Away from the excitement of Walt and Jesse getting back in business, there were a few notable changes for the women in their lives. Firstly, Walt manipulated Jesse into leaving his girlfriend Andrea (Emily Rios), after planting the seed of doubt that she can ever be trusted knowing what he does for a living. This is the second good relationship Jesse's had that has been brought to an end thanks to Walt (the other being that astonishing moment when he let Jane choke on her own vomit), and it seems to have only come about because Walt was uncomfortable around Andrea's son Brock (the boy he poisoned last season to pin the blame on Gus).
With the cops sniffing around Mike and Marie looking out for her sister, you get the feeling that Walt's going to have to deal with these weak spots to protect himself. I still have a suspicion that once Walt's learned everything he needs to learn from Mike, he'll be looking to eliminate him—which is pretty much the inference Jesse got from Walt's parting words about that grisly moment Gus slit Victor's throat in front of them. "Victor trying to cook that batch on his own, taking liberties that weren't his to take? Maybe he flew too close to the sun and got his throat cut." The look on Jesse's face said it all. Walt is now trying to rationalise a monstrous act of Gus Fring, as if he's trying to learn the lessons of his forerunner. As Mike told Walt earlier, "just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James". That's a true and undeniable fact, positioning Walt as "the coward Robert Ford" in that particular scenario from history, but it looks like Walt's keen to learn from the past and become the Jesse James figure.
Season 5 isn't quite rocking yet, but the slow-build has been engrossing to watch and I've enjoyed the minutiae of Mike's activities to keep himself and his co-workers safe from reprisal, while grudgingly getting into business with Walt because he needs money to grease the wheels of this process. Will someone flip on Mike and blab to the cops? Is Skyler going to confess everything to Marie, putting her in a very awkward situation with husband Hank? Is Walt a fool to keep Mike alive once he's tied up the loose ends regarding Gus's operation?
Another really good episode with plenty of forward momentum, strong writing, and some excellent character moments. This season has a different feel to it, as Walt's situation isn't as tense or hopeless looking without Gus around to tighten the skrews, but I expect that to change very soon...
- It was great to see Jesse's friends Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones) again, but it was very clear from their interactions that Jesse's left them way behind. He's big time now, so we'll perhaps be seeing less of those street-level punks, unless they stick around to do more donkey work like buying roadie cases to transport a meth lab. I also liked the unexpected moment when Skinny Pete played the piano to Grade 8 standard; a rather sad sign of how his talent's been squandered thanks to, I assume, a poor upbringing and mixing with the wrong crowd.
- The scene where Skyler caught Walt and Walt Jr watching Scarface was perhaps a little too on-the-nose, if you're aware that it's always been showrunner Vince Gilligan's intention to have Walt become a Scarface-type by the end of the series. I just had to wonder if the violent scene of Scarface's "final stand" in the movie is foreshadowing something with Walt, given our knowledge that he'll be procuring a machine gun in the near-future...