dean Norris) listened to his boss Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) chastise himself for failing to notice how Gus, a friend he invited to family barbecues, was actually a master criminal, commenting that he was right under his nose... and the irony, for us the audience, is knowing Hank has the same wool pulled over his eyes regarding brother-in-law Walt...

This episode was actually more of a showcase for Mike (Jonathan Banks), the only remaining key component of Gus Fring's empire, now battling to keep the authorities at arm's length. It's a seemingly impossible task, despite having paid off eleven men who could implicate him as an accessory if they chose to. Mike remains calm, cool and collected; even during an interview with Hank and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), where his knowledge of police procedure helped him avoid probing questions. As of right now, the curtain of silence is working, despite there being major reasons for the cops to suspect him of being involved (such as the fact his daughter Kaylee has a cool $2 million in a bank account under her name). Other difficulties for Mike included the arrival of panicking Madrigal exec Lydia (Laura Fraser), who appears to have dealt directly with Mike and Gus in the past, who's now so desperate to put a lid on things she acted rashly by paying a Los Pollos employee to kill all potential informants—after Mike refused to himself.

My ketchup gun can also reach your Van Gogh
As for Walt (Bryan Cranston), he's still manipulating Jesse (Aaron Paul) to keep the pretence going that he has the boy's best interests at heart—here, making a copy of the Ricin cigarette that went missing in season 4, so Jesse could find a fake and thus end the mystery of what happened to it. The real one remains hidden behind an electrical socket in Walt's bedroom, so I'm certain it'll be coming in handy before too long. This is all a clean-up by Walt, wiping the slate so he can begin his rise to prominence with Jesse and Mike as partners—even if Mike, initially, isn't keen to go into business with his old boss's killer ("You are a time-bomb, tick-tick-ticking, and I have no intention of being around for the boom.")

"Madrigal" was definitely a piece-moving hour, but one we definitely need before the fun begins. Breaking Bad has always worked in this way, of course; steadily building to enormous, thrilling crescendos, that are all the better because you feel the careful preparation that's gone into them. Madrigal were behind Gus Fring's operation, but to what extent? Is the whole company corrupt and involved in the distribution of narcotics worldwide? Or are there just rogue elements like Lydia and Herr Schuler, who found a way to use the conglomerate for illegal, highly profitable, criminal activities? Now that Mike's managed to avoid being killed by Lydia, and has taken pity on her (his weakness is cute kids), he's re-established a link with Madrigal to get Walt up-and-running with a supply of methylamine. But is it wise for Mike to be involving an employee of Madrigal in this? Is he so sure the DEA won't find a way to link the German company to Fring's activities? It felt like a strange decision to me, but Mike isn't a stupid character so I'll see where this leads...

A really good episode; different to the energetic caper of the premiere, but more engrossing in many ways. Jonathan Banks has become a co-lead on the show, now his character's a partner in Walt's fledgling business, and this was a terrific episode for him to play all of Mike's notes: grumpy bastard, world-weary pragmatist, unflappable suspect, and unstoppable assassin. There was even time for a fantastic moment for Aaron Paul, when Jesse broke down after realising he almost killed Walt over nothing. Walt was also noticeably tactile with people he's lying to in this episode: massaging Jesse's shoulders when comforting him over the Ricin mistake; and showering Skyler (Anna Gunn) with kisses as she lay in bed, assuring her that the bad things they're doing are acceptable because they're for good reasons. Walt may have convinced himself, but his wife's not persuaded. I wouldn't be surprised if we're headed for a moment when Skyler cracks and tells the authorities about what her husband's been up to, although that would deny us the more dramatic option of Hank's sleuthing exposing Walt...


  • The famous RV was nicknamed The Crystal Ship by Jesse? I wish we'd known that before it was crushed.
  • Mike was a cop in Philadelphia, who left "somewhat... dramatically". I love the ambiguity, and hope we find out the circumstances of his departure.
written by Vince Gilligan / directed by Michelle MacLaren / 22 July 2012 / AMC