As far as Walt is concerned, the dust has pretty well settled from Gus Fring’s death, so it’s time to get back to business. But in an episode that spends of “Breaking Bad” that spends as little time with its lead character as this one does, it’s clear that the world outside Walt’s ego might not make that so simple.
In particular, the new person we meet tonight could end up causing Walt a lot of trouble without even really knowing she’s doing it. Lydia (Laura Fraser), the Madrigal Electromotive functionary who causes headaches for Mike throughout the episode, may have abetted Gus’ criminal activities, but she’s definitely not of that world and really, really nervous about the blowback from Gus’ death landing on her. So much so that she’s made an 11-person kill list of everyone who might tie her to the Superlab and asks Mike to take care of them all.
Her skittishness produces one of the bigger “are you kidding” looks Mike has ever thrown at someone, but he, of course, ends up having to clean up the mess she makes and threaten her into both keeping quiet and starting the flow of chemicals again so Walt and Jesse can start cooking. Those two don’t even know about her yet, but to Mike (and the audience) Lydia clearly has the potential to create a lot of chaos. Heck, to Mike she already has: He has to kill a former colleague who took up the kill list after Mike passed.
Introducing a new and possibly pivotal character late in a show’s life is a well-worn trick, and it doesn’t always work (see: the Temple-dwelling Others in “Lost”). At first blush, though, Lydia feels like more than just the embodiment of a plot necessity: Given Fring’s ties to Madrigal, it feels natural that the ripples from his death could reach to places previously unseen on the show.
Lydia aside, though, “Madrigal” belonged to Jonathan Banks as Mike. Between her, Walt’s insistence that he needs Mike to continue cooking and selling meth, and the DEA finding a tie to Fring via an offshore account in his granddaughter’s name — presumably after Walt’s magnet stunt revealed the Caymans account number behind the picture frame in the season premiere — he’s stuck. The look on his face as he leaves the interview with Hank and Gomez speaks to the trouble he knows could be headed his way. Even someone as resourceful as Mike has to make compromises sometimes.
Walt, meanwhile, is blithely unaware of all this and surveying his new empire like a very self-satisfied monarch. It’s hard to say whether the montage of him and Jesse searching for the (fake) poison cigarette is him trying to put Jesse’s mind at ease or inflicting more psychological torture on his partner. Walt probably thinks he’s removing a bit of the weight Jesse has been feeling, but the anguished look on Jesse’s face after they find it says he’s nowhere near letting Brock’s poisoning go.
Walt’s already enormous sense of his own genius is starting to run amok, as evidenced in the chilling final scene between him and Skyler. After Mike decides to use Lydia rather than kill her, he calls Walt to say he’s in, and he then goes to bed and all but forces himself on his wife as he tells her, “When we do what we do for good reasons, then we’ve got nothing to worry about. There’s no better reason than family.” It feels very “Sopranos”-ish, like something Tony might have said to Carmela had she become part of his business, and it’s one to make your skin crawl.
Finally, what do you make of Hank’s look when his soon-to-be former boss talks about not seeing who Gus really was? Hank has been slowly putting together the pieces of who Heisenberg is, but is that scene a sign that he’ll finally train his eyes on Walt? Or is he just reflecting on the loss of a superior he clearly likes and respects?
And one more question: What did you think of “Breaking Bad” this week as a whole?