'Breaking Bad': Return of the prodigal
Saul Goodman? "You don't write, you don't call ..." Soon as we heard those words, we smiled.
Even Mike, cleaner of messy situations, returned for another. Only this time, he prevented a crime scene instead of tidying one up.
The end result was an hour that seemed like 15 minutes, and that's when you know a show has found a groove. Credit goes to the usual suspects in front of the camera but, especially here, to those behind it: Peter Gould pulled off the very difficult task of penning an episode that weaved together so many characters and story lines; director of photography Michael Slovis again framed so many beautiful shots, including the ender -- Walt staring down a very dark and ominous hallway -- and music supervisor Thomas Golubic, as he'd done several times before, picked the perfect little song to carpet another wonderfully wordless scene, this one a sequence in which Mike (Jonathan Banks) wired up the White home just as Walt (Bryan Cranston) showed up to break into it.
And even though so much happened in this one episode, the whole thing again had that understated feel that I so love. Save for Walt's annoyed outburst at being pulled over for a broken windshield and Walt Jr. lashing out at his mom over dinner, everyone else seemed relatively calm and collected, even if so much more bubbled beneath the surface. Let's discuss ...
-- Jesse "I'm the Bad Guy" Pinkman truly is accepting that role. He ran into his dad on the front lawn of his old house, Jesse (Aaron Paul) now clean and sober and longing again for some kind of connection with the family. When Dad gave him a mostly cold shoulder, though, something inside him must have snapped. Because soon enough, he was engineering the most ironic of real-estate purchases, taking back the home in which he used to cook meth for half of his parents' asking price. Why half the price? Because via Saul Goodman, he blackmailed them with a potential lawsuit for failing to disclose in the paperwork that the home had in fact once been used to manufacture meth. Jesse's meth. I'm really loving Sober Jesse. He's smarter. Dresses better. And just because he's clean doesn't mean he has to be good, a nice touch.
-- Meanwhile, Walter says, "I can't be the bad guy," to which Saul responds, "OK. We'll, uh ... we'll revisit." Hilarious. Bob Odenkirk's delivery just keeps getting better. All he does as Saul Goodman is spout off terrible clichés, point those enthusiastic fingers and look out for only his own best interests ... and yet we absolutely love the guy.
-- One of my favorite scenes was Walt stopping by the hotel pool just to remove the Band-Aid from it. Some shows might forego such a scene, as it doesn't really propel the story forward, but I thought it was a great symbolic touch.
-- Shortly thereafter, Walt showed up on Skyler's doorstep with Walter Jr. and the biggest pizza in history. Even funnier than Walter flinging that pie up onto Skyler's roof was the exchange that immediately preceded it. "I thought I made myself perfectly clear," Skyler scolded, refusing to let him in. "But I got dipping sticks," Walter said.
-- Ding! Tio and that terrifying service bell are back, here helping to spell out the name WALTER WHITE for the not-so-talkative "cousins," as they're named in the credits. Thankfully for Walter, though...
-- ... there's good cellphone reception around his house. Because when Mike saw the cousins and their shiny ax, he put in the call to Gus, who then pulled the cousins off the job by text.
-- Walt then emerged from the shower, clean but uncomfortable, much like the episode itself.
Bonus track: Timber Timbre's "Magic Arrow" was the song that played beneath the dialogue-free sequence mentioned above. Curious about the song, I tracked down Thomas Golubic, the music supervisor for "Breaking Bad."
"Timber Timbre is essentially singer-songwriter Taylor Kirk, who is from Ontario and presently based in Toronto," Golubic said. "The whole [self-titled] album is great. One of my favorite finds of 2009. Mike, 'the cleaner,' plays a big role in the episode, and that song just felt right at home with his quiet, confident but unnerving presence in the show."
Photo: Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, left) tends to his moneymaking client Jesse (Aaron Paul) in Sunday's episode of "Breaking Bad." Credit: AMC