Breaking Bad Recap: “Dead Freight”

Todd (Jesse Plemons) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in Breaking Bad's "Dead Freight." (Photo: AMC)
Todd (Jesse Plemons) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in Breaking Bad’s “Dead Freight.” (Photo: AMC)

Season 5, Episode 5: “Dead Freight”

Purity level: 90%

“Just because you shot Jesse James doesn’t make you Jesse James,” Mike told Walter a few episodes ago. Many assumed the line was foreshadowing the series’ finale, hinting that Walter’s demise might be at the hand of a supposed ally like James’ murder by Robert Ford. Who could have guessed it was actually previewing a train heist worthy of the legendary outlaw?

First though, we get another killer cold open. Like the series’ best non sequitur intros (the mariachi music video, the taste test in a German facility, the flash-forward of Walter buying a gun in a diner), the audience isn’t immediately able to connect the dots. We know the motorcycle-riding boy collecting spiders in the middle of the desert must somehow be important to the story, but his impact doesn’t become clear until the episode’s final seconds. And what an impact it was.

Things are put in motion when Walter visits Hank in his new office, ostensibly to check in on the kids and have a heart-to-heart, but really to bug the room and find out if the GPS tracker found last week was placed there by Lydia or the DEA. After Walter, Jesse and Mike determine that Lydia didn’t set them up, they struggle to find a new source of methylamine. As Walter and Mike argue over how to move forward (with Mike wanting to return to the safer, low-yield pseudoephedrine cook and Walter pushing for Lydia’s high-risk plan to rob a train carrying the chemical), Jesse has one of his increasingly frequent “a-ha!” moments, silencing the bickering papa bears by coming up with a way to steal the liquid from the train without anyone noticing.

So kicks off one of the most heart-pounding, brilliantly executed sequences in the show’s history. Walter, Jesse and Mike recruit a handful of accomplices (including Saul’s henchman Kuby and exterminator Todd). They concoct an elaborate scheme in which Kuby pretends to stall his truck in the middle of the railroad tracks, stopping the train long enough for Jesse and Todd to siphon off the methylamine and replace it with water. The intricately orchestrated heist is nearly derailed by a good Samaritan, but they manage to complete the mission just as the train begins moving, with Todd jumping from the roof and Jesse flattening himself against the tracks. (He’s literally run over by a freight train – they might as well have labelled the locomotive “Walter”).

Cue jubilation and a few obligatory “Yeah, bitch!” cheers from Jesse, until they notice the boy on the motorcycle watching them. They all freeze as the boy waves tentatively. Todd waves back, and then pulls out a gun and SHOOTS THE KID!

This Week’s “Who’s Bad?” Index:

Todd: Todd seemed like the perfect accomplice at the beginning of the heist, asking lots of questions and stroking Walter and Jesse’s egos with his awe-struck reverence (“You guys have thought of everything!”). But he grossly misinterpreted Jesse’s orders to keep quiet (“No one, other than us, can ever know this robbery went down”), and now the crew will have the murder investigation of a little kid on their hands (and their conscience). The fact that Todd is played with unblinking cruelty by Jesse Plemons (who played the good-hearted Landry on Friday Night Lights) only heightens the horror. 10 blue crystals out of 10

Walter: Protecting kids is a recurring theme on Breaking Bad, and it’s touched upon multiple times in this episode (from Walt’s blubbering to Hank about being a “bad influence” on Walter Jr. and Holly, to Skylar’s demands that the kids stay away, to Lydia’s desperate invocation of Walt’s children). We know how Jesse’s going to feel about this (his “No! No!” screams as Todd reached for the gun were heart-breaking), but the camera purposefully didn’t capture Walter’s reaction to the boy’s murder. He already established with Brock that he’s not above endangering children, but actually killing one? We’ll know how bad Walter is really breaking these days by his reaction next week, but our guess is: pretty bad. 8 blue crystals out of 10

Lydia: OK, can we all agree that Lydia is this season’s most annoyingly inconsistent character? One minute, she’s a cowering, blubbering mess and the next minute, she’s a badass who’s mocking the guys for not wanting to kill two men and demanding payment for giving them the train manifesto. 6 blue crystals out of 10

Jesse: Still crushed by his role in Gale’s killing, Jesse is now trying to run a murder-free operation. He repeatedly pleaded on Lydia’s behalf, and he concocted a plan to rob the train without having to sacrifice the engineer and conductor. And we already know that a child in danger is Jesse’s kryptonite (see the kid in the crack house, Brock, Andrea’s little brother, etc.). This is going to kill him – but possibly not before he kills Todd. 5 blue crystals out of 10

Syklar: Does anyone else think Syklar has hatched a secret plan to take down Walter? Her sudden about face (“I’ll launder your money, I’ll do whatever you want, but the kids stay at Hank and Marie’s”) didn’t exactly ring true. For someone so cunning, hoisting her kids onto her sister and brother-in-law doesn’t seem like a realistic long-term plan. It could be years before Walter gets caught or his cancer returns. Is it possible she’s figured out a way to shorten that timeline? 3 blue crystals out of 10

(This recap was originally posted on

Jen McDonnell is an entertainment freelancer and social media specialist. She put her celeb stalking skills to good use as managing editor of Likes: pop culture, celebrity dirt, guilty pleasure TV, George Clooney, cheese. Dislikes: people who use 'begs the question' incorrectly. Follow Jen on Twitter @jen_mcdonnell. Follow Jen

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