The Moth Chase

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

Mr. White, he’s the devil

with 2 comments

Breaking Bad - S05E12

Hey folks,

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but this episode felt like it was trying to get a lot of things in place for the last four episodes. Not a whole lot happened necessarily, but we got some interesting setups. Most notably, Jesse is cooperating with the DEA (I loved the moment when Marie gave Jesse his coffee in a DEA mug. Basically just saying, you’re on this team now). And now, we know that Walt is ready and willing to have Jesse killed (by Todd’s uncle). This seems like the setup to how Todd and the gang are going to be pulled into the main story, which obviously needs to happen soon.

So, we have some interesting setups, but to me, the most interesting part of this episode is that no one is willing to put up with Walt’s bullshit anymore. Even Walt Jr. calls him out on the gas pump story (even though for different reasons than Skyler, and Skyler does not buy the adjusted version that Walt gives after Jr. calls him out). Then Skyler finally really calls him out. She is completely disenchanted to who the old Walt was. She doesn’t seem to believe that there is anything “good” left of him. She doesn’t seem to even believe that there is much good left in her either. She is definitely on Team Kill Jesse, saying “What’s one more?” It is a chilling moment because we see that Walt really does not want to “put down” Jesse. He sees him as a the loyal (yet sometimes problematic) dog. But, Jesse’s phone call stunt at the end has Walt really seeing him as the rabid dog. I love how Breaking Bad can come really close to force-feeding a metaphor like that to the viewer, but somehow manages to keep it from being ridiculous. I feel like a lot of other shows would have made me feel beat over the head with that metaphor, but I didn’t feel that way with this episode.

Two more quick things:

1. With Natalie suggesting that Walt Jr. will probably die to atone for Walt’s sins, I have have been paying more attention to that. I have some other friends who have speculated that Jr. is doomed, as well. Watching this episode with that in mind really made me think that that is going to happen. Walt Jr. is the only “pure” character left (excluding Holly because, duh). Also, we are seeing a lot more of R.J. Mitte and he is playing a more emotionally vulnerable version of himself. That seems like the thing to do to make his eventual death even more sad. What does everyone else think?

2. Does anyone else see a parallel between Hank and Walt right now? Hank is heartless about Jesse. He is willing (maybe even hoping) to have Jesse die at the meeting with Walt. Hank really wants to “burn him down.” And, hurting other people wouldn’t really bother him. Obviously, Hank is nowhere near the monster that Walt is, but I think he does have the bravado of “say my name” that Walt showed earlier in the first half of this two part season. I think it is the same underlying motivation that is driving them, but Hank is obviously not willing to go down that trail as far as Walt has.

I would love to hear everyone else’s speculation on Jesse’s new plan to get Walt.

It just feels good to think about it,



Hey Bryan,

You’re exactly right on the rapidly diminishing impact of Walt’s bullshit. This, to me, has been the defining motif of this half-season: a series of head-to-head encounters between Walt and Jesse, Skyler, Hank and Walt. Jr., in which he spins wild stories, ratchets through every tactic he has, from pity to threats to rationalizing, only to see what used to work – his ability to bluff and reason his way out of a bind – come up more and more empty. (It’s not just Walt – Skyler has had some amazing encounters too, with Hank and Marie, but she’s not trying to bluff her way out of anything). So seeing Walt embarrass himself in front of his son and wife this week just brought home how rapidly he’s lost power and how desperate his situation is – how desperate everyone but him realizes it is – and how far he’s fallen already.

I mean, if you think about it, Walt built his empire on his meth cooking, but in every dilemma he found himself in, he had to talk his way out of it, but the only reason that ever worked is that he had the meth formula to fall back on. Having given that up, the Heisenberg facade – a persona he built for himself in hubris – is revealing itself to be a house of cards. The problem is, Walt doesn’t realize that. He’s always been a bad liar – that measuring, cold stare Skyler was giving him in the kitchen is a look we’ve seen many times before – but he’s never come to realize it because he had the meth to fall back on. With that gone, he looks incredibly vulnerable; compare his ineffectual hesitation about Jesse to the ease with which he killed off ten witnesses (to say nothing of Mike) in the first half of the season.

I’ve been thinking lately about where Walt belongs in the canon of the great anti-heroes of the current television drama cycle (a canon that I think is effectively closing with the end of Breaking Bad and Mad Men). Tony Soprano’s source of power was his brutal efficiency and consanguinity; Don Draper relies on charisma and inspiration; Vic Mackey depended upon strategy, adaptability, and a solipsistic moral code; the list could go on (and yeah, they’re all men, something I’ve also been thinking a lot about, but that’s a different discussion), but all shared two things in common: first, the source of their strength was the source of their decline/fall. In itself, that’s not too remarkable – if it’s not Drama 101, it’s definitely Drama 102. Second, though, is that in each case their hubris rested on a honor-shame dialectic, as it did for the ancient Greeks. And honor is an awfully flimsy thing. Power is, as George R. R. Martin said so well in Game of Thrones, a shadow on the wall, a trick. And Walt is something different in the anti-hero pantheon, a kind of accidental villain, someone who’s always believed his own sleight-of-hand a bit too much. I don’t doubt he’s got a few tricks left; but what really excited me about Jesse going off-script tonight is that this means pretty much the last person who could be cowed by Walt’s b.s. is against him now. And I really have no idea what’s coming next.


Written by breklis

September 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I think that Natalie is probably right about Walt Jr, but I think the series may provide some kind of “out” for Walt. Some kind of redemptive and sacrificial act that will, in at least a partial way, make us feel that he earned back his place in the company of the righteous. Maybe the M60 is so he can take out the evil white-supremacists?

    Tay Moss

    September 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  2. Not Meth, chemistry. Meth was one expression of that;, bombs, thermite, and ricin another. However, genius chemist or not, that chemistry background has only been useful to him in criminal ways. Creating an explosive to subdue Tuco and kill Gustavo. He never did get to use the ricin, but it’s been hovering in the background. Thermite to break into a building.

    He’s been trying not to be a criminal, so the chemistry hasn’t served him.

    Paul Shuster

    September 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

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