Monday, March 4, 2013

Meth Monday: Poisoning Brock

When the fifth season of Breaking Bad premiered on 15 July last year, I had the great good fortune to be attending the 5th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Even better, I was able to watch "Live Free or Die" in the company of both Dale, my co-author on Wanna Cook? The Unofficial Companion Guide to Breaking Bad, and our brilliantly fantastic editor at ECW Press, Jen. Needless to say, the three of us were wound tight and incredibly excited to get to watch it together, and we'd made a party of it by inviting several other people into the room to join us. The downside to all of this is that, between frenzied discussions about the episode between we three BrBa fanatics, and frantic explanations to the poor benighted souls with us who'd never watched the show before, I managed to miss a key bit of information which I finally saw this Saturday when I rewatched the episode for the book: how Brock was poisoned.

The final shot of "Face Off" (4.13) revealing the significance of the plant Walt was so fixated on in "End Times" (4.12).

Okay, so after Gus' computer has been destroyed (and further evidence unintentionally revealed in the process), and Walt is riding high on his new-found sense of control, he goes to visit Saul, to work out a few issues. During the meeting, Saul gives Walt a Ziplock bag containing a single cigarette, which he reveals is Jesse's missing ricin-cig. Along the way Saul notes that his bodyguard Huell had to handle it and risk killing everyone in the office, and he censures Walt because " never told me the kid would end up in the hospital!" Subsequently, as Walt backs Saul up against the wall to tell him that "We're done when I say we're done," I began to realize that it isn't so much killing Gus which has put the fear of Walt into ol' Saul, but Walt's willingness to risk a child's life to get what he wants.

So, what happened? How did Saul poison Brock and how did Huell wind up with Jesse's deadly smoke? Here's how I think things went:

Back in "Hermanos" (4.08), we see Saul delivering money from Jesse to Andrea and Brock after they've moved into a new house in a nice neighborhood. Saul talks easily and freely to Brock about school and girls, and Brock seems perfectly comfortable with him. Further, Saul's cash deliveries are apparently a regular thing. So, in "End Times," Walt gets the idea to use the lily of the valley plant he has by his pool to make a poison which will threaten, but hopefully not kill, and has Saul to give it to Brock. Judging by their relationship in "Hermanos," Brock probably wouldn't hesitate to take candy from Saul, and Andrea wouldn't hesitate to let him. At the same time, Walt tells his criminal lawyer about Jesse's ricin cigarette. In the same episode, Jesse receives a sequence of progressively frantic calls from Saul to come to his office, and when he does, he is immediately searched by Huell, who switches out Jesse's pack of cigarettes with the ricin in it for one without. The Next morning, Brock gets sick.

How dangerous is lily of the valley, and how depraved was Walt's use of the plant to poison Brock? Well, Readers Mine, here's a teeny sample of one of the extras you'll get in Wanna Cook? which pretty much sums it up:
"...Every single part of the plant – the stems, the flowers, the berries, and the leaves – are extremely toxic. Ingesting lily of the valley can result in blurred vision, skin rashes, headaches, vomiting, disorientation and sudden alterations in heart rhythm. Treatment involves breathing support, IV fluids, and possibly the insertion of a temporary pacemaker to regulate your heart rhythms. And you could still die.

            And Walt knew all of that."
Keep in mind that Walt was estimating a dosage amount that would make Brock seriously ill without killing him, all based upon only a couple of quick sights of the boy. In all likelihood  Brock actually dying would have served Walt's purposes just as well, if not better than a serious illness. The whole point of the exercise was to manipulate Jesse into helping Walt kill Gus, after all. Brock was just a means to that end. Walt's darkness has now consumed his heart completely.

That's it for this week's Meth Monday! Tune in next Monday for more ramblings on the best show on TV, and until then, you can get the latest BrBa news and notes by following me on the various social networks linked up there right below that creepy guy with the purple cephalopod on his noggin'. See you soon.

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