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Breaking Bad – Salud

We are ten episodes in and this season
of Breaking Bad is rising in intensity with each one. As
violence south of the border threatens the organization, back in the
states a much less intimidating enemy is looming every bit as
ominously.  At first glance “Salud” may have seemed like a lot of
waiting for a little action, but with Breaking Bad, the
buildup can be as good as the payoff – sometimes anyway.  But neither Skyler’s scheming to avoid unwanted attention from the IRS or Walt’s time spent with his newly sixteen-year-old son could compare with the adrenaline-fueled final minutes of “Salud.”  Though the latter came close.

As Jesse jets off for Mexico with Mike and Gus, he leaves behind the
bruised and battered partner responsible for his own scuffed-up face.
Walt, as it turns out, is hurting from more than just the blows he
took, and the pain seems to have him turning the corner on his
self-centered path. Though booze was responsible for his ego rearing
it’s ugly head in the past, this time when Walt was under the
influence, it brought out the vulnerability he’s been working so hard
to keep hidden. Just as with the wine back in “Shotgun,” the
painkillers were only partially responsible for his breakdown in
front of Walt Jr. In this case, it is Walter realizing the full
weight of his actions, the consequences of his aforementioned ego,
that bring on his emotional outpouring. As with any scene where true
pain and regret is being expressed, it isn’t pretty. Cranston
doesn’t hold back in portraying the grief Walt feels at losing the
one ally he had left, and knowing it’s his fault that it happened.
Mitte does an equally impressive job as Jr., when he is taken aback
by his father finally showing him something he can believe, something
“real.”

In Walt’s vivid memory of his father
-the only one he has- he was even more open than he had been in his
tear-filled scene just prior. For a man who never speaks of his
family, or his past in any regard, to suddenly share such a personal
story was an incredibly moving moment. With the exception of his
panicked call to Skyler earlier in the season, Walt hasn’t thought
much about the impact his death would have on his family. So after a
year of watching Walt become less and less of the father he once
knew, the greatest gift Jr. could have received for his birthday was
an opportunity to look beyond Heisenberg.

After being a reason why last week’s
episode was one of the season’s best, Skyler failed to keep that
momentum going into “Salud.” Mainly due to a storyline that
didn’t need half the time it received, Skyler’s subplot also didn’t
have the underlying character development of her initial reunion with
Ted. Though there was some sympathy for her because of Jr.’s ho-hum
reaction to his new car, she could have avoided that herself by not
making such a big deal about it. Going from a sports car to one of
those mini-hearses would have any sixteen year-old less than
thrilled. So as opposed to feeling for Skyler as she miscalculates
Ted’s reaction to receiving a windfall of cash, her scenes dragged
along with no added emotional investment. Even worse, by the end of
the episode Skyler is forced to tell Ted that she is his benefactor,
making the “Great Aunt Birgit” storyline as pointless for the
viewer as it was for Skyler. The situation with the IRS is
definitely building to something, and anticipation is high for what
that will entail, but the writing needs to keep things a little
spicier until it happens.

In addition to their storyline giving
the episode its title, it was the three amigos that really made
“Salud” shine. Turning the potential for embarrassment over his
lack of knowledge into a respect earning moment gave Jesse the “win”
he so richly deserves. Gus almost beamed with pride as he watched
Jesse take control of the lab with the self-assurance that the
ex-junkie has rarely been able to muster. Of course if you talk the
talk, you better not be expecting someone to carry you. But there
was no fear of that for Jesse, as he proved that even without Walt’s
guidance, without his partner at all, he can cook the pure. And with
that last reliance on his former chemistry teacher gone, the two are
now farther apart than that plane could have ever taken Jesse.

As he has had a tendency to do this
season, Gus was the one to steal the show. Though neither take
kindly to finding out Jesse isn’t going to be returning to ABQ, Gus
hides it better. He hasn’t gone to Mexico for a war; he’s there for
an extermination, and he isn’t about to give the bugs a reason to
scatter. Watching Gus stare at the pool, where just two episodes ago
we witnessed the lifeblood drain from his best friend(two decades for
the character), it’s hard not to feel he is entitled to his revenge.
Don Eladio might claim that business is business, but he knows as
well as Gus that “blood-for-blood” was the only way their story
could end. Gus methodically removing his coat(an act that after only
one occurrence has become synonymous with death), may have been a bit
of artistic indulgence, but it was worth it. And as said, Gus
deserves to look as cool as a cucumber while Eladio’s stomach
dissolves under the Mexican sun.

With henchmen dropping like flies
around him, Jesse is a little slower reacting to the unexpected turn
than Mike; whom it was very gratifying to see garrote his cartel
counterpart, Gaff. Once Jesse has his bearings though, he would add
another head to his own body count. There isn’t anytime for Jesse to
debate if he is able to take another life, he simply does so. And
with Mike taking a bullet, Jesse is now the only one who can walk,
let alone get them out of Mexico, so it will still be awhile before
he has any time for guilt. Now the lowest man on the totem pole, who
at one point would have been more than happy to leave Gus and Mike to
die, is responsible for their survival.

“Salud” didn’t match the highs of
it’s predecessor, “Bug,” but it did provide such an explosive
ending that it’s hard to knock it for its flaws. Though Skyler
failed to entertain, the stirring drama of Walt’s scenes with Jr. and
Jesse’s thrilling moments down in Mexico were worth watching for.

Rating
8.0

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