Going forward where?
Well, here we have it: a perfect episode to show us just how far Walt has come and just how deluded he is about his future. There were many hints of this escalation and delusion, but how about that scene of Walt and Skyler in bed at the end of the episode for starters? Walt reprises his creepy, possessive manipulator role with the added ick factor of paralleling the sex scene at the end of the very first episode of the series. Then, Walt has returned home after stowing the corpse of Emilio in the RV outside Jesse’s house and the almost-corpse of Crazy 8 in Jesse’s basement. His first attempt at breaking bad has not gone so well and he is wracked with guilt, anxiety, and just the first taste of power. He initiates sex with Skyler with the desperation and intensity of a man who almost died (besides the fact that he thinks he is dying of lung cancer) and she is shocked, but also titilated, by his intensity: “Walt, is that you?” she asks breathlessly. Now he is completely intoxicated with his sense of power, so far from his desperation and anxiety he assures Skyler that things will get better, that she will get used to what she is feeling or just stop feeling it. Since that includes a casual regard for murder, poisoning children, threatening lawyers, and intimidating co-workers, it is not surprising that Walt’s words, and even more his unwelcome advances, freak Skyler out. If she was not lying there plotting her escape, I’ll search Jesse’s house for fake ricin.
Which brings us back to the opening scene of the episode and the long set-up Walt devises to finally put Jesse’s fears to rest. Panicking that the ricin-ladden cigarette may have accidentally ended up in an innocent person’s hands, and probably still subconsciously uncertain if he can trust Walt or not, Jesse is desperate to find the cigarette. Walt and Jesse tear his apartment apart, meticulously searching every surface, until Walt casually suggests that Jesse re-search the robotic vacuum, where he has planted a fake cigarette loaded with table salt. I’m not sure who will become the victim of the ricin hiding behind the electric socket in Walt’s bedroom, but it worries me. Walt’s plan works better than we could have hoped: not only is Jesse ausaged, but he actually breaks down in sobs, mortified that he almost shot Walt on false premises. Rubbing Jesse’s shoulders and stroking his head, Walt puts the past behind them and paints a picture for Jesse of a more glorious future (um, weird parallel with the Skyler scene to come; it appears that physical affection is Walt’s secret weapon of manipulation, only it seems to work on Jesse but not with his wife).
That future is one where they are “owners, not employees,” calling the shots and reaping the “gold in the streets.” Walt’s confidence in this future and his own self-righteous place as the smartest, most powerful man in the center of it is perhaps the best indication of how far he’s come and how deluded he is. All of his pent-up frustrations at the life he’s been dealt/chosen – all his fury that his brilliance was never recognized or rewarded, that he is the overlooked quiet every-man – is channeled to this new realm, where he imagines himself the new Gus, but smarter and more masterful, the chemist/scientist/drug lord extraordinaire.
Mike and Skyler, both for different reasons and with different stakes in the game, call this bluff, Mike most starkly when he tells Walt that he is a ticking time bomb. The flash-forward last week showed us that, in one way or another, Mike is right. Right now, however, just like Skyler, Mike is sucked back into Walt’s vision of a new empire out of a desperate need for money for Kaylee and maybe just a bit of a desire to stick it to the cops. I’ll let you surmise what his sketchy past in Philly might reveal and whether or not anyone is a badder ass? Walt fussing about the kitchen in self-satisfied delusions of power while Mike, world-weary and so wise, tricks his would be assassin with a stuffed pig and ambushes Lydia in her own home, pretty much sums up where the real power lies.
How long do you think we have until Walt explodes? Who will be the first to go down with him when he does?
I am sorry that this response is late. I was unfortunately without power yesterday (which made me wonder if would be too obvious to have an act of nature destroy Walt’s power supply (in an actual energy sense) that would threaten his power supply (in a more metaphorical sense).
But anyways, I love the connection that you made with the first season episode of Skylar and Walt in bed. You are absolutely right about Walt’s transformation being laid out from those two scenes four seasons apart. Also, great insight on the similarities between Walt’s ability to use physical, intimate contact to control Jesse’s emotions and his lack of ability to do that with Skylar. It was almost like massaging Jesse’s shoulders was a practice round for Walt. He was trying to figure out if he had that type of mastery over people. I loved the dialogue between Walt and Jesse in that scene. Walt’s great lines like “I wouldn’t change any of it.”
and “You and me sticking together is what kept us alive.” While this was totally bull shit because it was Walt’s mastermind plan that kept them alive. But it seemed like this was exactly what Walt wants to believe about him and Skylar. It seems like at this point, Walt is hoping Skylar will just become numb to her conscience, and they can become king and queen of Methtropolis (and Jesse would like to be Captain Ice Crunch on the Crystal Ship with his right hand man First Mate Mike).
Going back to the beginning of the episode. What a fantastic cold open. I am blown away by how well Breaking Bad can create an entirely new world at Madrigal and give us several new characters who felt very well fleshed out in only 5 minutes. The team of condiment chemists had their giddy excitement to get feedback from the head of the restaurant division of Madrigal try out their new flavors of dipping sauce (including Cajun Kick Ass, which is a condiment that I would eat so much of that I would end up with a Cajun Fat Ass after a few months) turn slowly to doubt and despair.
Mr. Schuler, while emotionally not dynamic, was a lot of fun to watch. He was essentially the antithesis of Walt. He had a ton of power that he had built up around him, but once things took a bad turn, he immediately quit (something Walt was adamant about not doing when Skylar first found out about his extra-curricular activities). I thought cold open showed just how amazing Vince Gilligan and his writers are. A lot of shows would have done a much less interesting job getting the plot details of Mr. Schuler across.
The scene of Jesse, Walt, and Saul talking about the beginnings of their new enterprise was fantastic. It was really well executed. From things like Walt saying, “If Gus could manage, so can we.” To the blocking of the scene: Walt was sitting in a single chair framed to be in a dominating position over Jesse and Saul (his employees in his mind), and he ran the meeting like a department report “Pre-cursor. Where are we on that?” I bet Saul was even taking minutes (on a criminal fuckin’ conspiracy?).
So, I remember a lot of people talking about how cool Mike was last season. And while I liked him, I never thought he was totally awesome. Until this episode. Every scene of his this episode was fantastic. He and Laura Fraser in the diner was hilarious (as hilarious as someone asking another person to assassinate 11 people can be). Side note: when I watched this episode a 2nd time, I realize that Laura Fraser is part of the large group of people who came to the DEA office with Madrigal. I had gathered that she worked for Madrigal, but I had missed that she is obviously very high up in the company. Back on track: I love how Mike’s references are stuck in the 1960s (Dick Clark Five last week and Jackie O this week). Also, the Mike v Hank showdown in the interrogation room was just great television. I really like Hank in the serious but still snarky role he has taken on since the Gail case came into his life. And Mike is so much more a good fit for him to have as a rival. Hank and Mike are evenly matched opponents unlike Hank and Jesse, which was lopsided and caused Hank to stoop to Jesse’s level.
One last thought on the DEA before I go: the Captain’s proactiveness to step down because of Gus’s relationship with them is another stark contrast to Walt. The Captain has humility to admit his mistakes even when it costs him power. Walt is not going to do that.
I love this show so much. Here are a couple of details that are incredible to me: Right after Walt says that Saul’s metaphor about a lottery winner is stupid and that they should go scoop up the gold that is laying in the street, we cut to Mike playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his daughter. What game could better symbolize greed and over indulgence better than that? Also, Mike was wearing Everlast sweatpants when he met with Jesse and Walt. Not only does Mike seem like boxing would totally be his sport of choice, he also seems to be operating on the idea of outlasting the other people in his position. Some of that might be reading too far into it, but I like it anyways.
Very excited about the rest of the show,