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This week's Breaking Bad broke away from Walt, possibly more than any other episode yet, and I didn't mind one bit as the showcase of Mike was excellent.
Gus Fring's death and the empire it unraveled touched a lot of people and we got to see just how far that reach might go in the episode. The cold open takes us to Germany and the headquarters of Madrigal; a company alluded to be a part of Gus' web of purchasing power, where Gus' apparent inside man takes his own life. It doesn't stop there though as the shit is flowing downhill at the DEA and Hank's boss, Merkert, is being forced out of his position for letting Fring run around right under his nose.
The scene in Germany was a great little short film of sorts that introduced us to a new corner of the Breaking Bad world, but it's a scene with Hank, Gomez, and Merkert that was great for showing just how big this mess is going to blow when Walt is found out. The camera work was a bit on the nose, focusing on Hank as Merkert monologues about Fringe being someone completely different, but it is a friendly reminder that if Walt is found out it isn't going to be pretty.
Walt and Jesse on the other hand are dealing with the fallout of Walt's own making. The ricin cigarette was lifted off Jesse by Saul's guy and played an important piece in getting Jesse back on Walt's side, but now Jesse won't let the mystery of the missing (at least to Jesse) cigarette go. Walt has to lay out an elaborate scheme to plant a replacement cigarette at the house and while the "search" for it is beautifully edited together (return of the Roomba!) the most important piece of info here is Walt stashing that Ricin tablet at home for use at a later date.
The rest of the fallout is tied directly into Mike and the consequences of those account numbers discovered last week after the "magnets, bitch" heist. A new face is introduced in Lydia, a Madrigal executive, who delivers a list of names to Mike in a hilariously "inconspicuous" scene at a diner. She is worried these people are going to roll over on both Mike and herself and she is not so subtly hinting that they need to go. Mike stands tall for his guys and that no one has to worry about them talking if/when they get pulled in by the Feds. Jonathan Banks has never been better than this episode as he takes full advantage of the starring role he is given.
Unfortunately for Mike, the money that was going to keep those guys’ mouths shut was tied up in Gus' newly discovered bank account and Mike doesn't take this news well. Part of the reason is because Hank is the one giving the news to Mike during a voluntary DEA questioning, but most of all it is the threat of Mike's granddaughter's account being wiped clean without Mike’s DEA cooperation. Again, Banks is just fantastic here and yet Dean Norris, as Hank, almost tops him when he gains the upper hand by letting Mike know the potential consequences.
Mike's day doesn't get much better as Mr. Chow, who runs the super lab laundry and is also being questioned by the DEA, is showing signs of folding and Mike has to go bring him back in line. The show keeps elevating the stakes as a hit man is waiting for Mike at Chow's and watching Mike circumvent the surprise and doing what he does best is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The show just keeps raising the bar for Banks and he hurdles right over it.
The last bit of business for Mike is getting back to Lydia who got nervous and called down the list of hits through one of Mike's guys. Seeing Banks in this scene is just a cherry on top of it all as he shows the first strand of weakness we have seen from Mike; the compassion for daughters. Lydia is saved by this bit of compassion, as Mike clearly would love to kill her for putting a hit on him, but her daughter is just in the other room and Mike saves Lydia only because she might be able to get the methylamine Walt and Jesse need to get their product back on the street. Mike doesn't want to team up with Walt, loathing him is an understatement, but Mike has been pushed into a tough corner and he begrudgingly has to rejoin the ranks with Walter White.
One last note on Walt, that last scene was terrifying. Between his fondling of Skylar, his cocky demeanor with Mike now in the fold, and his complete loss of the reasons he got into the business in the first place, the man has truly fallen.
The world of Breaking Bad grew a lot tonight and it did so with Walter White barely on screen. The world around Madrigal introduces a lot of questions to be answered; who is Lydia, is she acting alone, is the deceased German the only other mole in Madrigal, and I'm sure we will find out soon enough. All that said, this was one of my favorite episodes of Breaking Bad and I hope Mike continues to play as big a role as he does here as he continues to be one of the best parts of the show. A three-way partnership, let's see if that sticks.
-Is the Madrigal building the S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities in The Avengers?
-That's one way to go; and at least the flush worked.
-The tremble in Jesses hand when he sees the cigarette fall out of the Roomba, Aaron Paul is so good. Wow.
-If Mike's granddaughter gets hurt...
-Love that Mike has an old ass big screen.
-This is one of the most beautifully shot episodes ever for the show.
-I don't know who this Lydia is, but she is being played wonderfully nervous.
-Can I mention enough how much I love Mike.
-Walt, is, evil. "Gold on the streets."
-How did Mike know about the threat in the house? Just being cautious or was it because the cat was outside?
-Walt thinks he is so good, but Mike is on edge and more dangerous than Walt can even imagine.
-Jesus, Walt. "What we do is for good reason."
Watch the preview for Episode 3 (Hazard Pay) here.