BREAKING BAD 5.05 ‘Dead Freight’

Walt, Jesse and Mike plan an elaborate heist that goes off without a hitch... almost.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Dead Freight"

Writer: George Mastras

Director: George Mastras

Previously on "Breaking Bad":

Episode 5.04 "Fifty-One"

Story:

In the cold open, we see a young boy (Samuel Webb) on a dirt bike in the desert come across a spider before playing with it and ultimately putting it into a jar.

At his new office in the DEA building, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) settles in as his colleague, Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) escorts Hank's brother-in-law, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) inside for a friendly visit. Once alone, Walt confesses that his marriage with Skyler (Anna Gunn) is falling apart and she doesn't love him anymore. Walt breaks down in tears; which Hank can't get away from fast enough. Briefly left alone in the office, Walt plants a device on Hank's computer and in his picture frame. When Hank returns, Walt compliments him on his marriage to Marie (Betsy Brandt) before Hank offers him more words of encouragement. 

Some time later, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walt are present when Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) roughly escorts Lydia (Laura Fraser) to an undisclosed location and forces her to read from a script while calling Hank. Under duress, Lydia asks Hank about the tracking device that she found on the methylamine barrel in the Madrigal warehouse. When the bug in Hank's office reveals that he knew nothing about the tracking device, both Walt and Mike are ready to have Lydia killed. But a second phone call is heard in which Hank learns that another DEA team planted the device without telling him.

Regardless, Mike still wants to kill Lydia because she put a hit on him and she can't be trusted. Pleading for her life, Lydia says that she can help them get an "ocean" of methylamine. After receiving assurances from Walt, Lydia reveals that a large shipment of methylamine is transported through New Mexico via freight train… and it is vulnerable in an area where all communications go dark. Lydia also explains that she has access to information about the train schedule and which train car will carry the methylamine. Back in New Mexico, Hank and Marie enjoy taking care of their infant niece, Holly; but Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) is extremely disgruntled by the ordeal with his parents and he is once again going by "Flynn."

Jesse watches as Walt and Mike debate the logistics of robbing the train, Mike warns them that the only successful heists are those that leave no witnesses. But it is Jesse who comes up with a plan to rob the train without letting anyone know that it was ever tampered with. After finding a spot for the heist, they use a machine to bury two 1,000 gallon tanks in the ground and they bring in Todd (Jesse Plemons) from Vamonos Pest as an additional hand. As they fill one of the tanks with water, Walt explains how they will replace the weight of the stolen methylamine with the equivalent weight of water. Walt also stresses the importance of leaving no witnesses. Todd is obviously very impressed by the plan.

At home, Walt finds that Walt Jr. has returned to the family home and he refuses to leave. When Skyler gives up trying to get him to return to Hank and Marie's home, Walt talks to his son and basically forces him out without explaining why he has to go. Once Walt Jr. is gone, Skyler says that she will still launder Walt's money and be whatever kind of partner that he wants as long as her kids are out of the house and out of harm's way. Walt nods and seems to agree to her demands before she notes the dirt on his clothes and asks if he was burying bodies. Walt nonchalantly tells her that he's robbing a train. Late that night, Lydia gets the info and passes it on to Mike.  

On the day of the heist, Kuby (Bill Burr) — an associate of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) — drives a dump truck full of sand over the train tracks and he pretends to be in distress as the train approaches. The Conductor (Jamie McShane) and the Engineer (Myk Watford) manage to stop the train in time. While Kuby delays the two men, Todd pumps water into the methylamine tank while Jesse drains the tank from the bottom. Mike stays off in the distance as a lookout during several tense minutes. The ruse is threatened when a passing driver (Ryan Begay) offers to use his truck to clear Kuby's vehicle from the tracks. The driver also offers Kuby a ride back to town, which he accepts to avoid suspicion.

With the train in the process of starting up, Walt ignores Mike's command to get Todd and Jesse out of there. Walt waits until the very last second before giving Jesse and Todd the sign to wrap up. Even so, Jesse has to lie under the train as it departs while Todd has to make a jump from the moving train. But the heist is a success and all three men celebrate… until they see the young boy from the cold opening, who waves at them. Awkwardly, the men wave back… before Todd pulls a gun and shoots the kid over Jesse's objections.

Breakdown:

When reviewing "Breaking Bad," it's very easy to run out of words to adequately describe the quality of the show. This week, let's go with "masterful."

The cold opening had me fooled, but as soon as the kid showed up, I knew that Todd was going to kill him. And yet, it still managed to be a really shocking moment. We saw (or rather, heard) how Jesse reacted. But how did Walt take that? Is he so far gone that the death of a child wouldn't even phase him? We already know that Walt isn't above poisoning a child to save his own life.

As for Todd, the ease with which he killed that kid seems to suggest that it wasn't his first murder. That may be one of the more disturbing aspects of what he did. Prior to that point, nothing about Todd's demeanor suggested that he was capable of this kind of cold blooded murder. It's not like Walt, Mike or even Jesse have clean hands. They've all committed onscreen murders, while Mike has probably killed more people than Walt and Jesse combined. Yet it was Mike who had problems killing the innocent men on the train and Jesse who came up with the plan that would have required no bloodshed… if the kid hadn't stumbled upon them.

The heist itself made for some fantastic and tense television, with exemplary direction from George Mastras and great performances all around. The staging of the heist was impressive enough, but Mastras' script made it seem plausible as well. I wouldn't be shocked if Mastras gets an offer to helm a film after this show is over. This episode is a hell of a demo reel.

Bryan Cranston even got a chance to demonstrate that Walter White is a pretty good actor himself. Hank's quick retreat from Walt's tears was very funny and Walt's true intentions were a nice surprise. The thing is, Walt just created another major problem for himself. When that bug in Hank's picture frame (or the one in his computer) are ever found — and on this show, they almost certainly will be — then there is almost no way that Hank won't immediately know that Walt was the one who planted them. Walt may have even left some incriminating fingerprints behind on the bugs themselves. And there's no easy way for Walt to retrieve them without suspicion.

There's a fine line between acting and overacting which RJ Mitte came very close to in this episode. Walt Jr.'s anger and confusion are understandable, but there were a few moments where it felt like Mitte was going over-the-top. I'm also unsure why Walt seemed to fold so easily to Skyler's demands after so aggressively hounding her last week when she wanted to keep his kids away from him. Maybe Skyler briefly managed to reach him when she reminded him how casually he related the story about Jesse holding a gun to his head as a teachable lesson for her.

Regardless of some minor flaws, this was still an exemplary hour of television that ranks among the best episodes of the series.