Warning: Do not read if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, Season 5 Ep. 5- “Dead Freight”.
“There are two kinds of heists. Those where the guys get away with it, and those that leave witnesses.” – Mike
Breaking Bad has never tried to hide the fact that it is a modern day western and this week they cemented that by incorporating one of the most time honored western traditions; a train robbery. And a masterful one at that, but we’ll get to the specifics in a moment.
After a customarily confusing, yet brilliant intro, we are thrust back into the drama as Walt pays a visit to Hank who was settling into his new office and new position. Hank is clearly a good enough detective to see that something is up, but I don’t think he was expecting the break down Walt laid at his feet. For just a second I believed Walt. I was reminded of the naïve, nervous family man who accidently started this chain of events. But as soon as Hank escaped to fetch coffee the tears were gone and Walt set about bugging his brother-in-law’s office. Whether all of what Walt said was a ruse is up for debate. I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt that somewhere deep inside his black heart there is regret for the traumas he’s inflicted on his family, but the fact remains that he is able to turn those emotions off as soon as they are no longer useful to him.
The purpose of the bugging, besides being a generally good idea towards the goal of not getting caught, was to prove that Lydia had in fact planted the GPS tracker. So they took her to some undisclosed creepy place, shackled her to a table and forced her to call Hank and fish for information about the tracker while they listened to Hank via the bugs. At first it looked like Mike and been right about Lydia and that pistol would indeed be putting a bullet into her head, but Jesse’s protests bought enough time for them to hear Hank put in a call to Houston and learn they were the ones dumb enough to plant a tracker on the outside of the barrel. Mike still wanted to kill her. He’s still holding a grudge because of that whole trying to kill him and all his men thing. But she had information to keep herself alive; an entire “ocean” of methylamine. All they had to do was rob a train. Easy peasy.
Lydia’s idea was that the men rob the train carrying a tank of methylamine while it was in a dead zone (no alerts, no alarms, no cell phone coverage). Lydia is shaping up to be a female counterpoint to Walt. She looks nervous, but as soon as a viable threat is gone so is the shaky voice and wide eyes. She pulls out the daughter card frequently, but for someone so concerned with protecting her child she just keeps getting deeper into this. (Side Note: She seems to have some major abandonment issues. When Mike was first going to kill her, her main concern was that he leave her body so her daughter would know she hadn’t just left her and tonight she showed clear disdain for the foster care system. I’m not sure if this is going to come up later, but they seem to be making a point of it for a reason.) She also didn’t see any problem with killing the two innocent men who would be aboard the train.
In fact, the only person concerned with those men’s lives was Jesse. So Jesse, once again, came up with a brilliant plan. They would rob the train without anyone knowing the train had been robbed. The plan revolved around finding a spot on the tracks that was elevated, blocking the tracks to force the train to stop, and distracting the men while they siphoned out 1,000 gallons of methylamine and replaced the weight with water, thus making it seem the methylamine was simply watered down, not missing. It also required extra manpower in the form of Todd, the pest worker who tipped them off about the nanny-cam last week. It was a brilliant idea that worked fairly well, even with the unpredicted Good Samaritan and Walt’s power trip of refusing to listen to Mike and continuing to siphon long after they should have. They may have been a little bruised, but they finished the job unscathed, cue the celebration.
But wait, there was one more complication they hadn’t anticipated; a witness. The little boy riding around the desert collecting scary spiders happened upon our little gang. How much he actually saw we’ll never know because no sooner did he raise his hand in greeting did Todd whip out a gun and shoot him. For some reason I can’t remember that part of The Great Train Robbery.
And how will this affect our merry trio? On the surface I’m sure Mike and Walt will be uncomfortable with it, they both have children after all, but on another level I think they’ll be grateful it was done and by someone else. (It was Mike who warned about the dangers of leaving witnesses). But Jesse still has some morality left. Killing Gale sent him into a tailspin and Brock’s poisoning threatened to do the same. This incident will clearly bring up memories of both of those events, so will we be treated to more house party montages, or will this be the final straw for Jesse to realize this isn’t the sort of life he wants?
This is now the second week in a row there has been a specific reference to Jesse James. It’s understandable, this being a western and especially within this episode, but I think its foreshadowing. Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, a member of his gang whom he trusted when he could no longer trust anyone else. He was killed for the reward money and although Ford was arrested, the Governor soon released him. It is widely assumed that the Governor knew Ford was going to kill James rather than bring him into custody and he sanctioned it. It was the only way to remove the menace of Jesse James. So while Walt may revel in the comparisons to the famous outlaw, perhaps he should be paying more attention to the end of that particular tale.
– Devin Mainville