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Breaking Bad Season-Premiere Recap: Double Trouble

Breaking Bad isn’t like all the other critically adored hour-long cable dramas. Honestly! Where other programs express their ambitions by layering on new characters and story lines, hurling lightning bolt after lightning bolt at their protagonists, this one has simply taken a long, hard look at Walter White as his understandable desperation has turned to cold-eyed determination. Last season started with a kidnapping and ended with a plane crash, with an OD and a crushing by ATM in between, but those things just formed the grim backdrop to Walt pissing off his wife and pushing Jesse Pinkman to the brink. Shit, he’s still driving that god-awful Pontiac Aztek.

Here’s where we have to talk about the season’s opening set piece, an almost absurdly bold bit of filmmaking that speaks as well as anything to the show’s elegant aspirations. (Bryan Cranston directed this episode.) Somewhere in Mexico, a man slithers along a dirt road, ignored by the people he passes. Is he injured? Perhaps he dropped a cuff link? Then we see that he’s one among many, crawling, zombielike, to Dios knows where. Finally, two seemingly identical twins in suits step out of a lovely Mercedes, give each other a glance, and drop to the ground themselves. Once arrived at the creepy shrine — ah-ha! — the Twins tack up the Unabomber-like sketch of Walt. We assume they’re not praying for his continued success as a drug producer.

What else? Jesse’s in rehab. Haunted by the death of girlfriend Jane and her excellent bangs, he asks his counselor whether he knows what it’s like to hurt someone. The counselor can work with this: He backed over his 6-year-old daughter in the driveway, trying to make it to the liquor store before it closed. Oh. The upshot? Jesse surrenders himself to being a “bad” man. We’d call this convenient, but after just one stint processing his addiction, is Jesse really going to have absorbed his lessons?

Meanwhile, Skyler has finally decided to divorce Walt, now that she has safely squeezed the baby out, and it’s oh-so-clear that her husband’s a bad man. She even, sweet relief, finally guesses that he’s in the drug trade. She at first assumes he’s dealing grass — we choose to view this as a dig at Weeds — and goes a little bug-eyed when she learns he’s cooking meth. (We imagine Sandra Bullock experienced something similar when she learned about this lady.) Flynn, kept utterly in the dark, blames his parents' separation on his mother, which is sadly typical. Walt, depressingly ensconced at the Beachcomber, can only admit “marital tensions” or some such to Jesse.

Meanwhile, Skyler has finally decided to divorce Walt, now that she has safely squeezed the baby out, and it’s oh-so-clear that her husband’s a bad man. She even, sweet relief, finally guesses that he’s in the drug trade. She at first assumes he’s dealing grass — we choose to view this as a dig at Weeds — and goes a little bug-eyed when she learns he’s cooking meth. (We imagine Sandra Bullock experienced something similar when she learned about this lady.) Flynn, kept utterly in the dark, blames his parents' separation on his mother, which is sadly typical. Walt, depressingly ensconced at the Beachcomber, can only admit “marital tensions” or some such to Jesse.

Here’s where we have to talk about the season’s opening set piece, an almost absurdly bold bit of filmmaking that speaks as well as anything to the show’s elegant aspirations. (Bryan Cranston directed this episode.) Somewhere in Mexico, a man slithers along a dirt road, ignored by the people he passes. Is he injured? Perhaps he dropped a cuff link? Then we see that he’s one among many, crawling, zombielike, to Dios knows where. Finally, two seemingly identical twins in suits step out of a lovely Mercedes, give each other a glance, and drop to the ground themselves. Once arrived at the creepy shrine — ah-ha! — the Twins tack up the Unabomber-like sketch of Walt. We assume they’re not praying for his continued success as a drug producer.

Related: A Down and Dirty Primer on a Dark and Nasty Show
The Ascent of Jesse Pinkman
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston on the Show’s Explosive New Season: ‘The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost’

Photo: Courtesy of AMC