Episode Title: "Madrigal"
Writer: Vince Gilligan
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
In Germany, we see Peter Schuler (Norbert Weisser) of the Madrigal Electromotive GmbH as he dispassionately tastes sauces for chicken nuggets while the Chief Food Technician (Carrington Vilmont) excitedly tells him about each flavor. Schuler is called out of the meeting to meet with three police investigators in his office. Schuler notes that the men seem particularly interested in the picture of him with the late Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and he also sees the Los Pollos Hermanos logo being removed from the building. Rather than face the investigators, Schuler commits suicide using a defibrillator.
Back in Albuquerque, we hear a phone conversation between Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as Jesse becomes more despondent about the missing ricin cigarette possibly harming someone. At the same time, we see Walt hide the real risin cigarette while constructing a fake version for Jesse to find. After hours spent at Jesse's house looking for the ricin cigarette, Walt coyly urges Jesse to check his Roomba vacuum cleaner. Sure enough, Jesse finds the cigarette and he breaks down in tears while apologizing to Walt. However, Walt reassures Jesse that working together against Gus saved both of their lives… which is something to keep in mind as they rebuild their meth business.
Sometime later, Walt and Jesse visit Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and they propose a three-way partnership. But Mike says that Walt is a time bomb that will inevitably go off and he rejects their offer. Regardless, Walt shakes Mike's hand and asks him to let them know if he reconsiders. At the DEA's office, Hank (Dean Norris) is accompanied by his colleague Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) to a meeting with the Madrigal executives.
The owner of Madrigal pledges his cooperation with the DEA and he notes that an innocent man would not have committed suicide the way that Schuler did. In a private meeting with their boss, George Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles), Hank and Gomez are both upset that Merkert is being forced out because he didn't recognize that Gus was a major player in the drug trade. Merkert's words about Gus' real nature being hidden under his nose seem to strike a chord in Hank, although he doesn't vocalize why. At a diner in town, Mike meets with Lydia (Laura Fraser), one of the Madrigal employees at the DEA meeting.
Having watched too many cloak and dagger movies, Lydia is comically foiled by Mike in her attempts to hide their meeting from the waitress. Practically in a panic, Lydia gives Mike a list of 11 men working for Gus whom she feels can lead back to them. Offended, Mike tells her that he vouched for each of those men and that Gus had set up a contingency plan to pay them for their silence in the event something like this ever happened. Mike also forces Lydia to promise not to kill those men. At his home, Walt is somewhat puzzled by the sluggish behavior of his wife, Skyler White (Anna Gunn). But she still shuns his touch when he finally gets her out of bed.
Sometime later, Mike goes down to the DEA office and walks past Chow (James Ning), one of the men on Lydia's list. Mike waives his right to an attorney as he speaks with Hank and Gomez and he tries to present himself as a simple security consultant for Gus' Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants. They attempt to pick apart Mike's story and they even bring up his past as a Philadelphia police officer who seemingly lost his badge in disgrace, but Mike won't give them anything. On his way out, Hank tells Mike that they found Gus' foreign accounts including one in the name of Mike's granddaughter. They offer him a deal to let her keep some of that money, but Mike walks away.
In a meeting with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Walt and Jesse try to figure out their best options to proceed. Saul urges them to walk away from the drug trade, but Walt argues that he is $40,000 in the hole and he needs to keep going. Meanwhile, Chow calls Mike and says that his money has been taken by the police and that he needs to see him. When Chow hangs up the phone, we see that he is being held at gunpoint by a man named Chris. As Mike arrives at Chow's home, Chris gets ready to kill him. But Mike manages to come up behind Chris and disarm him. Before he executes Chris near the already dead Chow, Mike learns that Lydia put the hit out on all of them.
Hours later, Mike surprises Lydia in her home and he evades the detection of Lydia's daughter or her nanny. Lydia is less upset about her impending death than the idea that her body will never be found and her daughter will think that she has abandoned her. Mike eventually relents when Lydia tells him that she may be able to get him access to methylamine, a key ingredient that Walt and Jesse need to cook meth. Afterwards, Mike calls Walt and tells him that he's changed his mind and decided to join their new partnership. In the bedroom, Walt disrobes and tells a silent Skyler that her guilt over Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) will eventually fade. But Skyler says nothing as Walt continues to caress and kiss her.
One of the many impressive aspects of "Breaking Bad" is that actions often have consequences far beyond the awareness of the main characters. I highly doubt that Walt knew of Peter Schuler or Gus' ties to Madrigal… and if he knew, Walt probably wouldn't care. But the fallout from Schuler's suicide will likely come back to bite Walt in ways he isn't even expecting. There's even blowback when Walt and Jesse are successful, as they were last week with the industrial magnet and Gus' laptop. Hank and the DEA have already figured out that the laptop was the target and that they may not have been able to get anything off of it anyway. But without that magnet, the DEA wouldn't have found Gus' hidden bank accounts; which led to the funds being seized and eventually to the attempt on Mike's life.
Everything is connected and everything pays off. There are no wasted moments on this show.
The opening sequence was brilliant. In just a few scenes, Vince Gilligan told us everything we needed to know about Schuler, his relationship to Gus and just how wide Gus' empire really was. Plus. the food technician's descriptions of the dipping sauces was oddly hilarious.
Getting back to the ricin cigarette so quickly was also a little surprising, but it offered Aaron Paul another chance to impress everyone with his emotional range as Jesse. That may be why viewers still seem to root for Jesse. He's an unrepentant a drug dealer, but Jesse's vulnerability is endearing. By contrast, Walt's ability to manipulate Jesse's emotions in that scene took on an almost creepy flavor. Walt knows full well that Jesse isn't to blame for what happened to Brock or the loss of the ricin cigarette. And yet Walt was able to bring the topic around to their partnership and starting up a new endeavor. The ricin may also end up in play down the line as Walt opted to hang on to it rather than get rid of it.
Walt's intelligence is always impressive and he was even sharp enough to plant the fake ricin cigarette in a way that insured that only Jesse could find it. And yet Walt can't seem to read people's emotional states very well. The closest Walt came to that was when he acknowledged that Mike doesn't care for him (which is putting it lightly). More alarmingly, Walt has no idea why his wife is so sullen even after Skyler flat out told him that she was afraid of him! It's either a willful ignorance on Walt's part or an inability to truly empathize with the woman he used to love. What they have now is not a marriage. I'm not even sure what to call it.
More than anything, this was Mike's episode to shine and he even got to play off Hank in the DEA's office. That entire sequence between them was a very effective way to get Mike's backstory across and to explain the significance of those foreign bank accounts that were uncovered last week. We also saw a softer side of Mike with his granddaughter and even with Lydia; whom he seemed to be fairly close with. Or at least, Mike liked Lydia enough not to kill her if she could still prove useful. Mike's execution of Chris also had a degree of mercy, although he didn't let Chris plead for his life after he learned who was behind the hit. Despite the reprieve, Lydia strikes me as someone who doesn't know when to stop… and she may try to target Mike again.
"Breaking Bad" has had more spectacular episodes, but even the quieter installments like this are masterfully executed. This is TV at its finest.