Recap: Breaking Bad 502, Madrigal

 Posted by on July 23, 2012 at 10:00 am  Breaking Bad, Characters, Season 5
Jul 232012

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.


  43 Responses to “Recap: Breaking Bad 502, Madrigal”

  1. Lydia’s is Gus Frings something??? Where do you get that from?

    And her apparent desire to revenge Gus’s killing? Where was that shown in this episode?

    Her desire is to kill, yes. But that desire is based solely on self preservation, not on revenge. She wants dead anyone who is knowledgeable of the whole Los Pollos/Madrigal operation. Hence the list of 11 she tries to give to Mike & has her hit man for hire undertake.

    • Perhaps I should have added “boss?” to the list of potential relationships with Gus. But either way, she has to have some kind of link to him; she knows too much about his business not to. Her emotional detachment about the whole hit business makes me doubt that they were close, but if this was just a CYA move, why wouldn’t she have wiped Mike out first? He knows more than anyone.

  2. Excuse me for a really dumb question– but would someone please explain to me Walt’s motive in poisoning Brock with the lily of the valley? I fell asleep binge watching season 4 and must have missed that part.

    • It was a Rube Goldberg scheme by Walt to lure Jesse away from Gus’s influence. Jesse needed to be convinced that Gus was the culprit.

    • Walt had the ricin cig poached so Jesse could think the kid was poisoned —by Gus and his henchmen, instead of Walt.
      Walt figured Jesse would come after him, and he could ‘explain’ to Jesse that this was the perfect plan to have Walt dispatched by Gus, by getting Jesse angry enough at him to kill him. Walt told Jesse it was a brilliant plan by Gus, who he said had always been “Ten steps ahead of me”.
      Walt is truly one sick fuck.

      • Good grief, this is a little too far-fetched for me.

        • TK summarized it well.

          • Thanks, Al. Please don’t put one in the back of my dome while I’m saying Hail Fathers in my fishing boat. 🙂

        • TK had an excellent recap, but do yourself a favor and go watch season four again starting with where you zoned out. This series builds heavily on its character development and almost nobody is even close to how they started out in season 1.

          Season 4 is about Gus and Walt fighting for Jesse’s soul. Walt couldn’t just kill Gus, he had to win his partner’s loyalty back in order to get close to Gus. Without Jesse’s info on the rest home and Jesse setting up Gus, there would be no King Walt. Walt and Jesse would be kept alive long enough for Gus to find a replacement chemist and then killed.

          • Nicely done, fatphil. Gus and Walt, wrestling for Jesse reminds of Berenger and Dafoe fighting for Sheen’s soul in Platoon. Thank you for the insight.

  3. Meowser, like BCSkier I did not see anywhere in the episode that Lydia was seeking revenge of any sort, nor that Gus Frings death was something that she, of all people, would conceive of as something to be revenged. She is part of Madrigal and clearly was involved in supplying Gus with chemicals for his criminal meth operation, not just the legal chicken business. Mike asks her later if she can still find him methalymine. Throughout, she is frantic that her role will be exposed by one of the 11 people she knows to be also involved with the meth operation, although she still coesn’t know who “Gus’ chemist” was so she knows her list isn’t complete and trusts that Mike couldfill in that gap. That’s partly why she must have gone to him, in addition to his expertise. When Mike wouldn’t do her bidding, she went to one of the others on the list (evidently trusting that his complicity would remove him as a danger to her – or something put off for another day).

    I agree that she is giving off very strange signals for someone involved in Gus’ methodical operation, so your instinct that she may have had a close personal connection with him might well be on the mark. We’ll find out, in time. But for now, all we know is that Gus used her as part of his supply system and as part of the Madrigal cover for it. Now she’s terrified her part will be exposed, which is why she’s got her little list.

    • Thoughts:

      1. I too saw Lydia deploying “the list” as more of a CYA gesture than any kind of desire for revenge.
      2. My sister, with whom I always watch, at first thought Lydia was Gus’s daughter, though.
      3. “Stevia. I brought my own.” I like her.
      4. Seeing Jesse brought to Brock-level emotion over a monster like Walt? That hurt.
      5. Anna Gunn acted the hell out of So-Depressed-I-Can’t-Move. And I’m someone who knows what that looks like.
      6. When your criminal activity is bad enough to inspire a skeeve like Saul to advise throwing in the towel, you are one seriously bad dude.

      Great work, Meowser! 🙂

      • After working one year as a major cog in a illicit operation that generates TENS of millions of dollars, you should not be 40 large in the hole. I’d be ashamed. Saul should be appalled, how is his client going to fatten his greasy wallet?
        Wasn’t Walt’s motivation to leave his family sufficient moo-la-di to carry on without him?
        That car wash is a money pit.

        • Much of that year involved misteps.

          The guy Walt garrotted, then Tuco, then handing over “Heisenberg”.

          The $#!T got really deep starting with that 38-pound sale to Gustavo. The $622,000 IRS payoff for that spastic, ego-ridden, uber-rationalizing, Mercedes-leasing moron was regretable but necessary in the end.

          What part of that free-and-clear carwash is a money pit?

          It embodies the bulk of the White Estate – the tangible benefit of the Walt/Skyler team effort. The cash flow should be pretty much what the old owner’s was – and it’s gotta be more than a high school teacher and bookkeeper make combined.

          • I was mistaken by saying pit. If Skyler lives long enough to see Holly graduate college, and their pre-meth annual expenses were roughly 40-50K per, then at least 1.5 mill has to be left behind for the family. That includes add ons like education expenses, vehicles, if any, life insurance, medical insurance etc.
            The car wash has a fair market of 900K? So if Sky sells it , they are still 600 thou in need.
            How much profit would the car wash generate? 70-80 per. Decent but not rich. Walt wants to leave behind livin large cash.

      • I love #6, Ann B. Meowser, thank you for you insights and your time.

    • I agree with you and BCSkier about Lydia’s role. Absent any clear signal to the contrary, it looks to me like Lydia’s connection with Gus was business rather than personal. Yes, she is a nervous person, but Gus employed Walt and Jessie who are erratic and troublesome, each in their own ways.

      Maybe Gus wished he could employ only calm people like himself and Mike, but that’s not who he wound up with 🙂

  4. Jonathan Banks is another actor I became a fan of many years ago, who I am so grateful to BB for bringing back in such a great role. Anyone else remember him from that great 1980’s series Wiseguy, where he played the hero’s FBI contact? Even 25 years ago he was already a master at being sardonic and world-weary.

    • Yes, I remember Wiseguy — that show also brought Kevin Spacey to my attention. Also noticed Jonathan Banks as a heavy in “Beverly Hills Cop.” Great to see him again.

  5. I dunno guys, I do see Lydia as wanting to avenge Gus/find out what happened. She point blank asked Mike who killed Gus, and he said “I already told you not to worry about that.” She knows something bad happened, something went terribly wrong with the plan, and she wants answers, and I don’t think it’s just to cover her own back. She also asked who the chemist was, that the chemist would be part of the 11 people who need to go, and Mike wouldn’t tell her. Clearly, he doesn’t trust her much, if at all. That also means she doesn’t know who Walt is, and Mike desn’t want her to know, for a reason. Perhaps we will find out soon why Mike is still hiding Walt’s existence to the other Madrigal folks.

    • I think asking bout Gus’ killer was only out of curiosity. Maybe rage as well. Gus’ murderer opened up a massive can of worms that leaves people like Lydia to deal with the shitstorm fallout. A very nice enterprise was ruined with the demise of Mr. Fring.
      The chemist was never revealed to Madrigal because Gus had no intention of keeping him long term.
      Mike, seeing an opportunity, now gets to keep the chemist churning out product, and can dispatch him at his convenience without interference from the Lydia’s of the world ever knowing. Very clever.

      • Lydia can still meddle – hire a pro to take out Mike and the others. She may well turn out as dangerous as Mike or Walt.

        • I’m sensing that Mike did not make the percentage play, when he let Lydia get up off the canvas. It can only come back to haunt him, and serve the needs of Heisenberg by coincidence.
          The more I think about this, the more I see Walt ‘winning’. Then I think about Skyler…………………………………………………………..
          Then, I’m not so sure.

          • That’s two low-percentage plays (at least). First was not shooting Walt.

            If a journalist knows that Mexico is where all the percursors are easy to get, then Mike can find that out – so letting Lydia live bought little except to dramatically serve the plot.

            Skyler could definitely become a wild card – first, she needs her mom to tell her to get out of bed and “stop feeling sorry for herself”. Maybe Mad Men could lend Mme. Calvet to do the job.

            ; – >

          • Walt is doomed. Count among his adversaries;The Cartel, Madrigal and the DEA. Walt may be useful to Madrigal and/or the Cartel, maybe he is more useful dead. Given Walt’s current delusions of grandeur, neither would tolerate him for long anyway.

            Walt has no idea what he is even up against at this point. His closest partners are Mike, Saul, Skyler and Jesse. Mike will be more than happy to kill Walt the moment it becomes expedient, Saul is ready to bolt, Skyler is having a major attack of conscience,or perhaps cooly plotting murder or coming clean. Jesse is Lou Costello.
            The plot must carry Walt along for a while longer, but he is well and truly f***ed.

            Part of the beauty of the show is that all Walt sees is opportunity!

          • Oh, Lydia is going to be a problem, but Mike had no choice. The ex-Chow had all the contacts and licenses necessary for the methylamine. The Mexican Cartel is not a fan of MIke and his merry gang. Remember, the cartel used Chow to ambush Mike at Chow’s warehouse ealier in the series. So, Lydia’s possibility of getting methylamine saved her life.

            Ray–“part of the beauty of the show is that all Walt sees is opportunity!” Excellent!

    • Lydia was acting out of total paranoia (if it’s warranted, is it still paranoia? lol). Who killed Gus? Valid question, since they were in business somehow- might that person want to come after madrigal as well? Especially after another exec ends up dead in the bathroom.
      I would suppose she knew Gus as anyone else involved did. He probably picked her as an insider there bc of some high level access, and who would suspect that uptight, white woman to be involved in the drug realm? And she probably accepted because she appears to be a single mother, with lots of worries, and the cash and Gus’ assurances probably won her over.
      We know Gus’ true love died years ago, pool side in Mexico. I doubt she’s romantically linked to him.

      • She could have been a wife (or ex-wife) of convenience, though. That would explain why she’s not that broken up emotionally. Or…after he lost his Max, maybe he could never picture himself with another man, and thought he could make himself love a woman instead, but it just didn’t work out…

  6. Like Hank I couldn’t have resisted getting a look at Gustavo’s laptop (though wasn’t it the APD that searched the office?) – and been disappointed that it was encrypted.

    Mike’s very flat demeanor at the interrogation covered more than his secrets. It also covered the pain of his wound (though, I imagine he would have doubled his pain meds before going in). He was lucky they didn’t detain him longer. He’d have a hard time explaining another dose and concealing his pain for hours.

    Of course, his grimace (out of Hank’s sight) reflected some other pain.

    Has US law tightened up so much that anonymous offshore accounts are history? That, or all those “named” accounts are a plot hole.

    Finally, I wonder if the guy whose throat Gus cut in Ep 401, was one of the twelve on Ms. Stevia’s list? If so, only nine are left, and Gus had not cleaned out and closed his account.

  7. It sure was looking like Lydia was going to be a bit part. Until she got her methylamine reprieve.

    According to Wikipedia:

    “Over 1 million tonnes are produced annually’ (note the spelling of “tons)


    “Methylamine is also controlled as a Schedule 1 substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the DEA lists methylamine as a precursor (to methamphetamine).”

    Thanks to a link provided here, I read an article which claimed that close US scrutiny of substances used to produce meth has effectively driven large-scale production into Mexico where controls are much looser.

    That article also claimed that the Fring “superlab” was not so large compared to some in Mexico. Perhaps Fring was truly the “mouse who roared” – though until they muscled him, he seemed happy to co-exist with the Cartel capos he poisioned. Fring only roared from necessity – not ego.

    • Gus’ super lab produced the most pure meth in the west. Remember, Gus, Jesse, Mike all went to Mexico to show the Cartel how to make Walt’s meth. It was a set up in order to kill the people who killed his partner when they were asking permission to cook/distribute meth at poolside at the Don’s home. However, Gus was a huge player in the meth business–I don’t believe a huge company like Madrigal backs small time meth distributors. Not enough profit in it. The DEA had said earlier that the blue meth was showing up all over the western US.

      Gus wanted complete control of the meth business in the USA and revenge. Money is power. Power is needed to fill his ego. Gus is much more experienced than Walt in the business and has a better poker face. Big difference between Gus’ face when his partner was killed and Gus’ face when he cut his worker’s throat in front of Walt and Jesse .

  8. […] Basket of Kisses: Breaking Bad 502, Madrigal […]

  9. Walt is not going to get away clean. Remember the cold opening from last week; a year from now he’ll be eating breakfast alone on his birthday, living under an assumed name, and…coughing. Even more than his monster ego, his own body is his greatest enemy; the 5 year survival rates for lung cancer are abysmal, and he’ll have come out of remission in less than 2 years. The question is, what will Walt be desperate to do if he knows for sure he’s dying?

    • Maybe Walt will grow a conscience after Skyler leaves him or dies. Oh shit, my nose just started to grow.
      Think of the bodies Mr. White has caused to pile up till this point. Its even more harrowing to think he isn’t even halfway done if he is truly to be the king. Let us count the ways.
      Mike. Whoever the new competition for the territory will be. Hank. (If he gets close, Walt will not hesitate.) God only knows if anyone will appear on Walt’s radar from Madrigal. Someone will/has to crawl out of the slime from whatever is left of the Cartel. Mike’s list will somehow come to light, and Ehrmantraut and White will have major differences over it.

      All those murderer to commit, and so little time. Cancer clock tick, tick, ticks ever louder.

    • Jesse is kidnapped by the Cartel and held hostage in order to cook for them.

  10. So…in last week’s episode, when Walt breaks the bacon strips and rearranges them on his plate (a la Hemingway’s devastatingly modernist moment: “Krebs looked at the bacon fat hardening on his plate…”), I did not see a “52” (but I didn’t remember Skyler’s bacon “50” at the moment), but rather an atomic explosion, a mushroom cloud.

    I thought this might just by my own little twisted Rorschach moment, but when Mike told Walt in “Madrigal” that Walt was “a ticking time bomb,” I thought, yep, this ain’t gonna end well (though, that’s no surprise!).

    I also noticed that the child’s drawing (presumably Mike’s granddaughter’s) on the fridge behind Mike said “Blue is good” in one corner, and in the other (shown in the background when Mike made the bomb comment), it said “BAM SMASH CRASH” (or something to that effect).


  11. How will Hank bust Walt?

    1. Walter Jr. will make an off handed remark that his Dad once called him Jesse.
    2. Hank will ask Skyler to use her laptop to check his e-mail and find out her latest Google searches included “Gus Fring”, “Money Laundering” and “Precursor”.
    3. Saul falls asleep using the Chi Machine and wakes up with a conscience – “f*ck attorney client privilege, I’m calling’ the cops”.
    4. Hank stakes out every mylar balloon retailer in the greater ABQ hoping to catch Mike and his grand daughter stocking up.
    5. Hank gets two letters with no return address – “Suck my”, “Fuc” both signed “Love, Tio”.
    6. During a police line up, Hank gets Skinny Pete and Badger to finger Walt by asking “which one of these low lifes looks like a South Park character?”
    7. Walt & Jessie’s latest formula has a purple hue; suddenly, Marie Schrader is their best customer.
    8. Hank finally gives up and learns bean speak from Gomez. Lesson 1: “Donde esta Heisenberg?”
    9. During a family dinner, Hank decides to bust Walt’s balls:
    Hank: “Hey Flynn, wanna hear a joke?”
    Walt Jr.: “Sure, sure thing Uncle Hank.”
    Hank: “Knock, knock”
    Walt Sr.: “I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS!”
    10. Hank simply asks Walt if he is Heisenberg. Walt’s response: “Yes I am. How do you think were able to afford your therapy? It’ll be a shame to see Marie go to jail for unpaid taxes, money laundering and conspiracy to distribute narcotics.”

    • Heh. I snorfed at #7.

      But yeah, no Marie in the first two episodes…and yet, it seems like if any character is going to be Walt’s downfall, it’s her. I don’t think she actually buys the gambling story even if she’s happy to take the money, and seeing her sister turn into a zombie is going to make her nose twitch even more.

    • I like #9. Keep them coming, Frank.

  12. How about this for Lydia’s background story:

    Gus Fring’s original business partner, Max, had a child out of wedlock when he was a teenager. After her father’s mysterious death, “Uncle” Gustavo took it upon himself to make sure Lydia was well schooled and did not lack for anything. She was a living reminder of his partner Max. He paid for her undergraduate degree and her MBA from Wharton. He even arranged for an internship with a multi-national German conglomerate that had extensive ties to his home country Chile. When Madrigal Electromotive decided to diversify into the fast food industry, Lydia approached her Uncle Gus and brokered the deal that sold the entire chain to Madrigal. Even though Uncle Gus did quite well through the buyout, he never asked for anything in return – until one day . . .

  13. Name the Breaking Bad reference:

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