Breaking Bad Season 5

Soon All of Our Laptops Will Be Immune to Magnets
Talking television.
July 16 2012 8:11 AM

Breaking Bad Season 5

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Soon all of our laptops will be immune to magnets.

Breaking Bad (Season 5).
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad

Ursula Coyote/AMC.

The timeliness of the God particle reference just a week after the big Higgs Boson discovery has to be a good omen for the season, right? If I’d watched this episode three months ago I wouldn’t have known what that was about, and three months from now I’ll probably have forgotten.

The set piece in the Denny’s was pretty excellent television on its own terms, but I wonder if we’re going to come to regret it as the season continues. Suspense is an important part of Breaking Bad, and enigmatic as the scene was, I almost feel like it forecloses too many possibilities. I don’t want to know that at some point long enough in the future for Walt to grow that hair he’ll be looking to ditch his New Hampshire plates and acquire a giant gun.

There’s nothing I like better than a good heist movie, so I loved the whole magnet cycle from beginning to end (especially Mike’s impression of a U.S. Postal Inspection Service agent). I’m happy to allow that they succeeded in wiping all the digital records. A man of Gus’ level of caution would never trust footage of his own criminal enterprise to “the cloud,” and if the laptop is backed up anyplace else, those disks are either in the evidence room or out of the reach of the police. (Even though I'll buy it, it’s still worth noting that we’re nearing the end of the lifecycle of this particular caper. My laptop, like a lot of the newer laptops on the market, comes with a solid-state drive that’s immune to the effect of magnetism.)

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But the real issue here is: Why does Mike participate?

Jesse probably should have taken Mike’s advice and skipped town, but he’s rarely had a keen sense of self-preservation, and the bond with Walt is important to him. But last we saw, Mike was conspiring to kill Walt and sell Jesse into bondage in Mexico—what does he care? And he doesn’t seem like the sentimental type who’d be afraid to set fire to his possessions, hop on a bus, and start a new life as hired muscle in Phoenix or Las Vegas. Walt’s got no money and no family if he leaves, but does Mike care?

Skyler’s newfound fear of Walt—and in counterpart, what seems to be her growing comfort with calling in the goons on her old boss Ted Beneke—is an intriguing development. But I’m more interested in the short term in the evolving relationship between Walt and Saul Goodman. Walt's intimidation of Saul was impressive, but is it credible? Between the two of them, Saul has money, two goons in his employ, and seemingly a wide array of connections in the criminal world. Walt has no money, no meth lab with which to cook and get money, and no distribution partners even if he did manage to cook. His science skills have gotten him impressively far in the criminal world, but ricin and magnets and poisonous plants can’t watch your back if Huell kicks down your door while you’re sleeping.

Is Walt picking fights he can’t win? And does he even have any idea how extensive Gus’ operation was. When Victor died, he was swiftly replaced by Tyrus. Are there other heavies waiting in the wings? And what about the rest of Madrigal Electromotive GmbH—shouldn’t Gus have a boss somewhere up in the corporate hierarchy? 

Magnets—oh!

Matt

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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