“Everyone dies in this movie, don’t they?”
Hey…in case y’all missed it the first 10,000 times Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan has said it in interviews, this show is about a guy who starts out as Mr. Chips and turns into Scarface. And in Hazard Pay, Gilligan and this episode’s credited writer, Peter Gould, makes sure there’s no not-getting-it, in a scene where Walt, Walter Jr., and baby Holly are all watching the Pacino Scarface, at full blast so that poor traumatized Skyler (who’s already had to deal earlier in the episode with Walt moving his stuff back into the house without her permission) can’t fail to hear the constant rain of TV gunfire from the bedroom. (Nice work getting the 7-month-old desensitized to it, too, Walt.) Walt utters the above line with such lip-licking glee that Skyler all but vomits right there on the spot.
A little anvilicious, maybe? Maybe. But so far in S5, Gilligan and friends are choosing the slow build, the creepy crawlies, over overt shock value and bomb-dropping, in a way that lets us know that we haven’t seen anything yet. The only bombs we get in this episode are bug bombs; yes, Walt, Jesse, Mike, and Saul have now built a portable meth lab under cover of an extermination company that’s in on the game. Ever wonder what’s happening when you pass a house that has one of those big colorful tents draped over it? Oh, probably not, you probably just thought, “Yeah, some cockroaches and termites are about to meet their maker, big yawn.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll never look at one of those bug tents the same way again. Walt convinces the others that it’s the perfect cook environment, since nobody but nobody goes back into a house that’s being bombed; they set up their works under the kind of hospital drapes Jesse saw in the Mexican meth lab in Salud, so as not to spread the smell all over the customers’ personal effects (although the house will be plenty stinky after fumigation anyway), then they break the equipment down, set off the bug bombs, and leave.
Nothing could possibly go wrong there, could it? Oh no. Except for the fact that Mike has promised the nine survivors on the Lydia Shit List more hush money — i.e. Hazard Pay — from the new business, to be taken equally from the shares of Mike, Jesse, and Walt. (Saul gets his cut too, but not as an official partner.) Walt gets a reluctant (no, make that terrified) Saul to agree to Mike’s involvement by telling Saul, “He handles the business, and I handle him,” but Mike tells Walt in no uncertain terms at the onset of their agreement that Walt and Jesse are in charge of cooking, period, and they are not to butt in to Mike’s handling of the business under any circumstances. So when they are divvying up the money from their first cook and Walt sees the fat stacks getting thinner and thinner from all the people Mike has to pay off to button their lips, not to mention the “mules” who have to transport the meth without getting caught or killed, Walt predictably craps a brick. What will do Walt in, ultimately, is his need to have more more more, faster faster faster, now now now. It’s no longer about the money; clearing half a million dollars a month should be more than plenty for anything Walt or his family will ever need, even with Walt’s now-legendary recklessness with his stash. His hunger is bottomless, and it’s obvious someone (or several someones) will have to have to die in order to feed it.
And who might that be? Mike? The other people on the Shit List? Lydia doesn’t appear in this episode and isn’t even mentioned by name, but it’s not hard at all to imagine a scenario in which she and Walt are in cahoots. Lydia wants these folks dead; it’s Mike who insists on rewarding their loyalty while paying them off instead, and the fewer Shit Listers remain, the bigger Walt’s slice of the pie. But could a Mike killing be in the cards too? Walt as much as hints to Jesse at the end of the episode that he’s thinking that way, that he’s starting to think Gus killed Victor not because Victor was spotted at Gale’s crime scene, but because Victor started cooking without Gus’s permission and therefore, he took too many “liberties that weren’t his to take,” and Gus had to waste him. Mike has explained to Walt, with a lot more patience than Walt deserves, exactly why all these other people need to be paid off in order to keep the DEA and the APD out of their hair, but as far as Walt is concerned, there’s no room in this company for two alpha dogs. He won’t kill Jesse, because Jesse shows Walt the “proper” deference, but Mike is an independent agent, and to Walt, that spells trouble. He has no idea how much trouble he’s in for without Mike to protect him.
More creepy crawlies: Walt is formally introduced to Brock, and Walt acts like he’s never seen the kid before, telling him “I heard you were really brave” when he had to go to the hospital, while Brock says nothing and gives Walt the stink-eye. So that means Walt wasn’t the one who gave Brock the poison berries? A neurotypical 6-year-old would blurt out, “I know who you are,” or at least have some sort of terrified outward reaction, if he recognized the man who poisoned him, right? Or maybe Walt had one of those Boris Badenov disguises on when he did it?
In any case, Walt continues his playing of Jesse like the 12-string guitar Jesse’s friend Badger noodles on in the music store where Badger and Skinny Pete (who plays a mean classical piano!) buy the roadie cases they need for the business. He tells Jesse, “Secrets create barriers between people,” and that if he’s serious about Andrea, he has to tell her everything. Jesse’s eyes pop and he asks if that means he has to tell her about Gale, too, and Walt murmurs soothingly, “I trust you and I know you’ll make the right call…if she loves you, she’ll understand.” Of course Walt knows damn well that Jesse doesn’t want to involve Andrea and Brock in his filthy business and that Jesse will opt to dump Andrea instead, which he does. And when Jesse sadly informs Walt of this, Walt barely even blinks. Andrea and Brock are speedbumps to Walt, not people. In fact, in Walt’s world, anyone who isn’t a perfectly compliant cog in his machine is just that — a speedbump.
And potentially the biggest speedbump Walt has to deal with now — that is, until he inevitably forms the next deadly scheme that ups his body count — is Skyler, who finally snaps when Marie nags her about lighting a cigarette, and screams at Marie to shut up — 15 times! You know that it’s really Walt she wants to scream at, but Marie, at least, won’t have her killed for doing it. However, Marie does confront Walt about Skyler’s depression and the 15 Shut Ups, and Walt puts his Mr. Chips face back on and murmurs something about how upset Skyler is that Ted fractured his spine and might never walk again, she and Ted had an affair but don’t tell Hank, and so on and so on and scoobydoobyblahblah, and Marie melts like a Kraft single. I never thought Marie entirely bought Skyler’s story about Walt winning all that money in illegal gambling clubs; I thought she just wasn’t going to question it because hey, money, tons of it, falling out of the sky, and my husband really really needs it! But you know this is going to be a topic of conversation between Marie and Skyler, and Skyler is going to flip out so hard that the 15 Shut Ups are going to sound like a Misterogers bedtime song. Walt’s 51st birthday is coming up (Marie mentions it to Skyler, who just waves it away), and the way this is going, something nasty is going to wind up in Walt’s birthday breakfast. And it won’t be a Blattodea.