Madrigal (Breaking Bad)

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"Madrigal"
Breaking Bad episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 2
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Vince Gilligan
Original air date July 22, 2012 (2012-07-22)
Running time 47 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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Breaking Bad (season 5)
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"Madrigal" is the second episode of the fifth season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad, and the 48th overall episode of the series. Written by series creator Vince Gilligan and directed by Michelle MacLaren, it originally aired on AMC in the United States on July 22, 2012.

Plot[edit]

In Hanover, Germany, Peter Schuler (head of fast food operations for Madrigal Electromotive GmbH – the parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos – kills himself with a portable AED (automated external defibrillator), when local police arrive to question him about his longstanding relationship with Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

Back in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jesse (Aaron Paul) continues to panic over the missing ricin cigarette, worried that someone will find it and poison themselves. Walt (Bryan Cranston) hides the vial of poison behind an electrical outlet cover in his house and creates a fake one, planting it in Jesse's Roomba when he helps search Jesse's house for it. Jesse finds the fake ricin cigarette in his Roomba. Jesse tearfully laments what he believes is his own stupidity and apologizes to Walt for suspecting him of poisoning Brock. Walt and Jesse later meet with Mike (Jonathan Banks), and Walt offers him an equal, three-way partnership in a new meth operation (since Mike has contacts for ingredients, and other operational expertise, that he and Jesse lack). Mike coldly, explaining that although Jesse is unaware of it, Walter is a dangerous "time bomb" that Mike has no intention of being around (when he/it inevitably 'explodes').

Saul (Bob Odenkirk) points out the obvious to Walter: that Gus' elimination gave him freedom to safely and cleanly quit the drug trade. However, Walter justifies rebooting the meth business by claiming that it is a golden opportunity that he cannot afford to leave behind, since he's actually $40,000 in debt (Skyler (Anna Gunn) over $600,000 to Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins), and paid for Hank's (Dean Norris) home-based physical therapy; also, Walt recently borrowed money from Jesse). But the main obstacle to Walt & Jesse's comeback plan, is the need for a new source of methylamine, the precursor to their premium-grade version of meth.

Meanwhile, Hank takes part in a meeting between the DEA and Madrigal's German CEO, who claims Schuler was a lone criminal within the company and promises full cooperation with the law. Hank's boss George Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) reveals that he is being forced out of his job, as symbolic punishment by his superiors for failing to heed Hank's warnings about Gus. Merkert reflects on his friendship with Gus and wonders aloud who else might be leading a double life, which eventually seems to suddenly strike a chord with Hank.

An American Madrigal executive named Lydia (Laura Fraser) later meets with Mike and asks him to kill eleven men from Gus' operation in order to tie up any loose ends. Mike refuses, because Gus paid them enough to keep quiet; however, when he is called in to meet with Hank and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), Mike learns the authorities have discovered -- and, seized -- all of the multimillion-dollar offshore bank accounts Gus had set up for key underlings in his local meth operation. Mike is affected, as well, since his offshore account (set up in his 5-year-old granddaughter's name) was worth $2 million. On Mike's way into his interview at the DEA offices, he runs into a visibly-scared Duane Chow (James Ning) -- Gus' methylamine supplier -- who was just leaving his DEA interview.

Later, Chow calls Mike, inviting him to his home to discuss their shared problem with the police. Mike correctly suspects that it is a set-up and gets the jump on Chris, one of his former men, who has already killed Chow. Chris explains that Lydia had contracted him to kill everyone after Mike refused, as he needs the money since Gus' payments have been seized by the law. Mike kills Chris and later breaks into Lydia's house in Houston, Texas. As he is about to execute her, Lydia's panicked pleas about her daughter affect him. He decides to spare Lydia in exchange for her becoming Walter's new methylamine supplier. Mike calls Walter and accepts a partnership in Walter's new meth operation.

Walter and Skyler's relationship reaches yet another crossroads. Skyler has become paralyzed by feelings of overwhelming fear and helplessness at the type of person she now realizes Walter has become -- so terrified, that she continues to give him 'the silent treatment' (because she no longer knows what to even say to him). Walter has to talk his now-depressed and emotionally distant wife into going to work (at their car wash), instead of staying in bed all day. Walter repeatedly -- although, gently -- makes gestures of goodwill toward Skyler meant to reassure her; but, they are fruitless. The episode ends at night in their bedroom, as Walt joins Skyler (who skipped dinner in order to go back to bed) in bed for the night. With Skyler's back turned to him and looking outward into space, she silently fights back tears while her face registers exactly how trapped and distraught she feels. As she suffers in silence, Walt begins to gently suggest how/why it's for the best that she accept the new phase their lives have entered, and again hints at remorse for what happened to Ted Beneke. Even though her back is still facing him, Walt continues to reassure Skyler on how things are much better than she thinks they are -- while escalating sexual foreplay on her. Looking anxious, lost, and perhaps on the verge of some kind of outcry, Skyler remains completely quiet as the scene suddenly cuts to black.

Production[edit]

Breaking Bad creator and episode writer Vince Gilligan spoke about opening the episode at Madrigal: "We always like to surprise our viewers, and the idea of suddenly opening in Germany seemed like fun. We also wanted to start showing you the business of Madrigal, the company that financed Gus Fring. Is Madrigal all corrupt? Or was it just a couple of executives?" He also spoke about Jonathan Banks, who was the main focus of the episode, and Mike's evolving over the series: "It’s a testament to the great actors on this show – Aaron Paul, Dean Norris who plays Hank – that those characters became more important over time. Jonathan Banks is just fantastic in the role." When asked if Mike was watching The Caine Mutiny in the episode, Vince stated: "That is The Caine Mutiny, one of my very favorite movies. I was very lucky with that, actually, because it can be very expensive to use clips of movies, which is why you don't see too many clips on the show. But Caine Mutiny is owned by Sony/Columbia, our parent company. And yes, it may have some connection to where Walt is at this point."[1]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

The episode was watched by approximately 2.29 million American viewers on its original broadcast, down from its series-high ratings of 2.93 million viewers the previous week.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received critical acclaim with many critics considering it a step up from the season premiere and praising Jonathan Banks' performance. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called "Madrigal" "terrific", stating: "One of the methods to Breaking Bad '​s endless fascination is the way it unfurls maps of inter-dependence. Certain characters may like to see themselves as independent agents, as lone wolves, but everyone is dependent upon someone else – someone else's errors, or rare twinge of good conscience – and thus must remain part of a group. It's a braided metaphor for the reasons we form societies." He did, however, wish the episode ended "more forcefully" with Mike making the reluctant phone call to Walt, rather than ending with the Walt/Skyler bedroom scene.[3] TV Fanatic '​s Matt Richenthal gave the episode 4.8 out of 5 stars, commenting: "Through its attention to detail, direction and dialogue, Breaking Bad possesses an uncanny ability to enrapture and enthrall. You can't help but be invested in every moment." He also commented on Jonathan Banks' performance: "Overall, just a terrific showcase this week for Jonathan Banks. His portrayal of Mike paints the picture of an exasperated career criminal who excels at the game ... and is resigned to his fate. He's funny ... and he somehow manages to be the moral center of this operation, despite his willingness to kill and kill and kill."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Franich, Darren (July 23, 2012). "'Breaking Bad': Showrunner Vince Gilligan talks about 'Madrigal'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  2. ^ Bibel, Sara (July 24, 2012). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'True Blood' Wins Night, 'Breaking Bad', 'Falling Skies', 'Army Wives', 'The Newsroom', 'Longmire' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ Tucker, Ken (July 22, 2012). "'Breaking Bad' review: 'You are a time bomb'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ Richenthal, Matt (July 22, 2012). "Breaking Bad Review: Prophylactic Measures". TV Fanatic. Retrieved July 24, 2012. 

External links[edit]