The episode begins by creating some dissonance: A kid riding a motorbike searches for tarantulas. The young teen has not been introduced and thus has no direct connection to the story. Who is he and why are we being shown his specimen search? We have no idea at this point. It is a seemingly innocuous activity, and it well should be. I even had forgotten about the opening scene until I heard the rumbling bike just as Heisenberg’s crew completes the methylamine heist. But Breaking Bad reminds us that the meth business generates many innocent casualties and anyone involved with it is therefore culpable. Can there ever be any justification for killing children?
After the scene ends with the dirt bike kid, we see Hank in his new office. He clearly loves being “the man,” as he repeatedly tells baby Holly later in the episode: “Who’s the man? I’m the man,” he coos to her. But before we get there, Heisenberg pays him a visit at work. After last week’s pool meltdown, Heisenberg’s unannounced calling is not really unusual. As Heisenberg slowly works his way into the “reason” for his sojourn, he becomes more and more emotional and begins weeping. Cranston and Norris are simply excellent working off each other here. Nothing makes the man’s man Hank more uncomfortable then expressions of male vulnerability and impotence via tears. The more emotional Heisenberg becomes the quicker Hank leaves for coffee. It was a funny scene and great acting.
The best lies always have an element of truth and just for a brief, fleeting moment, I thought Heisenberg might be expressing genuine emotion. I was wrong. It was all a brilliant ploy designed to get Hank out of his office in order to bug it. Here the heist element story begins and what a fun ride it was, until the horrific ending. Heisenberg’s emotional breakdown serves to further emasculate him in Hank’s eyes. No way could this emotional shell of man be the “meth” kingpin, we might suspect Hank concluding.
The introduction of the nervous and garrulous Lydia has added an interesting dynamic to the season and her scenes are particularly strong. A note must be made regarding the mise-en-scene. Breaking Bad is a dark series, and it often borrows cinematic elements from film noir. It has throughout its run, and continues with great effect in this episode.
As Lydia is handcuffed, she is shot from beneath the table and it throws lines across her face—i.e. as though in prison. The scene is darkly shot, industrial, dank and dead. It resembles any stereotypical interrogation room from any gangster film. Later, after her pleas of innocence regarding the GPS tracker, she has a tête-à-tête with Heisenberg. The scene has makes great use of framing, as the scene features a forced shot looking up at the two a few times. It is a subtle touch that lends a criminal and creepy free to the discussion. Lydia’s education in leverage requires some forceful framing, too. Heisenberg loses his patience with her and his menacing face fills the frame as he asserts that she has no leverage.
The funniest line in the episode comes as the scene concludes. Heisenberg’s crew contemplates what to do with the two men on the train were they attempt the train-robbing plan. Killing them seems the best option, but they don’t like the idea of killing innocent people in the “dead zone” of the desert. Incredulously, Lydia asserts: “Give me a break. You were going to kill me. I though you guys were professionals.” I laughed out loud. She’s terrific.
After Lydia, a mom concerned with her daughter’s well-being, argues that killing innocent people is part of being a “professional,” we cut to Hank cooing over baby Holly. The juxtaposition is excellent. Mom argues for killing innocent people: cut to innocent, cute baby. Aren’t moms more likely to protect innocent people? Not Lydia.
As the Walter has slowly morphed into the ruthless Heisenberg, the White’s house has visually gotten darker too. It seems the life of the house is all but gone and replaced with dark, furtive shadows symbolizing the slow death
of the family. Heisenberg forces his son out, again. No future in the White household.
Once junior leaves, the two parents talk. Skylar conveys her feelings as a prisoner, but offers her Faustian deal—a willing, even alacritous partner in exchange for her children’s safety. Heisenberg seems to agree, but we are not so sure. As he lives the darkly lit “living room,” Skylar makes a sardonic quip to her husband, as she notices dirt on his pants. “Burying bodies in the desert?” He replies “Robbing trains.” But once again a mother portends death. Indeed, Heisenberg will be burying bodies.
The last half of the episode is essentially a train robbery caper and quite an entertaining one to boot. I like the details of the show and how it lays out everything for us. Todd serves as a stand-in for the audience as he asks questions designed to sluice out the details of the heist. “It’s all about weight distribution, yo” Jesse tells him, providing the plan to avoid the train company’s scrutiny. After the explanation, Jesse explains that boosting methylamine is “a major rap” and thus no one can ever know what they have done. Heisenberg follows up asking Todd if really he understands. Todd comprehends all too well. The scene ends with ironically with Todd gushing, “Wow, you guys have thought of everything.” Not exactly.
The heist is filled with tense moments as the plans don’t go as designed. A Good Samaritan helps the dump truck from the tracks and which hastens the train along sooner than the c
rew wants. But Heisenberg’s greed requires him to take all 1,000 gallons. A mere 900 is not sufficient. His greed almost gets Jesse run over by the train. It was a superbly tense moment. Jesse and Todd scrambling to secure the tanker’s release values as it slowly begins to chug into motion. Jesse is caught underneath the train. Heisenberg has no regard for his partner’s safety.
As Jesse, Todd and Heisenberg start slapping each other on the back and giving high-fives, the train’s rumbling noise abates, and we still here something. A motor? The kid looking for spiders has viewed the whole affair. The kid waves innocently to the men; he has no idea what’s going on and is being kid-friendly. Todd waves back then takes his gun out and shoots him. No one can know about their crime. Todd took Jesse’s point to heart. What an emotional ending.
Of course, Jesse has particularly been sensitive about children. In season two’s episode “Peekaboo” Jesse discovers a soiled five-year old in a meth head’s house as he looks to recover stolen money from Skinny Pete. He plays ‘peekaboo’ with the hungry kid waiting for the parents to return. After the parents are accidently killed, he takes the child and places him on the porch as to be found more quickly by the police. In the third season, it compelled him to challenge Gus and eventually to attempt to avenge
Andrea’s son’s death, even at the expense of his own life—until Heisenberg runs down the killers. Last year, Jesse was a hair breath away from killing Heisenberg because he thought Heisenberg poisoned a child-Brock. Of course, we know his instincts were spot on. Jesse still gives Andrea money mainly to help Brock. But once again Jesse’s actions lead, albeit inadvertently, to the death of a child. His idea allows the train heist to move forward preventing the death of two innocent men, and it is his speech to Todd about no one else finding out about the train robbery that no doubt encouraged Todd’s cold-blooded murder.
So “Dead Weight” ends with dead weight. How will Jesse deal with this tragedy?
Review By Ron Peltier