Monday, August 13, 2012

Breaking Down: Breaking Bad, Season Five, Episode Five

"Dead Freight" brings us the second caper of Season Five. After sliming up Hank at the DEA, Walt and the other two stooges use a wire-tapped phone call to corner Lydia, who oddly enough wasn't lying about the tapped barrels. Walt, Mike, and Jesse then use Lydia's insider info to pull off a methylamine heist with the unwavering help of their trusty sidekick, Todd.

Landry, Moe, and Shemp
Craig Scholes: Can you hear that? If not, it’s my slow clap congratulating you on calling a train heist.

Stan Earnest: Well, thank you, but that was because I have inside info (not Breaking Bad spoiler info, but train info) which I will share plenty of later, but for starters I just want to say I have a lot of issues with this episode. Some are serious issues with the way the heist was pulled, others are simply timing issues with the show. The pacing has left the viewer off kilter at this point. It is fantastic that we get to see Walt dive to all new lows--and highs for Heisenberg--as he plots under the radar of Hank, but the show is snail-pacing the first 8 episodes of Season Five if we are going to see Walt use that M60 before the Summer of 2013.

This is going to get ugly. I am calling it right now. I know how TV works. Breaking Bad is captivating. It is the best show on television, yet it has one-third of the viewers as The Walking Dead. This first half is going to end on a cliffhanger and the madness that would be a Hank vs. Walt standoff will have to wait, for a whole year. A. Whole. Year. Meanwhile, AMC will have a standoff with Gilligan and Co., and we will probably have Breaking Bad move to Fox, and they will only want it if there are three more seasons to come. So, I'm not saying I have lost faith by any measure in Vince Gilligan. I'm on board the train. I just am seeing red lights at this point. But I have faith, and the episodes are still entertaining as hell to me.

CS: I don't think your Fox theory is going to happen at all. From what I understand, the second half of Season Five has already been agreed to. I think if they try and pull out there are going to be some ugly contract problems.

SE: Let's hope so, we never hear the full spectrum with these things. I've heard it has been "bought" but not necessarily paid for--like they could go in with a higher budget, and there would be problems.

CS: I heard a Reddit rumor that Morgan Freeman is going to have a part.

SE: Wait a damn second, Morgan Freeman? Oh, I get it; God finally comes down to give Walt his karmic bitch slap.

CS: It seems to me that everyone involved likes the idea of wrapping the show up and ending it on top, and at this point the show is what it is. Dragging it on forever doesn't do anyone any favors. I don't think AMC is actually making that much money off of it.

SE: That is why I am so on board. Gilligan doesn't lie to his audience. At the same time, I don't think he ever knew how far this show was going to go. I mean, we have had five episodes without Hank even sniffing a scent of Heisenberg. If AMC isn’t making mega bucks off of it--because they have their heads up their asses on the marketing of merchandise like we have previously discussed--then there may be a problem.

CS: And after so long, critical acclaim won't keep a show on the air.

SE: So how much longer can we go with Hank looking straight through Walter?

CS: They've done it for about three seasons so far. Clearly Mike would whip Walt’s ass if it came down to fisticuffs, but that hasn't stopped Walt from getting the best of other people.

SE: Can we add up what he has seen so far, and what has got to be churning for him?

CS: Go for it.

SE: Ok, so the first red flag is the gas mask that goes back to the high school and thus the missing beakers and cooking utensils. Hank still remembers this right?

CS: Oh shit, you said Hank, and I read Mike. Can you imagine how entertaining a showdown between Mike and Hank would be.

SE: Yeah, like a DeNiro and Pacino showdown from Heat: one world-weary guy on the good side sitting across the table of another world-weary guy on the bad side.

CS: Hank is eventually going to have that Chazz Palminteri moment at the end of The Usual Suspects. When he puts all this shit together, will he drop a Pollos coffee cup?

SE: Onto Mike's foot as Mike spills the coffee beans about Walt in a scroungy diner. Chazz Palminteri, where is that guy? He had his Keyser Soze moment and disappeared forever. I think he is in that junkyard with Tuco's henchmen and Jimmy Hoffa.

Give me the keys you fucking cocksucker.
CS: He was in the flick Poolhall Junkies which was all right.

SE: Of course, I am going to search IMDB and see 47 B movies he starred in over the last 5 years. (I clearly underestimated Chazz; searching IMDB an hour after this comment I see he has had exactly 46 roles since Suspects--damn, I was close--and one of my favorites I forgot about, Hurly Burly.)

CS: How is it that The Usual Suspects is a 17 year old movie? It would be a Senior in high school, or maybe even a Freshman in college.

SE: Because we are old. So this Keyser Soze moment includes: gas masks and missing equipment at the school, the poker hand, the tequila incident, the second cell phone, the Aztek at the Jimmy In & Out bust, Gus at the hospital (which he didn't witness but his family did), “WW” from the lab notes, the can’t-handle-red-wine speech, and the car wreck at the laundry. What am I missing?

CS: Acting weird with the GPS at Pollos. He'll probably find out that Walt has been paying for the medical bills, too.

SE: Let's also not forget the cover up story about the gambling. How long before Hank haphazardly asks Walter to take him on a tour of these so-called underground facilities? Are we going to get a dark humor scene like when Walt saved the day at the scene of Jimmy In & Out? I would love to see Jesse orchestrate a fake gambling hall with Badger and Skinny Pete as black jack dealers. Of course, Badger couldn't be seen by Hank, but damn that would be great.

CS: Also, the realization as to why Skyler has been so fucking weird.

SE: What if the show ended with Hank never finding out who Heisenberg is or Hank dying before that moment? Rank that scenario in your list of all-time letdowns.

CS: Unless Skyler takes over the business.

SE: Clearly, Walt's worst mistake so far to me is not taking care of the wife first. I know how it works. You have to keep the wife happy. He should have taken her shopping and put her in a Benzo or Beamer cross-over and then grabbed the SRT. Oh Walt, you can play games with the crime underworld, but you have to keep your lady happy.

CS: I’m not sure spending cheese would have made Skyler happy though. She lost her shit over that champagne.

SE: I like that the show can take any weird direction it wants to and leave plot lines open. For example, Mike was saying that Walt and Jesse don't know Lydia like he knows her. Does this mean that she has stronger ties to Gustavo Fring than previously thought? Is that kid his? Or does that just mean that she is a nutcase and put a hit on Mike? I went from thinking the M60 was for Lydia to thinking that wasn't possible in two minutes.

CS: My theory is that Landry (Todd) turns out to be a maniacal child killer and the M60 is what it will take to keep Landry's blood thirst away from Flynn and whatever that fucking baby girl's name is.

SE: Holly maybe? She is the perfect on screen baby.

CS: Holly is a total bitch diva; I'm sick of her shit.

SE: I am hanging my head in shame, not just at that comment, but because I haven't seen Friday Night Lights yet. But with all the internet Landry comments, I am totally on board and going to mow throw all the episodes in like two weeks. I can't stand not being in on a joke.

CS: I can't wait for Crucifictorious and TwaughtHammer to go on tour.

SE: They can tour with Wyld Stallyns, Station, and Vamonos Pest.

I just realized that Lydia has to be completely wigged out by the time this is over if she wasn't all ready. Laura Fraser is amazing. She has to be thinking, "How the hell did they get a bug in the DEA?" You know, Lydia has a small resemblance to Ron Swanson's ex-wife. If we get a Ron Swanson crossover, that is it, no one can deny this is the greatest show ever. Maybe the M60 is for a corn-rowed Ron Swanson?

CS: Being a Libertarian, Ron Swanson wouldn't give two shits about anyone doing meth.

SE: Until they stepped on his territory.

CS: Walt and Jesse escape the DEA in one of Ron Swanson's hand-fashioned wooden canoes, and don't forget Duke Silver.

SE: They are doing some serious CGI work at Breaking Bad to erase that wheelbarrow Walt is using to carry his grapefruits in. He put a bug in the DEA and slathered his fingerprints all over it.

CS: A friend sent me nearly that exact same message in a text tonight.

SE: Is he going to remove it next time? Or keep them going live? I mean surely the DEA does sweeps once in a while.

CS: It will be much easier to get it out of there than to plant it though. Walt can get it just by tying his shoe laces then accidentally knocking the picture off the table, then offering to re-frame the picture.

SE: And then DJ Roomba sweeps it up and he has to break into the custodian closet.

CS: I didn't exactly get a good look at what he put in the picture frame

SE: I thought he was jacking into Hank's computer for info, but wasn't the device in the frame just a simple mic?

CS: Thanks to the power of DVR, I just rewound it and saw that, yeah, it looks like a mic. I would imagine the thing attached to the computer was just a way to transmit the audio via the interwebs.

SE: Ok, moving on to the heist, we have a resident expert here. I worked as a train conductor for six years. I can’t get into detail, but the way they pulled off this heist was frightening to me. Like I said, I won’t give detail, but I’ve literally lived that particular scenario. I know I get some credit for thinking they were going to heist a rail car of methylamine, but I have insider knowledge that I didn’t want to mention. Apparently, Breaking Bad doesn’t mind sharing the fact that rail cars of dangerous material sit in the middle of nowhere all the time. I am anxiously awaiting the Insider podcast to see what they had to do to get it cleared.

CS: In my amateur opinion (but having a fairly good grasp of momentum), it seems to me they got that train stopped a little too easily.

SE: I'm really biting my lip. This is hard to talk about, but yes, stopping a train is very, very, very hard to do. The thing is, as Lydia mentioned (she was really spot-on with the insider knowledge), this was a small train, but if it was a "local" that switched cars out there would be three guys on board, not two. Your typical coal train that is a mile-and-a-half long takes like a mile to stop under safe conditions. A mile. A little train like that one takes much less distance. There is no way, I mean NO WAY they have any clue how much distance it takes to stop a train. I noticed the bridge was really long that they were going to boost the methylamine off of, but man, NO WAY they have any idea how quickly it stops. It was the middle of the desert where you can see for miles and miles.

CS: I remember in middle school we had a conductor come to our school to warn us about crossroad safety, and he told us that it can take up to a mile for a train to come to a stop.

SE: An empty coal train can screech to a halt in like a quarter mile or less if it needs to, but anything loaded--like tank cars full of methylamine--takes much longer. Lydia is also spot-on with her railroad lingo. The writer's did their homework again. There is "dark territory" railroad--it is actually called that--and it is scary as hell to ride on. I am accustomed to signals controlled by dispatchers that guide train movement, but occasionally there are pieces of dark territory that trains run over. It is old rail that doesn't have much traffic and the dispatcher controls movement through verbal commands the conductor records as a "track warrant". You have to really trust the dispatcher, and then you buzz on down the track in the complete darkness of the night with no signals, guided by all these old railroad rules. In no way does this mean you are ever out of communication with the dispatcher.

CS: I don't like you having insider knowledge over me. It isn't enough that you nailed this episode with the prediction.

SE: Further driving the point home, the first thing that train is supposed to do when it is stopped is contact the dispatcher, and then if the train has anything other than plain old coal cars or other less dangerous cars, is inspect the train. The ingenious part about this plot is that a giant truck in the middle of the road would completely distract the conductor from inspecting his train. The bullshit whistle I am blowing on this heist is huge; it's bigger than a tuba and louder than a train horn. With that said, if everything lined up perfectly, it could potentially happen. I mean everything. The crew has to be paying attention, they have to decide it isn't worth calling the dispatcher after they apply the emergency brakes (which is a violation of railroad rules), they both leave the train unattended anyhow (which is a violation, unless they are on a shortline with less rules and regulations), and on top of it all they don't inspect the train and just take off when the truck is clear.

CS: But isn't that the beauty of TV, everything working perfectly? Isn't it human nature to cut corners and assume things aren't astray?

We killed a kid in the desert, and all we got was this hose and a pet tarantula?
SE: Listening to the Insider podcast, Gilligan knows he takes liberties. The thing is, 99.9% of the people that watch the show haven't been acclimated to railroad procedure, and that may be why I have little suspended disbelief.

CS: I've had my doubts in other situations though. I’m still not convinced you could get that many car batteries to get an electromagnet strong enough to pull a U-Haul over like that.

SE: Yes, I am glad this madness is happening during Walt's off-the-rails phase. They are backed into a corner and don't give a damn, so why not take the risk. I love that he shares with Skyler what he was doing.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room, what does Todd's role mean for the series going further?

CS: It means Jesse is going to kill him.

Oh, and I almost forgot, once again the better half Saul's D team comes to the rescue. Bill Burr has been fantastic in this show. What a fantastic shirt with those nut-huggers too. "Of course you know something about engines, that’s why they call you an engineer."

SE: Most railroad engineers don't know dick about engines. A diesel locomotive is an electronically controlled engine ran on power from a diesel motor. They man the controls, not work on engines. That is why that Bill Burr line was so great.

CS: I'd really like to find out what they did to that dump truck to render it useless though. I know from experience that there are many engineers who don't know two shits about the most basic of engineering principles, hell, me being one of them a lot of the time--if not most of the time. Once, I had someone tell me that they didn't know you had to go to college to drive a train.

SE: You don't holmes, not at all. Any regular joe with half an IQ can hire on and get trained. That isn't to say the railroad isn't chock full of what some refer to as "wasted talent", men and women that could have been brilliant at other jobs, but flocked to the railroad for the money.

CS: Every walk of life is littered with those people. I've known many idiot savants in my day.

SE: Which is why Walter White is so believable. I worked with a guy that was a professional french horn player at one time, repaired microwaves at one time, could sing just like Van Morrison, and had famous relatives, top that.

CS: I had a roommate who's father was fired from Halliburton by Dick Cheney and still voted for Bush/Cheney twice

SE: Speaking of dicks, what is Todd's deal? Is he a psychopath? Did he want to prove he could handle himself to the guys? Or was he just afraid to go to prison?

CS: I think he is just a guy who sees things in black or white. He rectifies problems and worries about consequences later.

SE: So does Jesse immediately off Todd? How does this shake out next episode?

CS: It shakes out with a battle of the bands between Crucifictorious and TwaughtHammer. Faaaaaallacies!


Shane England said...

Ok, so listening to the Insider podcast, that particular area is actual dark territory railroad with the double meaning of dark being that there really is no communication with a dispatcher or cell phones, which made it hard for the film crew to communicate. With that said, if they actually picked a small enough train that would stop in time (which I don't believe would), then the crew would hear or see the clanging of metal 30 rail cars back or the generators running. When a rail crew applies emergency brakes, especially with hazardous material, they should be highly concerned that their cars are still on the track, but I can't discount the human element.

Craig Scholes said...

How dare you apply logic to a work of Fiction.

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