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Let's talk 'Breaking Bad,' episode #502 [updated]

After last night's episode, we have a good idea of what the shape of season 5 will be. Walt and Jesse are back in business, or at least back with a business proposal. We got a tantalizing glimpse of the Madrigal operation. And we have a new, presumably major character (not a vengeful baby Tio, but I am keeping my hopes up). Meanwhile, back at the White household, Skyler missed breakfast, which is a definite sign that all is not well. On the plus side, she has learned the difference between Raisin Bran and Raisin Bran Crunch. (Or maybe Walter Jr. is doing his own grocery shopping now.) And baby Holly continues to exist unobtrusively in the background, very much like Jesse's Roomba.

Of course, all the new answers have brought more questions. I have some more specific thoughts to share after the jump, and then I want to hear yours.

[Update 7/24: I was struggling to stay awake the first time this episode aired - what can I say, my kid is a lot more exhausting than Holly -- so I rewatched it last night because I was pretty sure I'd missed some important details. And I was right. Some additional thoughts are in brackets below.]

So, the German guy who enjoys his potato chips [update: or chicken nuggets? tater tots?] sans dip: was he working alone, or is there more to the corruption at Madrigal? (I think it's the latter.) [duh - see below.]

What do we know about Lydia, the previously unseen partner in Gus's operation? She lives a pretty comfortable lifestyle, as evidenced by her nanny and her unfamiliarity with the Denny's menu. And she's useful to Mike. Predictions about how that will play out? [update: I was so sleepy the first time I watched this episode that I managed to miss Lydia's presence at the DEA sitdown with Madrigal's CEO et al. Kind of important. So we know the corruption extends at least to her. Does it go higher?]

I loved Hank's boss's speech about how he had been deceived by Gus. I woke up this morning trying to tease apart the layers of dramatic irony there -- we got a long shot of Hank looking reflective. But was Hank thinking about Walt -- or getting closer to it? ("Gosh, I wonder if anyone I've had over for dinner is leading a double life.") Or does it just seem like he must be because we are?

Does anybody else suspect Gomez of being dirty? I spent all of season 4 waiting for him to be exposed. Something about the way he kept trying to talk Hank out of pursuing his investigation of Gus, plus Gomez's general uselessness as an investigator, plus his increasingly sinister facial hair, just has me convinced. But if he were a double agent, wouldn't Mike know about it? And couldn't Mike have gone through him to get the laptop out of the evidence room, rather than go to the trouble of setting up that whole magnetized-truck caper? So maybe Gomez is just bad at his job. Or, maybe it was Gomez, and not Walter, that Hank thought of as he listened to his boss's regretful speech? And if so, it could be that Gomez isn't actually dirty, but Hank may come to suspect he is. I mean, look at that goatee. It's way evil-er than Walt's.

Comments, please!

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an associate editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.

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I would be shocked if Mr. Potato Chip is working alone, although maybe that's just because I've been trained by the Wire to assume that all corruption is systemic. Although I wasn't a huge fan of Lydia--I get that she's the white collar to Mike's blue collar, but the complete inability to blend in at the diner was a bit much for someone who's apparently successful in the drug trade--I'm excited that we're getting to see more of Mike. At this point, he's one of my favorite characters. I'd gladly watch an entire series that followed Mike in his daily rounds: breakfast at the diner involving gruff banter with his waitress followed by babysitting followed by gruff smackdown of another one of Walt's plans followed by a nighttime muscle job.And I loved the Hungry Hungry Hippos scene with Kaylee. Despite his loud pronouncements of devotion to family, have we ever seen Walt have such an innocent, joyful experience with Walt, Jr. or, god forbid, the baby? (Of course the innocence of the play date was slightly compromised by the fact that Mike then used one of Kaylee's stuffed animals as a prop in his killing of Chris. Details, details.)Hank has undergone a fascinating transformation over the course of the series. In the first few seasons, he seemed to exist almost solely for comic relief: see how stupid and misogynistic and boneheaded cops (and men more generally) can be! He was pretty much all surface. But now he's mostly depth: to answer you, Mollie, I have no idea what he was thinking in his boss's office, and I think that's a real sign of how much more interesting his character is.I hadn't thought of Gomez as dirty, but that's mainly because I haven't thought about him much. Except for the facial hair. You're right: that goatee, not dealing meth, is the show's real crime.

I've always thought Hank is a very well-written character, with surprising depth. He's obnoxious, but they manage to keep him lovably obnoxious. And he's full of bluster and swagger, but he's also very good at his job. And he clearly cares a lot for his family (though his nastiness to Marie during his convalescence was epic). So he makes a really compelling foil for Walt.Maybe it isn't plausible, but I got a big kick out of Lydia's super-fussy tea order -- and her failure to even recognize that it is a fussy order. One thing I think this show does very well is ground its humor in its characters. The things that are funny are funny because they tell us something about the character, as in this case, or because they grow out of something we already know about the character. (One of my favorite moments in the season-four finale is when Walt, not understanding that he's being bribed, is incensed by Saul's secretary's window-fixing estimate. In the middle of all this drug-war suspense and carnage, his nerdy fuming about how "no reputable vendor" would charge that much is just so Walt.)

Anyone who think Hank is obnoxious has never been to New York city. Did Sklyer kill Ted? Is that why she can't get out of bed?

I rewatched this episode last night, because I was so sleepy on Sunday that I knew I must have missed some important details. Which I had. It was kind of you all not to mention my failure to recall that Lydia was first seen in the DEA sitdown with the honchos from Madrigal. I've updated the post accordingly. I think I will start a petition drive to move this show to 9:00 for the sake of us over-30 viewers. Who's with me?

My husband just bought a season pass for this show from Amazon On Demand, he can watch it anytime he wants now.

I think Skyler is having a love-hate relationship with her new identity. On the one hand she loves the power and the threat she poses through Walt (notice the look on her face when Ted swears that he will not say anything and she says "Good").On the other hand she does not like what she is becoming. However, she like Walt is being inexorably drawn into the world.I wonder if Mike's assessment of Walt is prophetic.

I wonder if Mikes assessment of Walt is prophetic.George, I wondered that too. I recall hearing that Vince Gilligan (the creator)'s intention for the show was to dramatize the fallout of bad choices, and I took from that the assumption that Walt was not bound for a happy ending. It is amazing to see him once again managing to convince himself that this time he'll be able to keep everything under control, and of course that his motives are still pure.

I like the idea that Gomez is a plant. Here's why I say no- the look on Mike's face walking out of that interrogation room. With no one to see him, his face says OH NO. He wouldn't have that private moment if he knew Gomez were on his side. Unless Gus never told Mike that Gomez was a plant. Or unless the "oh no" face was about the secret funds being found and Gomez can't help with that.Hmm maybe he is a plant. I thought the actress playing Lydia was really chewing the scenery in that diner scene- a performance way too big for what this series has become. But the scene in the hallway with Mike: wow. We will probably be seeing more of her.Walt in bed with Skyler at the end= the scariest this show has ever been, in my opinion.

Amy - Yes, every time we see Gomez actually participating (however passively) in the investigation of Gus and associates it chips away at my theory. I think at this point it's mainly Gomez's general uselessness as a character that has me convinced he must be hiding a secret. Didn't he get a job somewhere else? Why won't he go away?? You're right about the diner scene. Though I still laughed. But her over-the-top-ness was balanced neatly by Mike's deadpan reaction -- and it felt kind of appropriate to me for this new character to bring such a blast of new energy into the show (not unlike when Saul was introduced). And yes, I thought the final scene with Skyler was even more upsetting than that almost-a-rape scene from a few seasons back. Somehow his caressing and murmuring in this scene felt like an even greater violation of their relationship and her trust.

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