This episode is a little slower and quieter than most this season, and this fits the storyline perfectly. It’s a great place to pause in, almost an uncomfortable place. Limbo. Walter White has gotten this borderline miraculous news–he’s in remission and going to live for the time being against all odds–but isn’t feeling the relief and exaltation that he should.
I think it’s a few things. One, as discussed in the post for the previous episode, he’s felt that remorse in the desert for all his deception and lies and now he has to live with it. But I think it goes beyond that. He’s created this whole new identity for himself as Heisenberg. He thinks of himself as this total badass, even though this view of himself is a bit inflated. Sure, he’s tough when calling the shots on territory and revenge on the Spooges and raising the product price, but it’s all behind the scenes. Still, he has this new picture of himself as this criminal mastermind, not to be messed with. And I think he doesn’t want to let that go.
Without his cancer and its death sentence, he doesn’t have an excuse to keep up this persona. He was doing it to leave money for his family after he’s gone, but what now, if he won’t be gone? He always said his family wouldn’t find out anything until after he’s gone? But what now, if he won’t be gone and the lies are getting so layered he can’t keep track of them? What if he liked who cancer allowed him to become? What is he supposed to do now when he has no ostensible reason to keep it up?
I think remission makes Walt feel lost, almost unsure who he is. Is he Walter White, the meek milquetoast? Or is he Heisenberg, the guy who cooks the best crystal and blows up a lair with fulminated mercury, who lies and steals and kidnaps and kills and faces down a crazy methhead with a gun (Tuco) and lives on the edge, the guy building an empire on his chemistry brilliance after being denied that at Gray Matter? Now that he’s experienced Heisenberg, how can he go back to just Walter White.
He can’t. Not easily or quietly, anyway. That’s why his speech is so weird at his party. And you know that Skyler thanking Gretchen and Elliot really irks him. He does not want to come across his money anonymously–and not because Skyler and other family members would have trouble believing it but because he wants the credit–and you can just tell that he doesn’t want anyone thinking that money he earned came from anyone else, especially not the people who screwed him over in his early career.
Everyone else–Skyler, Hank, Marie, Jr, Jesse–is happy about Walt’s remission. Everyone except Walt.
The same thing is behind his poolside behavior, especially the confrontation with Hank. He still wants to be Heisenberg, to get the respect that the name Heisenberg demanded. Walt has never acted this way with Hank before, not in his whole time of breaking bad. Now that he thinks he’s out of the whole game, that’s when it comes out because he doesn’t want to give his other side up.
While he’s lost in the question of who he is in light of remission, he works on the house. Notice that’s he doing it all himself. I think this is a substitute of sorts. Since he can no longer operate based on his chemistry genius, he has to fix everything wrong with the house on his own. Walt and Jesse, in different ways, are both strongly motivated by the desire to be really good at something. I think Walt wants credit and respect whereas Jesse wants more internal validation that he’s not a total failure. More on that in Season Three. So Walt is trying to prove himself in another way.
And his desire not to give up Heisenberg the chem meth genius is why he corrects the guy in the store. He can’t even help himself from correcting the guy about the matches and the red phosphorous (for more on that topic, click the Weak Interactions link below). And why he goes after the guy at the end and goes full Heisenberg, saying, “Stay out of my territory.” With that line, it doesn’t look like Heisenberg is going away anytime soon.
I’ve heard the writers say several times that Season Two is about consequences, and we’ve certainly seen a few–Walt’s relationship with Skyler and Jr has suffered, Jesse got kicked out of his aunt’s house, they almost got killed by Tuco, Skinny Pete got held up, Badger got busted–and we will see more. Still, I think that there are other themes, like lies and lies and more lies, but maybe the biggest is about digging in heels. In the first season, Jesse and Walt were trying out their criminal chops. They were fumbling around, playing with new identities. In this season, all of that is solidified and they push on, and push on, and push on despite all the consequences that are piling up.
In a way, I think this season represents Walt’s third time breaking bad, but I think it’s also the most serious. After his first cook, the deal with Krazy-8 got him out of the game for awhile. Then he had that crossroads moment when Elliot offered to pay for his treatment and Walt chose to cook meth instead. And now Walt and Jesse are having closer calls, especially when Badger got arrested, and involving more people in their operation. But nothing holds them back. Walt just wants to keep going, cook more, sell more, charge more. I think this season is about seeing the danger and consequences and forging ahead anyway. And I think one of the reasons this episode feels a little limbo-y is because the way things are, it’s just hard to imagine Walt really getting out, even as he tells Jesse he’s done.
This episode is a big turning point in Jesse’s relationship with Jane. Their fight is amazing. Poor Jesse. We know now that Jesse’s in love with her, that it’s more than just sex. He’s hurt when Jane calls him the guy she’s sleeping with, and when he doesn’t introduce him to her dad. Jesse’s in deep. And I think Jane is too, just doesn’t want to admit it. But Jesse, he’s more open in a way. The scene when they’re looking at his old drawings is so sweet. And her “Apology Girl” drawing at the end is a perfect reconciliation. I think it’s mean she’s in too.
I really love the way Jesse’s apartment looks now. It changes every episode, but by now it’s really together, and clean for a drug addict!
Speaking of drugs, Walt and Jesse still have a whole stockpile from their near-death desert escapade that they have to sell. Hmmmm.
- Breaking Bad Episode 209 “4 Days Out”
- Breaking Bad Episode 208 “Better Call Saul”
- Breaking Bad Episode 207 “Negro Y Azul”
- Breaking Bad Episode 206 “Peekaboo”
- Breaking Bad Episode 205 “Breakage”
- Breaking Bad Episode 204 “Down”
- Breaking Bad Episode 203 “Bit by a Dead Bee”
- Breaking Bad Episode 202 “Grilled”
- Breaking Bad Episode 201 “Seven Thirty-Seven”
- Breaking Bad Season 1 Episode Posts
- “Over” Insider Podcast
- Weak Interactions – The Science of Breaking Bad: Over
- Tim Goodman – Bastard Machine Deconstruction: Over