Emotions run high on this week’s Breaking Bad as Walt (Bryan Cranston) tries to get a step ahead of Hank (Dean Norris) but falls two steps back when it comes to Jesse (Aaron Paul). So what’s the fallout as more secrets are revealed?
Let’s bitch it out.
Last week it was Anna Gunn’s moment to shine, and this week it was Aaron Paul’s turn. I’ll be honest; Jesse has never been one of my favourite characters. I find myself annoyed at him most of the time and really only enjoy him when he’s not wallowing in self-pity. And although I see his constant return to the moping and over-emotional histrionics as completely necessary and believable, I don’t find it very compelling to watch. But there are moments throughout the series where Aaron Paul just hits it so out of the park that it makes me forget those times where I was wishing Jesse would just go away, and firmly cements his character as absolutely integral part of the series. And Jesse’s emotional arch throughout this episode is definitely one of those moments.
Picking up on last week’s cliffhanger (a trend I’m seeing with these last batch of episodes), Hank’s ploy to have Jesse spill everything he’s got on Walt fails miserably (thankfully). Even though it’s clear that Jesse has some serious pent up anger toward Walt, Jesse isn’t a snitch. As I mentioned last week, having Jesse switch sides would play out very conventionally (i.e. yawn-worthy), so I was happy to see that particular plot possibility dissipate within a matter of seconds.
Saul (Bob Odenkirk) comes to the rescue and magically finds a way for Jesse to make bail, which is quickly followed up with a covert meeting with Walt somewhere in the desert. Walt smoothly encourages Jesse to make a new life for himself somewhere else in the world, spouting out seemingly heartfelt notions of one day having a family of his own. I loved how Paul plays the scene – intensity in his eye yet saying nothing. After Walt finishes his speech, Jesse breaks away pleading to Walt for a single moment of honesty where Jesse isn’t played as the gullible fool. There’s a moment of brilliance where you can see Jesse’s struggle: He knows that Walt sees him as an easily malleable sap, but even knowing that, is still desperately searching for that father figure full of acceptance and friendship. After all these two have been through together, it’s difficult for Jesse to hate this guy as much as he does. And these emotions are easy for a viewer like myself to identify with as I’ve said on numerous occasions that I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with Walt, despite his deplorable actions throughout these latter seasons.
And this week’s ambiguous Walt moment comes right at the end of Jesse’s tearful pleas. Jesse knows that he’s only got two options: skip town or be killed as an inconvenience by Walt, like he’s done with so many others. As Walt slowly walks toward Jesse, I kept wondering if he was going to pull out a gun or knife, but instead, embraces Jesse in what seems to be a genuine gesture of comfort and regret. But this is Walt we’re talking about here, and although it’s a powerful moment as Jesse slowly sinks into the embrace, I have no idea whether or not it was sincere on Walt’s part, and hence the beauty of the character remains in tact.
So despite everything, it looks as though Jesse is going to take his new identity, leaving Hank with next to nothing for his investigation. But even knowing this, Jesse’s anxiety, fear, sadness, and despondence are all still very much present while he sits in Saul’s office. I must say I was surprised- much like Jesse himself, I had no idea what was going on in his head. Would he run to Hank in the end and totally sell out Walt? Would he be able to escape the numerous murders he was directly involved in? In such a fragile state, it’s no wonder that Jesse goes full out unhinged once he deduces Walt’s involvement in the ricin cigarette disappearance way back in S4.
It had to happen, but I feel for viewers who weren’t necessarily following along with all the extra-textual chatter about how the cigarette disappeared in the first place, it was a revelation that was very easily missed. Saul’s bodyguard Huell (Lavell Crawford) initially palmed the cigarette from Jesse in a SERIOUS blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moment. In this episode, as Jesse awaits his van ride to a new life, we see him look in his pocket for his pot stash only to find a pack of cigarettes in its place. He puts two and two together, remembering that he brushed up against Huell before leaving Saul’s office and tada, the details of missing ricin cigarette finally become clear.
Jesse returns to Saul’s office to get the facts confirmed before he marches over to the White house pouring out his rage via gasoline can. Jesse reaction is to be expected, but I can’t help but wonder what he’ll do if/when he ever finds out about Jane as arguably, that was the worst blow for the character and also when we were first introduced to mope-y Jesse. I don’t think Walt will be able to talk his way out of this one, which leads to believe that the revelation about Jane will never come to pass. Personally, I think that’s a good thing as it just might be the thing that makes Jesse a permanent resident of Nutsville.
I will say this, my heart is literally broken for Jesse. He’s in a lose-lose situation. If he enacts his revenge on Walt, then he couldn’t possibly be redeemed. On the flip side, if Jesse somehow manages to abate his vengeance, then he’s likely to be haunted by it the rest of his life and will forever be seen as Walt’s victim. Tough one, but I’m sure the writers have a great plan for him come series finale time. So what happens now? I have no idea, and that’s just where I love to be when it comes to this show.
- Although the focus was on Jesse this episode, the episode’s other crowning moment comes via the brillant way Walt blackmailed Hank via the confession DVD. I love how we’re shown this move before all the business with Jesse, as there’s that moment where we think Walt might actually get away with it all. I think it would have been more effective if we watched the DVD in an uninterrupted take to amp up the tension, but the cutbacks to Marie’s (Betsy Brandt) shocked face and Hank steely glare were equally successful.
- Speaking of Hank’s steely glare, the restaurant scene preceding the reveal was also brilliant. I loved the comedic timing of the peppy waiter offering fresh made guacamole amidst the incredibly tense showdown between family members.
- We just got a glimpse of it, but Todd (Jesse Plemons) running his mouth of about the great train robbery using full names and everything CANNOT be a good sign. Some one is going to pay for poor little Drew’s death, and I’m afraid that might somehow fall on Jesse.
- The scene with Walt Jr./Flynn (RJ Mitte) feels expository and momentum stalling, but it’s a nice counterpoint of Walt’s ‘fathering’ when considering the juxtaposing scene with Jesse pleading not to be ‘worked on’ any longer. Perhaps Walt does consider Jesse his son, as he has no trouble manipulating Jr. to get what he wants (in this case, playing the ‘my cancer has returned’ card to prevent him from going to Auntie Marie’s house).
- The Hello Kitty phone returns! And the world is just a little bit better…
- I love how there are glimpses of Walt, pre-kingpin Heisenberg, as he races back to the carwash to get his secret soda-machine gun. It’s comical as he almost keels over before taking a moment to compose himself before entering the car wash and delivers a dreadfully bad lie to Skyler (Anna Gunn) about checking the latch in the machine.
What did you think viewers? Any predictions on what will happen when Jesse confronts Walt? Will Jesse ever find out about Jane? What ramifications for Walt and Jesse will come about because of Todd’s storytelling? Is there any chance that Skyler and Marie will reconcile? Does Walt Jr. have a more significant role to play in all of this? Sound off in our comments section below!
Breaking Bad airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.