Breaking Bad Episode 203 “Bit by a Dead Bee”

203imagesThis is the episode in which the mess from the last one is cleaned and covered up. Even before he gets out of the hospital, Walt establishes that he wants to go back to cooking (he has extra hospital bills now, yo), and this surprises Jesse. In just a few days’ time they’ve watched a guy getting beaten to death, were kidnapped and kept in a trunk and were almost killed by Tuco. It might make some people want to take pause, but Walt wants to get back on that crystal blue horse. I think this is another turning point for Walt. It’s the second time where he really could’ve gotten out of the game but chooses instead to get back in. They have no distributor; they’ve just barely escaped their last distributor alive, but he’s itching to get back at it.

But of course, first, both Walt and Jesse have to account for their absences. This teaser is the first one this season that doesn’t play with time. One thing I like about this teaser is how it takes its time. That’s something this show does really well. Things aren’t rushed. Walt and Jesse’s desert trek takes up time on screen, and there are a variety of shots of them walking from different angles and perspectives. The time and the varied shots evoke the feeling of a lot of time passing for Walt and Jesse. Another cool thing is that when Walt gets in the truck, and when Jesse questions if he really wants to follow through with his plan, the actual plan isn’t revealed. Walt never reveals it. Instead we see it through the eyes of the bewildered woman who finds Walt’s shoes and clothes strewn around the drugstore. We get to discover Walt’s plan along with her. And Jesse was right, it’s a bold plan.

There is a lot of lying in this episode. Walt and Jesse have a lot of covering up to do. Walt does most of his in the hospital. And he’s pretty good at it. In a way, playing into the sick, I-have-cancer, meek persona works pretty well for him here. He does a pretty good job of seeming sorta confused, his amnesia could be convincing. And he does a pretty good job of trying to deflect the cause of his fugue state onto all the chemo and the cancer drugs.

But it’s interesting when he says, “I remember feeling fear.” It seems strangely official, academic. It reminds me of all the times he talks about his drug enterprise in more business or academic terms. The user, the product. Associates. There’s something sort of detached. I think most people would say, “I was scared,” or something. I think Walt has felt a lot of fear in his life, and even so, it’s something he’s not comfortable with, doesn’t want to admit, even if it helps his cover story.

Jesse has to work on his own cover story. He has to be smart here, and having Badger around always makes Jesse seem like a genius. Don’t get me wrong though, I love Badger. And ya gotta love, “You’re like Willy Wonka and I got the golden ticket. Sail me down your chocolatey river of meth!” and how he wants to try to cook a batch even though he knows the cops were just surrounding the house. Jesse won’t have it. “I told you, this is serious shit! I’m like an outlaw.” And he has his own plan.

When Jesse gets questioned by Hank, he has to do a fair amount of acting, and though some of it may not be quite as good as Walt’s lying–he says yes he and Wendy got takeout then switches to the vending machine story, goes a little overboard saying yay DEA for finding his car, pretends he thinks Hank said “Taco” instead of Tuco, which could kinda go either way in terms of believability–he’s all right. The best, most convincing line he delivers is, “I shot someone, with like, a gun?” because he says it in a way that makes it seem like the idea is impossible, and Hank and Gomez think it’s pretty much impossible, and it is true to Jesse’s character in a way, but of course, he in fact did shoot Tuco with like a gun.

Hahahaha Wendy. When she pauses, Hank thinks she’s going to spill the beans on Jesse but really she’s trying to remember where she knows him from. Oh, that’s right, he’s that creep who tried to get her to bang a football player on crutches. Seriously LOL. I love how the next shot is Hank’s hand grabbing the root beer she asked for.

Walt’s best lie of the episode is the one that’s the most based in truth, when he’s talking to the shrink. Actually, it’s only barely a lie. He says that he remembers every minute of his supposed fugue state, that he just had to get away. And he lays bare the stark facts of his life, including his chemistry teacher salary. It works. He wove a lot, a LOT of truth into that.

Jesse also lies to his dad (like I said, a lot of lying this episode), and you get the sense this is the kind of thing he’s probably told his parents several times. He’s closing in on a job, thinking about business school, all that.

Hank gets a bag of the blue meth and is able to link the methylamine robbery at Southwest Aniline to Tuco’s drug circle and Krazy-8, or the DEA lab can. And that’s a real thing. Chemistry soapbox time. Crime labs actually do analyze the drug product to try to tie it to a certain manufacturer by seeing how they made it. Actually, I once had a practice MCAT organic chemistry passage that was about how crime labs do this with meth (this passage also included a meth synthesis (pseudo style) and lots of questions about its chemistry). Do you remember in Episode 102 when Walt lectured his class about chirality? Any carbon that has four different things attached to it is said to be chiral and has two forms it can take, R enantiomer or S enantiomer. Think of it like right or left-handed. So, meth has one chiral center, which means there is one place where it can be R or S, left- or right-handed. Some cook processes will give you an even 50/50 (called racemic) mixture of both forms. If it’s not 50/50 racemic, there will be an enantiomeric excess of one of the forms, which could suggest different cooking processes (different reactions). So by analyzing the ratio of the two enantiomers in some drug sample, labs can see whose cooking method it fits with. Fun fact: the cook process Walt describes would give a racemic mixture but it’s implied in the show that he creates a pure enantiomer. Chem rant over.

That time-lapse that changes the scene from day to night is so beautiful, the clouds over the desert with that bit of yellow setting sun at the horizon. Just gorgeous. I love how this sort of dark world is always juxtaposed with such beautiful cinematography. BrBa is consistently breathtaking like that.

When Walt and Jesse talk on the phone, this is when I really feel Walt has turned a bit of a corner. He doesn’t seem to care about Jesse’s situation at all. He’s the one that told Jesse to leave town (in Episode 201) to avoid Tuco, and that’s why Jesse grabbed the money and put it in the car, which would’ve worked fine if Tuco hadn’t usurped him. And they just went through this horrible ordeal together. It seems like Walt should be a little more understanding that Jesse got the money taken away. He couldn’t claim it from the DEA without blowing his cover. But Walt is really callous towards him. And he insists that they start cooking again. To be fair though, maybe Walt’s just thinking immediacy. He’s dying of cancer, he has to get to his goal amount of $737,000. If he gives any of his money to Jesse, well, then he’ll need more than eleven more drug deals to get to that goal, and there’s no distributor…so maybe he’s just looking out for himself and his family and figuring Jesse will be fine. But will he? I don’t know, I do think Walt is just a bit cold in this conversation.

The whole sequence where Walt takes the bus back home is really poignant. It’s already been said by many others that when he’s in the nursery, hiding behind the door after he’s put the gun and his drug money back into the vent, watching Skyler and Walt Jr interact, he’s getting a glimpse of what their lives will be like after he dies. The whole sequence is haunting, from the darkness of the house, the sound of the crickets, when he creeps in through a curtain of periwinkle blue, his watching them (and is Jr really eating cornflakes for a midnight snack? No end to the breakfast food with that boy), the bus rides, to the ending closeup of Walt re-inserting his own IV into his hand. This whole part is in silence except for Walt Jr and Skyler talking to each other, and yet it’s so powerful. Love how BrBa has its special ratio of action and description to dialogue, it’s particular enantiomeric excess you might call it, always letting the story be told visually wherever it can, not relying on dialogue for everything, using spoken words sparingly sometimes.

When Walt’s family comes in, he’s back to playing his role, to not exactly lying but acting, talking up how the balloons brighten the room, then later, how good it is to be home. These things could be true, but he’s trying a bit hard, to be normal. And then of course he tries to be funny by taking off all his clothes and asking if Skyler if she needs anything from the drugstore. But now that they’re alone, she just asks about his second cell phone. He lies. She turns the light off first, and Walt looks especially alone then, even though he’s in bed with his wife, with his light on and hers out. It just lasts for a few beats, but there’s something symbolic about it. This is the season where Walt really starts to put distance between himself and his family, even though that’s not quite purposeful on his part, more an unintended consequence of becoming a secretive, lying, criminal, drug cook.

~Emilia J

Next Episode: Down

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