Breaking Bad Season 5

Walt and Lydia Are a Match Made in Meth Heaven
Talking television.
July 30 2012 3:31 PM

Breaking Bad Season 5

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Walt and Lydia: A match made in meth heaven?

Walter White, Jr. (RJ Mitte) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
Walter White, Jr. and Walter White

Photograph by Ursula Coyote/AMC.

Well, I’m glad to learn from Emily that Saul’s attorney-client privilege argument is more likely to hold up than I’d thought. Conversely, I’m not that worried about the electricity bills associated with the meth cook—you can probably just blame it on the need to run the fans associated with the extermination process. The whole thing does make me wonder how frequently Albuquerque homes need this kind of treatment. I don’t recall ever seeing houses tented that way around the D.C. area. Does New Mexico have that much more vermin?

Rewatching the final scene, I’m trying to tease out what Walt was trying to convey by bringing Victor up. I think Jesse heard it as an implicit threat against himself. But turning it over, I think Walt was really talking to Walt. When he was Gus’ put-upon chemist, the wanton murder of Victor was part of building the case to himself that Fring was an evil man. But now that Fring is dead and Walt wants to be Jesse James, he’s started retroactively justifying the kind of violence Gus had to mete out to stay on top. He’s walking a bit in Fring’s shoes.

As many commenters have noted, there is a case for Jesse repaying himself. Heisenberg Enterprises is a business. That business is jointly owned by Walt, Jesse, and Mike, with each of the partners enjoying an equal share in the enterprise. It’s a pure pass-through entity, with all profits immediately disbursed to the owners. So the way you do things is first you account for all expenses—including the repayment of debts—and then you distribute the profits. The fact that the debt is owed to one of the partners in the firm is a bit unusual, but doesn’t change the fact that it’s the firm’s debt and not a personal expense of Walt and Mike. What introduces the confusion is that for some reason Mike divvies up the gross revenue into thirds before he starts deducting expenses. That makes the scene more dramatic, but it doesn’t reflect the underlying accounting very well. Of course this raises the question of why Jesse agreed to make an interest-free loan, but as we’ve seen time and again, he’s more interested in camaraderie than profits.

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I wish we’d seen some of new character Lydia this episode. I have so many questions about her. Who is she? How did she get this line on methylamine? She doesn’t act like a hardened criminal, and yet she’s the one who’s cracked the aspect of the operation that seems to be the most logistically challenging. Wikipedia tells me that the legitimate uses for methylamine include making ephedrine, a kind of asthma drug called theophylline, a couple of pesticides, and perhaps most intriguingly, some photo development chemicals. That latter is obviously an industry in decline, but as the FDA has tightened up regulation of methylamine as a Schedule I precursor anyone in that line of work has access to a legitimate supply of an increasingly scarce black-market commodity.   

Walt and Lydia don’t know each other, or even know each other’s names. But I can’t wait for them to meet. Both are considerably fussier than your average criminal. Both have a bad relationship with Mike. Both seem to prefer the use of the stick than the carrot as a means of ensuring the silence of the old Fring gang. Both seem to enjoy the conceit that murder and mayhem are all okay as long as you’re doing it for the kids. It’s a match made in heaven!

After all, for all Walt’s petty and annoying behavior as they divvied up the money, he’s right to be at least a little perturbed by the way Mike’s handling things. It’s one thing to delegate “the business” end to one guy. It’s another thing to trust on blind faith that his expenses are what he says they are. You don’t expect a drug trafficking organization to meet rigorous accounting standards, but if I were in Walt’s shoes I’d like some evidence that the money Mike says is going to pay for precursor chemicals is in fact going to pay for precursor chemicals. Meeting Lydia could change that dynamic instantly. And Walt can teach her all about the chemical composition of stevia. I can’t wait!

The deal is the deal,

Matt

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

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