Breaking Bad – “Kafkaesque” – Review

This week found our characters trying to take back control of their lives.  The methods we saw were varied as hell and often defeating, but this particularly bleak episode played out like a classic Sopranos “suburbs family not mob family” episode.  In addition to the excellent character shit at work in “Kafkaesque” we got a couple of hints at what might dominate the rest of the season in terms of new conflicts to replace the threat of the cousins.

Marie takes an extra aggressive approach to helping Hank get well again.  She wants to get started with physical therapy from no one less than the best doctors in the area, no matter the cost nor the warnings of her health insurance provider.  This hyper-brave front has been her go-to mode over the course of the series, always on the attack though barely able to conceal the fragility of that mask of toughness.  You get the impression that if she stopped getting in everyone’s face even for a second, she’d crumble to the floor.

Luckily, Skyler is able to help Marie get Hank to physical therapy sooner than expected by coming up with a narrative that will allow her to give Marie the necessary money.  Skyler explains that the reason for Walt and her splitting up was because Walt had a gambling problem that nearly ruined them financially following the cancer diagnosis.  Thing is, according to her story Walt also eventually figured out his card-counting system to the point that he now has seven figures worth of untaxed cash to show for it.  The story is sketchy as hell but it’ll have to do for now, though god knows what might happen when Hank gets wind of it.  Hank may think of Walt as ineffectual and the farthest thing from a drug dealer, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to just accept such a blatantly bullshit story.  After Walt, like the audience, gets the whole story in heart-stopping real time same as Marie hears it from Skyler, he talks to Skyler about the brilliant lie, only to be assured that she knows that Walt is somehow involved in Hank’s shooting and that this is how she has chosen to make amends.

You can tell during Skyler’s climactic explanation that Walt feels a bit of a load lifted off his shoulders (after initially being scared shitless that Skyler was exposing him, that is), a sense that his culpability in Hank’s shooting has been somewhat lessened.  This is due to the fact that upon uncovering Fring’s master plan, instead of getting mad and possibly trying to get revenge, he instead tells Gus that if he were in his position he would have most likely done the same thing.  It’s a shocking moment, one of those moments that defies your expectations in an exciting way.

Like most of us probably figured, I assumed that Gus’ part in Hank’s shooting was going to be a big revelation for Walt and blow up the whole operation in a big bug-fuck end-of-the-season sort of way a few episodes from now, but instead the writers completely subvert such notions.  Of course, Walt doesn’t completely take it on the chin and move on, as evidenced by his suicidal ride home following the meeting with Fring.  Maybe the money towards Hank’s recovery will handle most of Walt’s guilt, but only time will tell.

Jesse was particularly restless this week, looking to get back into slinging with his boys, even doing some great old-timey medicine show shit in a hilarious NA meeting scene at the episode’s end.  It’s a stupid idea, ripping off Gus for a pound or so a week of his distinctive as all hell meth will not go unnoticed and no doubt lead to major shit going down later in the season.  But up until that decision to get back into sales we see him struggling with his new-found success.  He’s been doing the math and realizes that their share of Fring’s operation is just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s actually being made off their product.  The freedom and independence he had earlier in the season has clearly soured him on not being the boss, on not being in control of everything.  He’d rather be selling shit with his dumbass bros than be protected, be half-way legit.  He even turns down Saul’s (fucking hilarious) money laundering operation idea of the nail salon.  In the end, he’d rather be an outlaw, rather have some chaos and danger – possibly to help him stop thinking about what happened with his girlfriend last season.  But then again, the dude’s always been insanely self-destructive.

“Kafkaesque” solidified for me that we’ll see at least one of three things come back to bite Walt in the ass in the coming weeks.  Either Hank is going to call bullshit on the gambling story and look into Walt’s money source, Jesse’s going to get caught ripping off Fring (hopefully Walt catches him before Fring does, of course), or Walt’s going to get really sore over the whole “you tried to kill my brother-in-law” thing and do something fucked up.  But, as I said about the Fring and Walt “cards on the table” scene, this show is awfully good at subverting my expectations.

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Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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About Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

5 Replies to “Breaking Bad – “Kafkaesque” – Review”

  1. Another incisive review. I’m not on board with some of the plot twists (Walter’s drug money to pay medical bills becoming an old chestnut). But Skyler’s lie does bring her into Walter’s criminal world in a Carmela Soprano way. Your review brought out subtleties that I missed. Need to watch this episode again.

  2. Dianne –

    I think I might revisit this episode as well. Thinking about it some more, I find it interesting that Walt is consistently the most directionless, paralyzed character, despite that most of us would probably identify him as the “smartest” character on the show (short of Fring, anyway). He is consistently unprepared to deal with the consequences of his actions, though really his response to finding out that Fring was behind’s Hank’s shooting was the most rational one – if the most inhumane. But then again, he’s our hero and it would be boring (or just disturbing) if he were consistently an emotionless robot throughout the series. Also, I think Jesse’s journey in this episode is much more conmplex than I have painted it as in the review. The rehab shit, the “working with his hands” story – all very open to interpretation.

  3. Interesting. I don’t find Walter directionless. After he “broke bad,” he’s demonstrated a cat-like agility to make the most of every bad situation that’s come his way, delving into dark places within himself that I’m sure surprise him. He rolls with the punches. I think he’s become much wiser… and a better criminal. Jesse, though, is the same nitwit he was at the beginning.

    I’m wondering if the major plot arc this season is between Walter and Skyler. She’s crossed over and has tacitly condoned Walter’s meth business. I think they may get back together and she could become his fierce ally. Her attorney told her that she’s already an accomplice, so she might as well reap the benefits (heated bathroom tiles, anyone?). Walter’s always had a paternal soft spot for Jesse. But Skyler… Nah. She could become the scary mama bear protecting her family. Watch out Jesse.

  4. Anyone notice what Walt said, “I wish there was more that I could do.” Gus said the same thing in the previous episode. I couldn’t help but think that when Walt and Gus were talking that maybe Walt would take over the whole operation. But that could be a bit predictable and out of character for Walt.

  5. Dianne –

    I meant Walt is directionless and paralyzed in the sense that he’s never sure of his actions. He can come through in a pinch and is often very clever as you say, but he’s always reeling from guilt or depression when he’s got a moment’s peace, consistently impotent (this present season especially) when the whole reasoning behind “breaking bad” initially was to do what “a man does,” as Fring would say.

    I was curious about Skyler’s plans as well. She really jumps in with two feet at the end of “Kafkaesque,” and you’re right, it could lead to her stepping up and taking over the operation. That said, would Walt even be up for it anymore?

    John –

    Walt taking over the operation is certainly a possibility. I think you’re right in that it would be out of character and predictable, but they could maybe make such a storyline work. Good catch on the line.