Season 3, Episode 5: Mas
“I simply respect the chemistry. The chemistry must be respected.”- Walter White
This episode’s cold open takes place during the events of the Pilot episode. After Walt gives Jesse his entire life’s savings to buy the RV with, Jesse spends most of it in a wild night with Combo and Skinny Pete at a local strip club, only to have Combo miraculously hook him up with the Winnebago at a moment’s notice in the morning.
The two main storylines in this episode have to do with that RV, and seeing where exactly it came from serves not only as a fun diversion, but as a direct impetus for Hank’s storyline, where he tracks down as many of that model RV as he can, eventually (after a notable mishap involving a game of strip poker and a skylight) coming across Combo’s mother, who tells him her son stole the RV and lets him into Combo’s room, a veritable shrine to her dead son. This is where Hank finds a picture of Jesse and Combo at the strip club, so long ago. This is a tough episode for Hank, as he not only struggles mightily in his search for the RV, but he finds out that Gomez will be replacing him in El Paso. Since the hunt or Heisenberg has been the only thing keeping him from having to confront exactly how he feels about what happened, both with Tuco and with Tortuga, he spends most of this episode lashing out at everyone around him, especially Marie.
Walt’s storyline takes a more direct, serial approach, starting off with himself, Jesse and Saul arguing over Walt receiving half of what Jesse believes to be his money (from the meth he made in that very RV). Walt then pays a visit to Gus, calling him out on his “obvious ploy” to appeal to Walt’s pride as a chemist, which Walt categorically denies with the very quote at the top of this page and in the title of this series. Gus then apologizes for “being transparent,” lowering Walt’s defenses and, after bringing him to Gus’ new superlab below an industrial laundry. It is there, in Gus’ new chemical playground, that he appeals to a different version of Walt’s pride: his pride as a father. “What does a man do, Walter? A man provides.” Walt, eventually agrees, though in his mind, he does so because Gus has no other option. Gus plays him so masterfully that he doesn’t even know he’s been played, marking the second time in this season that Gus has treated him like the pawn he’s very much allowing himself to be. It is this relationship, these new chains Walter has to break himself out of, that defines the conflict for the rest of the season. Still, Walt doesn’t know all of that yet, and the first thing he does with newfound economical stability is cut Jesse off. “I’m in, you’re out,” he sneers, and Jesse takes out his rage on Walt’s poor windshield.
While there are other small plots in this episode, mainly to do with Skyler’s disillusionment of any moral high ground and her loss of interest in Ted, they are ultimately secondary (though Skyler finding Walt’s signature on the divorce agreement speaks volumes towards her mindset). This is an episode about how, in the end, Walt’s “series of very bad decisions,” as he calls it, is the only thing in his life that gives him any satisfaction, and how the hunt for him is that same lone thing for Hank as well. It’s a sad little dance they do, and it’s one of the foundations of the entire show. After all, Walt wouldn’t be doing this if Hank hadn’t brought him on a ride-along that fateful day.
Season 3, Episode 6: Sunset
“The Starship Enterprise had a self-destruct button. I’m just saying.”- Saul Goodman
Another simple cold open this time, where the Cousins murder a Homeland Defense Cop named Bobby as he checks out the house they’ve been squatting in. Straightforward stuff, letting us know what they’ve been up to. When they show up at Los Pollos Hermanos, however, that is a little less straightforward. As Juan Bolsa said, they are not willing to take no for an answer. They want Walt’s blood. Gus just got the man cooking again, and he has to protect his investment. Eventually, he tells them to meet him at sunset (hey, that’s the name of the episode!).
Speaking of his investment, we get to see Walt’s first day at his “new job,” replete with brown bagging his own lunch and his meeting the bouncy, dorky Gale Boetticher, his new assistant. Gale is, in every way, Walt’s ideal lab partner, as likely to engage him in chess as he is to recite Walt Whitman’s poems to him. Jesse’s making a sizable investment himself, getting Badger and Skinny Pete back onboard the now Heisenberg-free Pinkman Meth Express. Little does he know Hank is staking out his house and taking note upon the comings and goings. All these disparate storylines coalesce when, after a while of inactivity, Hank calls up Walt and asks him if he ever saw Jesse’s RV. Walt, in a panic, calls Saul, who tells him to get rid of the RV as quickly as he can. Walt arrives at Clovis’ scrap yard, where, while he and Clovis work as quickly as they can to find a way to destroy the RV, Badger calls Jesse, who of course speeds right over, Hank on his tail.
Later, at the junk yard where the RV is to be smashed “beyond recovery,” Walt spends a moment inside, reminiscing about all the misadventures he’s had, when suddenly, as if he was summoned, Jesse bursts in. Before the argument can even start, Walt realizes that Hank must be right behind him. Sure enough, he is, and thus begins one of the most nerve-wracking scenes in the history of the show, as Walt scrambles to find a way out of this situation without letting Hank know he’s there, Hank scrambles to find a way inside, and Jesse just plain scrambles. With a little legal assistance from the owner (who remains one of the best one-off characters in the show), they manage to force Hank to get a warrant, giving Walt enough time to again call Saul, giving him Hank’s contact information. Saul uses this information to have his secretary call Hank’s cell phone to tell him Marie has been in an accident and he’s needed at the hospital. Hank takes off like a bat out of hell, giving Walt and Jesse enough time to destroy the RV and make their escape.
The episodes ends where it began, with the Cousins int he desert. This time, they’re joined by Gus, at sunset, where he tells them that while he won’t allow them to kill Walt, he will allow them to take revenge upon the man who actually killed Tuco: Hank. This is a plot episode, where a bunch of proverbial shit hits a bunch of proverbial fans and the Cousins finally get themselves a target. May his death satisfy them.
Season 3, Episode 7: One Minute
“I think I’m done as a cop.”- Hank Schrader
This episode, “One Minute,” is one of the most powerful character hours the show has ever done. It’s a culmination of all of Hank’s storylines thus far, and in respect of that, and how well Dean Norris carries it, I’m going to spend the majority of this recap tracing the path he and the Cousins take towards their inexorable showdown.
We start off in a flashback, where a younger Tio teaches the Cousins a brutal lesson about the importance of family. Later, we see them buying bulletproof vests from a…colorful local merchant, who gives them a free sample, a hollow point bullet. Hank, meanwhile, starts off the episode arriving at Jesse’s house and beating him half to death in a fit of rage. This is the final straw in Hank’s breakdown, as he makes no attempt to hide what he has done to anyone, willfully accepting his fate. He doesn’t make up a cover story, he doesn’t bullshit, he simply tells both ASAC Merkert and the police that he stormed in and beat the shit out of Jesse based on a suspicion. While this may seem like Hank’s entire life coming apart, the truth is he treats these scenes as something of a rebirth, seeming at peace with himself for the first time in a long time. When he tells Marie that he’s not the man he thought he was and that he thinks he’s done as a cop, he doesn’t seem sad as much as he seems relieved. He seems, as Walt might have said it in season one, “awake.”
So this makes it all the more crushing when Hank, just after buying some flowers for his wife, gets a phone call from a still mysterious caller who tells him that two men are coming to kill him in the parking lot, and that he has one minute until they arrive. After suffering another panic attack, Hank finally snaps into motion, getting the jump on Leonel with his SUV, crushing him and removing him from the confrontation. When Marco fires on him, Hank manages to escape and get the jump on him too, proving the cousins’ preparation a good plan, as the bulletproof vests they bought save Marco from Hank’s assault, gunning the agent down as he tries to reload. Instead of just killing him then and there, Marco has a sudden flair for the dramatic, retrieving his axe so he can finish Hank off in the way he deserves. This gives Hank enough time to grab the free hollow point Marco had been holding, dropped to the ground without a care. He uses this bullet to blow Marco’s head apart, ending the confrontation and the episode on a violent pitch the likes of which the show hasn’t seen before, with the fates of both Hank and Leonel up in the air.
The only other plotting in this hour concerns Walter, and his behind the scenes efforts to keep Jesse from using this incident to either destroy Hank’s entire life or even turn on Walt, as he says he’ll do if he gets caught. After some pressure from Skyler, he makes Jesse an offer to work with him again, supplanting Gale as Walt’s new lab assistant. Walt of course makes up an excuse to be rid of the poor Gale, who just last episode seemed almost starstruck by the man. Jesse, to his credit, seems to have come to a realization. He isn’t the bad guy; Walt is. Everything that’s happened, the cascade of terrible events, can be blamed almost entirely on Walt. This makes it all the sadder for him when he eventually accepts Walt’s offer, going right back and making the same decision he’s been making, the same one that’s drug him down into nothing and destroyed everything he ever loved. I end this recap with that choice, with Jesse, because it’s the saddest and best example of his character. He wants to be accepted, even if it’s by someone like Walt. And when Walt tells him his meth was good, he still thinks Walt cares about him, even if everything he’s seen tells him otherwise. That comes back into play before the season’s done.