Breaking Bad Season 5

Gus Really Needed a Financial Planner
Talking television.
July 23 2012 1:46 PM

Breaking Bad Season 5

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Gus really needed a financial planner.

Skyler White (Anna Gunn).
Skyler White

Photograph by Ursula Coyote/AMC.

Now that we’re seeing some good old-fashioned police interviews, it occurs to me that the weak link in Walter’s chain of criminality may well be Saul Goodman. He’s repeatedly expressed his opinion that Walt and Jesse ought to knock it off and has professed his own desire to quit. What’s more, unlike the other conspirators, Saul hasn’t killed anyone. He can reasonably argue that some of his participation in the ongoing criminal enterprise was coerced, and as a lawyer he’s well-positioned to try to strike a good bargain. If I were the U.S. Attorney, I’d gladly cut a very generous deal with a man who can solve several homicides (plus the near-fatal poisoning of a little kid) and shut down a major math lab. 

Meanwhile, I’m a little bit confused by the timing of Skyler White’s attack of conscience. As viewers, we’ve been shocked by the revelation at the end of Season 4 that Walt would poison an innocent boy. Skyler also seems to have taken a darker view of Walt, but she doesn’t know about the poison. She went from being a willing accomplice in drug production and money-laundering to a conscience-stricken depressive over the news that Walt killed Gus Fring? That’s hardly the greatest tragedy in human history. She’s upset about Ted, yes, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the writers are smuggling an audience surrogate in the back door in a way that contradicts the plot.

What’s weirding me out, in addition to Sklyer’s mood swing, is Walt’s failure to more explicitly rationalize his behavior to his wife, himself, and the fans at home.

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The line at the end of last night’s episode—“there’s no better reason than family”—was hazy and seemed pulled out of mafia movie clichés (or Olive Garden ads). A smart, manipulative guy should be able to come up with more to say to his wife than that. How about pointing out that, even if he’s not doing the cooking, meth will be cooked—only by lesser-trained providers who will blow themselves up in crude facilities and poison their customers if Walt’s not on the job. And Walt certainly didn’t want any violence. It was Gus or him. And he and Jesse got into hot water with Gus because they objected to him murdering children! But now that he’s out of the way, the business is going to be all about chemistry and filling a market niche that’s not going away. And—yes—the family will profit. Why shouldn’t they? Is cooking some meth and killing a man in self-defense worse than what the bankers who got rich wrecking the world economy do every day? Worse than the coal companies wreaking climate havoc on the world? Worse than how Elliot and Gretchen made millions by stealing his research? I make a good argument. So why didn’t Walt say any of this?

I also wasn’t thrilled with the slipshod financial planning on the part of Gus and the gang. He put his secret numbered account information on a piece of paper? Gotta look into One Password.

Or better yet, recognize that the days of anonymous offshore banking are gone. If Skyler can launder money, why can’t Gus’ henchmen? At any rate, pro tip: Banking secrecy isn’t what it used to be. If you want to stash money in secret, you’re best off with cash. Two million in $100 bills weighs about 44 pounds, which is hard to move all at once but not infeasible. Or better yet, grab some €500 notes and keep things light. This leaves you very exposed to inflation, sure, but in today’s economic environment that shouldn’t be a huge concern. Mike could also have looked into something exotic like a Guatemalan bearer bond (a bond that can be cashed by whoever’s in physical possession of it, and therefore anonymous) but reputable countries don’t issue that kind of thing anymore and going to Guatemala may be more trouble than it’s worth. So I say don’t overthink things by trying to imitate old James Bond movies—just keep some bags full of cash. It was good enough for Tony Soprano.

Last, but by no means least, Madrigal Electromotive. This completely defies TV plot logic, but I believe the executives who flew in and said they were eager to get to the bottom of things! Maybe Gus as the head of the relatively modest Pollos Hermanos branch of their fast food division really was acting alone under the ineffective oversight of Herr Schuler. Certainly Gus didn’t seem to have German backup to call on when tangling with the cartels. Conglomerates often have bad corporate governance and it could take forensic accountants years to scour Madrigal’s doubtless confusing books. I’d like to see this turn into a dead end.

No more RVs,

Matt

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

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