S04E06: Walt, Walt, Walt. You will not stop until you’ve destroyed everyone around you, will you? You can’t handle just one second of Skyler thinking you’re “in danger,” or Jesse thinking (heaven forbid) that he exists with a significance completely independent of his attachment to you. Technically, you were right about that one — but you still managed to seem like a total jerk when you said it. This week’s episode of Breaking Bad opens, again, in an ice truck. But it’s not Mike in the truck this time: it’s two lesser lackeys to Gus. They’re lesser in the way that we have never seen them before, and in the way that we’ll never seen them again. They’re dead, at the hands of the cartel. After killing the driver and both gunmen, the cartel steal a bucket of fry batter from Gus’ truck and exit the area to end the opening scene mysteriously. Walt’s storyline picks up almost immediately after last week’s ended: he is hungover and not entirely clear (or not entirely honest about how entirely clear he is) on what he revealed to Hank at the dinner party in ‘Shotgun.’ Skyler probes Walt about his connection to Gale Boetticher, which leads her to suspect that he is in as much danger as Gale was. Walt is totally affronted by the suggestion that he might be in danger: he is still dedicated, despite all of the events of this season, to the idea that he is the head honcho. He even outright explains how valuable he is to the lucrative meth industry. This leads Skyler to leave with baby Holly for several days.
In the meantime, Walt has three separate storylines:
1) The Carwash: Walt heads over to the carwash to get the keys from his old boss, Bogdon. Bogdon belittles Walt the entire time, explaining that to be a boss, one has to be tough. We see how much his words are eating away at Walt, suggesting both a grudge held from his days working for the man, and a parallel to his relationship with current boss, Gus. Walt ends the scene with a spiteful insistence that Bogdon leave the sentimentally framed first dollar, which Walt immediately breaks open and shoves into a vending machine.
As this is the first reunion of Walt and one of the primary antagonists of his pre-meth life, it is interesting to see the new dynamic. Although Walt is the clear “winner” in these circumstances (he now owns the carwash), Bogdon still has a lot over him. He mentions Skyler as the powerful one of the duo, which reminds Walt that obtaining the carwash was primarily her doing (and her choice). It also highlights the similar circumstances Walt is facing with his current boss, showing that he has not become as much of an all-powerful criminal as he thinks he has. Although, Walt is hardly ready to admit this to himself.
2) Walt Jr. & the Car: Walt, to ease his son’s mind (and win him over) after Walter Jr. realizes that his father will not be moving back in, decides to buy his son a car: a flashy, fast, expensive car that will conflict with the story Skyler and Walt have comprised to cover up the whole meth ordeal.
3) The Cleaning Ladies: As Jesse is now spending all of his time with Mike, Walt needs help cleaning up the lab. He enlists the help of three Honduran women from the laundromat front (who have clearly been warned never to enter the lab) to clean. They are immediately taken by Tyrus, Gus’ new-ish muscle, to be sent back to Honduras, with a message to Walt about Gus’ displeasure with him. Just another of many actions this season that Gus and cronies are taking to prove to Walt that he doesn’t make the rules, and that there will be very substantial consequences to his insubordination.
“You may know this whole P.I. sit-in-the-car business, but I know methheads.” – Jesse
Speaking of Jesse and Mike, the two are sent to a pair of lowly meth dealers’ house to find out if they have been selling blue meth (received from the cartel) and to take action. This is where Jesse proves his expertise. See, earlier in the episode, he is attacked by Walt with the notion that they are just trying to drive Walt and Jesse apart so that Walt will renege his insistence to end cooperation with Gus if he were to kill Jesse. Walt says that Jesse is of no real value to them inherently. Thus, Jesse needs to prove himself valuable. His skill-set is understanding the minds of meth-heads. He pulls a ruse on the pair by digging a hole in their front yard, and, in the instigation of paranoia and delusionality, convinces one of the methheads (whose name, in case you missed it, is Tucker) to do the same. It almost backfires when one of the dealers pulls a gun on him, but Jesse reacts quickly and knocks the man unconscious. He and Mike discover the fry batter bucket in the house with a mesage: “Ready to Talk?” (in Spanish). Mike is pleased with Jesse. So, apparently, is Gus (who tells Mike to set up a meeting with the cartel, but to keep “this war cold” for now).
Skyler, all this time, has been at the Four Corners (where NM meets Colorado, Utah and Arizona) with Holly. She flips a coin twice, presumably to decide whether or not to flee her old life… but despite the results, she returns home. She insists that Walt return Walter Jr.’s car due to the conflict with the story. Clearly, her animosity towards and distrust of Walt has returned (which, honestly, is great… that’s part of what really drives this show).
After Walt attempts to manipulate her by stating that Walter Jr. will blame her for the return of the car, she states that she is aware of this, but “someone has to protect the family from the man who is protecting the family.” It’s a pretty badass line that shows that Skyler is finally getting an honest glimpse at Walt.
Whereas last week’s episode was primarily about furthering the plot, this week’s was more about furthering relationships. Walt and Skyler have jumped rapidly from the closest they’ve been since Season 1 to possibly the furthest they’ll be yet. Jesse and Walt do in fact seem to be wedging apart, which may be a necessary evil (I do love their friendship, but let’s face it: this story seems natural). Jesse and Mike, on the other hand, might be becoming fast friends… which could very well be what finally drives Mike against Gus–that storyline has been promised for some time, and Jesse is definitely just lovable enough to stand up for on noble grounds. However, Jesse is ill-fated by nature. Despite anything that grows between Mike and himself, I do not predict him rising to prominence.
On the other hand, Jesse’s primary role in the Breaking Bad world has been (to wavering degrees) Walt’s only outlet for honesty and genuine compassion. He remains the only one who knows all of Walt’s truths and still isn’t his enemy. Thus, turning Jesse into an antagonistic figure toward Walt might solidify Walt’s complete disregard for anything but his own pride. Walt has done a lot for Jesse. He does actually care for him. But he cares more for himself, and he might in fact sacrifice Jesse, if it comes to a point where the two are pit against one another, to preserve his preferred image of Walter White. Of course, Jesse’s link to the case in the eyes of Hank will also, invariably, come into play. So we’ve got a lot of possibilities.
To state the obvious: terrific episode. Breaking Bad does character development like its nobody’s business, and can further storylines (Gus’ meeting with the cartel, whatever is going to happen with Skyler and Walt, and Jesse’s unpredictable journey) without putting them in the way of what really matters: Walt’s decaying mind.