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Breaking Bad – Open House

The women took center stage in “Open
House,” and while one was building herself up; the other was
falling apart. Flexing its comedic muscle with this episode,
Breaking Bad showed it has not lost its sense of humor,
despite its subject being darker than ever. The episode did however
feel like the inevitable comedown from the high-strung tension of the
previous two.

The cold open was a gambit of emotions
for Walt, as he starts his day at the lab. Reminiscing fondly over
Gale’s chemistry-born coffee maker, Walt smiling to himself is
quickly cut short as he follows the memory all the way down. Gale’s
death has definitely had the least effect emotionally on Walt, who is
too preoccupied with paranoia over Gus’s next move to register guilt
or mournfulness. Those feelings crashing home -even for a brief
instant- proved Walt’s conscience is not completely hollowed out yet.
His obsession over what Gus intends returned quickly though, as he
spots the new security camera. At this point, Walt is so on edge
that he is looking for reasons to be angry with Gus, and the
security camera is the perfect excuse; despite Walt knowing it is a
completely reasonable move after what he and Jesse did. For Walt,
waiting for a retaliation is becoming as bad as the retaliation
itself would be. Being powerless has him so frazzled all he can do
is defiantly and fruitlessly “flip the bird” to the camera.

Which is why leading into the main
plot, Walt was less than thrilled to be arguing with Skyler over the
car wash; especially with the shiner Mike gave him causing more
trouble between the ex-spouses. Walt’s misery was the audience’s
pleasure though, and his fumbling attempts to skirt around the truth
led to several humorous lines as he tries -and fails- to maintain
dignity under Skyler’s scrutiny. Gaining the early upper hand,
Skyler spent the episode trying to prove to Walt and herself, that
she can handle the financial side of the of the drug business. She
already holds a grudge well enough to be a crime lord, which is shown
by her determination to get Bogdan to sell after he slighted her.
Walt, on his part, jumps at the opportunity to redirect his anger,
fears, and frustration out on someone, even if it isn’t the man he
would like to be targeting. Their meeting with Saul, when Skyler
easily convinces Walt they have to go after Bogdan’s car wash and no
other, was filled with its fair share of funny moments as well –
like any scene featuring the ambulance-chasing lawyer.

Skyler might not be anywhere near
Walt’s level, but she is progressing quickly as she learns to “break
bad.” She was improving on her skills of deception this week by
having a friend pose as a environmental inspector to shutdown Bogdan,
so he’d be forced to sell. Skyler is less after Walt’s approval, and
more out to show she is actually smarter than him in certain aspects;
something that has probably been nagging deep down inside her for
years. Turning their celebratory champagne toast into an opportunity
to berate Walt on his careless spending was really about Skyler
showing she is better suited for money laundering, than it was about
her actual concern over being caught. Even with the
“holier-than-thou” attitude, this was one of Skyler’s better
episodes. She managed to earn a few laughs, while proving that she
would be right at home in any Fortune 500’s board room.

Marie was not having nearly so nice a
time as her sister; with her home life becoming untenable, she seeks
release in the only way she knows how. Giving the episode its title,
Marie’s return to compulsive lying and petty thievery was even more
of a cry for help and attention than her past indiscretions.
Building elaborate stories for the realtors showing houses, as she
pockets mementos -almost like a serial killer collecting trophies
from each victim- shows that Marie never lost her disturbingly well
adapted ability to deceive. Unable to take the cold shoulder Hank is
giving her, she seeks out someone who is inclined to listen to her,
even if it is only in the hopes of making a sale. Some of Marie’s
more outlandish falsehood’s got a chuckle -an astronaut husband and
living in London for example- but her scenes weren’t comedic or
dramatic enough to make them entertaining. That is until the
situation came to a head, and Marie is busted by one of the realtors
she already met once.

Already shamed and embarrassed, Marie
endures even more verbal abuse from Hank when she has to call him
after being arrested; “Are you seriously doing this to me
Hank’s self-pity clouds any thought that it might be
because of him that Marie is stealing again, even as he confirms for
the audience she is weeping on the other end of the phone. Marie’s
breakdown in front of Hank’s old cop buddy, Tim, while moving in
revealing how much Marie didn’t want to return home to Hank, felt
clunky in its portrayal and execution. The cast has proven its one
of the best on television, but Marie’s first foray into heavily
emotional acting didn’t quite reach its mark.

Jesse was also sliding deeper into
depression, as his guilt over the life he took threatens his sanity.
His desperate need for company is now driving him to allow his home
to be pillaged and plundered, so long as it means he’s not alone.
The scene in which he asks Walt to do something with him was the
dramatic highpoint of the episode, in terms of both acting and
writing. Walt knows all too well what kind of mental state Jesse is
in, but he has no more time for him than he does for memories of
Gale. Even as Walt can only offer him halfhearted concern, Jesse
tries to impart a lesson on the chemist. Telling him you get used to
getting your ass kicked couldn’t have come at a better time for Walt,
and echoed -if in a different way- Mike’s advice about taking his win
over Gus and being happy. Walt may not like his current position,
but it is in his best interest if he just “gets used to” not
being in total control. Though all of Jesse’s scenes had a
depressive atmosphere, the final image we are left with of the
grief-stricken protagonist is the darkest yet. By the end of the
episode, he has fallen so far he is hurling money at the degenerates
occupying his home, just to listen to them fight over the cash.

“Open House” was not among the best
of Breaking Bad, but the episode was not without its moments.
While Skyler provided some humor, Marie’s story fell short of its
dramatic mark, and thus outside of Jesse’s scenes, there wasn’t much
to speak of in that department. However, ending with a shot of Hank
reading Gale’s lab notes, promises some suspenseful moments in the
future. So there is something to look forward to in the coming
episodes of the series.


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