Breaking Bad Rewatch 1.06: “Crazy Handful of Nothin’ ”

Walter (Bryan Cranston) lays down the law to Jesse (Aaron Paul). He’s the silent partner; Jesse’s the guy on the street.

Just as he says there’ll be no more bloodshed, we get a glimpse of the future Walter, baldheaded, walking down a crowded street full of riffraff, carrying a small bag with blood stains. He resembles Brando’s Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Not just because of the cue-ball dome, but also his thousand-yard stare. Similar to the debut episode, series creator Vince Gilligan teases us by showing fragments of the ending first. Whatever is coming, one thing is for sure, Walt’s not going to stick to his own rules.

On the home front, Skyler (Anna Gunn) confronts Walt during a support group meeting about where he’s been all those late nights. Walt claims it feels better to be alone sometimes, to not have to talk, while taking peaceful, nature walks. Of course, that’s just his cover for cooking meth.

Note: I’ll be glad when Hollywood drops the psychoanalysis gimmick. I know it makes it easy on the writers to have the characters open up in this fashion but it’s a tired plot device.

Later, stumbling out of the RV in need of a breath of fresh air, Walt rips off the respirator, unzips his cover suit, and sits in the chair where Jesse had been reading a magazine. “When were you gonna tell me?” Jesse says recognizing the red rash on Walt’s chest as a sign of cancer treatment.

Walt has Jesse finish the batch, and the loosening of his stringent rules begins. Jesse takes the latest batch to the street, and returns with $2600 for a portion of the pound of crystals—the rest is “missing”—and Walt is pissed. He tells Jesse he has to become more creative in his marketing, and slams Jesse again for his lack of motivation. Like a good capitalist, Walt suggests they need a distributor, which comes in the form of Krazy-8’s successor, Tuco (Raymond Cruz).

Hank (Dean Norris) gets the report for the abandoned respirator. The lab was able to determine it came from Walt’s school, so Hank heads over to check the inventory, finding all kinds of equipment missing. He advises Walt to keep a closer eye on the inventory, because he wouldn’t want people to start wondering about him. He laughs, loosening the tension and making it clear that he thinks it impossible for Walt to be the culprit. The scene (while implied before) forces us to realize the full aspect of the future relationship between the two—DEA agent and drug dealer.

To Walt’s dismay, circumstantial evidence (including a prior record for selling pot) implicates the kindly janitor Hugo (Pierre Barrera)—he’s been sensitive to Walt’s condition, cleaning up after Walt tosses his cookies in the men’s room and offering gum. Hank arrests Hugo for possession after a joint turned up in a search of his car.

Walt’s in the shower, when it finally happens. The chemo is taking its toll on his hair; it’s falling out by the handful and starting to look patchy. He shaves it off to the enjoyment of his son, who calls him badass, and to the disbelief of Skyler. Bryan Cranston has an impressive variety of styles, and by giving him the Lex Luthor look (as Jesse aptly compares in the next episode), Walt is converted—not just by his deeds, but by his physical appearance—into a truly dangerous man to behold.  

Jesse meets Tuco, the psychotic drug dealer who holds court on the second floor of a rundown building. Security is tight with all the seedy activity and unsavory characters swirling about the streets. Earlier, Jesse had snarked at Walt for thinking he could just walk out and score a big-time distributor as if he was Scarface. Well, maybe not, but through his friend Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), he makes the acquaintance of the low-budget version of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana. Walled off inside, Tuco snorts Jesse’s offering but scoffs at his business proposal, giving Jesse a beat-down and stealing the crystals. Later, Walt calls Jesse and Skinny Pete answers, telling Walt he’s at the hospital with Jesse. Walt visits, and has another turning moment when he realizes he has to man up—just like when he told Jesse to grow a pair.

But, it’s the way he does it that rises above the typical revenge scenes. Walter, calling himself Heisenberg, brings a “tweak of chemistry” to a gunfight. He enters Tuco’s lair, demanding fifty grand. Tuco laughs at Walt, saying that he’s stealing the bag Walt’s holding without paying.

In a defining moment of the series, Walt replies, “This is not meth,” and he turns, flinging a piece of the compound at Tuco’s goons. The camera slo-mos the scene, with Walt out of focus, as the hurtled crystal surges toward the camera. BAM! It makes contact and explodes. From an outside shot, windows shatter. When the dust settles, Tuco calms down his hoods, knowing Walter can blow them to Juarez if he throws the whole bag. He quickly cuts a deal with Walt, giving him the money owed—plus some for Jesse’s pain and suffering—and tells him, “You got balls, I’ll give you that.”

Walt gets back to his car amid the chaos, closes the door, and examines the money. With a fistful of cash, he beats the steering wheel, and snarls through gritted teeth. He’s painfully aware that he’s transforming into someone—something—he doesn’t know, or like.

[Continue on to Episode 1.07: “A N0-Rough-Stuff-Type-Deal”]


David Cranmer aka Edward A. Grainger is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP books and writer of the forthcoming The Drifter Detective #7: Torn and Frayed. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.