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[personal profile] falafel_musings
A little meta on Poisoning and Manipulation in Breaking Bad. 

"I don't know what's wrong with me, Mr White..."
Reflecting on Walt and Jesse's poisoned cigarette confrontation in End Times...the first time I saw this scene, I thought that Brock had probably stolen the cigarette from Jesse's pack and accidentally poisoned himself. And that Jesse was just going crazy with guilt and lashing out at Walter because, well, Mr White is usually the reason why Jesse's life is horrible. And Walt just seized the opportunity to get Jesse back on side and get him focused on killing Gus. And I already thought that version of the scene was a brilliant piece of storytelling. But to rewatch this moment after learning that Walt really did poison Brock and that Jesse knew instinctively that Walt had done it and had even figured out how he'd had Saul's bodyguard lift the cigarette off him; that's just crazy awesome storytelling. Of course, even though Jesse is right, the tragedy is that Jesse doesn't want to be right. Jesse isn't so much demanding Walt admit to poisoning a child as he is demanding that Walt convince him that he's wrong in his terrible suspicions. As long as Walt can rationalize and reassure Jesse against his worst fears, then everything will be okay. In this situation, trusting Mr White did make everything okay. Brock lived, Walt killed Gus himself and he rescued Jesse from cooking meth at gunpoint. Jesse is the one person looking at Walt as the conquering hero right now.       


So in Madrigal we have Jesse freaking out over the missing cigarette and maybe the real thing that Jesse "can't ever know for sure" is whether he really lost it or if Walt really took it. Walt planting the fake cigarette in the Roomba takes away Jesse's two worst fears - that some innocent person could still end up poisoned from it or the unspoken, maybe unrealized fear that he was right the first time and Walt took it. But in confirming that nobody was poisoned with ricin (*cough* yet...) Jesse is now overwhelmed with guilt that he almost killed Mr White. Jesse guessing that Walt had poisoned Brock was an incredible bit of intuition on his part; one dazzling moment of Jesse seeing right through Walt's machinations. And now Jesse seems to regard it as a moment of insanity and stupidity on his part. Walt, never missing an opportunity, reminds Jesse how the two of them having each other's backs has kept them alive. Walt's voice and shoulder rubbing is all so comforting and reassuring but there's still a dangerous "Stick with me or you'll die" message underlying it all. I'd say this moment is creepier than last weeks "I forgive you" scene because at least Skyler was fully aware that Walt was being cruel and manipulative and forcing her to submit to his will. Jesse (as Mike states in this episode) doesn't see it. Or at least Jesse doesn't want to see the truth about Mr White. In their fucked up father/son bond Walter finally seems to have convinced Jesse that he knows what's best for Jesse, right at the moment where being close to Walt is the worst thing for him.            


Is sticking with Walt the worst thing for Jesse? It's easy to say HELL YES and agree with Mike who keeps urging Jesse to take his money and go on the run. The thing is it's been clear since Jesse's endless purgatory party in S4 that Jesse can't really cope with being on his own. Jesse's too guilt-ridden and too traumatized to be alone with his thoughts and without a guiding influence in his life (however negative that influence might be). Alone, Jesse would probably fall back into drug addiction and depression somewhere with nobody to help him. And Jesse can't retire from meth cooking for a quiet life with Andrea and Brock either, because a) Walt will never let Jesse out from under his thumb and b) because I think Jesse's too self-loathing to even allow himself that sort of a happy ending.

Speaking of endings; so many fans and critics seem convinced that Breaking Bad is destined to end with Jesse finding out the truth about Brock (and Jane) and Jesse being the one to kill Walt. If Jesse does ultimately kill Walt I'm sure the writers will find a way to do it right, but I have to say this is really not the ending I'm rooting for. We've already had all the drama of a 'Jesse threatening to kill Walt' confrontation in 'End Times' and I don't know if they could repeat such a scene. I've always thought that it'd be the cancer that gets Walt in the end anyway. And besides Jesse becoming a killer was one of the biggest tragedies of the show so far. Jesse never wanted to kill anybody and even when Jesse is enraged enough to kill it is not something that comes naturally to him. Personally, I never thought Jesse started warming up to Gus in S4. I think Jesse always wanted Gus gone but he couldn't bring himself to commit an act of premeditated murder. The times Jesse has directly killed someone it's been in self-defense or in defense of Walt. Considering how much Jesse struggled with killing Gus (a man he only knew as a monster and a threat) would Jesse be able to kill Walt, even if he did know the truth? Walt is the only person Jesse has to depend on right now. Mike's telling Jesse to go it alone, Saul would ditch Jesse for a richer client and Andrea would banish Jesse if she felt he was too dangerous to have around. Yes Walt wants Jesse so he can use and manipulate him but Walt is also the only person who wants Jesse as a companion full stop. So do we want Breaking Bad to end with Jesse learning the horrifying truth and knowing that he wasted all his loyalty on enabling a monster? Is there any real satisfaction in Jesse having to kill the closest thing he has to a friend and father figure in the world? And if it were Jesse were ever to go through with shooting Walt then don't you think it's likely Jesse would shoot himself next?

We'll have to wait over a year for these answers (and I will go crazy). I realize I've spent this entire review only taking about one scene (I'm way too obsessed with Walt/Jesse) so please discuss other aspects of Madrigal with me in the comments section.

And here; some questions for my flisters...

Do you think Jesse will ever learn the truth about Brock and Jane? Do you think Jesse will kill Walt in the end?
What location will Saul choose for the new meth lab? Are we thinking the car wash?
What do you think of Lydia? (I actually really liked Lydia!)
Anything else you want to talk about regarding episode 5x2?

And going only slightly off topic...have all BB fans on my flist seen the Aaron Paul on The Price is Right clips? If not, do follow this link. Funniest "before they were famous" footage ever, I think. :D 

Date: 2012-07-23 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readishmael.livejournal.com
I expect that Jesse will learn the truth, because they can't just have that not pay off. But I really, really don't want Jesse to kill Walt, and don't think that's the right direction for Jesse's story to go in at all. We don't want him further corrupted; we want him redeemed.

Lydia was kind of great. Insufferable, kind of, but human and specific and real.

Date: 2012-07-23 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanfastolfe.livejournal.com
Word to all of the above.

If they do have a "Jesse threatens Walt" again, they're going to need follow-through, I think, and it'd likely be a repeat of Jesse killing Gale: him being mortally convinced he's under dire threat but being really broken up about it afterwards. It would free Jesse of 'Mr. White', but at a price Jesse shouldn't have to pay.

That scene. Ohgeez, that scene. I was cringing while Walter was rubbing Jesse's shoulders because OMG that dude. He knows the truth and he's willing to go to incredible lengths to cover it up :O

Date: 2012-07-23 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
I think if things carry on like this, Walt will end up feeling closer to Jesse than Skyler. Walt wants to feel like he is the wronged party and that people need to beg for his forgiveness and Jesse's guilt is just feeding Walt's warped wounded ego. Even while Walt is being so abusive to Jesse and Skyler I still think he wants and expects them to love him.

It's sad because Jesse needs comfort and reassurance so badly and Walt is the only person he can go to for it. And all Walt is doing is brainwashing Jesse and playing on his emotions.

Date: 2012-07-23 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
Yes, there needs to be pay off. I'm not sure how it will happen though. Only Walt knows about Jane. The Brock secret is more risky because Saul knows. However I have bad feeling that if Saul did tell Jesse (long after the poisoning occurred) Jesse would think Saul was lying and trying to turn him against his partner just like Gus. Saul gave the ricin cigarette back so he has no proof.

I guess if the show ends with the trial of Heisenberg and Walt is caught, he might just say 'screw it' and confess to everything, even things like Jane which nobody witnessed. If Jesse ever flipped on Walt and went to the DEA, I could imagine Walt telling Jesse the truth in revenge. He could emotionally destroy Jesse with that truth.

What sort of Jesse redemption do you hope for? Personally, I think he should go to jail, but I'd hope that he might do some adult education courses in prison (and get some therapy too) so that when he gets out he might lead a normal worthwhile life. I'd rather see Jesse help the police to catch Walt than try to kill Walt himself.

Date: 2012-07-23 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readishmael.livejournal.com
I'm not sure. He probably deserves to go to jail, realistically, except that he doesn't deserve what would probably be done to him inside, and the chances of that leading to a better life are really, really small. The opposite is more likely. He doesn't deserve a fresh start without any consequences, but I think he could earn one by helping take down Walt.

Date: 2012-07-23 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanfastolfe.livejournal.com
Yeah. The sad thing is, that if norhing else, Jesse is definitely guilty of first-degree murder. Even if true culpability attaches to Walter, Jesse still planned it and pulled the trigger. I could maaaaaybe see Jesse trying to get second-degree murder in exchange for rolling over on Walter, but that might only happen if Jesse finds out the truth about Jane and Brock.

Date: 2012-07-23 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
I did think that if Walt ever wanted to do something to repay Jesse for saving his life in 'Full Measure' then he could cop to killing Gale in an attempt to reduce Jesse's sentence. Even so, Jesse feels so much guilt over killing Gale, I think he'd end up confessing to it anyway.

I do think Saul could manage a decent defense for Jesse, saying that Jesse was initially blackmailed by Walt, that Gus often had Jesse cooking meth at gunpoint and throw in that Jesse was a victim of police brutality at the hands of the Chief Investigator for this case.

I still think Jesse would go to prison. I have this theory that Jesse will do 25 years, getting out of jail on his 50th birthday and then suddenly "break good", coming back to society and doing something positive.

Date: 2012-07-23 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanfastolfe.livejournal.com
I remember seeing a great one-shot where Jesse becomes a chemistry teacher and introduces his own brand of... well, Jesse-ness to teaching. XD

*roots for that happy ending, instead of him going to prison*

Date: 2012-07-23 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frelling-tralk.livejournal.com
I would be sooo happy with an ending like that! It always makes me smile when Jesse gets dismissed for not having a degree or knowing enough about chemistry, and then goes on to show them by making 96% pure meth just based on what Walt taught him. I really think that he could try and find some legal way of getting into chemistry and going back to school as he's obviously responded well to Walt's teaching and taken it all on board. He just thinks that cooking meth is the only thing he's any good at, but if someone would only give him a supportive talk about his cooking 96% pure meth showing that he does have an aptitude for science when he's prepared to put the work in...

Date: 2012-07-24 07:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
Hmn. I don't know if Jesse really has an aptitude for chemistry. He's good at practical science for sure (MAGNETS!) but I think Jesse would still struggle with any theoretical science exam. I'd say Jesse still has his "This is ART, yo!" perspective. Jesse is an artist more than a chemist. Jesse has the artistic skill and the precision to perfect his meth cooking till it's the same level as a chemistry scholar like Gale. It's like the box Jesse made again and again in shop class. Jesse is not an academic but he has a lot of practical skill and a drive to make things perfect. I love the idea of Jesse as a teacher but I think he'd be better as an art or wood work teacher.

Date: 2012-07-24 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sydpenguinbunny.livejournal.com
Oooh, do you mean mine (Everything Ends)? If there's another Jesse becoming a teacher one, I needs to read this :D

Date: 2012-07-23 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elliotsmelliot.livejournal.com
I'm skipping your post because I have not seen last night's episode yet. I'll come back to it later.

But yes! I did see the Price is Right clip. So funny. I loved it when he yells $1200 when bidding on the desk.

Date: 2012-07-23 05:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
Well, he yelled everything. I've just never seen a gameshow contestant so manically excited.

See you after you've broke bad then. :)

Date: 2012-07-24 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elliotsmelliot.livejournal.com
I loved this episode. It was a lot more intense and tricky that the premiere. I adored seeing Mike slowly be pushed into a corner where working with Walt was a viable option. Hank was amazing in his interrogation scene. I also loved the opening in Poland with all the chemically enhanced sauces. The Roomba scene was heartbreaking.

A Jesse/Walt showdown is almost too predictable an ending. I would like to see another option come into play that I have not thought about. Part of me feels it is important for Jesse to know about Walt's actions with Jane and Brock because I hate loose ends, but this is not a show about tidying up loose ends, so I trust the writers to deal with this however they want. And I also doubt they will be Walt's last betrayal of Jesse's trust.

The car wash would be a good 'hiding in plain view' cover, but would it have the space?

I liked Lydia too.

Date: 2012-07-24 07:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
I was certainly glad that Hank had more screentime this week. I'm wondering if we'll get to Hank figuring out the guy he's chasing is Walt in these first eight eps or if they will leave it until S5 part 2? The preview for next weeks episode (with Marie seemingly discovering something about Walt) has fans speculating whether Walt would kill Marie if she threatened to unmask him (there's still that ricin hidden at the White house). If Walt were to go that far it'd become a far more personal vendetta for Hank, not just a DEA case.

I also doubt they will be Walt's last betrayal of Jesse's trust.

Agreed. I've heard Vince Gilligan say that Badger and Skinny Pete will return in S5 which gives me a really bad feeling because they can both ID Walt as Heisenberg and I have to wonder if he'll plot to kill them both at some point. And then Walt can find someway to convince Jesse that if Badger and Skinny Pete die then it's all his fault.

The Mike/Lydia story has brought a lot of focus to these mystery 11 (now 9) guys who could flip on them. But now Mike's working with Walt on security detail, I wonder how he'll deal with those on his team who might go to the police. Skyler and Saul seem close to seeking witness protection.

Date: 2012-07-23 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frelling-tralk.livejournal.com
Is there any real satisfaction in Jesse having to kill the closest thing he has to a friend and father figure in the world? And if it were Jesse were ever to go through with shooting Walt then don't you think it's likely Jesse would shoot himself next?

Yeah that's what I'm stuck on when so many people seem to be rooting for the series to end on Jesse finding out everything and being the one to kill Walt. That just wouldn't be a happy ending to me at all when we know how much that would destroy Jesse

And I think that Jesse probably will find out about Brock at some point, but Jane I'm not so sure about. It could only really come out if Walt decides to talk, but then going by current Walt it's not entirely unlikely that he might decide to tell Jesse about it as an example of the lengths he went too to protect Jesse or something (from Walt's POV)

Date: 2012-07-24 07:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
Personally, I was happy for the scene in 'Fly' to be the final resolution on the Jane secret. Walt showed some remorse by saying 'sorry' to Jesse over and over, but it was also clear that Jesse had accepted Jane's death by that point and put it down to a natural consequence of heroin use. And heroin was the primary cause for Jane's death. Walt neglecting to save Jane was terrible but it won't do Walt or Jesse any good to ever reveal that.

Also Jane's death happened so long ago. I think Brock's poisoning is more likely to come out because Saul knows and the ricin is still at Walt's house. I'm also wondering if Brock himself will reveal something since I assume he was given some poisoned candy rather than eating flowers. The trouble is Jesse has had his head screwed around with so much - I don't think he'll make the right judgement even if someone does tell him the truth about Brock. Walt has really conditioned Jesse (through his guilt and neediness) to trust in his partner first and to suspect everyone else of lying and manipulation.

Date: 2012-07-24 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frenchani.livejournal.com
I'm with you on not wanting Jesse to kill Walt, for exactly the same reasons you stated, they already played around that very idea in "End of Times" so no need for a repeat, and I do think that killing Mr White would destroy Jesse.

My scenario is that Saul will spill the beans about Brock...to Mike who will then use the info to "free Jesse from walt's influence", either by threatening Walt with that truth, or by being about to tell Jesse. Walt will kill Mike then because there's no way he'll let his boy go. Jesse will never learn about Brock, but he will find out that Walt kill Mike eventually, and that will be the trigger to turn him against his surrogate father: then Jesse will do what is right and talk to the D.E.A. Now I have to fit the Madrigal storyline in that scenario...

Date: 2012-07-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
I think Walt and Jesse have been surviving on their mutual "If you kill him you'll have to kill me too" pact for so long, I can't imagine one killing the other. They've become too co-dependent.

I really like your scenario. Saul telling Mike would make sense. He knows that information could bring about the "end times" all over again and Saul is too cowardly to get on Walt's bad side. Passing it onto Mike would be safer for him.

I really hope Jesse goes to the DEA in the end. Like you said, Jesse was already considering it in S3 finale, though back then he was suggesting witness protection for Walt not himself.


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