We knew at the end of last week’s premiere, when Walt’s super-sized magnet(s, bitch) heist accidentally resulted in the discovery of Gus Fring’s offshore bank accounts, that someone was about to take a fall. Unfortunately, once again, it wasn’t the one person who really, really deserves it. This week, showrunner Vince Gilligan found a way to keep Mike in the game by having Hank, and one of Fring’s more murderous associates, put on the pressure. Despite Walt’s soothing reassurances to Skyler at the end of the episode, Mike is Breaking Bad‘s true family man, and the opportunity to keep his family safe and financially accounted for is enough to justify another contract with the devil. We’re sorry Mike, but also oh-so-happy that Gilligan found a reason to keep you in town.
Last week at Comic-Con, Gilligan told panel-goers that this season would feature more German subtitles than Spanish, and we got our first taste of that tonight, when the multi-national corporation Madrigal was introduced. Madrigal, which according to the internet means “a part-song for several voices, typically arranged in elaborate counterpoint and without instrumental accompaniment,” and in my high school meant “choir nerd,” funded Fring’s drug empire under the Los Pollos Hermanos banner. We saw a low-level employee remove Hermanos’ sign from the company’s headquarters, and we also saw Madrigal’s unfortunate fall guy commit suicide via electric shock. Someone has to take the blame for what happened on multiple sides of Fring’s operation, and the scramble to find (or silence) those unfortunate mid-level players was the driving force behind tonight’s episode. We briefly met Madrigal’s icy corporate honcho (and the company’s heir) as he (with Fring-ian levels of composure) expressed his distaste for his fall guy’s appalling actions, and his belief that this man, Schuller, acted alone. “An innocent man does not kill himself,” he told the DEA. “My people and I are here to help.” Basically, Mr. McGerman is far wealthier and more powerful than Fring, and he is entirely guilty. Ding ding ding, I think we just met our new bad guy. (Well, besides Walt.)
Now back to Mike: When the increasingly mobile and newly energized Hank took a look at those offshore bank accounts, he found millions stored under the names of the under-the-table guys helping Fring’s operation. Earlier in the episode, a list of those same names was given to Mike by one of Fring’s wealthier and more hidden accomplices, Lydia, with the hope that Mike would find a way to “silence” them. Mike refused, insisting that his hand-picked men would never talk, but this was before he knew that their finances had been compromised.
Unfortunately, this meant that Mike’s finances were compromised too. As expected, Hank brought Mike in for questioning, resulting in a scene that could have been straight out of Breaking Bad fan fiction, if such a thing existed. Hank is more like a film-style attorney — calm, slightly sarcastic, and puposefully passive aggressive for the sake of drama — than a cop with his questioning. He nailed Mike. First Hank wondered out loud why Fring would hire a disgraced ex-Philly cop (more on this later?) to question pimply fry cooks and protect inventory, then he let Mike go when he said he knew nothing of Fring’s drug empire. But as Mike walked out the door, Hank causally mentioned the $2 million in an off-shore bank account that was stored in Mike’s granddaughter’s name. “S*** man, this fifth grade girl is the muscle behind Fring’s entire operation,” Hank joked, as Mike’s world fell apart before his very eyes. Hank said she might get to keep some of that dough if Mike talked, but talking to the cops isn’t really Mike’s deal, and it would probably get him killed, anyway.
But since Lydia was still terrified of getting caught, not talking almost got him killed, too. He was called over for a meeting by one of the men on Lydia’s list, Mr. Chow, under the guise of a financial conversation, knowing full well that a hired assassin was there waiting for him. (RIP, Mr. Chow. RIP, Mr. Assassin-man.) He headed over to Lydia’s house with the full intention of killing her, but his family-loving conscience got the better of him. (God, I love a complicated assassin with a heart of gold. This show does shades of grey better than Mad Men. There, I said it.) Lydia didn’t plead for her life — she only asked that he wouldn’t hide her body, so that her elementary-aged daughter wouldn’t think she’d abandoned her. It was a heartbreaking scene, and it instantly made Lydia — who five minutes ago was the weird, frigid b**** who tried to kill Mike — a semi-sympathetic character. Which is good, because it looks like she’ll be sticking around — her maternal instincts stayed Mike’s hand.
Which, finally, brings us back to Walt and Jesse. At the beginning of the episode, Walt fully regained Jesse’s loyalty when he tore through Jesse’s apartment to help him find the missing ricin-laced cigarette. Since Brock hadn’t smoked it it had to be somewhere, and when Jesse finally found it in his DJ Roomba (genius hiding place, Walt!), he broke down in guilty tears because he’d almost killed the “innocent” Mr. White due to his own careless stupidity. The way Aaron Paul played this scene — he not only showed remorse, but a remarkable amount of self-hatred over the fact that he’d almost seriously screwed things up yet again — was devastating, and Walt’s stony unwavering expression made it so much worse. This man is worse than Tony Soprano. He can emotionally ruin his closet friend (and, like, kill his girlfriend) and feel no guilt.
So now that Jesse trusted Walt again, they were ready to get out of debt and back in business (against the wishes of Saul, who gave adequate legal counsel for the first time in his Breaking Bad career by telling them to take their losses and run). Their only rule is no more RVs, and their only need is methylamine. They had approached Mike earlier in the episode to join their team, but he wasn’t ready until his run-ins with Hank and Lydia had him so backed into a corner that he was willing to work with a ticking time bomb to regain some power and stability for his family. Lydia would supply the methylamine, and Blue Sky would be back on the streets in no time. Happy endings for everyone! (Except Skyler, who can’t get out of bed. Oh, and Jesse, who still doesn’t know that his partner-slash-mentor has betrayed him in ways unimaginable. And Mike, who has to hang out with Walt.)
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[PHOTO CREDIT: Ursula Coyote/AMC]