“Dead Freight” starts harmlessly enough, with a kid on a motorbike riding around the New Mexico desert, putting tarantulas in jars. But we know by now that on Breaking Bad, seemingly innocuous stuff like children playing or plastic eyeballs floating in pools can lead us into pretty sinister territory.
Walt pays Hank a visit at the DEA. Where a previous incarnation of Walt would have been shifty and nervous in the presence of the law, the new model is confident, brazenly waving around his new Rolex. It seems he’s there to talk to Hank about Skyler. “She doesn’t love me anymore,” he breaks down. But of course, he’s really just there to bug Hank’s office so that Walt and Co. can find out whether Lydia is telling the truth about the tracking device on the barrel of methylamine.
And poor, distraught Lydia. Mike orders her to place a scripted call to Hank, and if she doesn’t, he says, “I am going to pull my pistol out and shoot you in the head.” Her life is spared only by Hank’s conversation with another agent, who confirms the DEA did indeed plant a tracking device on that barrel of methylamine — and all the other barrels in the Madrigal warehouse.
Lydia, displaying the same sort of desperation we once saw from Walt when his life was on the line in previous seasons, strikes a deal with the boys: She knows a way to get to “an ocean” of methylamine. And so begins the planning of an elaborate heist to get as much methylamine as they can from a train.
But that’s going to be tough. Mike says, “There are two kinds of heists: Those where guys get away with it, and those where they leave witnesses behind.” While Mike and Walt bicker over how best to carry out this great feat, Jesse’s brain is, as usual, working away at a viable solution. What if they could rob the train without anyone ever knowing?
The trio recruit Todd, the exterminator who tipped them off to the nanny cam in the first meth cook house, to help out. They’ll create a diversion, then siphon off as much methylamine as they can and replace it with water so that when the tanker car is weighed at its destination, no one will be the wiser.
The plan requires an elaborate set-up, which, if I’d seen it played out on any other TV show, I probably wouldn’t have believed. Not only did the guys have to dig a hole big enough to house two humongous storage tanks for the stolen methylamine, but they also set up an intricate network of hidden equipment that they then would quickly assemble during the heist.
After setting everything up for his first train robbery, Walt returns home to find Skyler dealing with the fallout of that whole “send the kids to Hank and Marie’s” plan. Walt Jr. (whom everyone is now calling Flynn, by the way; the poor kid has only wanted that for several seasons) is pissed. He feels rejected, neglected and abandoned. When he asks his dad why he isn’t allowed home, Walt essentially answers, “Because I said so.”
Saying, “I’m not your wife, I’m your hostage,” Skyler strikes a deal with Walt: She’ll cook the books and be whatever kind of partner he wants her to be, but the kids will under no circumstances live with them. She admits she was deeply disturbed that Walt related an anecdote about a gun being held to his head, “like it was nothing, like it was a point of pride.”
And how proud Walt is. He has his little kingdom he’s building; he has a plan to get the ingredients to continue cooking; and he has an ego the size of Texas. When the heist doesn’t quite go as imagined and Mike gives the order to cut the flow of methylamine into the underground tanks, Walt ignores it. He nearly has the amount he thinks they can get before the train moves on. Of course, he almost kills Todd (leaping off a moving train) and Jesse (stuck under that same moving train) to get it, but whatever.
The plan worked beautifully, except for one hitch. The kid on the bike with the tarantula in the jar saw the whole thing. He waves at Jesse, Walt and Todd, and they all wave back, unsure of what to do. But Todd knows what to do: As Jesse screams, horrified, he shoots the kid. It turns out this heist was one of those where the guys got away with it. They left no witnesses behind.
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