Innocence, meet experience. Repeat. There’s Breaking Bad in its metaphysical nutshell, with each character-snaring mousetrap better than the last. Which we’re reminded of as we meet Tara, the comely, chubby gas-station cashier, a picture of sweet, apple-cheeked innocence who falls prey to suave, self-proclaimed bad man Jesse Pinkman. Jesse, oh-so-blue eyes alight, convinces her to accept a barter of meth for gas, a situation made no less sexually tense by the state cop who falls into line at the register. And what’s her punishment for smoking up the rock of knowledge? Not addiction or a broken heart, but rather, an unpleasant encounter with Hank, who’s made all the more aggressive for trying to escape his own demons. And there again, the show in a nutshell: heavy portent, and merely a few tears to show for it. And as always, we’re relieved and happy.
So that’s Hank, who’s finally forced to admit that he can’t go take his assignment in El Paso — although now he’s got an excuse, with Jesse having put the blue meth back into circulation. Or at least, his version of it. Prideful Walt doubts Jesse could have gotten the recipe right. We’re so glad to see them bickering again! Jesse stops by the school to ask for Walt’s connect to the distributor; Walt, conveniently, happens to be walking out with his shit in a box after trying to French the principal. (Whom he meant to seduce as revenge for Skyler’s sleeping with Ted. Amazingly, “Is this a wheaten terrier?” didn’t do it for her.) Okay, guys. Can you just start cooking again? Or does Gustavo have to buy Jesse’s batch and only give him half the money, then have someone toss the other half into Walt’s car as he’s stopped at a light, thereby, ipso facto, etc.?
Still, Walt continues to entertain in unhinged mode. Him trying to French the principal is, of course, priceless. Then there he is, dragging a huge potted plant along the floor and bouncing it harmlessly off the window into Ted’s office. (Which in turn leads to the most awkward copy-room chitchat ever for Skyler.) And look! He’s attacking Saul after Saul mentions Skyler liking it “dirty, damp, and deep.” (Ouch! Bone contusion.) If anything can get him rational, it’s properly executing that recipe. Meanwhile, what are we to make of Skyler going full-blown with Ted? He’s obviously cuckoo for her, and outside of the office he seems less like a creep and more like a decent, if bland, dude. He also looks pretty good with his shirt off. Really, Skyler needs to get her groove back. Don’t begrudge her that, not unless you walk with crutches and answer to the name “Flynn.”
So what are we looking at here? Hank, purpose renewed, may have gotten a shot of Jesse off the gas-station ATM camera. Gustavo’s got a blue batch to put on the street. And Walt’s already enraged at getting cut out — or was, before he got cut in. Hearing about Jane’s dad’s attempted suicide over the radio sounds to us like a coda to all the regret. One question: Who’s Walt finally going to French? We’re going with Ted’s receptionist.