‘Breaking Bad’ Recap (Season 5, Episode 3): “Hazard Pay”
I always expect to be disappointed by Breaking Bad. It’s been consistently great since it started and yet it somehow continues to get bigger and better. Surely an episode is going to fail to exceed my expectations at some point, right? After “Hazard Pay,” I’m starting to think it’s never going to happen. The third episode of the final season of Breaking Bad feels more like two or three episodes – it has so much content, and yet it never feels bloated or convoluted. It’s effortless, really– I don’t know how the writers are able to do it, but I’m glad that they can.
“Hazard Pay” is all about Walt setting up his criminal organization. With Mike onboard and access to chemicals, all he needs is a location for a new lab: better call Saul. Saul takes Walt, Jesse and Mike on a tour of a bunch of potential locations for the lab, but the three aren’t happy with any of them until something catches Walt’s eye: pest extermination. Walt and Jesse will pose as pest exterminators, set up a portable lab inside a person’s home, and cook inside the house. When they’re done, all they have to do is pack everything up and let the real pest exterminators do their thing. It’s the perfect cover and makes a lot more sense than just cooking in the car wash, which a lot of people speculated would happen.
While this is one of the rare exceptions where Walt’s plan works without a fault, he still has a problem in the form of Mike, who demands a significant amount of money to pay off the remaining nine members of Gus’ operation. Walt is annoyed, of course; they worked for Gus, not him, why should they be getting paid? Walt and Mike have always butted heads and probably will continue to do so for the inevitable future, unless Walt’s arrogance takes charge again. The final scene of the episode has Walt talking to Jesse about how Gus killed Victor, and implying that Mike may need to be removed from the organization. Walt doesn’t seem to understand that he’s no longer the key to the operation: Mike is. Without Mike, Walt doesn’t have chemicals, he doesn’t have distribution, and he certainly doesn’t have all of Gus’ goons in prison, keeping their mouth shut. Without Mike, Walt is basically nothing. But don’t tell him that: he thinks he’s Gus now. As Mike says, “just because you shoot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”
As for Jesse, he tries his best to keep Walt and Mike together, even offering up his share of the money. It is episodes like “Hazard Pay” that remind us that no matter how much Walt gains (or tries to), Jesse is always the one that loses. After opening up to Walt about Andrea and Brock and their relationship, he ends up breaking up with her due to Walt’s manipulations once again. Fortunately, Jesse has an ally in Mike when things inevitably get worse.
There are a number of excellent scenes in Breaking Bad this week that I want to talk about. Aside from another fantastic cooking montage, we get an incredibly awkward and tense moment when Walt officially meets Brock for the first time. Will Brock recognize Walt? He’s quiet, but doesn’t appear to. I think this is an indication that Walt didn’t personally poison Brock. I’m going with Saul or one of his lackeys.
Another great scene occurs when Marie visits Skyler at the car wash. Marie talks and talks and talks about Hank’s recovery, and Gus’ death, and Walt’s birthday, and then freaks out when Skyler starts smoking a cigarette to calm her nerves. Skyler responds by telling her to shut up, which I’m sure is an immensely satisfying moment for people who dislike Marie. This leads Marie to question Walt about what has happened to Skyler. Walt–now in full-Heisenberg mode and the perfect liar–tells her it’s because of Ted Beneke’s accident; that Skyler was having an affair with him, and that he and Skyler are trying to fix their relationship. Marie buys it and leaves, resulting in another victory for Walt. He’s on a roll… for now.
While all three episodes of Breaking Bad this season have been great, I think “Hazard Pay” was my favorite so far, simply because of how much happened in it. Walt’s organization is set up, the duo are cooking again, Skyler is having a breakdown, Mike is still angry at Walt, and we’ve got a bunch of new characters with a lot of potential… oh shit, I almost forgot about the scene with Walt and his son watching Scarface! “Everyone dies in this movie, don’t they?” Walt muses. Is this foreshadowing of what is to come, or simply a nice misdirection? Why does Walt need his very own “little friend” in one year’s time? Everyone dies?
I guess we will see, either in five week’s time or sometime next year. I fear the hiatus. I think I am already having withdrawals.
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