Season 5, episode 5: “Dead Freight”

07 Aug

Breaking Bad, 5-4, “Dead Freight”


A young boy in a dusty black helmet and jean jacket rides a dirt bike over rough desert terrain, stopping to pick up a tarantula as big as his hand and put it in a glass jar. We hear a train whistle in the distance as he takes off again, the jar in his jacket pocket.

Scene 1: Hank’s new office

Hank puts a small framed picture of himself and Marie on the desk in his new office, as Gomez ushers Walt in the door, saying he “found him in the lobby.” Gomez leaves, and Hank notices Walt’s new watch. “New watch, new car – you deserve to treat yourself,” Hank says, smiling. “How’s Skyler?”

“She went to work today,” Walt says, adding that Skyler’s seeing a therapist named “Peter something in Rio Rancho…I wanted to thank you and Marie for watching the kids,” etc.

Finally Hank asks if there’s something else on Walt’s mind. “Feel free…”

“Skyler doesn’t love me anymore, and I don’t know what to do, Hank. She says that I’m a bad influence on the kids…a bad father.”

Hank gets up and lowers the blinds on the glass walls of his office, objecting that Walt’s “great with the kids – a provider, a role model…”

“I’ve made mistakes – you know that…” Hank, uncomfortable with all this emotion, offers to go get some coffee. “Hank, I’m sorry…”

After Hank leaves, Walt wipes his eyes (is he such a good actor now that he really was crying?), and puts bugs in Hank’s hard drive and behind the picture frame. Still holding the picture when Hank returns, he turns it around and says, “You two are really great together!”

“Take it from me, buddy. It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Scene 2: Lydia’s warehouse

We see Lydia’s pale face in total panic mode, as panicked music plays. Men are handcuffing her, who turn out to be Mike, Walt, and Jesse. Mike gives Lydia a script to read, saying “This is your last chance. I’m going to dial Agent Schrader, and you’re going to read this script, word for word.” He threatens to kill her if she cries or does anything that will make Hank suspicious.

Lydia identifies herself to the DEA operator as “Lydia Rodart Quayle.” Put through to Hank, she tells him that she’s found a tracking device “on one of our barrels of methylamine,” and asks him for guidance, not wanting “to interfere with any possible law enforcement operation.”

Jesse has a laptop open over which the group can hear Hank’s call to Gomez, who says the DEA didn’t plant the device. Mike says, “Now Schrader’s thinking there’s a heist planned. He’s gonna send a team to the warehouse and wire it up the wazoo. We’ll listen and find out how much time we have, and maybe we can get some of the barrels.”

“What about her?” Jesse asks.

“I’ll deal with her.”

“I didn’t do it!” Lydia protests.

Walt says grimly to Jesse, who’s always concerned to protect life, “Two against one.”

Then a call Hank makes to the Albuquerque Police Department crackles over the computer. Apparently, they tagged all the barrels of methylamine headed to that warehouse. Mike insists that Lydia is still “a loose cannon,” and when Jesse pleads for her, says, “The woman put a hit out on me.”

“A hit…like the Mafia?”

“Yeah, like the Mafia.”

Lydia starts offering the three not barrels of methylamine, but “an ocean of the stuff,” and we see her negotiating just with Walt, insisting that he swear on his children’s lives “that I won’t be harmed.”

“This ocean of methylamine that you claim you can get – how much are we talking about?”

“How does 24,000 gallons sound?”

Lydia unrolls a map, explaining that a tanker car of methylamine will be passing through a remote, “dark” stretch of New Mexico, en route to Texas and Oklahoma – a three-mile length of track over which the train’s two-man crew will be unable to contact anyone or set off an alarm. She says that after the train is “rebuilt in Flagstaff,” between midnight and 2 AM, she’ll have the details they need to stop the train and rob it, “like Jesse James,” as Jesse says later, incredulously.

Mike isn’t optimistic. “Bottom line – I’ve done this long enough to know that there are two kinds of heists – those where the guys get away with it, and those that leave witnesses.”

“Give me a break!” Lydia cries. “You guys were gonna murder me. I thought you were professionals.”

Scene 3: the Schraders’

Hank’s bouncing Holly, in a pink, mouse-eared cap, on his knee. He calls her “my little girl,” and says he’s not “givin’ her back.” True to the tradition of intensely colored Breaking Bad floors, there’s a deep electric-blue-colored shag rug on the living room floor.

A surly Junior comes out of one of the bedrooms and declines an offer of lasagna from Marie, who calls him “Flynn,” as well as an invitation to watch a movie with Hank. “No, and you can keep talking about me now,” he says, going back in his room. Guess he just came out to deliver that line…

Scene 4: Jesse’s, the heist site

Walt, Mike, and Jesse conspire, Mike suggesting going back to a pseudo cook, and Walt objecting that that would cut their profits by four or five times and require different equipment. “Making less money is better than making nothing,” Mike says. He and Walt stand in the center of Jesse’s living room, while Jesse sits on the couch.

“And we can’t make nothing, because of your nine guys,” Walt says. We see Jesse thinking, as he plays with a drink and a straw. The camera zeroes in on him, as he says to dumbfounded looks from the other two: “We can rip off that train, and no one will ever know it got robbed.”

Next we see Walt, in the Heisenberg hat, standing on railroad tracks in rough desert country. “Maybe, just maybe…” Mike and Jesse are there, too, and the three start to walk the track, Jesse measuring the distance. A dust storm starts to blow up as they get to an elevated section of track spanning a gully.

“It’s perfect,” Jesse says. “Yeah! We do it right here!”

We see an excavator digging a shallow pit and lowering two white plastic tanks into it, then Todd inserting a hose into one of the tanks as Walt explains that one’s for the methylamine, one for the water they’ll put into the tanker car to “make the weight.” He tells Todd that stealing methylamine is a major crime and “no one but us can ever know it went down.” They’ll steal 1,000 gallons of methylamine, and use the water to create a 4% dilution of what remains in the tanker car. Walt says, “They’ll blame China for sending a marginally weaker batch.”

“Damn,” Todd says, “you guys thought of everything!” Everything but the possibility that you might be a loose cannon…

Scene 5: Casa Blanca

When Walt gets home, Skyler tells him, “You got what you wanted.” Junior’s home – holed up in his room and refusing to talk to her. Walt talks to Junior through the door, telling him that, as a child, he has to do what his parents ask. He tells Skyler, “It’ll pass – he’ll understand.” Husband and wife then proceed to have a conversation as if Junior can’t hear them – the kid who could hear his aunt and uncle from behind a closed door perfectly clearly.

“Don’t start, Walt – I won’t change my mind about you – ever.”

“Well, I don’t accept that. You’re my wife.”

“I’m not your wife. I’m your hostage. But, if you insist on keeping me imprisoned, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll launder your money, I’ll keep your secret, but the kids will stay at Hank and Marie’s.”

“You’ve seen too many movies. Our kids are not in danger.”

“Just a few days ago, you said, as a point of pride, that a man held a gun to your head. There’s nothing you can say to convince me that there won’t come a day when somebody knocks on that door looking to harm you, or me, or all of us. And when that day comes, the children cannot be here. You agree to that and I will be whatever kind of partner you want me to be.”

There’s a long pause, and then Walt says, barely audibly, “Okay.” Skyler, wearing a black shirt, is smoking. “By the way, you’re visiting a therapist from Rio Rancho: Peter – last name’s up to you.” When Skyler looks at Walt’s dirty jeans and asks him if he’s been burying bodies, he says, “Robbing a train.”

Scene 6: the heist

Lydia, at home on her computer in the middle of the night, makes the call.

In daylight, the four conspirators are on the tracks. Saul’s guy, Kuby, drives a dump truck onto the dirt road crossing, as Mike hides behind a tree. We hear the whistle of the train and tense, train rhythm music. Mike watches through binoculars as the train starts going over the trestle, Walt, Jesse, and Todd underneath. We see two men in the locomotive and Kuby on the tracks waving his arms. The train stops just short of him, and Walt says, “Go, go, go!” He turns on a portable generator, as Jesse and Todd hook up the hoses for the methylamine and the water – the former, managed by Jesse, to come out into the holding tank and the latter, managed by Todd, to go out into the tanker car.

“You guys know anything about engines?” Kuby asks the trainmen.

“When’s the last time you changed the oil?”

On Mike’s signal, Jesse opens the valve at the bottom of the tanker car with a huge wrench, while Todd climbs up on the tanker car with the water hose. The first time I watched this, I had no disbelief, but on rewatch I asked myself how the train guys could fail to notice Todd on top of the car, even at a distance, or not hear the noise of the generator and the shouts of the three guys. One would think that, knowing they’re in a “dead” zone, they’d be suspicious of the forced stop and wary about their surroundings. But, no, they just try to push the dump truck off the tracks, Kuby pretending to help.

Then Mike says, “Uh oh.” An Indian in a big, shiny, pickup appears and offers to push the dump truck off the tracks. Wouldn’t he have seen Todd on top of the train as he approached from a distance? Mike says, “Walt, we’ve got a good Samaritan on the scene. Pull your guys off that train right now!”

“We’re not done yet,” Walt replies, seemingly unfazed by the possibility of being caught. Being all-powerful Heisenberg is more important to him than anything else at this point, and it’s beginning to be all Heisenberg all the time, which is starting to make his character two-dimensional – less human and therefore less interesting. Most fans will have started investing most of their interest and caring in Jesse, Mike, Hank, and Skyler by now, with Walt as nothing but a predictable villain acting against the other characters’ (and his own) best interests.

The train’s bells start, and Mike says, “Walter, they are back in the locomotive!” Jesse calls, “Mr. White!” from under the tanker car. Finally, Walt signals his two helpers to stop. Todd tosses the water hose aside and closes the lid of the tanker, while Jesse frantically screws its bottom plug back on. The train’s brakes disengage, and it starts to roll over Jesse, frozen in place, as Walt hollers to Todd, “Get off!” He climbs down the ladder as the train picks up speed and jumps to the side. Jesse gets up. Walt, Jesse, and Todd celebrate, Walt especially happy and triumphant. “Yes, bitch!” Jesse shouts.

Walt sees the kid from the opener first. Having ridden his dirt bike up to the tracks across from the heisters, he raises his hand in a little wave, obviously aware that he’s seen something he shouldn’t have. Todd waves back, then pulls a gun from his back waistband and shoots, as Jesse yells, “No!” A minute later, Jesse, hands on his head in shock, says, “No,” more quietly. How could he have forgotten that kids always seem to get hurt in this enterprise?

The tarantula is still alive in its jar on the ground.


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