The phrase "Oh my God, Landry killed a guy!" has never carried such gravitas. The final seconds of tonight's Breaking Bad — in which Jesse Plemons' bumbling Todd (and Friday Night Lights' beloved goofball Landry) pulls out a handgun and (seemingly) fatally shoots a little boy — will undoubtedly launch the beginning of the end for this madcap series. If you were one of those folks twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the metaphoric s*** to hit the fan, congratulations — you got your wish. There's no coming back from this.
Presumably, much of the action over the coming weeks will be determined by how Jesse processes the shooting, and decides to move forward. His decision will no doubt be impacted by Walt's reaction, which, judging by the fact that he's an evil son of a bitch who effortlessly manipulated Hank and almost killed Lydia (despite her status as a single mother) earlier in the episode, may not be what Jesse is looking for. Walt (or, more appropriately, Heisenberg) only lives for this business and its maddening power now, and though I doubt he'll be happy about this tragic turn of events, something tells me he'd rather bury the kid in the sand and move on than risk compromising their operation. Collateral damage, and such. Whereas Jesse, who never fully recovered from Gale's shooting and is still hating himself for Brock's poisoning, may decide to throw in the towel. Mike is a bit of a wild card here — his love for his own grandchildren is fierce, but I'm not sure if remorse over this stranger-child's death will be enough to counteract his desire to support his family. Either way, business as we know it is done.
A good part of what made the shooting so viscerally effective was its sudden, unforeseen nature. Yes, Todd murdered a precious, innocent child, but he also murdered a precious innocent child who had not been seen since the very beginning of the episode. We saw the kid scooting around the desert in the episode's bizarre cold open and knew he was headed for trouble, but the 40-odd minutes that followed were so intense and occasionally heart-stopping that many of us probably forgot he existed. I feel like I say this every week, but kudos to Vince Gilligan and director George Mastras for punching us in the gut. The last time this "gotcha!" technique was used to perfection was in Game of Thrones' season one penultimate episode, where SPOILER ALERT (but come on) series lead Ned Stark was suddenly decapitated after not being seen for almost an hour. You thought he was safe! You thought Arya was going to have a casual day at the market, and Walt and the boys would celebrate their robbery with a Denny's Grand Slam! You thought wrong. Good luck sleeping tonight.
Anyway, in the 15-odd minutes before the episode's shocking conclusion, Gilligan and co. treated us to an epic, edge-of-your-seat train robbery straight out of an old Western. In last week's episode, Lydia appeared to be done for when she "discovered" a tracking device on a canister of Madrigal's methylamine, making her entire supply unsafe for transit. Mike wanted to kill her, but Walt had another idea — one that further proved how far he's come since season one, when everyone still thought he was a "family man." He entered Hank's office under the guise of wanting to talk about Skyler, and effortlessly faked some tears like he was a college girl vying for a grade change. Hank awkwardly left to grab some coffee, then Walt wiped his tears and quickly installed a bug on Hank's desk. Crafty jackrabbit!
I've always loved Hank — despite some trying times last season — and I'm worried that the man's fragile psyche will explode when he finds out how long and how badly he's been duped by his brother-in-law. Now more than ever, we need the Schraders to keep their cool — the way they adorably handled baby Holly, whose brief existence on this earth has thus far been miserable, proved that emotional wasteland Skyler should start drawing up some adoption papers, stat. "Flynn" may be done for (or will at least require decades of therapy), but Hank and Marie could still save Holly from the stripper pole when Walt and Skyler leave the picture. Walt initially started cooking in direct opposition to his brother-in-law, with the full intention of giving "Flynn" and Holly a decent life, and now it seems as if Hank and Marie are the only ones who can make that happen. Walt has effectively destroyed 3/4 of his family in just one calendar year.
The bug he placed in Hank's office ended up being a blessing for Lydia, who was forced at gunpoint (by Mike, who else) to place a call to Hank regarding the tracked methylamine. Hank knew nothing about it, but a quick call to Houston proved that the bug-eyed nut job was a telling the truth — she had nothing to do with it. Still, her room full of methylamine was now unusable, and that made Mike (who had a very good reason) and Walt (who had no good reason, the heartless bastard) vote to kill her, despite Jesse's protests.
Which leads us to the banana-pants, season making train robbery: to save her own ass, Lydia mentioned a train that carries "an ocean of methylamine," and that also briefly passes through a no man's land in the desert, where all wireless goes to die. If they intercepted the train during that brief amount of time, 24,000 gallons would be readily at their disposal. Mike initially vetoed the idea, on account of the fact that they would have to kill the train's crew in order to successfully get away with it. Then Jesse, for the second time this season, outsmarted his genius mentors by suggesting that they replace the missing methylamine with equal amounts of water, so that no one would ever know it was stolen. AP chemistry, bitch!
To pull this off, they recruited the help of Todd and one of his random burgling/home de-bugging colleagues (Note: He is actually Saul's associate, Kuby. My mistake! Blame IMDB.). For a while, it seemed that things would go off without a hitch: Kuby purposefully broke his own engine and parked his truck in the middle of the railroad tracks, forcing the conductors to stop and help him out. While they were distracted, Jesse and Todd handled the pumping in and out, while Walt oversaw from the ground. A few minutes in, a good samaritan almost ruined the whole thing— he gave Kuby's truck a bump and offered him a lift minutes ahead of schedule, causing hundreds of thousands of hearts to stop in unison. Tick tock, tick tock.
This posed a major problem: Walt wanted to wait and keep pumping until the full volume of methylamine had been retrieved, but the train was about to start with Todd on top of it and JESSE UNDER IT. Walt did not let them stop until he'd garnered every drop, and at this point the train had already begun rolling. Todd jumped off in the nick of time, but poor Jesse had to lie on the tracks and witness the undoubtably terrifying image of a train passing over him. It was mind-blowing to me that Jesse didn't instantly get up and punch Walt in the face. Maybe the adrenaline from the robbery muddled his brain, but it seemed pretty clear to me (and Mike) that Walt cared more about a few extra gallons of methylamine that he did about Jesse Pinkman's life.
After all was said and done, the boys started hootin' and hollerin' and understandably freaking out that they had actually pulled this heist off, and that's when they looked over and noticed the fresh faced little boy gazing at them, inquisitively, a few yards over. And, well, say what you will about Todd, but the man can certainly think on his feet. Boom.
If any good can come of this, it's that somehow, somewhere, a southwestern parent will think twice before letting their young child ride around solo in the desolate desert terrain with no supervision. And if the image of the kid getting shot is troubling you, know that in fifteen years he would have moved to Dillon, TX, and tried to rape Tyra in front of the Alamo Freeze.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: AMC]