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"Breaking Bad" Recap: "Madrigal"

Michael Chasin |
July 23, 2012 | 6:11 p.m. PDT


Our (reluctant) new power trio. Courtesy AMC.
Our (reluctant) new power trio. Courtesy AMC.
A few Breaking Bad episodes have started with subtitled dialogue, but until now that's meant cartel business south of the border. Not the case here. If you couldn't tell from the German, we're much farther from the ABQ than ever before.

Welcome to Madrigal Electromotive, where a group of lab coated taste experts present an array of dipping sauces to their distracted boss, one Mr. Schuler. If their "Franch" dressing can't hold his attention, it's obvious something must be very wrong. Sure enough, Schuler is the executive responsible for Madrigal's international fast food division, which makes him the man most culpable for bank rolling Los Pollos Hermanos. With Gus blown to smithereens and the meth operation exposed, the authorities have come knocking. Schuler opts to kill himself with a defibrillator rather than go into custody, but hey, at least he managed to squeeze in a last meal beforehand.

Stateside, Jesse still can't get over the fact that he lost the ricin cigarette, so, hiding the actual poison in a socket on his wall, Walt creates a fake to give him some closure. They search Jesse's house together before Walt suggests they check the Roomba and, lo and behold, the cigarette is there. But instead of feeling relieved, Jesse breaks down in tears, beating himself up over almost killing Walt over such a stupid mistake. Walt consoles him, and it's truly difficult to watch knowing that Jesse was entirely in the right.

But with that loose end tied up (for now) it's time to get back to business. Walt and Jesse visit Mike to propose a three way partnership. They'll handle the chemistry, he'll use whatever he can from Gus's old empire to handle distribution and acquisition of the ingredients they'll need to cook. But he's not interested. Mike can tell that Walt is dangerously unstable, and has no interest in getting tied up with him any further.They awkwardly shake hands, but Walt still hopes he'll come around.

Meanwhile, Hank and the DEA continue their investigation. They bring in the Madrigal higher-ups, the leader of whom claims he had no idea what was going on, and pledges to help the authorities any way he can—if he's innocent, after all, it's in his best interest to root out the criminals within the company. Not to say that he's innocent.

At the very least, we confirm Schuler wasn't the only one interested in the global drug trade when Mike meets at a diner with the highly neurotic Lydia (Laura Fraser), a Madrigal associate who isn't half as ruthless as she is skittish. Yet her paranoia might prove more dangerous than cartel cruelty when she asks Mike—in as roundabout a way as she can—to wipe out the eleven people involved in Gus's operation who knew enough to incriminate her. Mike won't do it; his guys are solid, and measures were put in place to ensure they'd all be financially taken care of in a situation like this. He's sure no one will talk.

Least likely to break, of course, is Mike himself, who gets called in by Hank and Gomez. On the way in he sees Chow, the chemical supplier he saved then shot (as a lesson) in the season three finale. They're all feeling the heat. Upstairs, Mike answers all of the DEA questions flawlessly in a great scene between the most competent professionals on the show, but on his way out Hank reveals an ace up his sleeve—thanks to the banking information uncovered during last week's bit of magnetic chaos, they know Mike has put aside $2 million for his granddaughter. Money the authorities can now easily take away. He leaves without giving them anything, but it's pretty clear that this is just about the worst scenario Mike could have imagined facing.

Meanwhile, Walt and Jesse are trying to work out how to get up and running again. It seems like the biggest hurdle will be a steady supply of methylamine—the crucial ingredient that sets Walt's blue sky formula apart from the competition. Walt is sure there must be a way to get some, but Jesse has serious doubts.

Back at the DEA, Hank's boss George Merkert is resigning. Someone has to take the fall for letting Gus get in so close with the Administration, after all. Merkert can't believe he spent so much time around a drug lord without ever realizing the truth. Fring was right under his nose the whole time. The camera lingers on Hank to hammer home how utterly it would destroy him, both personally and professionally, were Walt ever to get caught.

While playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his granddaughter, Mike gets a call from Chow, who has some serious concerns. It seems the DEA has frozen all of the funds that were supposed to be keeping the remnants of Gus's empire secure. Mike goes to pay him a visit, but it turns out another former Pollos employee (Chris—he did background thug work throughout Season 4) has Chow at gunpoint, and is merely using him as bait to get the drop on Mike. But this is Mike we're talking about. He uses a toy pig to keep Chris focused on the door, and sneaks in behind him. Chow is already dead, but Chris didn't get any further down the list than that. Lydia was paying him $10,000 a head, and he figured he should get Mike as soon as possible (for Mike's work, she would have paid $30,000). As dour and matter of fact as ever, Mike kills the traitor. Now he's got a score to settle.

Lydia comes home, dismisses her housekeeper, and sends her daughter to take a bath when Mike grabs her from the shadows. They get in the next room, and all Lydia asks is that he not shoot her face so that her daughter isn't horrified by her body, but Mike doesn't intend for anyone to ever her. At that, she gets positively manic. She begs him to leave her body so that her daughter won't think she's been abandoned, and no matter how much Mike tells her to quiet down, she barely does. At the last second, Mike decides not to kill her. Between Lydia's daughter and the new financial security he needs for his own family, he just couldn't go through with it, even if killing her was probably the safest decision. Instead he asks if she can still get her hands on methylamine. Oh, Mike. Hasn't anyone ever warned you about half measures?

Walt is cleaning dishes when Mike calls to tell him he's reconsidered the offer, and he's in. Walt goes to bed, triumphant, and comforts a trembling Skyler, telling her that it's okay to do bad things for good reasons. And there's no better reason than family. Mike would agree. It's doubtful Skyler would, but then she's been too terrified to speak all episode, so that doesn't count for much at the moment.

Follow Michael on twitter, check out his blog Story is God for more on all things fictional, or reach him at [email protected].



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