Breaking Bad Recap: Episode 6 "Sunset" Traps Jesse And Walt In A Thrilling Corner

/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.

This is my own private domicile. I will not be harassed, bitch!" – Jesse Pinkman

From an opening shot of two blazers belonging to the Cousins of Death hanging on a clothesline against a glaring desert "Sunset," the sixth episode was imbued with the showdowns and imagery of a modern Western. The structure was free of flashbacks and high on pressure-cooker drama, with no less than three showdowns, the most memorable of which saw Walt and Jesse unexpectedly mourn a great, unsung character of sorts. And the season continued to focus on Hank's wellbeing and search for self, the loner sheriff to Jesse and Walt's bickering cocksure outlaws. Between the panic attacks, the fast food stakeouts, and a strenuous, ever-lonely professional and domestic life: will Hank break before he breaks the case of his life?

bb64The "Rolling Lab" Rolls No More

Destruction can be cathartic, and watching Jesse and Walt watch their RV—their first lab, their hangout, their would-be coffin, their home aka "domicile"—be torn apart and crushed, as if by time itself, brought on a lot of feelings. Changes. When Walt finally packed up and left his home this season, there was not a scene where he thoughtfully walked his fingertips atop the table of his den or the countertop of his kitchen. But with fate's clock ticking on the RV's destruction, he couldn't resist a private goodbye. He lifts a tarp and quickly reminisces over his first cooking set-up. And Jesse's leftover Funyuns. Aw.

Seconds before Walt can place a kiss on the steering wheel: hello paranoia. Jesse bursts in. He unleashes on Walt for attempting to literally squash his fledgling, competing empire of "Jolly Rancher-sized" meth. And then, in a classic Breaking Bad oh-fuck moment, Hank pulls up behind the RV. We know from the smile on his face that Hank can't believe his luck. We know from past eps that he shouldn't. Jesse paces back and forth. His solution is to "ram" Hank's jeep and make a fast break. (To where Jesse?) Conjuring the good ol' days of MacGyver-like buzzer beaters, Walt sits down and brainstorms.

bb610Old Joe, a hippie junkyard owner (Larry Hankin, in a rad performance we hope to see more of), pesters Hank over search warrant minutiae, giving the comically-screwed duo invaluable time. Old Joe knows the law like Hank knows doughnuts, and immediately he seems like a smarter and more trustworthy storage connect and alibi than Badger's cousin, Clovis, who made a brief appearance earlier. (Clovis, Badger, and Walt get into a spat that ends with Walt yelling, "If I go down, we all go down!")

Better call Saul. In "Sunset" we are again shocked at how low Saul will go—and again impressed by his remarkable dedication—to save a wealthy client's ass. With Hank circling the RV, Walt pleads with Saul to act fast. Bingo. Saul has his nonplussed secretary call Hank's cell and impersonate a local officer—a felony. She informs Hank that his wife was just in a car accident and has been "air-lifted" to the hospital. Hank, good husband that he is, leaves the scene. But given the break in the case and Hank's tireless hunt for the RV, I'm unclear on why he didn't call back-up—and if he did, it never arrived—or at least report Pinkman. Delay the situation, not unlike how Old Joe did.

Nevertheless, the scene with Hank rushing into the hospital shot-puts the conflict of Jesse vs. Hank into a realm far beyond police duty. On the verge of a severe panic attack in the ER lobby, Hank's cheesy ringtone sounds out with the dark bite of a prank courtesy of The Joker. His wife...wants to know when he'll be home for dinner. Pinkman, you are on the fuckin' menu.

bb621Walt Brown Bags It. Reports to Hell Lab. Meets Gale Boetticher, Peculiar Lab Assistant

I love that Walt habitually cuts the crust off his sandwiches. Again, is this new habit a conscious and private tribute to Krazy 8, whom Walt murdered in season one? (Krazy 8 memorably preferred his last sandwich sans crust, to Walt's mild surprise.) Is it a subconscious manifestation of guilt over that homicide? Or does it merely show us how Walt's identity is being shaped, down to his meals, by months of criminal encounters?

Like most drug dealers, Walt has horrible taste in furniture and art. In a minor development, he makes an offer on a "model" apartment and moves in...

"Name one thing in this world that is not negotiable." – Walt to a dim-witted apartment broker

New pad, new office, new assistant. On his first day at Gus's Hell Lab, Walt is informally introduced to his new workmate, a nervous, chubby, quite bright man named Gale. Off the bat, the guy is more than prepared to show Walt his resume—a master's degree in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado, etc. First impression: Gale's too eager to please, and thus likely not to respond well to sharp criticism. But unlike Jesse he knows his science, and he even uses it to brew a mean pot of coffee—look at all of those tubes-and-knobs!—that would brighten the eyes of Mr. Wizard.

Walt and Gale celebrate their first mean pot of meth with a bottle of good wine and mutual pats on the back. And then Gale, on request, recites the Walt Whitman poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Walt is touched and we later see him reading from a newly acquired copy of Whitman's poetry. (Note: Drug dealers are fond of Whitman this year, see Edward Norton's Leaves of Grass.)

"If I'm not supplying it, [meth customers] will get it from somewhere else. At with me, they're getting exactly what they paid for. No added toxins." – Gale, justifying his criminal life to Walt

"I am the man that I am son." – Walt, justifying the reasons for his separation from Skyler (and his criminal life) to Walt Jr.

bb65The Cousins of Death are Double Down to Murder Hank

The title of episode six references the time of day Gus and the Cousins meet to discuss—-discuss, the Cousins speak for the first time—the looming hit on Heisenberg. The two bald killers have left a wake of bodies north of the border this season, and the ep begins with them axing down a cop (who discovered the corpse of a woman they killed before taking over her residence).

So far, the third season hasn't given viewers a clear idea of how the local media is responding to, if not linking, the Cousins' murders; nor do we really grasp how the media is responding to New Mexico's rising drug wave and illegal immigration problems in general. In an earlier episode, we learned of the suicide attempt of Jane's father over the radio, and the season's premiere contained a flurry of newscasts—but perhaps it would benefit the series' widening scope to pan out. I've also seen other fans note how little we have seen of drug addicts this season—the untold damage done by Walt's product as it spreads across several states and perhaps further.

Never hesitant to show their faces in public, the Cousins enter Los Pollos Hermandos and wait silently and boldly at a table. The scene reminded me of two cowboys entering a saloon and waiting for the owner to make a move. The Cousins evidently don't like chicken or soda—we learn via the restaurant's young female manager that they've been there before and never ordered. She seems irritated by their presence and perhaps a little suspicious, since Gus doesn't ask them to leave.

Eventually, he has no other option and speaks directly at the Cousins in Spanish, a brief inconvenience to his work day facade. Later at their meeting—the sky lit up with color—Gus and the Cousins reach a compromise: the duo can't kill Heisenberg, but they now have permission from "north of the border" to slay Hank. He is the man, Gus calmly reminds them, who killed Tuco. The Cousins are double down, but they express hesitance since killing DEA is off limits where they come from. (Yet, they take an ax to a regular cop and revel in it.) You have to wonder if Hank, recently working without a partner, can survive not just the Cousins but the stress of another Tuco-like encounter.

Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on AMC. For previous /Film episode recaps, click here.Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila/gmail and followed on Twitter.