The fifth season of Breaking Bad has begun, and my obsession with Gus Fring shows no hint of abatement.
Mike’s return from the makeshift ER in Mexico suggests that I’ll learn more about Fring as the season moves forward, but then, Mike really know how to keep his trap shut. Note the poker face he maintains after Hank announces that the two million bucks in his granddaughter Kaylee’s name in an account in the Caymans will most likely be seized by the government.
Not that the news doesn’t have an effect: by the end of the episode, Mike finds monetary opportunity in the face of the woman, our new character Lydia, he is about to kill in retaliation for her ordering a hit on Chow and ten other of Mike’s “solid men.” In changing his mind and bartering meth materials for Lydia’s life, Mike becomes the link tying together Gus Fring, Madrigal, Walter White, and Lydia. The Walter White connection hasn’t been made yet, but it’s on the horizon, and I anticipate mutual hatred and devious plots.
When I saw you in the courthouse, I just knew this episode would be our goodbye.
Welcome Lydia. I think.
She’s a very odd character, snippy and snobbish and apparently quite out of her realm with on-the-ground decision-making and Mike-defying errors.
The Scottish actress who plays her, Laura Fraser, reminds me of a cross between Alison Brie (Annie from Community and Trudie from Mad Men) and Madeline Stowe, currently making her comeback in Revenge, which remarkably failed to capture Raúl’s sustained attention, despite one of his favorite themes: revenge.
Maybe it’s this combination that bothers me. She should be a lot less Alison Brie and a lot more Madeline Stowe if she’s going to convince me she’s a high-level operative in an international drug ring with ties from Albuquerque to Germany.
Her incognito scene with Mike in the diner came off as comedy, which I believe Vince Gilligan meant, especially with Mike demanding that she take off her sunglasses since he felt like he was talking to Jackie O. However, she does not present much of a threat so far, other than making somewhat expansive and ill-conceived decisions, like ordering the murder of 11 or 12 people. This brittle, nervous high-level executive cannot even effectively order in a diner. How can she function as a druglord?
She seems the opposite of Gustavo Fring: Lydia is unable to traverse territory from an established, pampered circle of wealth to the world of cartels and meth-makers. She is so sheltered cannot even manage the middle ground of common diner, where she makes a borderline spectacle of herself attempting to order something other than Lipton tea, adopts a ridiculous espionage persona with her back to Mike and preposterous sunglasses on her head, and makes a risible fumble using an improvised pseudonym for Mike when the waitress knows him as a regular.
So how did she come to her position as a major player, apparently one who can lay her hands on the chemicals Walt prizes in his crystal recipe?
Has she functioned as Gus’s main liaison to Madrigal, the German corporation so intertwined with the New Mexico meth trade that the executive in Germany opted for a stunning suicide via defibrillator in lieu of a police interrogation?
Lydia’s character has been described in publicity as calculating, but she’s going to need a whole lot of improvement in that area before she goes up against Walt, who last season out-maneuvered even Gus Fring and is now pulling even sly Saul’s strings while continuing to manipulate Jesse more deeply than ever before.
So far we’ve seen that Lydia is ruthless – ordering the hit of 11 men – but also reckless and naïve. What would draw the D.E.A.’s focus even more than having everyone on their interrogation list end up like Chow on the sofa? And how could she think defying Mike, Gus’s right arm, could turn out well? She’s going to have to learn to transfer her executive boardroom skills to the meth market if she deals with Mike, or Mr. Ehrmantraut, as he prefers to be called during police interrogations. And Lydia hasn’t even met Walter White.
I hold out hope that Lydia helps shine light on the mysterious Gustavo Fring. I hold out further hope that she can come across as more than a wealthy woman prone to fits of micro-hysteria with has no business being in the drug business. C’mon, Lydia, surprise us.