If the first two episodes of “Breaking Bad”’s thus far excellent fifth season were mostly concerned with tying up loose ends from last season while setting the stage for the next phase of the story, episode 3 titled “Hazard Pay,” begins moving forward in earnest. The breakneck pacing is likely a result of creator Vince Gilligan and co. realizing exactly how much story they have left and how few episodes they have to tell it. And while we, as an audience, know that the journey of these final episodes will probably involve Walt undergoing the final phases of his transformation from family man to drug kingpin before he (or those closest to him) suffer for his sins, the trajectory will still surprise. Just as Walt has grown accustomed to outsmarting his opponents by thinking several steps ahead of them, the writers too, play on our expectations, sometimes giving us what we think might be coming but never quite in the ways we expect.
In episode 2, we saw Walt and Jesse forming a partnership with Mike to be owners, no longer employees, in a new meth-selling venture. Walt and Jesse will make the product, Mike will handle “the business” and profits will be split evenly three ways. To get this new business up and running, they’ll need to find a place to cook. Since they don’t plan on returning to the RV and Gus’ million dollar lab is in ashes, they turn to Saul to help find a new space, sizing up box factories, tortilla factories and abandoned lazer tag outlets before inspiration strikes Walt. By using the cover of Vamanos Pest Control, their now-mobile operation will be able to stage a new cook in a different house each week while the owners clear out for the fumigation. It may be a lot of work to set up and break down but it’s kind of an ingenious plan and one that requires the fewest liabilities required to look the other way (in this case just a few exterminators).
Jesse and Walt plot out how to move their supplies -- carrying the motor alongside the condenser is kinda brilliant, Jesse! -- but are interrupted by Andrea and Brock, who enter with groceries. Walt shows no signs of remorse when confronted with officially meeting the child he had poisoned only recently and even agrees to stay for dinner. The scene of Walt and Brock seated alongside each other on the couch silently is presented almost as an empty vessel for the audience to fill up. We know the subtext and so any text on the writer’s part becomes irrelevant.
After a long absence, we see the return of Jesse’s deadbeat friends Skinny Pete and Badger, who are called upon to gather supplies for Jesse. Their appearance, buying cabinets from a music store, seems innocuous enough, but Mike shoots them a glance that seems to read “get the fuck out of here” and you have to wonder how they’ll be stirring up trouble for him in the episodes to come. Mike handles the orientation with his new employees, telling them they’re no longer going to be stealing from these houses, instead they’ll be paid off just to look the other way, treating Walt and Jesse like “ghosts.” But during their first job, protocol is broken as exterminator Todd (Jesse Plemons from “Friday Night Lights”) informs them of a nanny cam he had disabled. Right away, we’re reminded of how easily this seemingly foolproof plan could go awry with the smallest unforeseen detail. Whether Todd will be an aid or hindrance to them in the future is still unknown but the fact that he’s being portrayed by a capable actor like Plemons (who will soon be seen in “The Master”), we don’t imagine Todd receding back into the background for too long.