After Walt learns from Marie that Skyler has had a breakdown, he not only falsely blames and reveals her affair with Ted, he recognizes how shattered and frightened his wife has become since truly learning what her husband is capable of. His reaction: to gather their children around the television and blare the conclusion of Brian de Palma’s Scarface, cheering on the hyper-carnage to rouse Skyler from her self-imposed seclusion in the bedroom.
Walt once again asserts absolute control, here showing Skyler that her fears mean nothing to him – other than a novel avenue to exploit her. By encouraging Walt Jr. to yell in enthusiasm as Al Pacino guns down everyone onscreen in an almost ecstatic frenzy, Walt hints that he may rope their son into the family business. He even stages baby Holly in the front of the television to make clear that innocence is lost completely.
Bryan Cranston has to be good here: he’s moved so far from his character at the outset of the first season that it would be difficult to buy the trajectory without his performance. As it is, I’m a bit with Skyler: even I’m stunned that this is Walt, and I was along for the whole ride.
Walt’s reactions to Mike’s commands and explanations of overhead are nearly as ominous. Walt won’t share power or take orders for long since his ego is soaring so wildly high. In fact, I believe we’re supposed to see the irony in Walt’s warning to Jesse about Icarus ascending: rather than wonder if Walt is directing the analogy at Mike or Jesse, I am focused on Walt’s apparent obliviousness to its application to himself.
Mike (Jonathan Banks) may be in real trouble, and I now am re-thinking the upcoming Walt/Lydia introduction. Rather than antagonists, I see them as possible collaborators. They share the common goal of removing Mike, Walt for desiring full control, Lydia (Laura Fraser) to keep her name untraceable to Gus Fring.
Moreover, both Walt and Lydia are upset about Mike’s men.
Walt resents the deep cut that the men pull from the current profits with their hush money, aptly termed by Gus Fring their “legacy” money, which must now come exclusively from meth sales since the offshore accounts have been discovered and frozen. Walt considers the payouts a pointless leftover from the reign of Gustavo Fring; Walt is king now, and he doesn’t recognize any of his forerunner’s subjects.
Who’da thunk Mike would carry the torch of business ethics in this operation?
Meanwhile, Lydia has already defied Mike in attempting to arrange an astonishing series of eleven hits to erase any connection between Fring’s operation and Madrigal, the German corporation she holds a high-level position at, one which also seems to have placed her at the crux where she, Madrigal, Herr Schuler (who last week entered and exited the series in a single, highly memorable sequence), Gus, Gale, and the meth trade aligned. Schuler, Gus, and Gale are now gone, leaving only Lydia standing, a lone target for the DEA.
Lydia seems high-strung and impulsive in contrast to Walt’s cool and calculating character. However, at this point they both appear reckless, Walt out of hubris and Lydia out of panic. Paired up, they may find each other assets rather than antagonists, at least initially. I feel excited for this meet-and-greet! The downside: Mike making the introductions may result in his own conclusion.