Jun 22, 2013

Breaking Half: "Gray Matter"

Left to right: Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston, and Adam Godley
Are you tired of long, tedious accounts of Breaking Bad episode recaps? Then look no further than Breaking Half: a weekly column that takes the good and bad from each week's episode of Breaking Bad and dilutes it down to the core necessities. Each Monday, Breaking Half will attempt to take a few key moments from the episode and boil it down to one juicy paragraph.

Season 1, Episode 5
"Gray Matter"

*NOTE: This is an interview with actor R.J. Mitte, who plays Walt Jr. The video references the episode "Cancer Man."

"Wanna cook?"
-Walter (Bryan Cranston)

Having been kicked out by his family, Jesse (Aaron Paul) decides to apply for a real job. Upon the realization that all he would be doing is twirling signs out front, he resigns. The job is currently being held by his pal Badger (Matt Jones), who wants Jesse to make another batch of meth. He agrees to do it on the grounds that Badger connects him with some pseudofeds. Meanwhile, Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Skyler (Anna Gunn) go to a birthday party for wealthy friend and former co-worker Elliott Schwartz (Adam Godley) and his wife Gretchen (Jessica Hecht). It is revealed that Walter and Elliott created a business called Gray Matter together. During this time, Elliott offers Walter a job and money for his cancer, which only makes him livid. Skyler doesn't understand, and this results in an intervention. Along with Hank (Dean Norris), who bailed Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte) out of a alcohol buying fiasco, and Marie (Betsy Brandt), they begin discussing why Walter should take the money and go into chemo therapy. It is then that Walter reveals that he just wants to be in control of his actions and not have anyone decide anything for him. Meanwhile, Jesse and Badger drive the RV out to the desert and begin cooking. Jesse, being a perfectionist, tries to cook Walter's batch, but fails miserably to the point of pissing off Badger, whom he leaves behind in the desert after he gets upset that Jesse is throwing out good meth. Walter takes the chemo therapy, but doesn't take Elliott's money. Gretchen implies that she and Walter once had a relationship and that it is relative to not accepting Elliott's offers. Walter doesn't dignify that with an answer. The episode ends with Walter walking up to Jesse's house and saying the two immortal words: "Wanna cook?"

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Left to right: Aaron Paul and Matt Jones
MVP: Jesse (Aaron Paul)
If there is one thing that is amazing about this episode, it is that it opens us up to stubborn Walter, who doesn't accept just anyone's help. Where this entire series could have been avoided had he accepted Elliott's assistance, he chooses the path least traveled. Meanwhile, we get the sense that  Jesse is trying to be the responsible man by making a quality product, only to have a meth head cuss him out in the desert. In a montage that comically shows why Badger and Jesse should never work together, there is a sense of seriousness to the high school chemistry class dropout. This is a man who means business, and for the most part, this is the official turning point when both Walter and Jesse realize that the world is against them. By joining forces, they can solve all of their problems. In some regards, Jesse comes across as the more logical of the two in this episode, doing things because he has no choice.

Best scene: Wonder why Walter is a stubborn fool who doesn't accept money and a job from an extremely wealthy man? Wonder why Bryan Cranston has been getting all the Emmys? Look no further than the intervention scene in which he is forced to express himself against a family who starts off wanting to help him and then suggests that Walter does what he wants. His response? The first of many extended monologues that express why he became the meth kingpin. He just wants to make his own decisions and not be codependent on everyone else as he slowly dies. This foolish behavior is of a man desperate to live his life his way. In some regards, it is the unfortunate calling card that made him who he is in the final episodes. While he eventually accepts the chemo treatment, it plays out more as his decision than pressure, which is how I feel Walter wished that he lived most of his life.

Come back tomorrow for a recap of "Crazy Handful of Nothin'"

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