She’s dark-haired. She’s slender. She’s nervous. She doesn’t care for Lipton tea and carries packets of stevia in her purse. She’s filthy rich, enough so that she can afford to pay a hit man 10K a head to murder everyone on her list of 11 possible suspects in Gus Fring’s killing — plus an extra 30K to pop Mike Ehrmentraut after he refuses to kill them for her. She lives in a posh cliffside beach house near Houston (per AMC’s episode summary) and has a 5-year-old daughter. She’s Gus Fring’s something — widow? lover? daughter? sister? (She doesn’t actually appear all that emotionally distraught about his death, despite her tense nature and apparent desire for revenge.) At the very least, she’s “in” enough with Los Pollos Hermanos’s German parent company, Madrigal, to be present at a meeting between Madrigal executives and the DEA after a top Madrigal boss commits suicide under very fishy circumstances, so she knows everything Gus was up to. And she’s tangled up enough with Mike that she tries to get him to serve as her hit man first, warning him that the authorities are soon going to come after the both of them.
She’s Lydia (played by Scottish actress Laura Fraser, with a vaguely Americanized accent), and she has trouble written alllllll over her. Surely we haven’t seen the last of her; in the end, Mike manages to co-opt her into providing impossible-to-find methylamine for the uneasy new meth alliance Mike has formed with Walt and Jesse out of financial necessity. You see, Walt’s clever little MagnetMobile scheme from last week had an unintended result: among the items broken in the crash was a photo of Gus and his late partner Max, and underneath the photo was information leading to a bank account in the Cayman Islands, where Gus offshored payment for virtually all his meth-related employees, except for Jesse and Walt. So now Mike’s $2.1 million account, cunningly hidden under the name of Mike’s 10-year-old granddaughter, has been frozen by the DEA until Mike spills the beans to them. Oops.
Mostly, Madrigal is a showcase for Mike, and what a showcase it is. As Mike, Jonathan Banks just kicks all kinds of ass in this episode, and we find out through Hank and Steve Gomez’s interrogation of him that he used to be a Philadelphia cop and, as Hank wryly puts it, their colleagues in the PPD have let them know that “your tenure as a police officer ended somewhat dramatically.” Mike freely admits this, but plays wide-eyed innocent when asked about Gus’s drug trade and the Cayman Island bank accounts. Hank and Gomey don’t believe a word of it, but when pressed by Mike to arrest him if they’re so sure he’s a criminal, they back down and admit they don’t have enough evidence to put the cuffs on him…yet. Two of the 11 people on the Lydia Shit List (all of whom Mike knows well and has trusted to keep their mouths shut because of the hush money that has now been frozen) are already dead, one of them Lydia’s second-choice hit man, killed by Mike in self-defense after a glorious fakeout involving a mechanical stuffed pig (don’t ask). But although Mike and Lydia obviously detest each other, for now, Mike needs Lydia — and since her hit man is dead, for now it seems that she needs him, too. Awwwww.
Meanwhile, the monsterfication of Walt continues apace. His latest dirty deed: making a fake ricin cigarette (with salt subbed in for the ricin) to use as a decoy for Jesse to find in his house so that Jesse will be fooled into thinking he lost it, rather than having it poached by Huell Hotdogfingers at Walt’s behest. And Walt gets Jesse’s Roomba to vacuum it up, no less! Jesse breaks down in tears and apologizes profusely to Walt for ever doubting him, and Walt’s all, “There, there, it’s okay.” Walt has kept the real ricin vial, hidden behind an electrical outlet cover in his and Skyler’s bedroom. Well, he’s tried three times to poison someone with the stuff and failed, maybe the fourth time’s a charm? Yikes. I just hope nobody in that house ever tries to replace a fuse, and that they never get a dog or a cat.
As for Skyler herself, she has become catatonic, calling in sick to work and lying in bed all day, barely even moving when Walt tries to seduce her. Does he really think she’s distraught about what happened to Ted, as he murmurs to her while kissing and nuzzling her (creepy!), or does he actually know she’s afraid to utter so much as one peep to him in order to avoid getting killed? Probably the latter. “What we do, we do for good reasons,” he coos to her. And, he adds, “There’s no better reason than family.” We know he doesn’t believe it any more. In fact, we know she doesn’t believe he believes it anymore. But this woman is going to snap. You just wonder if, when she does, she’s going to take only herself down, or Walt too.