Breaking Bad split up its principles into two concurrent stories. While those stories didn't interrelate, each side was engaging on its own merits. The big dust-up between Walter and Jesse last week required time apart. Each of the two sides itself had two storylines; let's take them in order of increasing interest.
On the homefront, Skyler attempts to bail out Ted Beneke with a bogus inheritance; the attempt flops so badly as to potentially rain down more trouble on Skyler's head. So, like her husband, she becomes a bit reckless, revealing that she supplied the cash that Ted gleefully started throwing around. (Honestly, Skyler has never heard of the Law of Found Money? After watching Walter's pride-fueled jaunt into criminality, she couldn't see that Ted would try to jump-start his business rather than get out of his mess?) We get something of a cliffhanger: There's no immediate follow-up on Skyler's revelation. Will Ted change his name to Danny? Tune in next week!
Walter is wallowing in remorse for his big fight last week, and he wants to be remembered in the best possible light by his son, Jesse. -- Whoops, Walt Jr., he meant! I'm always glad when R.J. Mitte gets anything at all to do, and getting not just one, but two scenes in which he gets to bond with his father AND show emotion ... terrific stuff, for the least-developed character on the show. Walter's backstory was a welcome addition, and called back to an early episode in which he resisted getting chemotherapy because of how he wanted to be remembered. Jr.'s swimming eyes when he tells his dad that he would actually like to remember his moment of open weakness rather than Dad's ideal of false strength ... good insight into Jr. Will the father-son bond continue to change? Tune in next week!
Next, let's follow Gus, Jesse and Mike down in Mexico. After figuratively slapping around the Cartel's lab staff, a newly re-purposed Jesse manages to cook a nearly-killer batch of meth. Success! The grand prize? He's acqired by the Cartel and gets to spend his life slaving in Mexico! Facepalm! How will Jesse get out of this tight spot? Tune in next w--
... Well, not next week, it turns out! Because the final storyline teaches us the danger of drinking tequila with a bitter enemy who's way-the-hell smarter than you. Gus exacts his revenge against Don Eladio in such a way that it doesn't just avenge Maximino's murder: it also solves his silly little spat with the Cartel and plucks Jesse out of Cartel clutches. Success! While G-string-clad senioritas flee on high heels with bundles of hastily-pilfered cash fluttering away (delicious imagery!), a poisoned Gus, a bleeding Mike, and an ironically-unscathed Jesse peal away from what may be the least-successful acquisition party in Cartel history. Will our guys make it out of Mexico and find medical care? Tune in next week!
What else to tune in for? Well, I can't help but suspect that the murder of the entire Cartel structure will be noticed by someone. I suspect further that Jesse being videotaped cooking a batch of primo meth will give him as high a profile as Gus in the coming payback. Who knows what sort of wacky shenanigans are in store for our guys now??
Okay, okay; enough with the flippant tone. Truth is, this was a heavy and largely humorless episode, with a lot of forward momentum. The big toast in Mexico didn't just cap off a vengeance storyline: it provided a humongous game-changer. Is Gus more dangerous than ever because his power in the Southwest is uncontested? Is there a s---storm of repercussion heading north? Is Jesse more trusted now ... maybe even secure? These are the salient points. They overshadow all the events in Albuquerque in importance, and the result was an imbalance: character development north of the border, violent leap in the story in the south. Both stories were smartly handled and well-acted. One was an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter, the other was a thoughtful sit-back. It was whiplash, but fun and intense whiplash. As in real life, juggling work and family has less-than-perfect results, but the juggle is sometimes unavoidable.
Our storylines will come back together, I hope, next week. I'm looking forward to two reunions: First, a contrite Walter and an empowered Jesse; Walter ought to humbly apologize right off the bat, but, let's face it, if Walter did as he ought, there would be no show. And the other reunion is Gus and Hector "Tio" Salamanca. "Well? Is today the day?" We have only started to taste the payback for these awful developments.