Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.
“You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain.”
Walter White became a drug dealer to aggressively restore control over his life and the fate of his family after being diagnosed with cancer. The first two episodes of the third season have, unbeknownst to him, introduced a vengeful, eerily superstitious enemy spurred by this decision. It’s not the first time Walter White has faced violent opposition, but it’s the first time the severity has been emphasized using skulls, voodoo offerings, a black Mercedes, and a Ouija board. By now we’ve also learned to pay attention to episode titles, and “Caballo Sin Nombre,” or “Horse with No Name,” is no different.
The title is a direct reference to the song “A Horse with No Name,” by the band America, and Walt is shown singing the lyrics at the ep’s beginning and end. On both occasions he’s blindly visited by two threats in the clashing forms of law and chaos. It’s a great use of music because, for one, the song’s lyrics famously don’t make a lot of sense and yet the track creates a manly sense of importance and dignity in being lost and alone. The song is also thought to be about escapism via drugs (specifically heroin), and Walt is still high, albeit from the power of capitalizing on other people’s.
“Get back on the horse and do what you do best.” – Saul Goodman to Walter White in “Caballo Sin Nombre”
Recently, I revisited some of the first season, and there are parallels to the new episodes that haven’t been noted or fully explored. When Walter is pulled over in this ep, it recalls a scene from the debut season. Previously, the sound and sight of police on the highway resulted in him pulling over, and immediately contemplating the life he had chosen. It’s a false alarm. But here’s it’s the same setting, a similar situation, but a new Mr. White. There’s no paranoia or fear on his face, just pride and anger.
When the cop proceeds to point to Walt’s cracked windshield—caused by the airline disaster—Walt doesn’t hesitate to exit his vehicle and explode on the officer. “Hellfire rained down on my house! Where my children sleep!” Pepper spray then rains down on his eyeballs, and we get a close-up of Walt’s arrested face. He looks like a blind man helplessly wandering the River Styx.
Soon thereafter—following Hank‘s convenient rescue—Walt has an impromptu meeting with Saul Goodman, Esquire back at the depressing (and ever dimly lit) room he’s renting. Saul, frothing at the bit for Walt to restart his meth business. encourages him to forget his soon-to-be ex wife and look for a woman from Thailand or the Czech Republic. Broads from those places are more grateful, he shares. Walter feigns that he “can’t be the bad guy” any more; the line directly contrasts with Jesse’s realization in the premiere that he is, in fact, the bad guy, and so is Walt.
Speaking of Jesse, he’s doing swimmingly. A rehab coin dangles from the rear-view mirror of his hoopty on an afternoon cruise by his home—the one his aunt left him. He soon finds that his parents have spruced it up and put it on the fucked market. Tough break. But Jesse 3.0 takes it in stride and even has a friendly chat with his dad on the lawn. His dad compliments his sober and collected appearance, but it’s not enough to earn Jesse a tour of the renovations, nor a home cooked meal. (Recall that the last time Jesse had dinner with his fam, he later vouched that his preppy younger brother’s joint was his own and was promptly banished.)
In what I can only imagine is one of the few humorous subplots this season, Jesse hires Saul to purchase the house from his ‘rents at half its value, using knowledge of the meth lab to seal the deal. The look on Jesse’s parents’ faces as he unlocks the front door is priceless—his dad almost looks impressed. The Pinkman savvy didn’t bypass a generation after all, it just swerved off the road indefinitely.
We get a better idea of the black market interconnectedness and hierarchy of characters in this ep: Saul calls Mike The Cleaner from last season (who, it turns out, has a young daughter of his own) and alerts him of Walter’s possible “wife problem.” Mike (who come to think of it, Walt now closely resembles) proceeds to install bugs into the Whites’ home in case Skyler narcs. Walt almost discovers Mike when he pulls up unannounced, but Mike sneaks back out front and into his car; it’s then that The Cousins from Juarez pull up brandishing an axe and enter Walt’s otherwise unoccupied home as he’s in the shower. Mike makes a call to Gus, who evidently texts th Cousins to kibosh the deranged hit—a hit endorsed by the mute uncle of the late Tuco. The sequence is set to a song by Timber Timbre entitled “Magic Arrow,” and while the intensity is great, it’s almost too cinematic and urgent to be believable.
Again singing “A Horse with No Name” as he dries off, Walt has no idea how close he was to becoming a Jackson Pollock. The only hint is represented, ironically, by the eye of the ominous stuffed animal from last season, which Walt curiously now totes around. Why does he need an afterthought keepsake from the airline disaster? Breaking Bad rarely allows the audience to know more than Walter White, so the ep ends on a truly unsettling feeling. We’re used to him relying on his scientific wits and wallops to squeeze out of death’s door; but science can’t begin to explain to him how an entire pizza landed intact on the roof, let alone account for a toy eye moving a couple of inches. Walt’s left to entertain bigger forces, and therefore his sanity.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on AMC. For previous episode recaps, click here.
Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila/gmail and followed on Twitter.