Breaking Bad: Season 5
Aired: August 25, 2013
Writer: Gennifer Hutchison
Director: Michael Slovis
“Things have gone nuclear.”
– Saul Goodman
At this point in the game, Jesse Pinkman is the only true wild card left in the Breaking Bad universe.
We know that Walter White is a calculating, brilliant man who will ruthlessly do anything to protect himself, his family and his reputation. We know that Hank has always been driven to find Heisenberg and to put him behind bars, and finding out that his white whale was his brother-in-law all along has only strengthened his resolve. After last week, we know Skyler is firmly in her husband’s camp. Todd will do whatever advances his career and keeps him out of jail. Same with Saul. Lydia is a bit neurotic and overanxious, but ultimately she will do whatever is best for business.
Jesse isn’t motivated by money or self-preservation. He never cared about building a drug empire the way Walter did. He was perfectly willing to walk away with the $5 million he could get selling his share of the methylamine from the train heist. But even getting that money brought him no solace. He is a broken man with his own slightly warped, but strict moral code who has nothing left to lose or to live for. In short, he is capable of anything.
That’s what made this week’s episode so captivating. The question of the hour was “What will Jesse Pinkman do?” (Which, incidentally, would make an awesome bracelet.) All of the episode’s suspense was centered around the possibility that Jesse might turn state’s evidence, leave town or find a new self-destructive outlet for his grief that would top throwing all of his money out the window of his car.
It was utterly conceivable that Hank might be able to break Jesse in the interrogation room at the start of tonight’s episode. He just seemed defeated and, if Hank hit the right chord, he might be willing to spill the beans. Of course, how the scene played out – with him responding with “Eat me” and shutting down without saying a word – ended up feeling just as true to the character.
From there, I had absolutely no clue what Jesse would do next. He no longer believes a word that Walt tells him, but he also can’t go to the cops to get out from under the thumb of Mr. White. He knows Saul is more loyal to Walt than him. And he knows, as he states during his meeting with the two, that if he doesn’t accept Walt’s offer to leave town under a new identity that he’ll probably end up on a one-way trip to Belize.
And then, the one thing that could have pushed an already-broken man over the edge happened. Jesse finally put the last piece of the puzzle together and realized what, on some level, he probably knew all along – that Walt, not Gus, poisoned Brock.
Again, from there, I didn’t know what his reaction would be. It could have been the thing that convinced him to side with Hank. Instead, he went on a much more destructive and bad ass path – assaulting Saul and dousing the White house with gasoline.
We may have gotten our answer on why the house is an abandoned skate park in the flash forward from two episodes ago. (Although, maybe not. The house didn’t have fire damage, it was just ransacked and vandalized. And, while Jesse could destroy the interior and write Heisenberg on the wall, it still doesn’t exactly explain why neighbor Carol was so terrified to see Walt. Jesse may be the one who destroys and graffitis the house, but at some point it still seems like Walt needs to get publicly outed as Heisenberg to explain Carol’s reaction, as well as the fake ID and the assault riffle.) But we still don’t know what Jesse will do next or how Walt will react to the news that Jesse knows about the ricin.
What made Jesse’s epiphany all the more captivating is that it came at a moment when Walt seemed to be (at least temporarily) in the clear. Walt does some slight of hand with Junior, telling him about the cancer returning in order to keep him from going to Hank and Marie’s house. Then, he films a “confession” that implicates Hank as the mastermind of the blue meth operation, a spectacular web of lies laced with just enough truth that it forces Hank into a stalemate, at least for the time being.
Walt is out of the game. No rival drug dealers are out to get him. Lydia is happy with Todd and his new meth team. Hank can’t touch him, unless he gets some solid evidence on Walt and finds a way to nullify the damage Walt’s confession does to him. So for the moment, Jesse Pinkman is his biggest (and most unpredictable) threat.
I’m really excited to see where this all leads. Especially if it gives Aaron Paul another chance to put on an acting clinic. Obviously, Bryan Cranston gets a lot of the accolades for his acting on this show, which he completely deserves, but Paul is quite a dynamic performer as well and he absolutely owned this episode. Watching a reinvigorated Jesse focus all his attention on getting revenge on Mr. White could be highly entertaining. And considering the next episode is titled “Rabid Dog,” I have high hopes for the ensuing confrontation.
And another thing …
- Speaking of the ricin, Dustin Rowles has a rather compelling theory for how the vial Walt retrieves from the abandoned White house will be used – he thinks it will be used on Skyler. Dustin makes a good case, but after giving it a lot of thought, I think there’s someone else Walt is saving it for – himself. The assault rifle seems to be so that he can go out in a blaze of glory – but if he wants to ensure that the cancer doesn’t slowly kill him while he’s trapped inside a prison cell or if he simply decides he wants to go out on his own terms, I think the ricin is his version of a cyanide capsule.
- Though I feel that it is important to note that on the official Breaking Bad podcast, the writers admitted that they didn’t know how Walter would use the ricin when the wrote the scene in the beginning of “Blood Money.” They needed a compelling reason for Walt to go back to the house to make the scene work and they figured out what to do with the ricin later on down the line. I think that’s important to keep in mind when speculating, since it would seem to indicate that whatever Walt uses it for might not be as dramatic as we think. (Plus, I love pointing out just how ballsy the writers are – eight episodes left in the series and they just go, “Eh, we’ll figure it out later.”)
- Walt should win an award for “Most Awkward Man-hug Ever” for that bit of “reassurance” he tried to offer Jesse in the desert.
- I love that the opening of Walt’s confession mirrored the intro of the video Walter Hartwell White makes in the series’ pilot episode.
- Vince Gilligan has talked about trying to find ways to inject levity into this final stretch of eight episodes to keep it from feeling too dark. Badger’s Star Trek script and Huel and Kuby laying onto of the pile o’ money were both results of that, as was the overly-enthusiastic interrupting waiter during the tense dinner scene between the Whites and the Schraders. I’m excited to see what the writers come up with next.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.