Spoiler Alert!- Read if you want, but there are many spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet.
Death is in the air. Even with one of the more ambiguous openings of any episode, the writers couldn’t help but allude to the fact that something bad was going to happen. The tarantula crawling around on the young boy’s hand seemed as good a sign as any that an impending death wasn’t far off. While there have been a few, with Mike handling his usual role of executioner earlier in the season, there has yet to be a death of real significance this season, which compared with previous seasons, is not in true Breaking Bad form. Each season opener has established death as a major theme of the show, albeit sometimes unbeknownst to the viewer, but nevertheless still there. Season One was Walt’s collapsing at the car wash and learning of his terminal prognosis, which was really the first step in the death of his soul. Season Two opened where season one ended, with the Tuco beating to death one of his associates, which eventually led to Tuco’s own death. Season Three was the flash forward of the plane crash. Season Four opens with Gus’s violent message to Walt and Jesses, slicing Victor’s throat. And now Season Five, where a few deaths have occurred, but none that seem overwhelmingly essential or thematic, until now.
Title- “Dead Freight”
In many interviews with cast and creators, there has been a constant reference to the darkness of this season, as well as some of its shocking turns. While the darkness and twists have certainly been displayed so far, there’s yet to be a turning point that would seem to galvanize the show to its expected tragic ending. However, last night’s episode seems to have accomplished that, and the title of episode 5 seems to exemplify the fact that the progression toward the show’s catastrophic culmination has just sped up significantly. While “Dead” is clear enough, the concept of “Freight” actually functions in two ways. One, it is a reference to the freight train that will be hijacked for its methylamine, but freight also mean “cost or burden”, which is exactly what these men- Walt, Mike, Todd (more on him later), and especially Jesse- are going to have bear for their latest heist. It’s a notion that Mike has tried to ingrain into Walt and Jesse, more so Jesse, and one that still seems to be surprisingly lost on both of them, although Walt seems to be growing more comfortable with it. Either way, this sad reality of the drug business is speeding full throttle, whether Jesse and Walt are prepared or not.
Scene 1- Who is Jesse James?
This is the second reference to the famous train thief this season alone, and even without providing any significant historical analysis of the legend, it’s still worth exploring. My question is, Who is Jesse James within Breaking Bad? When Mike first alluded to James in episode 3, he told Walt, “Just because you kill Jesse James, doesn’t make you Jesse James”, clarifying that although Walt killed Gus, doesn’t make him Gus. Jesse (Pinkman no James) refers to James in this week’s episode the idea of robbing the train is first proposed. Given that his name has been referred to twice this season, I think the writers are definitely hinting at something. If Walt is meant to embody Jesse James, then it seems fit that Jesse would play the role of Robert Ford, the coward that killed James. However, I don’t see Jesse playing the role of Ford, selling Walt out to the authorities, and eventually killing him, at least not in this manner. Walt, on the other hand, has become a lying weasel, and will seemingly do anything out of self-preservation, so maybe Jesse is the real Jess James, and Walt will eventually betray him, if it means escaping with his life. Or maybe it’s simply a coincidental reference that has no implication of the characters or plot of the show.
Scene 2- Todd?
Speaking of outlaws, the newest member of the team, played by another Jesse, Jesse Plemons, best known for his work on Friday Night Lights, definitely adds another element to this volatile combination of characters. We knew there was going to be more to Todd’s character after he was first introduced, because he defied Mike’s instruction to not speak to Walt and Jesse at the fumigated houses, but he did tell them there was a baby video monitor inside the first house in which they were to cook. Walt seemed to admire this, asking Todd his name. Well, Todd certainly played a bigger role last night, but now the question is will he be able to survive after his decision at the end of the episode. My bet is yes, but I don’t think he’ll make it much longer into the season.
Scene 3- Train Robbery
In what was arguably the coolest, most intense heist scene ever displayed on film, yes, even better than Heat, which was referenced in the episode last night (brilliant!), the writers of Breaking Bad have taken the show in a whole new direction. This is the second big heist of the season, again the plan developed by Jesse, and it was just freaking awesome! There’s really no analysis here, simply admiration for the whole sequence of events. The writers’ abilities to draw the viewers in and root for these criminals is on the same page of every great crime drama, show, and movie ever, if not better than them all. The dynamics of character on display on this scene is also great, with the reluctant, doubtful Mike just waiting for something to go wrong, in contrast with Walt, Todd, and Jesse, all working diligently to pull it off. I was almost cheering with them, like I had been when watching the Olympics the past two weeks, when they seemingly did. Just awesome!
Scene 4- Breaking Bad: A Kid's Show?
For a show that is certainly not suitable for children, they certainly have played a significant role in Breaking Bad’s development over the years. Episode 5 really emphasized their significance, with the opening of the young boy on the motor bike, Skylar’s conversation with Walt about the safety of their children, Lydia’s demanding that Walt swear on his children’s lives, Hank holding baby Holly, and eventually Walt and Flynn’s discussion. With the carryover conversation from last week’s episode, Walt and Skylar continue to debate the safety of the kids, but Walt actually acquiesces to Skylar’s reasoning that they are still in danger. Whether or not Walt actually agrees with Skylar is something to be debated, but after the end of episode 5, Walt has to start accepting that there is no avoiding the danger of this business, and that eventually even his children’s lives could be compromised. Sadly, Walt may already realize this, and eventually he could be the one doing the compromising. As Skylar reminded him last week, he is “the danger”.
Scene 5- Dead Zone
Coming full circle, the area that the train robbery took place is referred to as a “Dead Zone” by Lydia, thus making it a perfect place for the heist. Well, as it unfortunately turned out, Lydia’s description couldn’t have been more accurate. The shocking, yet no so shocking death of the young boy at the end served as a brilliant contrast to the joy and euphoria experienced by Walt, Todd, and Jesse, and the viewers as well, just moments before. It was this sudden, powerful reminder of the incredible freight that comes with the drug trade, and it is one that the writers have a responsibility to never let the viewers forget. This is the sad reality of drugs, the saddest, and even though the show is fiction, it deals with a very scary truth that where there are drugs, there is often death, even for innocent people as well. Unfortunately for so many, it’s not fiction at all.
Patrick Edmonds is a co-founder, editor, and writer for/of The Lunch Break. His passions include Food, Arts & Entertainment, and Education. You can follow Patrick Edmonds on facebook and on Twitter @patrickedmonds1.