By Cory Everett | @modage July 23, 2012 at 10:58AM
Meanwhile, Walt sits with Walter Jr. at the breakfast table, playing the part of the loving father though it's nearly impossible to tell at this point how much of Walter White is left in his current state. We've become so used to him as a master manipulator, cold, calculating, seeing him make time for his son feels foreign and false. In an interesting contrast we see Mike -- also a criminal and murderer (when the situation calls for it) -- playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his granddaughter but there is genuine warmth between them. As Walt goes to wake Skyler, who's been sleeping in, no doubt to avoid her nightmare-ish reality, he looms threateningly overhead. His voice is gentle, asking her to get up for work (don't forget, the Whites own a car wash to launder money through) but the camera frames only his midsection. With his lying face removed, he is purely a figure of menace.
On the way to the DEA, Mike passes Mr. Chow, owner of the laundry that housed the meth lab underneath, and asks how he's holding up. Chow looks nervous and Mike maybe isn't quite as convinced but goes on his way. Hank interrogates Mike in a great back and forth as the two try to outsmart each other in a verbal chess match. Unluckily for Mike, Hank has the ace up his sleeve, revealing he knows about the 2 million dollars sitting in a bank account in Mike's granddaughter's name. The DEA discovered the account after going through the wreckage left from the break-in last episode and is further proof that Walt can make Mike's life miserable without even trying. Mike is usually pretty unflappable but he’s clearly pissed now having little choice but to join Walt and Jesse's new venture.
Walt and Jesse meet with Saul to discuss how exactly they're going to get their new operation up and running. The "where" they're going to cook meth is still very much in the air but they're already trying to crack the "how." Methylamine (the organic compound the duo had worked so hard to acquire during a heist back in season 1) is in short supply but Walt is undeterred. Saul tries to reason with them, saying getting away with their crimes (thus far) is equivalent to "winning the lottery" even if they are basically broke at this point. But "quitting now while we're ahead" isn't an option for Walt.
Chow calls Mike desperately, saying that the DEA has taken all his money and he needs to talk in person but it's a setup. There is a gunman, Chris, in the room. One of Mike's team, he's been hired by Lydia to clean up the mess that Mike wouldn’t, which includes the 11 names and now Mike himself. The scene that follows is "Breaking Bad" at its best. You might expect the close up on Chris' eye peering through the keyhole to result in a grisly headshot but instead Mike calmly disarms him from behind. The two have a history together and the would-be assassin says he's sorry, Mike says he understands, then he shoots him. It's tragic, surprising and wrings unexpected emotion out of a scene that might've been a standard shoot-em-up.
This leads Mike directly to Lydia's home where we expect another tragic outcome. Mike holds Lydia at gunpoint and she begs not to be shot in the face so her daughter doesn't have to see the aftermath but he assures her that nobody will find her. She pleads with him pathetically, tragically, asking, "Promise I don't disappear," and in what would be her final moments Mike has second thoughts. He asks if she can still get Methylamine, revealing the role that Madrigal plays in the entire operation and also that Mike has reconsidered Walt’s offer. Walt couldn't have planned this better himself.
At home, Walt settles into bed next to Skyler and tries to assure her, "You know it gets easier, I promise you that." But she takes no comfort. Her husband is a monster and she's terrified of him. He kisses her shoulders and neck all we can do is hold our breath hoping he doesn't assert himself on her. He doesn't (for now) but the effect is chilling anyway. It’s a fascinating development between Walt and Skyler and we’re really not sure where it might lead. But judging from the wedding ring free Walt 52, we’d be worried if we were her. Actress Anna Gunn told TVLine that she wasn’t sure where her character might go from here. “It wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t make it out. It wouldn’t surprise me if she did somehow rise above it. Like I say, you can never predict where they’re going to take these characters, and I’m as fascinated as anybody to find out!” So are we. [A-]