"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Breaking Bad: Cancer Man

This episode was about calming down and reassessing one's life and family. I got to see Walter open up and share his cancer with his extended family, albeit reluctantly and only done really because Skyler couldn't handle it alone. Walter, in fact, remained incredibly stoic, silent and passive about his impending fate. He also stayed true to his original vision, which was not to leave his family with a mountain of debt.

As for Jesse, I finally got to meet the rest of the Pinkman clan and they're nothing like I expected - or they're exactly like I expected - and yet somehow they appeared to have a profound influence on where Jesse's life is heading and what he wants to do about it.When I first met the Pinkmans I wasn't told who I was looking at. It was a mother and father sitting with their son at the dinner table discussing playing the piccolo and oboe. Everyone was overly polite and supportive and emotionally vacant despite saying all the right things. It was painfully perfect, if such a thing can be believed. It was at that point that Jesse came crashing into this bizarrely serene world, quite literally.

After the events of the first three episodes, both White and Pinkman had withdrawn into their respective worlds. For Walter this meant opening up to Skyler and ultimately his family about his cancer and dealing with the consequences of this action. For Pinkman it meant separating himself from a career in drug trafficking and focusing more on drug using. When his friends guilted him into smoking the pure meth White had cooked, he had a subsequent bad reaction, becoming paranoid and hallucinating serious threats. It was running from this that lead him to the Pinkman clan.

Walt was trying to figure out what treatments he could possibly afford while his wife and sister-in-law were making appointments and planning for him to get the best and most expensive treatments possible regardless of cost or personal hardship. Their concern is that he get better and be there for his wife and family. Walt's concern was how much debt he was going to leave the family in when he dies, already dismissing the admittedly slim chance that he could go into remission and actually live considerably longer. Walt Jr.'s cry that Walter just "give up and die" then was so beautifully written into the scene when Walter was balking at a $90,000 price tag. Such a subtle moment spoke volumes to Walter about the massive importance of his decision. Here he was worrying about money when his son only sees his dad dying and not wanting to live. An impossible situation with impossible decisions but those are the ones he was facing.

Meanwhile, Jesse was staying with his parents and his little brother Jacob for a few days. While they don't know for sure, his parents guess that he was high on something when he arrived and clearly do not want to deal with his drug problems again. Jacob's room was littered with awards and scholastic honors and I could tell Jesse feels inferior to them. His mother awkwardly opens the door asking if the boys are okay and then very blatantly leaves the door wide open, indicating she doesn't trust Jesse alone in the room with Jacob.

The oddest exchange of the night followed when Jesse lashed out about how that act showed the parents didn't want Jesse negatively influencing their favorite son. It was this line that brought Jacob out of his shell as he whirled on Jesse, stunned that he could be their favorite son. "All they talk about is you," he told his older brother. Now, based on what I'd seen of his parents I couldn't see how this could be true, unless they were always bitching about what a failure he was.

I already know Jesse failed in school and hasn't done much with his life as of yet, except deal drugs. In fact, I'm not even sure how he got such a nice house. His parents have a nice house so either they hooked him up with his or he bought it with drug money. Either way, I am curious as to whether or not Jesse was a child with incredible promise as Jacob appeared to be or if he was always kind of a screw-up.

In the end, Jesse nobly took the fall for Jacob's joint leading to his eviction from the Pinkman home but more importantly it revealed cracks in the Pinkman home's facade of perfection. Then, when he destroyed the joint rather than return it to his brother, he showed that he wanted his brother to live up to his own potential rather than follow on Jesse's faltered path. It was good to see the growth potential in Pinkman's character.

There was a lot of personal issues dealt with here and I saw how these characters could easily settle back into non-meth lives; even Pinkman showed the potential to try and clean his act up. But, in the end, an offer came up for the rest of White's batch and Pinkman arrived at the White house with Walter's $4,000 share of those profits. With the looming costs of his own treatment hanging over him and the fact that there is still a show to do here, I think it's pretty obvious what's going to happen.

Add to that the opening of the episode where the DEA, with Walter's brother-in-law taking point on the investigation, has discovered his 99.1% pure meth as well as the disappearance of Krazy-8 and his cousin. He's tracking a possible new "kingpin" in town, who may just turn out to be the "cancer man."

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