Despite the majority of “Madrigal” focusing on everybody’s favorite cleaner/hitman Mike, special note needs to be made about Walter’s screen time. Specifically, the way he uses the ricin cigarette to guarantee Jesse’s further cooperation. It’s a wonderfully shot and acted series of scenes perfectly showing us just how crafty Walter can be. Not only does he hide the ricin just in case he needs to use it later, but he creates a fake ricin using salt and hides it in Jesse’s house under the pretense of helping him search for. He does it in such a way that Jesse has no choice but to believe he simply misplaced the ricin when he inevitably finds Walter’s fake. And because he now believes with one hundred percent certainty Walter did not poison Brock, this sense of guilt washes over him for having threatened Walter’s life.
The manipulation in the scene where Jesse breaks down is disturbing. You can see on Walter’s face he wasn’t expecting this type of emotional response from Jesse, but he quickly realizes he can use it, so he reminds Jesse that because of what happened they learned to trust each other – and only each other – in order to survive. Furthermore, he uses this to bring up cooking again. Walter is fast becoming a master plotter and manipulator, but as Mike later says, he’s a ticking time bomb. His arrogance will get the better of him. He’s learning to think big picture, but he still has yet to grasp just how large Gus Fring’s network was. While Walter and Jesse are trying to convince Mike to be their partner, the DEA are moving in on Madrigal Electromotive, the owners of Fring’s Los Pollos Hermanos franchise. Of course, Walter knows none of this. He has no idea just how many loose ends were left dangling because of his power play against Fring. It’s only a matter of time before the house of cards he’s recklessly trying to put together comes down around him.
As I said before, the majority of our time is spent with Mike following his rejection of Walter’s partner proposal. Devoting a large chunk of airtime to a character like Mike is why Breaking Bad became my favorite drama series. During its infancy, Breaking Bad had little time for anyone other than Walter and Jesse, but as it matured it expanded its world, introducing new characters. One of which was Mike, the no-nonsense ex-cop everyone fell in love with. Last season he spent a good amount of time with Jesse, developing an unexpected father/son bond between the two of them. In “Madrigal,” we get to see a little bit of what Mike is like at home. Seeing him playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his granddaughter was a sweet moment, made slightly less sweet when followed by Mike having to go out and kill another hitman.
Why does Mike have to kill a hitman? Well, despite Walter’s plan to destroy Fring’s laptop being a rousing success, nobody thought to tell him about the many offshore bank accounts Fring had under the names of his close associates. The DEA get a hold of these accounts and start bringing people in for questioning. A woman named Lydia asks Mike to kill these men, but he’s not about to start killing a dozen people, especially people he believes are solid guys. And it’s because Mike rejects the job that Lydia sends someone out to kill him. It’s a good thing Mike’s the best in the business, as he easily outfoxes the much younger man, putting several bullets in him.
Not one to take a threat on his life lightly, Mike confronts Lydia, intending on killing her for her actions. However, when she pleads to let Mike leave her body for her daughter to find rather than simply just disappearing and having her believe her mother abandoned her, Mike can’t bring himself to subject the little girl to either fate. He lets Lydia live. But he intends on using her. Walter needs methylamine and Lydia knows how to get it. Suddenly Mike is agreeing to work with Walter and is bringing Lydia with him.
The second episode of the season was much more subdued than the premiere. It didn’t have that sense of panic, instead opting for more development of Mike’s character. This is naturally to be expected from Breaking Bad. It tends to start its seasons off running, followed by an immediate slow down. The next couple of episodes will be more like “Madrigal” I expect. This is never a bad thing when it comes to Breaking Bad. It knows how to keep you interested when not much is going on. When it isn’t doing crazy, intense sequences, it’s giving you great emotional performances and solid character interaction. Scenes like Mike’s interrogation – seeing him and Hank together was a thing of beauty – and Walter’s near molestation of Skyler are more than enough to keep viewers glued to their seats.