The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Say My Name

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Breaking Bad, Mike, Walt, Say My Name,

Dear Bryan,

I’m not going to pull a Walt here and make you say thank you for having pointed out for the last several episodes that we were headed to this dark conclusion. A gun in the hand, or within the reach of Walt’s hand, was clearly headed in one direction. But did it really come down to such a seemingly small case of wounded pride? And what do you make of what seemed to be fear, panic, and regret in Walt and Mike’s final moments?

I think I am running out of things to say about Walt’s ego. The man is so confident in his own abilities, both persuasive and in the cook room (excuse, me, the laboratory) he can get a rival drug ring to bow to his will. He bristles when Mike neglects to thank him for handling the situation so well and he is confident he can manipulate Jesse into doing whatever he wants. What I liked best this week was watching the new, confident Walt in action. Did you notice the high school teacher coming through in Walt’s “pep talk” to Jesse (“you’re just going to throw away your potential? and for what, video games?”)? With Todd, he was the prize-winning professor he might once have hoped to be, taking the new lab assistant under his wing, patronizing him with his time and attention, but holding back with praise and too much encouragement. The look of pleasure and surprise when Todd self-deprecatingly acknowledges his shortcomings was also a lovely clue into what really wants: a meth world that operates like higher education or a private science lab, where sheer brilliance and a bit of nerve sets the pecking order.

We talked last week about how violence has plagued Walt most when he thinks it is just behind him and I thought it was a lovely touch for the writers to bring this to fore by having Jesse call Walt on his self-delusions. Walt promises Jesse that now that they are in charge the violence is behind them and Jesse wisely reminds him that he’s heard this song before, except usually a body hits the ground as soon as Walt stops singing. Having Walt conclude this same episode by violently killing Mike in a fit of egoistic rage may have been a bit heavy-handed, except that Walt seemed genuinely surprised by the violence when he encountered it in the flesh. It was a good reminder that other than Crazy 8, I am not sure Walt has been present at a murder he’s been directly responsible for in a long time (ever?). Life and death and “doing what is necessary” has become a bit too cerebral and I think we can hope that taking Mike’s life might pull Walt in another direction. Not in a repentant, merciful direction, but at least cause a moment of tremor in his delusional fantasy of a bloodless meth empire. Something is going to teach Walt that excelling at meth production is not the same as heading a multinational chemistry firm, and maybe this is the first step toward embracing the reality of the profession he is so hellbent on joining.

But what do we make of his deathbed (death by the side of the river/marsh) apology to Mike? Did he really just realize that what he wanted from Mike – the names of his “guys” so, presumably, he could finish carrying out Lydia’s plan – he could have gotten elsewhere? If so, does that mean we are supposed to believe that he really did kill Mike in a fit of pride and rage? Mike disrespected him and refuses to pay him homage, so he takes him out, only to realize, faced with the brutal reality and possible consequences of what he’s done, that he acted on irrational emotion, not the cool logic he prides himself on? If this is what that apology means, then it is the first sign that Walt is realizing the depths of his own delusions, or at least the possibility that he might not be acting the part of super-rational, super-powerful meth lord. The only other possibility I can imagine is that Walt is flubbing the apology, giving Walt some fake, manipulative excuse for killing him that he might try to feed Jesse or Skyler, the kind of bumbling, “I’m so sorry I let things get out of control” speech that sends Hank running for coffee. If that is the case, Walt’s ego knows no bounds and this blog cannot contain enough words to describe it.

A few other thoughts:

–Is Skyer’s only dramatic possibility walking moodily from the dining room table carrying a white wine glass? What does it mean that she didn’t take the bottle this week?

–Did you feel any traces of similarity between Mike’s “go-bag” in the trunk of the silver sedan and Walt’s mysterious trunk contents at the start of the season (one year from the chronological moment in the show)? Did he just learn the idea of a “go-bag” from Mike?

–How is it legal to seize the money a lawyer is depositing into safe deposit boxes? Why isn’t that protected by client/attorney privilege?

–When are Jesse and Skyler going to team up to take Walt down?

We’ll discuss money when I get this right,

Kathryn

Dear Kathryn,

I think one of the trade marks of a great show is that they can tell you exactly what is going to happen, but it still hits home really hard (see: end of season 3 of The Wire). Walt murdering Mike was one of those moments. Even if they hadn’t been dropping the hints that you had picked up on for a few weeks before, when Walt sees the gun in Mike’s getaway bag, it seemed completely obvious.

“Paging Dr. Chekov. You are wanted in the foreshadowing department.”

And unfortunately, it seems that it was just a case of wounded pride that drove Walt to killing Mike. As Walt realizes that he can’t manipulate people with words as easily (see: Jesse and Skyler), he decides that physicality is the next best way. If people won’t stand in awe of the great Heisenberg, they will have to pay the price for their disrespect.

I think you are on to something about Skyler and Jesse teaming up against Walt. Neither of them have anyone who they can confide their fears in, and if they ever spend time alone, it could be bad news for Walt. I’m not sure what they could actually do to him, but they definitely seemed to have a meaningful moment of mutual fear of the new Walt. They both gave him similar speeches about the effects of his actions. I loved watching Jesse stand up to Walt about how emotionally detached he can be from the deaths that they have caused. Jesse calls out the bullshit in Walt’s confidence that they can run a murder-free drug operation. But he also refuses to take the bait of Walt calling him out on all his previous failures. He doesn’t succumb to the age-old arguement that parents have a higher awareness for emotional pain. As a non-parent, I’m not sure this is ever a fair argument. In the most recent past, Jesse was a better, more attentive father to Brock than Walt has been to Walt “Breakfast” Jr. or Holly “Most Delicious” Baby. So, Jesse should have a more immediate connection to a young child’s death than Walt.

I’m still not sure what I make of the death(river)bed scene. Walt seemed to have some sort of remorse for killing Mike. But he did give one of the most insincere apologies, “This didn’t have to happen,” which is a total Nixonian apology in its passive tone. I did appreciate that Mike got to go out in Mike style, simply saying “Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.” Doesn’t that seem to have been Mike’s attitude to Walt all along (except that it was “live in peace” up until this moment). As for your question about Walt being up close for the deaths he was responsible for, he was there at the end of season 3 when he ran over and shot two drug dealers respectively. I do think that Walt realizes a little bit that he might not be able to handle being the king of meth right now, but he won’t admit it and overcompensates for it. I think he had genuine regret about Mike, and then immediately began to work towards solving his next problem: what to do with about the nine Fring guys.

Speaking of that, Walt, Jesse, and Lydia need to do something about that new problem. Will Todd’s family connections in prison come in handy in this situation? Is this going to cause Walt to develop a new identity (a man from New Hampshire?)? That would be a serious implication that would cause him to be actually sought by the DEA. I would be surprised if things went that far in next week’s finale. But, who knows right?

Regardless, I am very excited about next week’s finale, and also very upset about having to wait for the last 8 episodes. Let’s hold on tight.

Also, I think the DEA can investigate under money laundering charges. I’m not sure of the legal implications all around, but I think that is where they have their best shot at that.

Bryan Reklis

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