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BREAKING BAD: Walt Stands Alone After “Say My Name”
You probably shouldn’t read past this sentence if you haven’t seen the newest episode of Breaking Bad.
It was only a matter of time before Walter’s hubris got the better of him and his own partner’s would have to pay the ultimate price for it. Amazingly, it’s not Walt’s insistence on dealing with the rival meth dealers on his own terms – though it certainly plays its part – that inevitably gets Mike killed at the bottom of the hour. Rather, it’ Walt’s lack of self-awareness. If only he could see how completely unqualified he is to be running a meth business. He has good ideas, and he knows how to talk out of his ass and manipulate virtually anyone, but he has a remarkable lack of foresight. He’s always so shocked to learn things are not going according to plan and doesn’t hesitant to throw the blame around to anyone but himself. Case in point: with Mike pulling out due to the DEA now openly hunting him after his lawyer flips, Mike berates Walt for killing Gus Fring and ruining the good thing they all had going. It’s quite true that none of this would’ve happened had Walt not gone mucking around, but Walt doesn’t want to hear that. He wants to be praised. He wants his ego stroked. And if you can’t do that for him then he has little use for you. Furious that Mike would talk to him this way, Walt marches toward Mike, sitting in his car, and shoots him in the stomach.
What’s odd about this final scene is Walt’s thus far uncharacteristically regretful reaction to shooting Mike. After pulling the trigger, it’s as if he comes out of a trance and realizes what he’s just done and watches helplessly as Mike attempts to drive away, but only managing to crash into a boulder. Walt approaches, carefully, still wary of the possibility Mike might be able to put up a fight, but he finds him sitting quite calmly, just waiting to die. Sure enough, Mike has already found himself another gun, but he asks Walt to just let him die peace. Walt, of course, tries to blame his actions on Mike. “This whole thing could’ve been avoided,” are his useless final words to Mike. It’s the best apology Walt can give at this point. But I think it’s worth noting he’s even capable of apologizing. It means there’s still some humanity left in him, however small it may be.
It’s a shame Walt is incapable of realizing his mistakes until well after he makes them. If he could, he might see the error in alienating Jesse. They’ve been partners for a long time now, so it’s understandable Walt is hesitant to let Jesse just walk away, but Jesse wasn’t going to remain passive forever. It was only a matter of time before Jesse would pick up on how manipulative Walt has been to those closest to him, including himself. When Jesse confronts Walt about getting his money, Walt says everything he can to convince Jesse to stay, at first attempting flattery, but switching to all out belittlement as he becomes more and more desperate. But Jesse has gotten wise to Walt’s methods and walks away, without his five million. While Jesse has definitely shown himself capable of following in Walt’s footsteps, his self-esteem isn’t quite as low and he doesn’t need to prove himself by making a dump truck full of money. There are other ways to feel good about yourself and Jesse has interest in finding them.
Walt doesn’t see how he’s creating all of these people who would be willing to turn against him should the DEA get close to him, which they currently are. It’s only a matter of time before somebody flips, and now we can add Jesse to the list of people who have everything to gain for turning him over. Even Todd, who Walt selects to replace Jesse with, could wind up ratting out Walt. I do not trust Todd. His desire to impress Walt is unsettling and I can’t help but feel there’s something else going on underneath the surface. I first became suspicious when he killed that kid, and my concerns have only grown since then. He’s a guy who will do whatever it takes to win favor with Walt, but what happens if Walt treats him the way he treated Jesse? Todd has already shown he has no problem killing a child, so who’s to say his loyalty to Walt is above question? He could snap at any moment and without warning and it would make sense because, at the end of the day, we know next to nothing about Todd. He’s a wild card, and a particularly scary one at that.
I can’t help but wonder how far Hank is willing to push the Heisenberg case before his job is in real jeopardy. He’s found any excuse to keep the case alive, but he obviously won’t be able to keep it going without some serious results. Yes, he got the lawyer to flip and will likely find Mike’s body, but if Walt can silence Mike’s men before they can talk, Hank may be without a paddle. He’s certainly shown no signs of slowing down his investigation, despite a clear warning from his superior. I have a sneaking suspicion he’d rather lose his job than lose Heisenberg, no matter what anyone tells him.
Next week is the Season 5 mid-season finale and, as is customary with a Breaking Bad finale, I have no idea what’s going to happen. We know Walt is going to try and get the list of Mike’s men from Lydia and that Hank is one step closer to discovering Walt, but the endgame could still be anything. Walt could be discovered by the DEA, Skyler or Jesse could rat him out, Walt could rise higher still in the meth world, he could be knocked off his throne by Declan and his men, or maybe the cancer will return. Any of those are possible, even likely. I would be surprised if a combination of those possibilities wasn’t used, along with some things I haven’t thought of. All anyone can really guarantee is next week’s finale will be one to remember. Breaking Bad has yet to let us down, why should it start now?