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Breaking Bad – Cornered

We are almost halfway through this
season of Breaking Bad, and while it hasn’t been an
adrenaline-filled ride, the series is still putting out highly
entertaining episodes. “Cornered” may not have seen much plot
progression, but the characters’ personal journeys made for
compelling drama.

In recreating the opening from “Bullet
Points” the episode set us up to think we already knew the outcome.
If Mike handled two cartel thugs with a single pistol, than surely
these two guys packing assault rifles won’t have any problem dealing
with a few more hijackers. But that lull was intentionally designed
to impart more impact on what actually happened; which already had
plenty of its own. Seeing the two guards die clawing and scratching
for air as they gasp on exhaust fumes didn’t quite match the level of
brutality in watching Victor meet his end at the hands of Gustavo;
but it wasn’t far behind either. Contrasting it with the three
cartel agents casually sharing the dead driver’s lunch was a black
humor cherry on top.

Again imitating “Bullet Points” the
episode followed the violence of the cold open with an extended scene
of dialogue between Walt and Skyler. Unlike that previous scene
though, their conversation in “Cornered” wasn’t aiming for
laughs, and if anything upped the intensity of the bloodless murders
in the teaser. Walt’s ego-driven rant did nothing to allay Skyler’s
fears, but did everything to enliven the audience; “A guy opens
his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one
who knocks!”
An incredible
piece of dialogue that was enhanced both by Cranston’s performance
and the quite literal meaning behind the line that is lost on Skyler.
But Walt is lying, and not just because he wasn’t the one who
actually did the knocking on Gale’s door. It may be for reasons she
doesn’t understand, but Skyler is right about Walt being scared. And
with an ego the size of Walt’s, he can’t allow anyone to see that
anxiety; which is why he ends up showing off to avoid showing his
fear, and does so for most of the episode.

Whether
in his scenes with Bogdan or Walt Jr., Walt was all about proving
he’s in control, and he did so in the most asinine ways possible.
After hearing Walt’s former boss explaining to him that he has to be
tough, it was only a matter of time before Walt showed Bogdan just
how tough he can be. Though the scenes dragged, they were worth it
for the payoff of watching Walt petulantly demand the framed dollar
only to crack it open to buy a coke. However, it couldn’t compare to
the ridiculousness of Walt buying Jr. a flashy new sports car. Walt
knew exactly what Skyler’s reaction would be -what any sane person’s
reaction would be- but he just had to prove to his son(as well as
himself and Skyler) that he could do it. After Skyler spent the day
contemplating relocation, the juvenile move couldn’t have come at a
worse time. The couple’s final scene together let Skyler take all
the dramatic acting, all the fire that was in Walt during their
argument, and turn it back on him with the cold rage that only a
scorned wife and mother is capable of.

In
contrast to Walt, Jesse spent the day proving his worth rather than
proving how childish he can be. Walt correctly surmising that
Jesse’s thrilling heroics were all part of Gus’s play -in which Walt
will always be the central character- had Jesse more on edge than the
lack of meth pumping through his veins. Walt’s accurate calculations
would have been worth a pat on the back if he didn’t send Jesse off
feeling like nothing more than a pawn in a game of chess being played
between chemist and kingpin. So while Walt was off in a hilarious
scene fumbling through the Spanish language(which was Walt’s most
outrageous attempt of the episode to prove he can’t be bullied),
Jesse was busy showing Mike he is cut out for his new line of work.
And while it wasn’t actually Jesse’s goal, he also scored just as
many laughs as Walt’s bilingual back-&-forth with the
laundresses.

After
Mike tracks down some of meth stolen in the first scene, Jesse saves
them both a day spent staking out the house where it was taken. In
doing so, Jesse not only proved he can use his head for more than
holding up his sunglasses, but also provided a humorous moment at the
expense of a couple meth addicts. Clearly these tweakers never
learned rule number one of the drug game; “Don’t get high on your
own supply.” Which doesn’t faze Jesse in the slightest. Using
only a shovel and the innate curiosity of the drug addled mind, Jesse
gains access to the house and has the audience rolling from watching
Tucker figuratively dig his own grave, while literally digging a
hole. The shotgun-toting, batter-covered, meth head inside the
house(Damon Herriman; who you may recognize as Dewey Crowe from
Justified) gave Jesse
some trouble, but he also provided viewers with a thoroughly
convincing portrayal of the paranoid side of a man deep in a drug
binge. In the end, Mike got the info he needed and Jesse regained
the self-confidence he has been craving more than any narcotic. And
with Gus manipulating Jesse through that new found sense-of-self(as
he did outside the diner), Walt better gain some compassion if he
wants to hang on to the one person he can call a partner.

Though
this episode did almost nothing to advance the plot, the development
to the characters was immense. With Gustavo putting off a war in
favor of talks with the cartel, it doesn’t look like we will be
getting much action any time soon either. But that won’t matter so
long as
Breaking Bad
can continue to deliver darkly comedic moments and hard-hitting
dramatic scenes.

Rating
8.5

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