Breaking Bad Review: “Hazard Pay” (Season 5, Episode 3)

This week on Breaking Bad, the cooking finally resumes now that the aftermath of the Gus Fring assassination has been completely cleaned up in the minds of Walt, Jesse and Mike. The problem for them now is finding another location that has the space, the lack of attention from the cops and doesn’t leave behind a chemical stench. But that isn’t the only problem facing the newly partnered trio. Now that they are the heads of the meth peddling business in Albuquerque and not just employees, there are some tough lessons to be learned.

We start out with Mike (rapidly becoming Breaking Bad‘s most fascinating supporting character) going into a prison disguised as a lawyer. This is a ruse designed to get him to see his associates who took the fall after Gus’s death. In the scene, he promises the man that he will be protected financially as long as he keeps his mouth shut. As the business end of the company, this is a task Mike has to carry out on all his guys to keep the company secure.

This of course has an impact on Walt and Jesse, who are now forced to take further cuts to their pay in order to seal the lips of those behind bars. While the fact they are cooking again is a big step forward (strong signs that they are over Gus), they now have to build from the ground up and the first hurdle to get over is finding a location. With a reluctant Saul Goodman playing estate agent to the newly crowned kingpins of methamphetamine, our protagonists begin their search.

Every dodgy location from box factories to garages is poured over. Unsatisfied, Walt has the idea to use other people’s houses whilst they are being fumigated. This puts them in cahoots with a fumigation company called ‘Vamanos Pest’, who are notorious for burglary. The company is, of course, represented by Goodman, and while there’s no problem in getting Walt and Jesse in the houses with no issue, there is now another cut that they have to take out from their own pay.

This week also welcomes the return of Skinny Pete and Badger, the grot bag, junkie friends of Jesse who manage to get roadie storage units to transport the meth lab from house to house. They only appear in two very brief scenes but it is nice to see them back on the show, providing some neat comedic relief to proceedings which threaten to get very, very serious. It may not be the last we see of these characters either. The more this season promises to descend into bloodier and darker territory and the more they become aware of Jesse and Walt’s operation, the more likely we are to see them not lasting very long. Especially since Jesse refuses their offer of work.

Anyways, the cook is carried off reasonably well, no disturbance and no issues at all. Everything goes surprisingly smoothly and it’s great to see the show get back into that formula again of watching these two characters work together and work together successfully. There is a sense that after all they’ve been through, Walt and Jesse have now reached an understanding and almost, a friendship.

But a friendship that has come at the cost of a deep manipulation. And this is where Breaking Bad truly, truly finds its gold. The season’s plot and the interior plot of the episode has been the driving force of this show, but it is Vince Gilligan’s spectacular balance of character that pushesBreaking Bad into the realms of masterpiece.

We are moving towards Walt’s complete transformation, as Vince Gilligan describes it, from Mr. Chips to Scarface. In fact, that is acknowledged in a not entirely subtle manner when Walt and Walt Jr. sit down to watch Scarface, the evening after Walt’s first cook.

It’s kind of on the nose and because the link between Pacino’s screeching gangster and Cranston’s sociopathic man is made so often, it doesn’t quite work. However, the line “everyone dies in this movie” is a quite brilliant foreshadow of a grim future to come for the Whites and scares the hell out of his wife, who finally cracks under the emotional pressure of knowing she is married to a complete sociopath. Despite that, there are far more nuanced and sinister moments in this episode.

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