Breaking Bad: Loco Motives

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Breaking Bad S05E05: "Dead Freight"

The cold open...

Aww, look at that adorable kid on the dirt bike picking up tarantulas in a glass jar! Not sure what this is all about, but he sure is cute going about his business as a care-free kid motorbikin' innocently in the New Mexico desert!

45 minutes and a great train robbery later...

Oh look! It's that teen tarantula collector again! I almost forgot about hi–HOLY SHIT LANDRY CLARKE JUST SHOT HIM DEAD!

Breaking Bad is no stranger to shocking moments, but the final 30 seconds of "Dead Freight" is still reverberating through our cores as though it's the first time we've seen something like that from the show. Todd shot someone. A kid. And it was his first instinct given the super-secret nature of their operation and potential residence in the worst the federal prison system has to offer. This isn't even the first time the show has killed a kid, but it is the first time we've seen it happen.

I just want to put this out there so you know where I stand: I am 100 percent against killing children. There. I said it. Let there be no question. "That Tim Surette doesn't agree with child murder," people should say. I'm a saint!

But...

And I'm going to do this just to play devil's advocate and because I'm an eternal optimist and because I like the process of convincing myself and others to take roundabouts when it comes to morality... this isn't the worst situation for Jesse and Walter. For Todd, it sucks. But for Jesse and Walter, not only is this accidental obstacle "taken care of," but they also have a guy to pin it on should they choose to get extra gangsta and put Todd in a ditch.

Let's look at this from Walter, Jesse, and Todd's perspective (as criminals) and imagine that they could freeze time the moment after motorcycle kid showed up and twinkled his fingers in a sheepish wave. They'd have a meeting to figure out what to do with the boy and go over their very limited options for hours. What could they do? They could pretend they're NOT stealing chemicals from a train and hope the kid keeps his mouth shut even after the feds crawl all over the place asking if anyone saw something suspicious. They could kidnap the kid and turn the series into some hilarious TV version of Three Men and a Baby. They could recruit the kid for the gang and teach him the ins and outs of making meth. Or, they could shoot him right there on the spot to make sure he stays quiet for good. In that moment where a decision had to be made right then and there, Todd obviously favored that last option.

Look, I don't know what the right answer is. And I must insist once again that I don't condone killing children. I like kids! I was once one of those children myself, and I'm forever indebted to everyone who did not shoot me dead. But Against all my moral fiber, I'm thinking Todd didn't act entirely in the wrong here, given the fact that these guys are drug dealers and this is a television show and we're allowed to explore issues like this without fear of repercussion. So much of this season has been about putting us in the mindset of Walter, Jesse, and Mike as professional drug dealers and following every minute detail they go through, and this is one of the toughest pickles they've been in. Murder is going to be part of the equation at times, and while no-kid policies sound like a great idea in theory, you won't be able dictate the predicaments you find yourself in. There's no accounting for someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I want you to reach down deep inside and tap into that dark place of yours by imagining a criminalized version of yourself in that situation (remember, getting caught isn't an option) and go through what you would have done. Let us know in the comments! I'm not sure I would have shot the kid right then and there (though he was on a motorbike and immediate action was necessary), but I sure as heck wouldn't have let him ride away. That's why if I'm Walter, I might be glad Todd did that. The decision was made for you, and your hands are–in some twisted way–relatively clean. Jesse obviously will not be pleased, but Mike is a pro at making things disappear and your goals now are clear: clean up your desert operation as soon as possible before the cops comb the area that the kid was known to ride around.

We have time to think the murder of spider boy through because we don't know what's coming next. But the bulk of "Dead Freight" involved Breaking Bad's biggest scheme yet, a good old-fashioned train robbery that unfolded from start to finish completely before our eyes. Remember the magnet plan from the season premiere episode? WEAK compared to this. Trains, bitch! So much of Breaking Bad this year has been about the process as the writers live out their fantasies of being a drug lord, which in turn gives the cinematographers the chance to live out their fantasies by filming a frickin' train robbery. My feet were tingling during the entire heist, and because Breaking Bad is so wonderfully unpredictable, the thought of something going horribly wrong was on the forefront of my mind the entire time. And that's what made the final seconds so powerful. We breathed a sigh of relief as the train took off beneath the horizon and Jesse and Walter jumped about like they, well, like they just pulled off a miracle train heist. We were all in the clear and basking in a non-violent job well done as Walt shutdown the motor to the pump that shot water into the train.

Only we still heard a motor running, and Walter heard it too. Breaking Bad uses all of its available senses incredibly well, and while most of the accolades go to the visuals, the audio is an unsung hero and was instrumental to the impact of the final scenes of the last two episodes. The ticking of the watch last week a metaphor for Walter's limited time, and the bike's motor this week signaling that the celebration was premature.

"Dead Freight" was a delightfully intense episode of Breaking Bad that toyed with the audience until the very last second.


NOTES

– I didn't mention anything before the train robbery because I'm not sure there is a whole lot to discuss about it. Walt's manipulation of Hank and the interrogation of Lydia were great, but they were there only to set up the train heist. If there's anything to complain about in this fifth season, it's that all this attention to detail consumes so much time that other stories don't blossom as much.

Breaking Bad has mounted cameras on Roombas, shovels, and several other things, but there was something about these train shots that really stood out.

"Dead Freight Photos"


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