Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Walter White Wednesday 26

. . . which is the one where the game changes.  Irrevocably.  If you haven't already seen this week's episode of Breaking Bad, which is entitled "Dead Freight," please - please - stop right here.  "Dead Freight" is a masterpiece of storytelling and the shock of it deserves to be seen unspoiled.

A freight train is key to this episode and we hear the long, low whistle of the train in the cold open, long before we see it.  American folk music is littered with lyrics about lonesome train whistles.  In the songs, trains move through empty country, taking people from one place to another, where (hopefully) they'll find contentment, be reunited with loved ones, forget about that girl back home, or whatever.  Train whistles are promises that we can always be somewhere else.  Walt can relate to wanting to be somewhere (and someone) else, but what's a kid on a dirt bike have to do with any of this?  The kid's just out in the scrubland, tearing up trackless territory on the aforementioned dirt bike, stopping to gently pick up a tarantula and stuff it into a jar.  Remember that desert spider - they look dangerous, but actually tarantulas are quite timid. Sort of like kids on dirt bikes.

Turns out that Nervous Nellie, sorry Lydia, actually didn't plant the tracking device on the barrel of methylamine - the DEA in Houston did, and they did a sloppy job of it.  With that supply line cut off, a frantic Lydia (Jesse doesn't want to kill her, but he's in the minority - Walter and Mike both see her as a growing liability) offers a wackadoodle plan.  Pull a train job and boost an "ocean" of the necessary precursor for large-scale pure meth-making.  Walt loves this plan - it's big and bold and really pretty hare-brained - and he doesn't, under any circumstances he can conceive of, want to go back to cooking trash meth with pseudo.  Mike points out that there are two kinds of heists - the ones where the guys get away with it and the ones where there are witnesses.  Mike will kill - we know that - but he would prefer not to get involved in schemes that make killing a necessary component.  So it's Jesse who comes up with a way to avoid killing the train crew.  Note that Jesse does not want blood on his hands.  Surely there's a way to cook hundreds of pounds of meth on a regular basis without getting violent!  Oh, Jesse.

So the crew goes into action.  Crazy stuff here - in addition to the Duke City Three, others are brought in from Vamanos Pest.  How big a circle of secret-keepers is Mike willing to risk?  A single weak link can bring them all down.  The problem is, no matter how well you plan, your strategy can't cover all the variables in a plan with this many variables.  A Good Samaritan shows up to push the diversionary truck off the tracks.    Walt won't stop until his thousand gallons are siphoned off.  And a kid on a dirt bike happens along this madness in the desert.  "The ones where the guys get away with it and the ones where there are witnesses."

Kid on dirt bike or spider in jar?
As Breaking Bad has illustrated time and again, deserts are places to forget.  Blood on the sand can be covered up in a few minutes.  But what's done is well and truly done - and I don't think Jesse will be able to forget.  Walt has been reassuring Skyler that their family is safe - that their children are safe.

But no one else's children are safe from Walt.


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