And then we come to Brock, having only briefly met the boy before poisoning him, Walt is properly introduced to him this week when Andrea stumbles in on Jesse and Walt figuring out how they will move their meth lab from house to house. The gregarious nature with which Walt addresses Brock is a terrific use of dramatic irony and is a moment played to perfection by Bryan Cranston, who just about hits the right note of creepy. Following this, Walt is invited to join them for a beer and finally recognises that Jesse is settling down and could potentially be a solid father figure. But this is not something Walt takes pride in. In fact, he sees it as a potential danger to his business.
One of the great underlying tensions of this season has been Walt’s steady manipulation of Jesse’s emotions, whether it be making Jesse feel guilty about pointing the gun after “discovering” the fake cigarette in the automated dust bug or like it is here with the control of his personal life.
After the cook is finished, Jesse and Walt sit in front of the television and chat harmlessly about Jesse’s transformed life and new found happiness. It is here that Walt begins to plant the seeds of doubt into Jesse’s mind. Walt tells him that he could end up hurting these people further down the road. “Secrets create barriers between people… if you choose to spend the rest of your life with this person, then you’ll have to decide how much you want to share with her,” says Walt.
Walt’s words could be mistaken for concern over his partner’s happiness, but at the close of the episode Jesse confides to Walt that he’s broken things off with Andrea and we know that Walt’s plan has all but succeeded. What’s worse though is that his puppetry of Jesse’s life doesn’t stop there.
In one of the creepiest monologues of Cranston’s performance so far as Walter White, he explains that Victor cooking the batch by himself before getting his throat cut (from the Season 4 opener “Box Cutter”) is an example of flying too close to the sun. Simply put, he messed with the formula and he messed with the boss, and that wasn’t to be accepted.
While it’s tough to know exactly what Walt meant by this, my reading of it is that Walt sees himself as the head honcho despite the three way split between himself, Jesse and Mike. He is the newly crowned king of the drug scene and the message here could be that he is not to be crossed. It’s a fascinating close to the episode, deliciously leaving open so many avenues that are inevitably leading toward what we saw in the opening episode (more on that in a moment).
Walt’s manipulation doesn’t stop at Jesse though. He is determined to get everyone on his side.
Marie Schrader (Skyler’s sister) returns for the first time this season to witness the breakdown of her sister. Skyler cracks in front of her and has an outpouring of emotion that can only be explained by her fear of her husband. Marie has no idea why this happens so she goes to see Walt, even though she openly admits that she isn’t on great terms with him after he refused to go to the Schrader house when Hank’s life was in danger. Luckily, Walt’s terrific false sense of innocence manages to get Marie back on his side.
Walt divulges that the reason Skyler is upset is because of Ted Beneke and her affair. Stunned by her sister’s gall to sleep with another man while her husband has cancer cuts deep, and the sympathy she shows to Walt is very genuine. Of course, this is pure manipulation and further alienates Skyler from her family, making out that she is the villain when actually, she is the one character that holds the strongest moral high ground.
Finally, the last thing to note about this week’s episode is that there is an offhand mention that Walt’s birthday is fast approaching, marking one year around the time he was diagnosed with cancer. This also has significance for something else though.
In the season premiere‘s pre-credits scene we catch Walt celebrating his 52nd birthday at a Denny’s (admittedly under an alias). Creator Vince Gilligan promised recently that we definitely will see how this ties in, but not until the very end of the 16 episodes. This means we still have a whole year’s worth of events to get to before we can see Walt alone, with a new name and out for blood.
And as Breaking Bad as shown over these last 49 episodes, a lot can happen in a year.