Just because you shot Jesse James…
Proving he has a clearer grip on reality than anyone else in the show, Mike pretty much sums up the theme we’ve seen develop over three episodes with that amazing quote: “Just because you shot Jesse James don’t make you Jesse James.”
Not that Walt is getting the message, nit-picking over mule-fees and hazard money like he has a lot of other options. Seriously, what can we possibly make of his big-man posturing over whether or not they should pay to keep Mike’s “guys” quiet except that he was, well, playing the big man? What part of “don’t force them to spill their guts and send us all to prison” does he not understand? His stand-off with Mike over the “legacy fee” coupled with his complete ignorance of how “the business” actually works left him seeming even more dangerous, if that was possible. The look of fear and disbelief in Jesse’s eyes at the end of the episode when Walt was making not too veiled references to killing Mike to teach him “not to fly too close to the sun” said it nicely: what kind of lunatic has Mr. White become?
One who hasn’t lost his ability for good, and unexpected, ideas it turns out, since the best part of the episode for me was watching Walt come up with the movable cook site, disguised as a house under fumigation. Thank goodness Walt’s genius hasn’t diminished as his maniacal pride has grown. There was a playfulness to watching the “four amigos” scouting possible cook sites that relieved some of the impending doom, and I actually felt so proud of Jesse and Walt as they calmly and reasonably went over plans for the portable ventilation system like partners in an engineering firm, or at least like equals who’ve come along way from moping up human remains in an acid bath upstairs. Of course, Walt is concocting an elaborate plan to emotionally manipulate Jesse into breaking up with Andrea by scaring him to death with talk of lifelong commitment and total honesty. But still, for a split second there I was so proud and happy: the boys’ve done good. And since it seems Jesse is going to become more lovable and more sane the more awful and insane Walt becomes, I’ll go there all the way and say I absolve Jesse from all his foolishness in the past and just hope he makes it out alive.
I can only imagine Walt’s fall is going to be stupendous and he’ll take a lot of people down with him, given this build up, since other than the new cook site, the episode felt a bit slow and repetitive. If we had any doubt that Walt has become a monster, this episode killed it off. He moves back in to the master bedroom, terrifying Skyler into a hysterical mess; he takes the moral credit as a long-suffering spouse leading Marie to believe that Skyler’s breakdown was due to guilt over her affair with Ted; and he, as mentioned above, manipulates Jesse into breaking up with Andrea. Oh, and let’s not forget he lets the baby watch Scarface! I have to wonder, though, if he hasn’t overplayed his hand with Skyler. His matter-of-face nonchalance is either meant to scare or comfort her into submission, but the Skyler we’ve known is just as likely to go to Hank as cower for too much longer, and I am starting to wonder if she won’t be part of his downfall after all.
Was more happening here than I realize? Are their aspects of Walt’s monstrous transformation that I’m missing? Is he smart enough to one day be Jesse James? Or just plain crazy enough?
Final thought: Jesse Plemons as the earnest vermin-killer! I don’t know if you watched Friday Night Lights but Landry Clark was one of my favorite characters of all time, and my heart just exploded with happiness to see him on BB. Not in the same “Jesse Pinkman you aren’t a meth-using idiot child anymore” way, but close.
I think you are right on track with this episode. The only plot it covers moving forward is the development of the operation. The Three Stooges (this isn’t a reference I would have quickly made myself, but since Walt and Jesse were watching it, I’m assuming there is some meaning to pull from it. I think it kind of points out how the three main guys are hindered from moving forward as a cohesive group because they are too busy trying to oneup each other (poke each other in the eye and slap each other)) develop a sweet plan. It is fun to see Walt’s planning brilliance come out again. This Vamanos Pest plan seemed almost lighthearted and giddy when juxtaposed with Walt’s emotional controlling of Jesse and Marie.
I agree with you that Skylar seems like as much of a threat to Walt as Hank does. She has to be contemplating spending time in prison (for laundering drug money at the least) in order to protect her children. I loved that Walt and Walt Jr. were giddy watching Tony Montana from Scarface at his pinnacle of power mania. And then Walt Jr. turns, innocently to Skylar, echoing Walt with a simple, “Join us!” Followed eerily by Walt saying, “Everyone dies in this movie.”
Speaking of Skylar, I really hope she gets to do more this season. Until she freaked out like Cherita Chen in Donnie Darko, Skylar had spent this season just looking terrified. And while I think Anna Gunn has done a great job of it, I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. At some point she will just have to snap on a more grand scale than telling her sister to shut up (which Marie was kind of asking for it at the moment). I just wonder what will happen when she is just staring at the ceiling and decides that her life has to be different. We have seen that she can be just as cunning as Walt when her back is against the wall, but she might not be able to go any further down that dark path.
I don’t really have anything else to add thematically, but I will talk about how beautifully done this episode was. I thought the montage of them setting up the cook site and cooking was one of the most beautiful scenes of the entire show (which is full of fantastically beautiful scenes). The moments where we saw the chemical reactions going on in the cook were just fantastic. They looked like they could have been in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life.
I did love the scene of Walt moving his stuff back in. Skylar comes in and asks, “Are you moving back in?” to which gives the cocky response of just “Yeah, I’m home.” As he is packing his stuff back into the closet and dresser, I thought it was a great detail that he had to shove Skylar’s bras out of the way in the top drawer to make space for himself.
Well, I can’t wait to see what happens with Walt over the next year (next week’s episode is supposedly about his 51st birthday, and episode one of season 5 opened with him in Denny’s on b-day #52). So in the next year, Walt will be going to war with somebody. Will it be Mike? Who else could be standing in his way at that point? Will the cartel resurface? Much remains to be seen, and I am thrilled to see it.