Chani φ (frenchani) wrote,
Chani φ

My review of "Hazard Pay"

"Hazard Pay" was simply close to perfection. Every scene mattered and was significant. And the cinematography was gorgeous.

I loved the tour of potential new labs or, as I call it, the lab casting, and I enjoyed how professional Jesse was....until he just had to nick that tortilla!

And eventually, Walt turned out to be the one with the brightest mind, of course, when he figured out how to do it, seeing what neither Jesse nor Mike could see.

I LOVED the idea of an itinerant cooking, of making every house a temporary lab. After the home-made meth R.V and Gus' superlab, it was a brillant move. You have to despise Walter's low morality but admire his brain.

And the pest control thing? Simply wonderful as a call back to "Fly" and as a metaphor on its own. In the world of Walter where everything is contaminated, he lives and works under the illusion of having the control, of clearing of nuisances* and helping a family out ,while he's actually contamining the purest places, venting fumes into a backyard full of kid toys. BTW I loved how the camera reminded us it was a family home with that shot of the family portrait too.

And of course it's a great way to carry on the "cleaning" leitmotiv. After Gus' laundry and Bogdan's carwash, the Vamonos Pest Cie takes us a step higher in terms of desinfection. This is stonger stuff. And pesticides pollute more than detergents. Perfect.

The way Walter dealt with people in the episode was fascinating. They are all pawns to him now. Yes, Mike is an annoying pawn who thinks he can control Mr White and who gets to put him in his place, at least verbally, when he says that shooting Jesse James didn't make him Jesse James, but Walt is convinced he can "handle Mike" – which in his mind means "outsmart Mike" –, and to be honest I think that Mike quite underestimates Walter. He accurately sees the trouble and the time bomb, but he doesn't really see what the audience sees and knows, he doesn't get the unscrupulous mastermind, he doesn't get the genius. So Walt's-defeat-over-the-money scene was indeed a lost battle for Walter, and it was fun to see Mr White "being taught a lesson", but I'm pretty sure that Mike won't win the war.

In the end, when Walter ignored the news about Jesse's break-up, and mentioned Victor and Icarus, it was fun to have Walter White talked about Greek hubris on screen – a meta speech, in an ironic kind of way –, but I'm pretty sure that in his mind, Mike represented both Victor and Icarus, as he was oblivious to his own hubris.

The Walt/Jesse meth cooking scene was just stunning. The show loves its chemistry (both kind of chemistry actually) and makes it beautiful on screen. Even the shot of a cockroach didn't put me off and it says  a lot because my phobia usually makes me unable to see one even on screen. And the score stressed the chemistry between Walt and Jesse, as if the meth-cooking were a ballet, or a salon dance the partners danced so well because they knew each other moves. They were on the same page. It made the scene so idyllic, cosy, romantic even. I would even dare to say that the beginning had sexy undertones when our cooks were undressing with the lounge music.

Walt/Jesse relationship had never seem so good. As they work together or just watch television on  a family couch, and cling beers, there's a true intimacy and harmony between them.

There was even a sort of kinship and equality as Jesse shared his views with Walt on how to set the lab. I loved that he drew plans to make it work. Not quite artistic drawings but still a bit more than mere diagrams.
It was like a paper he handed to his teacher who, I think, was genuinely impressed when he looked at him saying "it's good". Jesse didn't really seem to register the compliment then, but when Walt introduced himself to Andrea as Jesse's "friend", it obviously meant a lot to him. He looked a bit surprised, but not in a bad way. I wonder what he would have said if Walter hadn't cut him. "My partner" was probably on his mind but he couldn't say that to Andrea! "My former teacher?"

But like the houses, the relationship is actually polluted by Walter's schemes.

There's an obvious parallel between the post-cooking (I almost wrote post-cookius!) television scene between Walt and Jesse, and the other television scene of course of the episode, but more about that one below.

The theme of family was huge in the episode, either with Andrea and Brock or with Marie. Even the Walt/Jesse/Mike gang looked like a family with dad and mom arguing, until Jesse couldn't take it anymore and said that they should take the money from his share.

And every time it showed how good  a liar and an actor Walter has become. He is obviously ready to use anything or anyone to get what he wants. And he is so skilled at cooking "stories" using actual truths!!!!
We are far from the "fugue state" big lie. Now, Walter just arranges truths to fits in his needs. The speeches he fed Jesse and Marie were grand art.
And Cranston is so good that you can see that sometimes Walter is meaning what he says and consciously manipulating the others at the same time, mixing genuine feelings, accurate facts and actual calculation. It's both impressive and heartbreaking, especially when he's pushing Jesse's buttons.

Walter wanted to get rid of Brock, the living proof of what he had done. I don't think that he feared that Brock might reveal anything, the scene was precisely there to tell us that Brock wasn't a potential witness, or at least that Walter didn't show himself when poising the kid. I just think that Walt doesn't want to face "his sin", to have a reminder of what he's done constantly under his nose**.

And he possibly wanted to get rid of Andrea as well, of the "new family" Jesse had found, of anything that might come between Jesse and him. The irony being that he voiced the very thing that might become a true barrier between them: the secrets.

Me? I think that Andrea and Brock are better off, and that breaking up was the most sensible thing Jesse could do, now he's cooking again, no matter how sad he must feel. The saddest thing being that he gave up on people who loved him probably because he believes he's got Walt's love and respect now, or at least that he's not alone for he's got Walt.

Anyway, Walt had nerves of steel during the scene with Andrea and Brock. The same man talked to the boy he poisoned about his being so brave in the hospital and carried on the conversation mentioning his own two kids without even flinching!

Also I can't help noticing the parallel between Walt's new activity, or rather new cover, and what he did to Brock, and maybe the way he sees him. Walter poisoned the kid, and now cooks under the cover of a company that poisons undesirable occupiers (the word "poison" was used by the house owner, and I don't think it's a coincidence). And it isn't only a cover since Jesse and Walt bomb the houses with the pesticide after cooking meth.

And the way Walt looked at Brock on the couch. That wasn't a friendly look. Nor a guilty one. Brock obviously represented a pest to walt's eyes. He even behaved like a brat, not talking to the adult who had talked to him. The parallel may be emphasized by the Spanish name of the company: Vamonos Pest indeed!

As for the Walt/Marie scene, he said the truth about the affair and Skyler being upset by Ted's situation, but there were still two half-lies in what Walt told Marie. The first one was suggesting that what happened to Ted was the main reason behind Skyler's state. The second half-lie occured when he told Marie to keep quiet because he didn't want Hank "to think less of her, or of me". It's a half-lie because Walter want them (or at least Marie) to think less of Skyler, but he certainly doesn't want Hank to think less of him. Being cuckold isn't exactly a title of glory.

There was indeed pettiness in Walt's explanation for Skyler's breakdown as I can't help thinking that he also enjoyed getting even with Skyler's story of gambling, and taking revenge for her fucking Ted and emasculating Walter so many times. It was a win-win situation, and a masterful move to shift the shame and guilt onto someone else, possibly damaging the relationship between the two sisters.

For all his talk about doing what he does for the best reason, that is family, Walter White was constantly showed being a noxious substance for families, either his own, or Jesse's, or strangers'. Walter White is the man who brings poison into families' home, and the one who breaks family ties. He is the real pest.

The Skinny Pete/Badger scene was marvellous too, calling back to Jesse's old band – and the webisode in which we saw Badger play guitar and heard him sing –, and revealing Skinny Pete's hidden talents (both with the keyboard and with being professional). Now someone has to make a video clip for a band named Vamonos Pest!

Sadly, since Mike is on watch, Jesse had to kinda cut ties with his pals. Walter isn't the only one to keep Jesse apart from a sort of family – I do believe that Skinny Pete using the word "brother" was meant to point it out. Oh the look on Aaron's face, as they left and Mike is closing the curtain!
If anyone needed a reminder that Mr Paul is good at more than just delivering emo speeches and crying his soul out, here it is. I wish he also had comedy moments like his memorable "a robot?" from season 2.

Now concerning the Scarface scene. Well, I guess it may look a bit on the nose, especially given what Gilligan had said for year about Walter's journey and if you take it as a meta moment, but I don't think it was a meta moment because the whole scene wasn't about Walt but about Skyler discovering the picture, about her perspective. It was a nightmare come true.

Walter ruling the house, "owning" the children, exposing them to such criminal activities showed on screen, to such violence (and the fabulous contrast of the adorable baby Holly and the film!!!), and that fictional violence on screen reflecting the danger HE had brought into her home. So when Walter said "everybody dies in that movie, don't they?" I didn't read it as foreshadowing, but as echoing Skyler's worst fears.
Now the choice of that scene, with Scarface using a machine gun, it had to be a call-back to the flashforward from the first episode!

Ana Gunn was extraordinary in the episode, either in the first scene with Walter moving back in and her being too terrified to say "no" – but my favourite bit was the way Walt ignored her feelings and simply pushed her bras aside to put his own stuff in the drawer! –, and in the Scarface scene.

One last word about the first television scene. I am not sure I recognized the b&w movie Walt and Jesse were watching but it looked like  a comedy (The Three Stooges perhaps?)and it definitely foreshadowed the Scarface scene with the machine gun! Was it supposed to be a real gorilla or a man wearing a gorilla suit? I have the feeling that this was a more important clue than the Scarface cameo.

No really, there is no better show on tv.

* Like the lawyer in the cold open, putting his headphone and turning the music on so he wouldn't hear the conversation between Mike and the inmate. It's all about pretending to be "clean" when you are actually dirty.

** That said, Walter didn't show any guilt over Gale. The scene with the Walt Whitman's
"Leaves of Grass," which contains Gale's favorite poem was chilling because Walt actually seemed to feel delighted, so proud of himself. Very very dark touch there.

ETA: I forgot to mention the terrific way we went from the Scarface scene with the sound of shooting machine gun, to the money scene, with the sound of the counting money machine! Yay to sound transition! Priceless!

Tags: breaking bad

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