This has to be one of the most dramatic and sit-on-edge-of-seat-biting-nails episode of Breaking Bad, although there is hot competition for that category. There’s just such high drama here. Walt and Jesse have been kidnapped by the crazy enigmatic Tuco.
And the writers make us wait. Walt and Jesse and Tuco don’t even appear until more than ten minutes into the episode. How genius is that? We’re dying to know what happens, and they just draw it out, slow, a little like torture, but in a beautiful way.
Even the scenes that do involve our dynamic duo are drawn out at the start. In the teaser, where all we really get to see is Jesse’s bouncing Monte Carlo and some blood and bullet casings, the scene opens on a wide view of the landscape with its low greenery, then moves onto other odd things, including that creepy smiley face, before focusing on the car. This is another teaser that plays with time, a flash-forward to the end of the episode, but this time there’s no lingering mystery.
Then later, when we finally get back to our boys in the desert, the opening shot is the sky. Finally we see Tuco, and then realize that Walt and Jesse are in the trunk. Even in the movement when they transition from car to inside Tuco’s place, there are a lot of wide shots, then the TV, then Hector Salamanca’s face before it gets to Walt and Jesse sitting on the couch. This lingering, building the tension slowly, making us wait? It’s very effective. Tension: Threat Level Midnight.
Before I even start this post, I want to give a shout out to @Jesus Jr (Gonzo) and @Steven Michael Quesada (Gomez), who are both in this episode, and who have both followed me on Twitter – thanks guys! Click on the links to follow them.
So, Season Two. Visually, it starts out really differently from anything we’ve seen so far, setting this season distinctly apart from the previous one. The teaser is a total mystery. Black and white. Water, and more water. The sound of sirens. A floating plastic eyeball. A pink stuffed bear that slowly turns to reveal it’s singed side. What the hell is going on here? I won’t say, in case anyone reads this before getting to the part in the show where it’s all revealed. I will say I find this teaser artistically pleasing. I like the mystery, the starkness. And I totally want a pink bear like that, but not burnt.
Another thing that sets Season Two apart from the others is that this one was planned out in exquisite detail before it started. So there’s a lot of advanced planning going on this season. And there is so much that actually comes back, from this episode and others in this season, in future seasons. Lots of reverberation.
Watching this episode, I was struck with the thought that this is maybe the happiest time we see for Skyler and Walter. Of course, there’s the getting frisky at the school board meeting, a board meeting which is about the lab equipment Walt stole. And then they get it on in the car. But it’s not just that. Later, there’s the scene in the bedroom that’s just so…normal. Well, except the fact that Walt is lying to her about going to a sweat lodge, but aside from that, it almost seems like they’re any normal couple. There’s something familiar and not quite sweet but warm in the room.