“I’m the danger! I’m the one who knocks!” proclaims Walt to his terrified wife Skyler in this week’s episode of Breaking Bad. Skyler is too stunned in disbelief to offer anything but the quiver of her lip. Walt stumbles, hungover from his drinking binge that closed last week’s episode, and continues his tirade, to his wife’s dismay.
Prior to his outburst, Skyler had pried into Gale’s murder and discovered (through her efficient deductive reasoning skills) that Walt was somehow involved. He wasn’t subtle in his retort, not by a long shot, and it only further elucidates his increasingly fragile ego: Walt has trouble seeing past his fractured reflection in the mirror.
The relief she felt as a result of Walt’s return home was immediately crushed. Before Walt could properly apologize, Skyler has left and brought with her the baby. She needs to be anywhere but “here”, it seems. We know not where she is going, but understand why she cannot be at home: The man she fell in love with no longer exists, instead replaced with a doppelganger of sorts. A doppelganger whose indignant, sometimes erratic behavior brings everyone he interacts with to the edge. Worse, Walt isn’t even aware of this.
Meanwhile, Jesse is chumming it up with Mike. In a scene strikingly similar to Episode 4’s prelude, Gus’ transport is once again hijacked by the competing cartel, although this time the cartel is successful in their attempt. Gus tasks both Mike and Jesse with reclaiming the precious cargo, providing them with a lead to where the product might be found. It truly begs the question: How did Gus and Mike know where to look?
When the pair arrives at a meth house that they believe is the most viable lead, Mike informs Jesse that they must “Wait it out” and see who turns up. Mike furthers the agenda by stating that waiting is 90% of the Job. Jesse, being the in-over-his-head meth-head that he is, disrupts this order and asserts that he has the edge over Mike.
He says that he “understands” the meth heads, and proceeds into the home to reclaim the drugs. Mike doesn’t stop him (nor does he really discourage him), and it again begs a similar question: Why does Mike, who usually holds an iron grip over every facet of the business, allow Jesse to so imprudently enter a dangerous situation. Does he trust Jesse’s judgement, or is their a greater hand at play? Only time will tell.
When Jesse does return to work, Walt berates him with an onslaught of questions. Where have you been? Do you really trust these people? Do you really think they are your friends? Walt has always been the stand-in father figure to Jesse, whether he is aware of it or not (and, in my opinion, he isn’t), and Jesse retorts with confidence that he had been lacking prior in the season. He tells Walt that he has been working with Mike, in confidence, and that he felt good about it. He said, much in the fashion of an enraged son, “Maybe I’m not such a screw up after all”.
Walt realizes that Gus and Mike are trying to push Jesse away from him, but fails in his attempt to make this clear to Jesse. He puts it in a way that is pompous and selfish, claiming that this entire issue “Is all about me”, which only further exacerbates their tenuous relationship. Walt wittily deduces that the entire hold-up was staged, but Jesse doesn’t buy it. He doesn’t confide in Walt like he used to, and worse, I don’t think Walt even notices (or cares).
Walt really has transformed into a different beast altogether. Bogdan, the previous Car Wash owner who must hand over the keys with a slight sense of patronization, is reduced to nothing in Walt’s mind. In the episode’s most brilliant image, Walt takes Bogdan’s first earned dollar to buy a soda, which he drinks down with nary an afterthought.
Later, when Walt’s actions result in the deportation of 3 innocent women, he doesn’t show much remorse, if any at all. The man is not so much lost in his own pride as he is blinded by the fact that he cannot one up Gus. The man is too powerful, too secretive, and it is getting the best of Walt. Will he toughen up and outsmart Gus, or will he continue to be a pawn in his game?
When Skyler finally does return from her trip (to the Four Corners where she allegorically contemplates leaving Walt but realizes she cannot), it ends the episode in the season’s most pivotal scene. She lays down a very clean and clear line, one in which Walt continually crosses but must cease to do so. One where he buys his son a sparkling new Dodge Challenger that must be returned the following day as it transgresses their alibi.
Sure, she might be the “Bitch Mother” who takes the flak for Walt’s impulses, but she is the one who must assume the position of protector, “protecting the man who protects this family” as she puts it.
It’s a line delivered so dryly, so matter-of-fact, that it leaves Walt stunned. He is speechless, belittled to the point of no rebuttal. She has made him realize that he is no longer the man of the house anymore.
Between Walt’s begrudging behavior bordering on narcissism, Skyler’s dedication to her family, and Jesse’s growing relationship with Mike (and Gus, who tells Jesse that “he sees potential” in him), there are many layers at play that I am sure will amalgamate into a frenzy so characteristic of Breaking Bad.
What did you think of last night’s episode?