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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 again?” 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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