Kafkaesque

AMC’s Albuquerque set Breaking Bad is one of the most exciting and fascinating shows on TV right now. This season has focused on the corporatization of Walt and Jesse’s meth business. In a bid to not do business with sociopaths like Crazy-8 and Tuco, Walt forms an uneasy alliance with Gus, the owner of Los Pollos Hermanos. Los Pollos is a chain of fast food style chicken restaurants. Last night’s episode, Kafkaesque, started by showing a pastoral scene of Old Mexico where Los Pollos first emerged. The advertisement for the fictional chicken chain then shifted into vividly describing the spices that are added to the chicken. Finally, the scene cuts to Walt’s production of meth. The meth is packaged with the chicken and distributed with the Los Pollos franchises as a front. From the very first scene of the episode, things are simply not what they seem.
Jesse’s struggle to be a western outlaw is challenged by his delightfully crooked lawyer, Saul Goodman. In one of Kafkaesque’s funniest scenes Saul describes the process of money laundering to Jesse with his feet soaking in a nail salon solution. The nail salon is supposed to be a front for the drug money. However, Jesse doesn’t accept that he has to be concerned with taxes, laundering of funds, and any kind of adult crime responsibilities. He craves the independence of just cooking meth out in the desert inside of their now destroyed camper. Outlaws shouldn’t have to worry about taxes.
The episode’s most poignant scene also belongs to Jesse. During a meeting of his drug addiction support group, Jesse describes making a box in a wood working class in high school. He tells how first he just wanted to get the box done so he could skate by with a D in the class and ditch the rest of the semester. However, the shop teacher asks him if that’s really the best work he has. For some reason, Jesse chooses to really do his best work. He describes the process of sanding the wood, making it smooth, decorative, and even caring about the smell. The counselor asks what he did with the box and Jesse says he gave it to his mom. For a moment, everyone in the group believes him but then he tells the truth. He sold the box for an ounce of weed. That scene represents what’s best about Breaking Bad. We want to believe in these irrevocably flawed characters, but true metamorphosis remains doubtful.

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2 Responses to “Kafkaesque”

  1. Michael K. Johnson Says:

    Regarding Jesse’s story, it seems that he’s metaphorically about to repeat himself by trading away his new wonderfully made box (his new position at the amazingly immaculate meth lab) for the equivalent of an ounce of weed—to go back on the street peddling meth. That Jesse in particular seems to resist true metamorphosis is indicated by the end of the episode as well, where Jesse seems to be intent on turning the members of his substance abuse group into customers for his meth business.

    There were a couple of interesting moments of storytelling, when the scene is devoted to having a character tell a long narrative story. There’s Jesse’s story of the box, and then there’s the long story told by Skylar about Walt’s “gambling,” as a way of explaining how she and Walt have the financial ability to pay for Hank’s care. I like the series’ willingness to slow down and let the characters tell these stories.

    • desertpam Says:

      I agree with the show’s wonderful ability to let the characters tell extended stories. I also think that the show is able to efficiently tell complex “stories” in brief moments. In the previous episode, Marie, Walt Jr., and Skyler go to the hospital cafeteria and Marie is horrified by the water spots on the silverware. She wants to control the state of the fork, perhaps, because her husband was nearly killed. She needs for something to be within her control. That one moment tells us so much about where Marie is at.


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