Breaking Bad: “Madrigal”
A very special episode of Breaking Bad starring Mike The Cleaner doing what he does best.
July 23, 2012 9:34 pmTerry Yates
Breaking Bad has hands down some of the best cold opens. They establish so much in so little time, and maintain the general aesthetic of the series. They typically make very little sense within the context of a given episode, but are prefect mile markers for the entire narrative arc of the season.
We begin in Germany with Peter Schuler, head of fast food operations at Madrigal, the mega-corporation that Hank discovered being tied to Gus Fring’s operation last season. While Schuler is trying new dips (including a disgusting French and Ranch dressing combo lovingly called…Franch), he is told by his assistant that the police are in the building, insisting to speak to him. Instead of going and talking to the police he commits suicide in the bathroom with what looks like a defibrillator. An insanely brutal death that seems to have no real corollary to the main story for a good portion of the episode.
Tying up the ricin loose end for the moment, we see Walter White making a dummy copy of the ricin cigarette that Saul handed back to him last episode. He then goes over to Jesse’s and has the Roomba vacuum it up. What I love about this scene is the amount of acting Aaron Paul does without saying anything, which also runs parallel with the performance Jonathan Banks gives as Mike in this episode. Jesse is of course devastated that he almost killed Walter over thinking he poisoned Brock. It also lets the audience in on just how much Jesse cares for Walter and how little that is reciprocated from the latter. There’s little doubt that if Jesse didn’t serve Walt some purpose, he wouldn’t be around to cry over “false accusations”.
What’s great about “Madrigal” is that it mostly focuses on Mike for it’s entire run. Walt and Jesse are put on a back burner, mostly because we’ve seen this plot umpteen times. They’re back at square one, collecting supplies to start again. This time, they’re the owners…along with Mike. Who initially, and smartly, wants nothing to do with Walt’s new enterprise, even going so far to say that he is a ticking time bomb, and that he has no desire to be around when he goes boom.
Mike leaves Walt to figure out how to get a hold of some methylamine, giving us plenty of time to see how Mike would eventually come around to seeing things Walt’s way.
It’s here where we’re introduced to Lydia, an executive at Madrigal who’s fretting about the companies ties to Gus’ operation. A jittery woman, she asks Mike to kill eleven men that were under his purview when he worked for Gus. Mike refuses under the assumption that the Cayman accounts were paying out and the men would withstand any pressures. Unfortunately for them, Hank and the authorities get a hold of these accounts to put the squeeze on the men, hoping to get one to roll over on the others.
This being Breaking Bad and all, this is not how it will turn out. Lydia gets Chris, one of Mike’s underlings, to begin killing the men on the list for her, with $30,000 alone for Mike. Of course, Mike finds out when another minion (the methylamine connection) calls him up to talk to him about strategy in dealing with the DEA. Mike kills Chris after finding out that Lydia is trying to make moves on them. Mike visits Lydia that night, and in exchange for her life he becomes the new methylamine supplier for Walt.
Mere words cannot really describe how awesome, badass, and understated Jonathan Banks plays all this. The writer’s could have could've put all this off screen, in the background, and come to same conclusion, while we watch Jesse and Walt reenact a similarly narrative, that they didn’t is pretty genius. It deepens the Mike character and makes his reconsideration mean something more than just a coincidental plot device to move the season along.
In the last scene, Walt gets in bed with a still frightened Skyler and he tells her that she will get over her fear and that “they” are the good guys because they’re doing it for family. Bryan Cranston knocks this scene out of the park, unfortunately Anna Gunn just doesn’t really have the acting chops to play this scene very well. The coloring of the scene has Walt completely in shadow, like a devil on Skyler’s pale shoulder trying to convince her of the inherent good of their actions. For the most part, the scene and it’s tone is there, it’s just Anna Gunn can’t really emote or convey anything. I guess you could say the lack of any emotion is acting by reduction. Don’t get me wrong Anna Gunn can really play up the ball-crushing wife side of Skyler White, but I don’t think she has the depth to play a woman who realizes that she’s in the presence of a pure monster.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING
out of 10