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Breaking Bad: "Negro Y Azul"

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"Bonds are what make matter … matter," Walter tells a recalcitrant student as this week's episode begins.  As it ends, Jesse's neighbor and landlord gropes for his hand.  A bond has been created — a new compound has been formed.  And while Walter means that second "matter" in the same sense as the first — i.e., "bonds are what make matter what it is" — this episode consists of ruminations on the other sense of the word.  Bonds are what give (human) matter its significance.  They're what hold the physical (and human) world together.

On the home front, Walter's family bonds continue to fall apart.  Skylar has decided to take financial matters into her own hands, so she goes to the company where she once worked as a bookkeeper and fills out an application.  But on the theory that personal bonds might make a difference in her getting the job, she plays on her relationship to the owner, Ted.  Sitting in his office, commenting on the pictures of his twins and comparing family histories, Skylar gets just what she wants: not the data entry job that was advertised, but her old position — corner office and all.  But at what price?  Ted seems a bit too interested in Skylar.  He reveals that he's split up with his wife.  And he might be a daytime drinker.  Marie mentions that when Skylar used to work there, she got her ass grabbed, and Skylar dismisses it as an aberration.  Worst of all, she doesn't consult Walter before making this move.  She's off on her own, trying to take care of herself, and getting into her own kind of trouble.


Meanwhile, Walter and Jesse are forging different kinds of bonds with their crew of drug dealers — largely fictional ones.  Word around town is that Jesse is the one who spooged Spooge by dropping an ATM on his head.  The whole affair has turned Jesse into a twitching lump, but when Walter takes it upon himself to wrangle the crew at their big meetup at the Atomic Energy Museum, he discovers that the perception on the street is far different.  ABQ thinks Jesse is a badass.  The crew thinks Heisenberg did the deed himself — and Walter doesn't disabuse them of the notion.  It all gives Walter an idea.  "You're the blowfish!" he insists.  "And do you know what the blowfish does?"  Then when Jesse doesn't leap into his reality, he continues testily, "The blowfish puffs up, okay, Jesse?"  The Heisenberg operation — no, the Heisenberg legend — is powerful enough to cow the other meth operations in town into submission, by reputation alone. Walter's cashflow problem can be solved with "exponential growth."  And so Jesse explains to it to his crew in his own terminology: "layered like nachos."  Multi-level marketing.  Expanding the territory.  "Corner the market, then raise the price," Walt says coldly.  "Simple economics."

And Hank?  Hank's out of his element.  He has no bonds; he's dangling loose.  His new colleagues in the anti-cartel operation in El Paso give him no respect despite his big Tuco takedown ("Hero for Albequerque, maybe; doesn't take much up there," remarks one), and he can't understand their methods either.  Sitting with a cartel stooge named Tortuga in a hotel room, he loses patience with the "great group of guys … and gals" sitting around the bed noting down what Tortuga wants out of the SkyMall catalog.  The DEA should be calling the shots for this punk, but instead Hank's monolingual ass gets a lecture.  "This ain't Branson, Missouri!" Tortuga cackles.


So what bonds are strengthening? Walter pretends he's Jesse's dad to get access to his new pad from manager Jane. "Yes, I'm Walt Jackson," he insists, and asks to be let in "to check on my son's well-being."  Jesse recovers a trace of his former life, before Cap'n Cook, when he tells Jane "you're a real good drawer" and that he used to draw, too.  She makes the move to take his hand as they sit before his inoperable flatscreen, but what does that move mean from a girl who designs tattoos but doesn't have any because they're "too much commitment"?  Walter commits to the drug trade; Skylar opens herself up to Ted.  Bonds shifting and reforming.

But those potent forces also produce the explosions commemorated at the museum where the crew meets.  The Heisenberg legend grows — from the ATM-headcrushing he implicitly claims, to the drug ballad "Negro Y Azul" that opens the episode.  A legend divorced completely from reality, but one that makes a fissile collision with the cartel all but inevitable, as the song points out.  "There's no close in science," Walter tells the lazy student in disgust, but what about that old saying — close only counts in horseshoes and atom bombs?  We've gone from chemistry to physics.  The bonds that make matter, matter … disintegrate over time.  Compounds fall apart.  Unstable isotopes decay.  "That homie's dead, he just don't know it yet," as the song goes.


Grade: A-

Stray observations:

- What do you make of the nausea theme running through this episode?  Jesse claims he needs his bong to "control my nausea" over seeing Spooge's head crushed.  Walter comes home and immediately throws up.  Hank only escapes getting mutilated by the explosive "HOLA DEA" turtle because he runs back to the truck to vomit.  Is this a Sartrean commentary on the conditions of human existence?  Or does it mean that Walter's going to start smoking weed?


- Walter's hiding his second cell phone in the drop ceiling of his classroom.  For some reason, after his protestations to Skylar that he's being up front with her, that strikes me as particularly sad.

- Skylar stopped working because of the welding fumes at her office.  But now she claims "they have some kind of green welding or something."


- "It's not that hard, Mom.  It says 'crunch' on the box."

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