I love a good heist drama, and this week’s BREAKING BAD featured a terrific, nerve-tingling train robbery that had me holding my breath for almost 10minutes. And then the final 10 seconds of the episode left me speechless.
In the cold opening, we see a young boy on a motorcycle collect a tarantula in a mason jar he just happened to be carrying in his jacket. Okay, I think, some drug lord sent little Bobby out to capture tarantulas for some heinous murder/revenge plot. Then the kid hears a train whistle.
After Jesse (Adrian Paul) talked Mike (Jonathan Banks) out of summarily capping Lydia (Laura Fraser) Walt (Bryan Cranston) used his family connection to get into Hank’s (Dean Norris) office and plant bugs, so the guys could determine that Lydia did not, in fact, plant the GPS on the methylamine barrels — it was the FBI. Mike still wanted to kill her, so she came up with the idea of helping the guys rob a train hauling a tanker with 24,000 gallons of precursor.
Jesse balked at Mike’s plan to kill the train crew and came up with a substitute: Stop the train by blocking the tracks with a truck and pump out 1,000 gallons of methylamine while the crew is distracted, then replace it with water so the tanker will weigh the same and no one would ever suspect a robbery took place!
We saw Mike, Walt and Jesse do the legwork of calculating where the end of the train would stop; getting the Vamous Pest guys and Saul’s men to help dig the holes to bury water and methylamine tanks and to set up the diversion. It all made sense to me — even if we didn’t see Walt and Jesse use the Internet to figure out the intricacies of working tanker valves (Heck, Lydia could have provided them with Madrigal training manuals!) To me, the only real artificial contrivance of the entire heist was that the methylamine tanker was positioned one car from the end of the train, right on the bridge under which the boys had hidden their gear. Had it been a couple of slots forward, the boys may not have been able to pull off their master plan. Wait, strike that: The train also stopped way way too quickly. I’ve heard that fully load freight trains take 1 or even 2 miles to fully stop.
But hey, we have to suspend disbelief a little — after all, the entire series is built around the concept of a sympathetic drug dealer! — and maybe there’s a law or something that requires dangerous, highly flammable chemicals to be placed at the end of a train in case there’s trouble. (Makes sense to me.)
The actual heist sequence was flawlessly staged, with writer/director George Mastras keeping viewers abreast of everything that was happening. Thanks to Walt laying out the plan to Todd (Jesse Plemons) viewers knew exactly what had to happen for a successful operation, so watched as the guys attached hoses and exchanged water for methylamine while the train crew tried to clear the tracks. But one thing no one can plan for is the human factor: A good Samaritan stopped to help clear the “stalled” truck off the tracks. Mike’s frantic calls for Walt to abort were thrilling enough, but add in Jesse’s pleas for the okay from “Mr. White,” and it was that much more dramatic. Why did Walt refuse to just take what they could get? Why hold out for the entire 1,000 gallons? The tension was almost unbearable, because BB viewers have been trained to expect things to go sideways — and Walt getting greedy was just the kind of complications that might happen.
But it didn’t. The boys got their precursor, resealed the tanker and leaped from the train in time to make a clean getaway. Well, at least to celebrate a successful heist! There was much joy in Mudville at that moment — until Walt, Jesse and Todd noticed the kid on the motorbike with the tarantula in a jar in his jacket. Without blinking, Todd SPOILER ALERT! pulled his gun and shot the kid dead. Seems he took Walt’s secrecy order a bit too seriously.
I had forgotten about the kid amid the excitement of the great train robbery. I was as stunned and Walt to see him sitting there. Before I could think, “Now what?” he was dead.
Walt, Jesse and Mike will have to deal with the corpse. The kid is definitely going to be missed by his parents, who will no doubt remember that he headed into the desert on his motorcycle. And no one is going to forget about a missing child. There will be flyers and news coverage until his little body is discovered. So let’s hope Mike knows a good way to make a corpse disappear in the desert. And as long as they team is disposing of one body, why not two? Mike is likely to double-tap Todd — if for no other reason than to avoid having to pay hush money to another guy in stir!
Jesse’s well-meaning plan to save the lives of two innocent train conductors ultimately led to the death of a kid. He can’t be happy about that. So he will have more than a corpse to wrestle with going forward.