Why Does Walter Care About Keeping Jesse In The Business?
"Say my name!" Walt yells at the intimidating gang of thugs who are all undoubtedly wearing big, awesome guns.
"You're Heisenberg..." says the leader of the gang with his slicked back hair, apparently on a break from his role in Grand Theft Auto V.
"You're god damned right."
And then we cut to the credits for another rip-roaringly fantastic episode of Breaking Bad, the second to last episode of the year.
Out in the desert we learn that Walter's brilliant plan to get everyone paid but still keep the methylamine involves his replacing Mike's end of the business - distribution - with the would-be rival gang. And in that moment Walter is full-on Heisenberg (even though he's not wearing his hat); he's just a cocky motherfucker who knows he won't be gunned down because he thinks this drug dealer is going to be super excited about having higher quality drugs (apparently everyone at the top of the meth business is Steve Jobs when it comes to caring about quality products). We get some great lines of dialogue during this scene, particularly Walter's "Who would want to live in a world with no Coca-Cola?" but then added in as almost an aside is the fact that Walter is including Jesse as part of the manufacturing process - and then he only says that they have to give Mike his five million. Jesse, apparently, is not actually out of the gang.
At first I wasn't sure if that was because we missed something that happened off camera. Did Walter and Jesse talk about this? Did Jesse change his mind? But as the episode goes on it becomes very, very clear that this is all just part of Walter's new plan. Initially Walt says that they'll talk about the money soon, but first he needs "help with the transition." Mike, of course, can see through this, and as he gets ready to make his departure with his money he reminds Jesse that he needs to just take care of himself. But for now, Jesse appears to be trapped.
He goes with Walter to retrieve the hidden methylamine from the car wash, where Walt has been hiding it with Skyler's full knowledge. She doesn't know what it is, of course, and Walter tells her that she doesn't want to. And then Jesse reads from the truck, "Vamonos."
"I wish," Skyler responds, and Jesse just looks at her quizzically. Somehow it seems that this moment is the first time that he's really understanding how miserable she is. As she walks down the tunnel of the car wash she turns back to Jesse and they share a look - a look that makes it hard not to wonder if Jesse and Skyler are going to end up teaming up to take Walter down.
But before we find out, we cut to commercial, and when we come back we're at a bank, following a nice businessman with a suitcase who likes to bring treats to the lady at the desk even though she refuses to share them with her co-workers and her husband. More observant viewers will undoubtedly immediately remember who this nice businessman is, but I had totally forgotten, even with the glimpse of him in the "previously on" segment before the show. Anyway, they go into the vault and she starts opening safety deposit boxes, talking about how her husband is silly for wanting a boat, and then she leaves and the nice businessman starts loading up all sorts of money. When he puts a lot of money in the newest, and biggest, safety deposit box, I finally realized that he's paying off Mike's guys, and he's leaving his granddaughter her inheritance. It certainly helped my poor brain that we got to see the "To Kaylee on her 18th birthday" note.
Mike looks content after that, and he hangs out in the desert listening to the bug in Hank's office, then throws his laptop down a well. He pulls out his bag of guns, and for a moment I wondered if he was going to shoot himself in the head and drop his body down that well, too. Ultimately, it probably would have ended better for everyone on his list if he had offed himself. Hank would have thought that it was all because he had got his bad guy, and he may have backed off. At the very least he would have lost all of his real leads and could have let it go a bit. But Mike doesn't make an exit like that.
And then we get to the big Walt & Jesse moment of the episode.
In the new lab, Walter is acting as if there's nothing to do but get to work. But Jesse is there to talk about getting his share of the money. Walter tries to ignore that and just talks about the simple tasks at hand, but if he had just pretended to listen for a minute before handing him his work gloves I think he still could have pulled it off and kept Jesse around for a little while longer. Of course, Walter isn't interested in a little while longer. Walter wants his old partner back. And he thinks that flattery is the perfect way to do it. He tells him that he wants to set him up with, "A cook, all of your own! Why not; you deserve it. You're every bit as good as me. What do you think?"
But Jesse isn't interested in doubling their production. He wants out. He doesn't want to see anyone else get killed. He doesn't believe that Mr. White is as broken up about the dead boy in the desert as he is. And of course he's right.
Walter tries to convince him that he actually does care, he just can't show it because they have to keep working, but he knows that isn't working on Jesse at all and so he turns on him. "What do you got in your life, huh?" he spits out, echoing his own monologue about how work is all that he has left for his own self. "Nothing. Nobody. Oh wait, yes - video games and go-carts. And when you get tired of that, what then? Huh? And how soon will you start using again?"
But Jesse holds strong. He's had one hell of a year, and he's not the junkie he used to be. Not by a long shot. Not after Todd shot an innocent boy. He finally sees that Walter always promises no one else will die, but then people keep dying anyway.
So Walter tries another tactic. "Why do you want this money?" he asks. "Isn't it filthy blood money?" It sounds like he's just trying to keep the money for himself, but it's not really about that.
"I'll save you from that, Jesse. Come on - You want it. You want it just as much as I want it. And it's not wrong to want it. So stay, and work with me. And you can make ten times - twenty times as much!"
And it's that moment right there when we get to see into Walter's real motivations. He doesn't want Jesse to stay because he needs an assistant, or because he thinks it's important to double his volume. He doesn't even want Jesse to stay because he thinks that will make his empire grow faster. He wants - no, he needs - Jesse to stay on because he needs to see that Jesse has broken bad, too. If Jesse wants the blood money, then Walter is 100% right that it's not wrong for him to want it for himself.
But even more, Walter doesn't want to be alone. He's lost respect for Skyler because in his warped mind the fact that she doesn't think making a meth empire is cool means that she doesn't respect his grand vision and he's just done with her. He doesn't have time to be brought down by people who don't want to see him on top, because he needs to be on top. But he still doesn't want to be alone. I think that's partially because he wants the company, but that it's also just as true that he just wants to disprove the old maxim that it's "lonely at the top" because that just doesn't suit Walter White, and Walter White is Heisenberg, and Heisenberg fucking gets what Heisenberg wants.
Except not this time. "You don't wanna pay me, I don't care," says Jesse. "It's on you. I'm done." And he walks out and shuts the door behind him.
When we come back from commercial, we see the flip side of this same coin. Hank is in the police conference room, because now that he's been put in charge he has to learn how to deal with things like overall budgets. His commanding officer tells him that he has to stop playing favorites with the Fring case just because it used to be his. So while Walter is having a hard time being in charge of his own organization, Hank is having a hard time leaving the guys behind and stepping up to the big boy desk himself, but he goes out on one more ledge. He can't use surveillance funds on Mike anymore, but no one said anything about not following that lawyer who just happens to represent all nine of the perps that are Mike's guys...
Meanwhile, Walter is back to cooking. I was momentarily distracted, wondering why he doesn't just set up a lab in his own house now that his kids are gone and Skyler is so checked out anyway. I mean, sure, I know meth labs explode all the time, but with Walter's megalomania now he wouldn't think he could ever have that kind of accident happen. And I imagine he'd love having it right there in Skyler's house like that. And isn't setting up in all these circus tent houses unnecessarily time consuming?
While I was pondering that question, the camera pulled around and we saw that Walter's got a new assistant. Todd. And we just know that this isn't going to end well.
We go into a classic Meth Cooking Montage, though, and things on the surface seem to be going fine. I had thought that Todd was more interested in being a gangster than a chemist and so he wouldn't respect the process at all, but he seems to be paying attention and is even taking notes. For a moment it's easy to think that maybe this will work out okay for Walter after all, just like everything else that keeps miraculously coming up roses. Until the upbeat Monkees song in the background comes to the chorus several times and we realize that it's Mickey Dolenz singing "Goin' down... Goin' down..."
It's worth taking a moment to check out the lyrics that are playing as the montage comes to an end:
I know this has to be a dream
If I could find my way to shore
I'd never, never do this anymore
I'll give you three, I've been down nine
I'm goin' down just one more time.
And it's also worth pointing out that this was the B-side to Daydream Believer. We're definitely on the other side of Walter's old daydreams.
Oh, and apparently that song was last used in the remake of Straw Dogs when we're introduced to Kate Bosworth's character as she's putting on lipstick. But I think that scene used "goin' down" to mean something else...
Todd talks about how cooking meth is complicated, but then he also is pretty baller when he says that they don't need to discuss money until he gets it right. Our fears about Todd's crappy chemistry playing a role in Walter's downfal appear to be unfounded.
Then we come back to the bank. The nice lady doesn't seem to care about the cake balls. The nice man with the money in the suitcase is... right! He's the lawyer. And oh shit, the lawyer's the one Hank had followed. And the nice lady knows about it, so she doesn't care about the faces on the cake pops.
But the lawyer doesn't know that; he goes into the vault and starts unloading money and... Oh shit!
Walt sits down to eat dinner with Skyler and starts talking about his day. "I'm working with someone new now. I think it might work out." Like it's just another day at the office. But Skyler and her white wine don't want to hear any of it, so they take off for another room.
The next day (presumably), Walter goes back to Hank's office to remove the bug. The bug that he REALLY should have been listening to since it was there anyway, but Heisenberg doesn't think he needs to take that kind of precaution, because Heisenberg is too much of a badass. Fortunately, Walt happens to be there at the exact perfect moment to hear that the nice lawyer is going to flip on Mike, so he's able to call Mike and warn him moments before the DEA swarm down around the park where he's watching Kaylee swing.
Mike ditches his granddaughter and runs for it, then calls Saul and asks him to go retrieve his go bag from the airport so he can leave town. Saul won't do it, fearing that he's being followed by the DEA, too. Jesse volunteers, but Mike won't let him, because Mike is a decent human being. So Walt decides to go for it.
He goes to the airport, and since we all know the season is winding down, once again I started wondering if now Walt was being followed (surely the DEA really does have agents following Saul, right? And then they would follow people that left his office - especially if it was Hank's brother-in-law?). But while that may be happening off camera, it doesn't have anything to do with the drama of this week. Instead, we get an amazing finale scene with Walter and Mike.
Walt brings him the bag, but still wants his last words. "You're welcome!" he yells out, echoing his need for thanks from Mike that he first expressed in the parking lot. Walter really thinks that he's done a lot to make Mike happy, and he only sees that he's letting Mike get out of the game, and he thinks he's giving him the five million dollars. Never mind that Mike would have had his money anyway if only Walter hadn't burned through his cuffs when he was restrained.
But Mike goes back even further, and after all this time of just staring at Walter in disgust he really lets him have it.
"We had a good thing, you stupid son of a bitch!" he yells out, finally saying what he's wanted to tell Walter all along. "We had Fring! We had a lab! We had everything we needed and it all ran like clockwork. You coulda shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed. It was perfect. But no! You just had to blow it up! You! And your pride, and your ego! You just had to be the man! If you'd done your job, known your place, we'd all be fine right now!"
Soon he turns and gets in his car, and Walter walks back to his. But as soon as we notice the camera staying still on the scene with no characters in it, we know that the gun has been removed from Mike's go bag, and that Walter has it in his hand.
Devin already picked up this thread in his post, and his summation of Mike's demise is perfect.
But I will add on some more to his thoughts - I'm not at all sick of Walt and Jesse arguing. Every time one of those scenes ends this season I hate it. Last week I hated it when Skyler walked in the living room. The dinner scene was awesome and made up for it, but still. And this week I hated when Jesse left. Listening to them justifying how far they're willing to go to each other is endlessly fascinating to me. And I can't wait to see how they fight if this all comes out in the open. But first they have to deal with Mike's nine guys...
What do you guys think?
Can we get a full episode next year full of nothing but Jesse and Walter bickering?
Will Jesse and Skyler team up to take Walter down?
Will someone finally kill Lydia just because her face always looks so scrunched up with worry?
What is Walt, Jr. eating for breakfast over at Hank and Marie's place?
We've only got one more episode this year... then it's back to video games and go carts. Shut up and let me die in peace.