There are loads of great critics writing Breaking Bad reviews every Sunday night/Monday morning. Because of skill and scheduling, I’m not going to be able to stand alongside those reviews. Instead, I hope to write something about Breaking Bad each Tuesday when I have more time and perhaps you are ready for a new day’s worth of material on the best series on television. These pieces won’t necessarily follow my traditional review format, but I’ll obviously be discussing relevant plot details and the like.
Before this past Sunday’s episode of Breaking Bad, I told myself that I needed to write about Jesse more in Tuesday’s (today’s) piece. With all the intrigue surrounding Gus and the cartel and the frustrating experience that is watching Walter White do his thing, Jesse has been sort of stuck in this holding pattern. Of course as always, this is most certainly the point Vince Gilligan and his team wanted to get across to us in the audience at home. There are dangerous men and dangerous things all around Jesse Pinkman and he hasn’t really been in the frame of mind to make a real decision.
What was so great about “Bug” is that it focused so much on Jesse’s difficult circumstances and even hinted at which proverbial side he was going choose, but ultimately, left it up in the air, tormenting me even more. He didn’t kill Gus yet again like Walt asked him to and the fight between he and Walt certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of their relationship. And yet, we still don’t really know what Jesse wants to do – and neither does he.
Throughout the whole series, Jesse has been used by people who have absolutely no real feelings for him whatsoever. His long-standing issues with his parents have sent Jesse on this stumbling search to find a new father figure and unfortunately, it keeps getting him in trouble. Walt has bullied and controlled Jesse on a regular basis to get what he wants, whether that means taking back the money the methheads stole in season two or killing the likes of Gale and Gus. When it’s necessary Walt has admitted Jesse’s value, but that certainly hasn’t stopped him from manipulating his younger partner later. Walt has been especially good at doing this when Jesse is at his emotionally weakest. No matter what he says, I don’t think that Walter actually cares about Jesse at this point, partially because it’s unclear of Walt really cares about anyone other than his kids.
And this season, Mike and Gus have stepped into the picture with more manufactured praise and affection right when Jesse was at his lowest point. However, I think there are some important differences in the way that Mike/Gus treat Jesse and the way that Walt treats him that have led us to where we are right now in the story. Obviously, Mike and Gus faked their endearment, at least initially. Walt has never had a problem with telling Jesse how terrible he is, how dumb his decisions are, how incompetent he can be, etc. In that way, Walt isn’t unlike the father Jesse already had. Just as he was smart enough to recognize what kind of personality Walter would respond to – logical, rational businessman – Gus knew how to get inside Jesse’s head and that’s where Mike comes in. And although Mike isn’t necessarily a lying to Jesse about his feelings, he’s a professional and he knows what it takes to do the job asked of him. So the two of them worked together to pump Jesse up and it definitely worked.
Of course, Jesse knew all this. He might have been in a weak position, but he’s smart enough to know when he’s being used a bit. And when combined with his residual allegiance to Walt, it makes sense that he would agree to take out Gus. But after the events of “Bug,” it sure feels like things have changed. Gus might not actually like Jesse, but his current stand-off with the cartel means he’s willing to respect the things that Jesse brings to the table. And although we haven’t seen much of him the last couple weeks, I think Mike genuinely cares about Jesse in some odd fashion. It might have started as a job given to him by Gus, but Mike also sees that Jesse needs guidance.
Unfortunately for Walt, he picked the worst time in the world to bug Jesse. His paranoia makes sense considering how he’s been treated by Gus and Mike, but now the one thing he was trying to prevent appears to have occurred simply because of Walt’s stupid actions. Jesse understands the dangerous situation he’s in with Gus and Mike, but at least they’re being forthright about the gravity of it all. Walt has betrayed Jesse’s trust for the last time and although he’s clearly terrified of having to go to Mexico and work with the cartel, avoiding Walt and all his BS is probably for the best. What that means for Jesse’s overall safety and the direction of the season, I’m not entirely sure yet.
And now the other big question: Where does this leave Walt? It seems like Gus is so wrapped up in the cartel struggles that he isn’t really interested in killing Walt now. In fact, if there are going to be two operations, one in the ABQ and one in Mexico, Gus probably needs Walt now more than ever. He knows that his intimidation games are working on Walt, but I have to imagine that Walt isn’t going to stay out of the cartel squabble forever. He’s now upset with Gus and Mike and feels betrayed by Jesse. As clichéd as it sounds, Walt is not someone that I would push into a corner. Not only will he make insane decisions, he might make rash, insane decisions. I’m a bit scared by what a totally frustrated, paranoid and angry Walt could do.
Other random thoughts this week:
- I was honestly scared for Jesse’s well-being during his fight with Walt. I think that says a lot about how the series creates stakes and tension for its characters.
- I guess it’s possible that Walt eventually helps Hank take down Gus, right? Hank is stuck in a one step forward, two steps back kind of a situation and like so many other things on the series, something has to give. It might be Walt.
- Skyler’s performance in the IRS meeting was tremendous. Anna Gunn is stuck playing a miserable character, so it was great to have her let loose a little bit. I have to think that Ted is going to get stuck being her patsy in some way.
- I need more Saul Goodman. Come on Vince Gilligan.