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'Breaking Bad': Chemistry must be respected

April 19, 2010 |  7:23 am

Episode-5-Ted-Skyler-760  "As wrong as I know it is, as much as I know I'm probably doing it just to make Walt leave me, it is the only thing in my day where I don't feel like I'm drowning." Skyler's words, but they sound familiar:  like something we've either heard before or just inherently know about some of these characters -- especially, of course, Mr. Walter White himself. 

Which is why at the end of this latest "Breaking Bad" -- another episode in which all the main characters were  drowning in their own way -- you get the sense that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is in fact the happiest of this bunch at the moment. Yes, he's granted Skyler (Anna Gunn) the divorce he didn't want, but he's also about to put the apron back on and get cooking again, which might be the one thing that makes him feel more alive than anything. 

But where will Skyler go from here? That's perhaps the most interesting question left  after this one. Getting the divorce will only further alienate Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), and you get the sense that even with Ted Beneke's good looks and heated bathroom tiles, something still seems to be missing. She never seems truly happy with the guy; he's more of a craving, a cigarette of sorts. 

Meanwhile, Jesse (Aaron Paul) suddenly isn't so Zen. He's accepted who he is, and he is the bad guy ... but unfortunately for him, Walter is badder. "How should I put this," Walt said to him, like the devil. "I'm in, you're out," and Jesse could do nothing but scream and throw a concrete  block into  the Aztec's windshield. Oh, that poor windshield. 

That climactic scene was a culmination of a show that answered the big question of what would get Walter White cooking again. And in the end, it was Walter's ego more than anything else. "Chemistry must be respected," he said to Gustavo (Giancarlo Esposito), and here we must remind ourselves that Walter is a chemist whose research apparently helped build a massively successful company, Gray Matter, that he himself didn't at all benefit from. Walter instead went on to teach chemistry to high school students, students who usually just want the bell to ring. 

That background helped make Walt's walk through Gustavo's underground lair the best scene of the episode. "What is this?" Walt asked. "Your new lab," Gus said, flipping on the lights. What followed was pretty darkly hilarious: with a playful sort of waltz musically carpeting the scene, Walter's eyes came alive and he walked down that spiral staircase in a full sort of arousal. "My god," he says, before uncovering the different treasures that lay beneath the bubble wrap. "Thorium oxide. ... Look at the size of this reaction vessel! ..." 

At first, Walter's answer was still no, given the fact that making meth had in a way taken his family away from him. To which Gustavo, played wonderfully as always by Esposito, responded with one hell of a pep talk. "A man provides," Gustavo said, "and he does it even when he's not appreciated, or respected or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he's a man." 

Evidently those words soaked into Walt, for he was soon signing the divorce papers and then reveling in telling Jesse that Gustavo had only dealt with him in order to get to Walt. "You see," Walt explained, "he needs someone with expertise, someone who knows what he's doing. In other words, he needs me." And this is the core of Walt's decision and also his character -- he is a man who needs a purpose, who needs to be needed. 

-- Josh Gajewski

Photo: Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) embraces Skyler White (Anna Gunn) in  "Breaking Bad." Credit: AMC