falafel_musings: (breaking bad 2)
[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 
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