Spoiler Alert!- Read if you want, but there are many spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet.
A big concern going into the final season was who were going to be the main villains for Walt to duel with, beside himself. As recapped last week, there are a number of showdowns coming this season- Walt and Jesse, Walt and Skyler, Walt and Mike, Walt and Hank, etc., but there still needed to be a bigger fish for Walt to fry, or explode, now that Gus is gone. Enter Germany, the greatest villain ever, and the mysterious company, Madrigal.
Towards the end of last season, as Hank continued to gather more and more evidence to justify his case against Gus Fring and his meth operation, he turned up information on a German company named Madrigal, the manufacturer of the equipment at Gus’s laundry/meth lab. Many fans foresaw this company playing a larger role in season five, and fortunately for them, they didn’t have to wait long. While hardly a deep, symbolic meaning, Madrigal is apparently 1) a medieval short, lyrical poem or 2) a complex, polyphonic vocal piece according Merriam Webster, the title of episode 2 seems to simply and explicitly reinsert the bigger fish for Walter to deal with in the final season.
Scene 1- A Shocking Opening
Breaking Bad creator and writer Vince Gilligan likes to utilize his openings in one of two ways. One is to create an air of ambiguity with the flash forward, either for a single episode or an entire season, as he did with last week’s premiere, and the other is insert something utterly shocking, and often violent. Last night’s went with option two, bringing the viewers to Germany where an apparently important man, Mr. Schuler, sits eating what appear to be tatter tots as he tests various dipping condiments. It turns out we are at Madrigal, or at least a branch of the company, and Mr. Schuler is in quite a state of quiet disarray, sitting unresponsive to his employees’ questions. He is told there are people waiting to see him, who turn out to be the police. As Schuler finally heads to his office, where there is a quick close up of a picture with Schuler and Gus Fring, he decides to go a different direction, grabbing and emergency defibrillator, heading to the bathroom, sticking a cord in his mouth, and jolting a few thousand watts of electricity to off himself. Bringing Madrigal back so intensely and violently definitely sets room for more chaos to ensue with this company and its probable encounter with Walt. It’s hard to believe that Schuler was just some rogue employee who had been aiding Gus with his drug empire, no matter how much the CEO in a later scene tries to play the role of Sergeant Schultz and claim he “knows nothing!”
Scene 2- Lydia?
My only concern with last night’s episode, and potentially for the season, is the introduction of Lydia. An interesting character, for sure, with her quirky diet (drinking hot water sweetened by her own Stevia at a diner) and fragile, yet cold-blooded demeanor (asking Mike to kill 11 people who could connect to her and Mike), but her late addition to the show could stretch the character storylines too far in different directions. All we really know is that she worked for Madrigal (the only other connection to the company, I doubt), apparently supplying many of the needed chemicals for Gus’s operations. However, she was never heard from or seen in any of the previous two-three seasons, and for a character that apparently played such a pivotal role in the business operations to never appear or be mentioned seems odd, especially since she had direct contact with Mike and Gus and is American. Yet, the scenes Lydia was in, both with Mike, were extremely well acted by Laura Fraser and helped add another dimension to Mike’s character (especially letting her live, potentially for the sake of her daughter or the business), which is a good thing for the show and its viewers.
Scene(s) 3- Mike’s Faceoffs
This episode would have been more appropriately titled, "Mike’s Faceoffs", at least as far as the basic plot is concerned, but they used “Faceoff” so perfectly for the season 4 finale. It’s great having Mike take on a more central role in the show, even though he’s originally reluctant to take on a more significant role in Walt and Jesse’s new business operations. However, after a series of faceoffs and conversations- with Walt and Jesse; with newcomer Lydia; with Hank and Gomez; with Mr. Chow and one of Mike’s henchmen; and with Lydia again- Mike finally comes around and agrees to be apart of Walt’s future prospects. With a little added back story, Mike apparently was a corrupt Philadelphia cop, a lot more scenes and dialogue, and an ascension in responsibility, the development of Mike’s character, played brilliantly by Johnathan Banks, could be one the most intriguing story lines of the season. His hatred of Walt, coupled with his father-figure compassion for Jesse, will certainly create the requisite tension to replace the triangle of love, respect, and hatred between Walt, Jesse, and Gus.
Scene 4- Ricin
As much as Jesse would like to forget, the ricin just won’t go away. In an otherwise short scene, we hear Jesse speaking to Walt over the phone concerning the missing ricin from season 4 and then see Walt making a replica of the ricin and cigarette it was hidden in and hiding the original vile of the poison behind an outlet in his own home. A lot is accomplished with this scene though. One, it sets up some major foreshadowing of the ricin’s eventual return in the show, exactly how I’m not sure, and two, it strengthens Walt’s hold over Jesse, because after finding the replica that Walt placed in his vacuum cleaner, he (Jesse) feels insanely guilty for almost killing Walt over the lost cigarette. This is sure to intensify Jesse’s fury when he will more than likely learn the truth. I just wonder how he’ll learn. Saul perhaps?
Scene 5- Saul the Clown
Saul is satisfying the role of sagacious clown perfectly. With his sound advice to Walt and Jesse, to be happy with the fact that they’re alive and well and therefore should give up on the meth cooking business, Saul continues to be a dynamic character on the show. Originally a self-serving, greedy, morally reprehensible man himself, Saul seems to have developed a higher ethical aptitude or pragmatic wisdom than any of the other main characters, with the exception of Hank. There is incredible strain on his face, his poorly timed jokes have disappeared, and he is definitely struggling with the repercussions of Walt’s actions and his own complicity in them. Saul is the one character who actually knows everything, and the only thing keeping him silent is a fear of Walt and his own ironic lawyerly ethics and attorney/client confidentiality (A point Walt addressed in episode 1). It will be very interesting to see if he overcomes these to finally blow the whistle, even if it means bringing himself down.
Patrick Edmonds is a co-founder, editor, and writer for/of The Lunch Break. His passions include Food, Arts & Entertainment, and Education. You can follow Patrick Edmonds on facebook and on Twitter @patrickedmonds1.