Breaking Bad: “Say My Name”
WARNING: This episode recap contains a major spoiler.
After the action-packed one-two punch of “Dead Freight” and “Buyout,” this episode was a slow burn, one full of a creeping sense of dread — about the fate of Mike — that proved to be all too accurate.
The episode starts off in classic Breaking Bad fashion, with Walt, Jesse and Mike driving through the desert, silently brooding, Walt having convinced the team yet again to reluctantly go along with one of his schemes. When they arrive at their destination, Walt goes into full Heisenberg mode and smooth-talks the rival gang into a partnership, even making the leader say his name as though busting out some kind of vanilla-S&M sex banter.
One of the criticisms I hear from Breaking Bad’s few detractors is that Walt’s continually staying ahead of the law, not to mention criminal rivals, is unrealistic, and this scene did push the limits of credulity a bit. Still, it’s drama not documentary, and Walt’s speech, in which he brazenly compares himself to the New York Yankees and Coca-Cola, was pretty awesome. His later rant to Jesse, trying to convince him to stay on board, was less impressive — the human sentiments unconvincing, the manipulation too overt — and less effective on its target.
Later, when the lawyer for Fring’s ex-henchmen drops off piles of cash in safety deposit boxes, Todd Schnauz (a series producer making his debut here as both writer and director) pulls off a nice suspense fake-out. It’s a (too) familiar trope from horror movies that when the frame ends at an actor’s back, he or she is most likely going to turn around as the camera pans over to find the villain there. Schnauz seems to set this up with the bank employee, but when the pan happens there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on — although it serves as a bit of foreshadowing for when the lawyer is caught in the act by a triumphantly grinning Gomie.
Hank gets a dressing-down for refusing to let the Fring case go, but he gets a brainwave that sets the wheels in motion for the episode’s tragic end. Of course, the odds for Mike surviving this season were bad ever since Walt mused obliquely about Mike “flying too close to the sun” in “Hazard Pay,” and of course it’s practically a law of crime drama that when someone wants out of the game, their days are numbered. (It pains me to say it, but Jesse had better watch his back).
So his demise was telegraphed pretty clearly, but still, what a shame to see one of the show’s best characters go out. Jonathan Banks’s performance was a masterpiece of subtle facial movements — his look when he has to abandon his granddaughter to save himself was heartbreaking, and his expression as he sits bleeding to death, a sort of mild irritation mixed with resignation, was sheer perfection.
We’ll miss you, Mike. Meanwhile, only one episode left…
- Walt, topping off his self-aggrandizing rant to the rival gang: “Say my name… you’re goddamn right.”
- Mike’s final deadpan: “Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.”
- This time, Walt’s tears in Hank’s office were more transparently fake — but still awkward enough to drive Hank out, allowing Walter to debug the place.
- Walt, as paranoid as ever, seems to see something ominous in Mike and Jesse’s handshake. Again: Jesse, watch your back.
- Maybe I’m just being optimistic, but is it possible that Mike didn’t really die? After all, it’s not like he was shot in the head. He’s just the kind of clever guy who would keel over bleeding and then play dead. Probably not, but a guy can dream. ■