Breaking Bad: Groundhog Day

Breaking Bad

Half Measures
Season 3 Episode 12

Here’s a resonant image: Walt Jr. with one foot on the gas, the other on the brake, as he drives his father’s awesomely awful Pontiac Aztec in anticipation of winning a provisional driver’s license. At the start of this season, Walt and Jesse resigned themselves to the path of the bad man — but with awkward left feet dangling over the brakes. Walt was hobbled by self-deception, and Jesse, the blind ambition that only he could have found in recovery. Which bring us right up to “Half Measures” — and next week’s season finale, “Full Measure.” Get it? And because Breaking Bad so loves symmetry, you know that the coming pedal to the metal ain’t merely metaphorical. It’s a shame about the Aztec.

After a somewhat unfortunate music video–like montage of a prostitute’s workday, complete with a can of root beer foaming over, we’re back in the land of men and their important problems. But wait, there’s Skyler, all business about helping Walt set up his money-laundering front. Why is she insisting that she’s already so complicit in Walt’s criminal enterprise that she has no choice but to become his bookkeeper? Does this have something to do with why she sent Ted away? We found Skyler more believable when she was shutting Walt out, but perhaps this is all a big turn-on for her. In fact, maybe Saul was right when he said he saw something dirty in her! We’re guessing, though, that this will not be among the revelations in the finale.

If Skyler’s inscrutable, Marie’s like a pane of glass: Determined to pull Hank from his rut (and the hospital), she goes on a charm offensive that’s no less lovely for climaxing with her making Hank climax. We never saw it coming, but right now, Marie is the show’s beating heart.

Jesse, meanwhile, is of course wrapped up in what he sees as his own selfless act — avenging Combo’s death. “Murder is not part of your twelve-step program,” Walt counsels sagely. “It accomplishes nothing.” True enough. When Walt conspires to have Jesse temporarily put in an orange jumpsuit to avert the poisoning, Gus’s bald-headed fix-it man gets another idea: off Jesse completely. Or so we gather from the pretty amazing speech that the man delivers to Walt, which comes down to this: It’s not enough to make a bad man shit his pants. And you can’t help but think, Is Jesse really that kind of bad man? And that’s how they get ya.

Jesse doesn’t die, though; he goes to purgatory: a meet-up with the thugs who ordered the kid to kill Combo. They’re supposed to shake hands, which is cute. But Jesse does win a concession when he stands up to Gus: The thugs can no longer train children as killers. But Gus, you can almost hear them whine, who are we going to get to ride bikes in aimless circles all day? No one said anything about not executing any of the kids that they already trained, however! So Jesse’s girlfriend’s little brother gets it, and Jesse presumably feels, like, wicked guilty. He snorts some of the blue stuff, strides toward a dramatic standoff, and … boom! Walt plows over the thugs with his Aztec. Remarkably, the windshield is left intact. But still, that’s gonna cost him.

Breaking Bad: Groundhog Day