Breaking Bad, "Dead Freight": dark territory

Quick Take: Breaking Bad, "Dead Freight"
"The point is, no one, other than us, can ever know that this robbery went down. Nobody. Got it?" - Jesse

breaking bad dead freight

Review: Breaking Bad, "Dead Freight"
(S0505) “Dead Freight” was an episode full of relative triumph and joy bookended by two extremely uncomfortable scenes. It’s maybe a little wrong to feel pride in watching characters rob a cargo train of methylamine, but the heist scene was so perfectly crafted, it’s hard not to root for these relatively awful people. But the opening scene bugged me (pun intended) because I’m not a big fan of spiders. And the closing scene bugged me because it featured one of the most horrible moments presented on a show full of horrible moments. Of course, both of these reactions were intended and that made for one of Breaking Bad's all time best episodes. 

Written and directed by George Mastras, “Dead Freight” felt like a great Season One episode. You take Walt and Jesse (and now Mike) and put them into a seemingly impossible situation and show how they use science and ingenuity to overcome any and all obstacles. A nice twist is that the idea came from Jesse (who’s on a bit of a role thanks also to his “magnets, bitch!” idea from this season's premiere). The plan to score a massive inventory of precursor involves using Lydia (who we find out didn’t plant the GPS tracker on the barrel; instead it was placed by local Houston DEA agents) and her connections to determine exactly which train car a supply of methylamine will be on. Then the Heisenberg Boys come up with a plan to stop a train by using a broken down truck (driven by the always welcome Kuby played by Bill Burr) and siphoning off 1,000 gallons (but also filling it back up with water to throw the transport company off their scent).

In order to accomplish this complicated task, the team also recruits Todd (Jesse Plemons) of Vamanos Pest fame. The heist goes relatively swimmingly until a Good Samaritan comes along to help push Kuby’s truck off the tracks. In a gripping sequence, Todd has to leap from a moving train as Jesse has to lay flat and let it drive over him. But they pull it off with aplomb and celebrate accordingly. Then things take a sudden, terrifying turn when Tarantula Boy shows up on his dirt bike and waves. Todd waves back smiling and then shoots the kid in the face.

And you can’t even completely blame Todd. I mean you can. It’s an absolutely horrifying act and it was done with such casualness that even thinking about it now makes me cringe. But think about his interaction with Walt and Jesse so far. He meets them first during Mike’s introduction speech that presents the cooks as two deadly professional drug lords. Then after proving his worth by pointing out a nanny cam in their first cook house, gets recruited for a dangerous heist. He is briefed in detail about how every possible hiccup has been thought of and all he can do is be impressed with Walt and Jesse. He doesn’t know how hard murder has been on both of them (especially Jesse). He doesn’t know how far they have gone to not murder whenever possible (they should have offed Badger when he got arrested in Season 2, but they didn’t; they should have offed Lydia, even if they would have ended up being wrong about the GPS). So when Jesse tells Todd that absolutely nobody else can know about the robbery, he takes it with even more seriousness than Jesse intended. And Todd wants to continue to impress these men who may have ambitions to be Stringer Bell but are closer to D’Angelo Barksdale.

So he kills a completely innocent child. Not a drug dealer like Gus. Not an addict with a taste for blackmail like Jane. Not a generally nice but still a criminal like Gale. A kid whose only crime we know of is that he has a weird arachnid fetish.

It’s just brutal and just goes to show how nobody is safe from the destruction that Walt and Jesse and Mike have set forth upon the world. And I think someone like Walt realizes this now. He actually seemed to agree with Skyler that moving the kids to Hank and Marie’s for a while might keep them safe. He’d rather that than to be chained down from being the criminal mastermind he wants to be by worrying about their safety.  But for Jesse, who has the most trouble accepting the amount of murder needed to be successful, he’s only going to feel more trapped by this incident.

Not unlike a spider in a jar.

By Mike Proper

About the author

I work hard.  And I play hard.  

Actually, I don't work that hard.

Also I Tweet.

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1 Comment
On: Monday, August 13, 2012
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Mike, a few things to add onto your great review: 

Man, I absolutely hate spiders as well, making the opening scene deeply uncomfortable... 

Question: think that the spider could play a further role? Anyone else notice that the kid didn't *quite* close the jar completely? That would be a neat trick. 

Also: I did notice -- and a very subtle and sweet sound effect it was -- a train whistle at the end of the cold open. Beautiful. 

Also also: I marveled at the music in this episode, realizing that the music and sound on Breaking Bad is always exceptional. 

Another thought: I couldn't help having some "end run" thoughts as Hank and Marie sat with little Holly: that this will eventually be her permanent parents after all the dust settles. 

Great great episode on all levels and in so many ways. 


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