August 22nd, 2011
12:53 PM ET
This week on “Breaking Bad,” or “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Walter White,” we watched a protagonist (can we even call Walt that anymore?) who didn’t have a single redeeming moment.
The episode picked up the day after the tense family dinner which ended last week’s episode. After Walt woke up in his clothes and in a browned-out haze, Skyler peppered him with questions and concerns about Gale’s murder and Walt’s safety and his drunken goading of Hank and maybe they should go to the cops and...you get the idea.
Walt calmly deflected the barrage, but once Skyler insisted he was scared and in over his head, the dude could no longer abide. Because, as we know, Walt can’t just shut up when his cojones are called into question. So, for the first time, Walt showed Skyler his Heisenberg side.
In his revealing diatribe (which was perhaps Bryan Cranston’s finest moment of the season), Walt explained he is the keystone of the meth operation (Heisenberg embraces poetic license), and that he isn’t IN danger, he IS the danger. Skyler (and many viewers) were left trembling.
Realizing she may be dealing with a hardened criminal, Skyler pulled a Walt and vanished for a couple days...to flip a coin at the Four Corners to decide whether to stay or go (c’mon, writers, give us something better than the coin flip trope!). The flip had her moving to Colorado, but she ignored the fates, returned, and told Walt (in one of the series’ great lines): “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.”
Sunday’s initial exchange with Skyler was one of many scenes this season depicting Walt as a self-centered – and possibly delusional – man of inaction. Whereas last season he was driving the events, this season he’s a cranky passenger flapping his lips, more worried about vendettas and people’s perceptions than about making meth and fat stacks. Although, Walt still fancies himself as a force of nature. Which is why he insisted to Junior that with his “gambling addiction” he wasn’t just a passive victim of a disease, but it was a result of choices he made.
We know when Walt is inactive, he gets impulsive (remember when he gutted the house because of “rot”?). And an impulsive and selfish Walt is a self-destructive Walt, starting with the car wash. Though it made no sense criminally, he bought it to get back at his jerk former boss. (I actually felt bad for Bogdan when Walt didn’t let him take his first dollar. This show cannot be touched when it comes to giving viewers cognitive dissonance.)
Then we had Walt buying his son a flashy new car so that Junior would think he’s a great father. Anyone who’s seen “Goodfellas” knows he can’t make a purchase like that. Then, when faced with the specter of having to clean up all by himself, Walt shepherded three cleaning ladies into the super-secret lab, and taunted the security camera just for good measure.
Walt may be acting like a child, but Jesse has slowly become a man of action. While on a stakeout with Mike, Jesse asserted himself, telling Mike, “You may know this P.I. sit-in-the-car business, but I know meth heads.”
The last time Jesse schemed his way into a meth den, it ended with someone’s head being flattened by an ATM, so let’s just say it was ominous when Jesse ventured inside that house. However, Jesse outsmarted and incapacitated the tweakers, proving to Mike he could handle his new role, and he gained Gus’ approval in the process.
As for the motive behind pairing Jesse with Mike, maybe Walt is over-thinking things. Maybe it was as simple as Gus thinking, “Jesse is a liability, but I’m stuck with him. So I’m gonna test him in a role that is more dangerous, but that he would actually be better at. If it works, I look like a genius. And if he happens to get killed in the line of duty, that’s fine, too.”
Do you think there’s something more sinister underlying the Jesse-Mike partnership? And, more importantly, do you think Walt will concede the Charger and break his son’s heart?
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