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Breaking Bad Recap: ‘Madrigal’ (Season 5, Episode 2)

Posted By Devon Ashby On July 23, 2012 @ 6:04 pm In Movies & TV,Television | No Comments

Illustration by Bee Johnson [1]
© 2012 California Literary Review

Following a brief “previously on” recap, episode two of season five kicks off with a vignette teaser in a German food lab. A sharply dressed older man sits in front of a row of dipping sauces while an eager group of scientists in white lab coats looks on expectantly. The man in the business suit slowly and methodically scoops up each of the sauces with tater tots and places them into his mouth, while the head scientist, dapperly holding a clipboard, intones details about their chemical composition.

Gradually, the scientist’s chipper, ingratiating expression is replaced by confusion and concern as it becomes clear that something is wrong – the man sitting in front of him is dead-eyed and uncommunicative, autopiloting indifferently through the motions of tasting the sauces. After several seconds of awkward silence, a woman enters the room and approaches the man in the suit. “Mr. Schuler,” she whispers, “they’re back. Three of them this time.” Schuler looks up at her blankly and says to tell them he’ll be with them soon.

A company header reading “Madrigal Elektromotoren” looms up behind Mr. Schuler as he exits his office. He drifts aimlessly through a small food court, surrounded by corporate fast food logos. Framed in dramatic semi-silhouette against a picture window displaying a tranquil desert landscape, he pauses to watch two jumpsuited workers pulling down a Pollos Hermanos sign above a now defunct restaurant.

Going upstairs, he pauses once more to stare through an office window at a small group of police officers milling around impatiently. After a moment, he turns and grabs an emergency defibrillator kit in a plastic case off the wall, walks deliberately into a restroom, and begins to disrobe. A police inspector comes to the door and begins knocking insistently, but Schuler ignores him. He attaches the defibrillator to his chest, puts one end of the copper wire into his mouth, and electrocutes himself, falling to the floor dead.

A slow post-credits fade up combines a paranoid, rambling voiceover from Jesse about the missing ricin cigarette with a brooding close-up montage of Walt meticulously filling a glass vial with salt and placing it inside a cigarette that looks identical. On the audio track, Walt promises to come over to Jesse’s house and help him look for the ricin. The montage ends with Walt holding up a cigarette in a plastic Ziploc bag and comparing it with the one he just put together. He hides the vial of poison behind a light socket in his bedroom and flushes the original cigarette down the toilet.

Walt still has some loose ends from last season to attend to.
Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC

Walt and Jesse tear apart Jesse’s house in search of the missing cigarette. Walt finally casts a suspicious glance at Jesse’s Roomba and convinces him to take it apart and look inside. Sure enough, the cigarette is inside with the glass vial still intact. Walt carefully takes it into the other room to get rid of it. Pressing on his temples with his fingertips, Jesse squeezes his eyes shut and starts sobbing as Walt comes back into the room. “I almost shot you,” Jesse rasps. Walt comforts him and claims that the two of them watching each other’s backs is the reason why they’ve survived so long, and that Jesse should think about that as they go forward. Confused, Jesse asks, “Go forward where?”

Jesse and Walt go to Mike’s house to propose a partnership – Walt is still in debt and wants to start cooking again to make up the difference. Mike recognizes the moneymaking potential of the endeavor, but says he’s not interested. “You are a time bomb,” he growls at Walt, “and I have no intention of being around for the boom.”

At the DEA, Hank meets with German representatives from Madrigal, who are requesting an investigation into Schuler’s involvement in the Pollos Hermanos scandal. The representatives insist Schuler was an isolated participant operating by himself, and that the rest of the company is completely in the dark regarding the meth operation. Hank and Gomez confer privately with their boss regarding the recent laptop incident, and Hank listens intently to a chillingly mundane story about Fring’s attendance at a holiday barbecue weeks before his death. “He was somebody else completely. Right in front of me. Right under my nose.”

Mike meets bemusedly in a diner with a furtive, nervous, and overly disguised female insider from Madrigal named Lydia. She provides him with the names of eleven company insiders who were privy to Fring’s operation, and makes a circuitous, awkward suggestion that, as a preventative measure, Mike should have them all killed. Mike bluntly and sarcastically rejects this idea as “very silly,” assures Lydia that these men are paid not to talk in the event of an emergency, and walks out.

Mike goes to the DEA headquarters for a videotaped interrogation. Mike claims his job with the company is legitimate and that he is in charge of corporate security, Hank reveals that Mike was once a police officer who left the force under questionable circumstances, and that their investigation has revealed over two million dollars worth of funds that have been funneled from the company coffers into a bank account for Mike’s ten-year-old granddaughter. Mike obstinately pleads ignorance to both the meth operation and knowledge of the bank account, and is released.

At Saul Goodman’s office, Jesse and Walt discuss their plans to pioneer a new meth production business and strategize over where and when to start cooking again. Saul seems reluctant, suggesting they get out of the business after escaping in one piece from the recent debacle with Fring, but Walt is insistent. “There’s gold in the streets, just waiting for somebody to scoop it up.” The major obstruction is the current inability to procure methylamine, which means the only possible option would be to go back to cooking, much less efficiently, with pseudophedrine.

At home with his granddaughter, Mike gets a call from Chow, one of his associates, who insists the DEA is terrorizing him and has taken all his money. He asks Mike to come to his house and Mike says he’ll be there in two hours. A cutaway reveal after Mike hangs up shows Chow sitting on a sofa and smoking a cigarette with a gun pointed at his face.

Mike pulls up in front of Chow’s house, sneaks in through a back door, and corners Chow’s would-be assailant from behind. They obviously already know each other. The gunman, whose name is Chris, explains he was hired by Lydia to assassinate the same eleven people she spoke to Mike about earlier for $10,000 apiece. “For you, she was going to pay thirty.” A reverse shot shows Chow dead on the sofa with a bullet wound in his forehead. Chris apologizes for accepting the job, and Mike shoots him three times in the head and chest.

Mike corners Lydia in her apartment as she arrives home, while her nanny entertains her young daughter in the kitchen. He threatens to kill her, and Lydia begs him not to shoot her in the face – “I don’t want my daughter to find me like that.” Mike assures her that no one will find her at all, and Lydia becomes hysterical – “She needs to know I didn’t abandon her!” Finally, Mike hesitates. “Can you still get your hands on methylamine?” Lydia, confused, says that she isn’t sure, but that it’s possible.

Walt gets a call on his cell phone from Mike while standing in the kitchen washing dishes. “I’ve reconsidered,” Mike says. “I’m in.”

Walt undresses for bed while Skylar lies impassively next to him. He tells her not to worry about what she’s feeling right now – “It gets easier…it will pass.” He gets into bed next to her and kisses her face and shoulder, running his fingers through her hair. Skyler is unresponsive, looking tacitly horrified and repulsed. “When we do what we do for good reasons,” Walt whispers, nuzzling her, “We’ve got nothing to worry about. And there’s no better reason than family.”


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[1] Bee Johnson: http://calitreview.com/author/bee_johnson