The promise of Breaking Bad‘s fifth season delivering a bigger scope and wilder content was fearsomely delivered this week with the episode “Dead Freight”. Admittedly, we don’t get there till the final 20 minutes but when it delivers we get one of the most impressive sequences in TV this year: a modern day train robbery as Walt, Jesse and Mike take full measures in order to retrieve the all important methylamine.
The spectacle of last week’s episode was seeing Skyler’s silence broken and her final stance against Walt, which all accumulated into a battle of wits where Walt was the victor. The spectacle of this week is brought to us with a visceral thrill, delivering the most high-octane, action packed episode that the writers and directors possibly could, with the train robbery set piece being one that any big budget blockbuster would be proud of. While George Mastras has delivered an episode that is wildly entertaining and edge-of-your-seat thrilling, unfortunately, it is lacking any real depth.
While it lasts, this episode of Breaking Bad is thoroughly a worthwhile watch. After it’s over though, you feel totally empty, a problem which is a result of following Rian Johnson’s episode, which was one of the most thematically rich episodes of the season so far. It dealt with the inner turmoil felt by all the characters, bringing to the fore their inability to deal with a situation in which they are totally out of their depth and how the selfishness, the manipulation and the sociopathy of one man can begin to destroy everything around him.
As this week’s episode opens, Walt visits Hank in his newly acquired head of department office in the DEA HQ, telling him whilst fighting back crocodile tears that Skyler doesn’t love him anymore and they need to still keep the kids. Trying to avoid the situation, Hank ducks out and leaves Walt to smarten himself up, which gives Walt just enough time to plant a microphone in his office.
This allows Mike, Jesse and Walt to discover whether it was the DEA who planted the tracking device in the Madrigal warehouse or whether it was Lydia, whose life is hanging by a thread with the very cautious Mike wanting to silence her for good.
It turns out that it was the Houston division who placed a tracker. Furthermore, they placed one on the all the tanks of methylamine that Lydia owns. Now, Jesse, Walt and Mike have to find an alternative supply and Lydia is once again the only person who can help. She does so by informing them of a weekly freight train carrying chemicals from Santa Fe that can easily be robbed.
We’ve come to a point now where Lydia is no longer a character in this drama, she has fallen into place as another cog in the plot. I know the writers have limited time to tell their story but couldn’t they give us a deeper look into Lydia to provide a bit more for Laura Fraser to go on than just the chemical provider?
Like Walt she is a person who appears to have “broken bad.” This is not the lifestyle she chose or wanted but rather grew into it out of necessity. It would be fascinating to see what led her to a life of crime and to throw herself in a business where she is clearly out of her depth. That would give her something more than just being a plot device and make her a fully realised human being.
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