Jesse and Walt come from two very disparate lifestyles. Walt, a once highly acclaimed chemist who never found his footing in the science arena, had to resort to teaching 10th graders the periodic table. It wasn’t his passion, but he was good at his job and it (almost) paid the bills. Then he got sick, and worse, quite desperate. The money he was making just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
That brought him to Jesse, a young man he used to teach who lived a seedy lifestyle peddling cheap meth, smoking crack, and sleeping with hookers. Surprisingly, the men bonded over the course of a few seasons. Walt felt obligated to care for the unwieldy but heartfelt Jesse and Jesse in turn looked up to Walt as a surrogate father of sorts. However, as last nights episode clearly conveyed, these bonds have been completely shattered. A wedge has pushed the two far apart, a long ways away from where they used to be. The two are no longer the pair we’ve grown to love.
Walt has been extremely slow to realize that this situation is much greater than him. This lifestyle that he once chose to liberate himself from has now confined him, forced him to make crucial choices he otherwise wouldn’t have made. A man who was once in control of a simple, yet honest destiny is now a pawn in a game exponentially larger than anything he could have dreamed.
He might be the single most important component of the business, but it inversely correlates with control, and it is this that has driven Walt to the madness that has motivated his every move this season. He gets desperate knowing that Jesse still hasn’t poisoned Gus with the cigarette (do we have a double entendre here?), and decides to bug Jesse’s car to track his every move.
Meanwhile, Jesse’s fragile grasp on reality is tested once again in a violent, almost ethereal shootout in the parking lot adjacent to the lab. Walt discloses to Mike that his stepbrother Hank, who is now fully invested in his detective work, has a lead on the lab grounds.
Mike tasks Jesse with helping him clean the grounds to cover their tracks before Hank can roll his way in. While they are loading the Pollos Hermanos trucks with any evidence that can strengthen Hank’s case, an off-screen sniper splatters a workers head against the truck. Jesse is too stunned to move, and luckily Mike jumps in at the last moment to save Jesse’s life.
In what can only be described as an extremely audacious act of dominance, Gus immediately walks into the line of fire, arms outstretched. He realizes how important he is, testing the Cartel sniper. The sniper backs off, smiling.
Ultimately, the Cartel still wants half of Gus’ business, and they too realize that Gus is an integral component to the business and is therefore in-expendable. The dichotomy between Jesse’s expendability and Gus’ invulnerability is striking, somewhat in sharp contrast to last week’s episode. However, it clearly denotes just how powerful Gus really is in this violent game.
Skyler is as bad as ever, forced to break when she realizes that Ted, her boss from last season, is getting audited. Her signatures are all over Ted’s books, and she realizes that her (as well as Walt’s) life could potentially become unearthed in the auditing process.
In a brilliant move, she shows up to Ted’s meeting with the IRS with a typical, “Erin Brokovitch”-like outfit on: Cleavage, short skirt, heavy eyeliner. She plays the “dumb accountant” part perfectly, and spares Ted (and herself, especially) considerable jail time. It is interesting to see reflections of Walt’s life ripple into Skyler’s, who is increasingly growing her own demons.
This episode of Breaking Bad ends in a brutal, though pivotal scene. Jesse cathartically opens to Walt about the dinner he had with Gus and what Gus would like him to do: Go to Mexico and teach the Cartel the meth recipe. Walt barely listens, instead growing enraged that Jesse still hasn’t poisoned Gus. An all out brawl erupts after Jesse learns that Walt bugged his car, and the two take out whatever pent-up rage has built over the course of this season.
Both men leave with bruises and an ultimate sense of betrayal. Whether or not the two can mend these physical and emotional wounds has yet to be seen, but this is by far the largest cliffhanger of the season yet. I will be losing sleep anticipating next weeks episode.