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In “51,” the fourth episode this season, it’s Walter White’s birthday again. At the beginning of Season 1, Walt turned 50, and we know that at some point this season we’ll see him turn 52.
That it’s only been a year since his cancer diagnosis and his foray into the world of drugs is astounding, given how much Walt has evolved in such a short time. While he was once miserable, meek and depressed, he’s now boisterous and happy, brimming with bravado. Everything’s coming up Walt!
But when Skyler silently snaps during Walt’s small (much smaller than Walt would have liked) family birthday celebration, and slowly submerges herself in the swimming pool, fully clothed, Walt finally has to acknowledge Something Is Wrong With Skyler.
The dynamic between Walt and Skyler is interesting; they’ve seemed to have switched roles, in a way. Where Skyler was once assertive, she’s now passive and frightened of her husband. Walt, once the quiet one, now wears the pants.
And wear them he does. He actually threatens Skyler in this episode, rather than just hint at it: when Skyler finally plucks up the courage to tell Walt she plans to get the children out of the house, for their own protection, Walt makes it clear she will not take his kids away from him. “What are you gonna do about it?” he asks. What’s next, Walt, a bar of soap in a tube sock?
Finally, Skyler concedes there’s nothing she can do but wait. “Wait for what?” Walt asks. Skyler looks him in the eye and says, “For the cancer to return.” So congratulations, Walt, you are the big man on campus but your wife wishes you dead.
We open the episode with Walt symbolically becoming Heisenberg again, after putting on that hat and trading his middle-age mobile for a sleek
import Chrysler 300, and defying Skyler by getting Walt Jr. that red and black Dodge Challenger. Again.
I’ve said it in every recap, and I’ll say it again: Walt’s ego will be his downfall, obviously. He’s living larger with each passing day and not being very cautious.
Because the fact is Walt and Skyler actually do own a legitimate, profitable business (the car wash), but that isn’t enough for Walt. He’s too power hungry to be anything but a king. He isn’t just a failed scientist who fell into teaching high school; he’s the big man now. He’s now everything he couldn’t be before.
Part of the new Walt is his apparent obliviousness to the damage he’s causing. And if he does notice, he just doesn’t care. When Skyler expresses a legitimate concern — “There’s blood on my hands, too” — Walt dismisses it. It’s just part of protecting the family, he says. It’s justified killing and drug-dealing, no big deal.
What might be a big deal, however, is the mess that Walt, Jesse and Mike are in with Gus Fring’s former associate at Madrigal Electromotive GmbH. Lydia, who’s so shaken by the investigation into Gus’ death that she wears two mismatched shoes, gets a visit at Madrigal from the DEA. Hank astutely notices her footwear mistake, and once again his senses are spot-on; he wants to look further into Lydia.
The DEA haul off the methylamine guy from Madrigal, which means Mike sends Jesse to get the stuff. But when Jesse arrives, Lydia notices a tracking device on the bottom of the barrel. Oops, no methylamine for you guys this time, or ever.
Mike has a hunch that Lydia planted the device in an effort to stop doing business with him, thereby removing herself from the drug operation. She’s clearly a basket case and wants nothing to do with all of this. If the DEA get its hands on her, she’ll undoubtedly spill the beans to save her own ass.
Mike, in his old-school heavy way, says he had a chance to kill Lydia but didn’t take it: “It’s what I get for being sexist.” He assures Jesse that Lydia “deserves to die as much as any man I’ve met” and that it’s time to take care of it once and for all.
Whether or not they kill Lydia, the methylamine must keep flowing. “Nothing stops this train,” Walt says. “Nothing.” And maybe nothing will stop the train that is Walter White, whether it stays on track or derails.