falafel_musings: (breaking bad)
[personal profile] falafel_musings
The Long Winded Blues of the Never

An All-Seasons Walt & Jesse Recap

Picspam and Meta on Walt & Jesse's Relationship through the Seasons 

The Pilot

"I'm just saying...if you've gone crazy, that's something I need to know about. That affects me."

Since I whizzed through my first watch of Breaking Bad I wanted to use the endless hiatus time to do proper recap the series, focusing solely on my favourite aspect of the show: the Walt and Jesse relationship. Never have I loved a fictional relationship that has been blessed with so much screentime, development, richness, complexity and lovely lovely angst. So I'm kicking off a nine part essay complete with screencaps and quotes to pay tribute to their turmultuous journey so far. Please join me in my (yes, frankly obsessive) reflections and share your own favourite Walt and Jesse scenes of each season of Breaking Bad.

Walt and Jesse are the first two characters we're introduced to in the Pilot, even though we intially only know Jesse as 'unconscious guy wearing a gas mask'. They are the only two characters who appear in every single episode of the show. This story is largely theirs. In their first meeting (or rather reunion) midway through the Pilot, we learn Jesse is one of Walt's former students. Jesse has been out of high school roughly five or six years (assuming he made it to graduation) yet they still recognise each other, which may imply that Mr White was a memorable teacher to Jesse and that Pinkman was a particularly notorious student to Walt. Jesse is far from the ideal lab assistant, yet partnering up with an ex-pupil is probably the most comfortable way that Walt could've transitioned into the drug trade. Walt can slip into his most familiar role (which Jesse affirms from the start by calling him "Mr White") and feel a sense of authority and control in this risky new venture. Incidentally, Walt found Jesse's house by digging the address out of his old school file which implies that Jesse's parents first sent him to live with his Aunt Jenny when he was still a school kid. It's never been established when Aunt Jenny died. The house is still filled with her furnishings and make up, though that may be because Jesse is very lazy about decor, not because she died recently. But however long Jesse has been living alone in his state of prelonged adolescence, there has been a lack of an adult role model in Jesse's life. And either as a mentor or surrogate parent Walt has come to fill that void.       

Right from the start, Walt and Jesse bicker. They are an odd couple not just because their age, appearance, behavior and modes of speech are at different ends of the spectrum. The Pilot episode neatly characterizes Walt and Jesse's different perspectives on their shared vocation of cooking crystal meth. For Walt it's chemistry, for Jesse it's art. This theme will be expanded on througout the seasons, but these are two men with very contrasting mindsets on what they do together; Walt the rational calculating scientist and Jesse the more imaginative sensitive artist. One thing Walt and Jesse do share from the start is a desire for escape and adventure. Jesse is full of wistful yearning when he talks about getting an RV and driving out into the boonies. When Jesse asks Walt why he's breaking bad, Walt doesn't not tell Jesse about the cancer. Instead he gives Jesse a hint of his true motivations simply by saying: "I am awake". Walter White is wanting to live a little before he dies. And since Walt not longer fears to live he is capable of saving himself and Jesse too by gasing two drug dealers threatening to kill them. Walt and Jesse protecting each other will become a running theme in Breaking Bad. In this first instance I'd say Walt is acting on his teacher's instinct. Like, any teacher who takes a student out on an extra-curricular field trip knows he's responsible for that student's safety. Jesse screaming "Run Mr White!" when they're stranded in the desert at gunpoint isn't remotely helpful but Walt at least knows that Jesse was on his side and hadn't intended to screw them over.     

Cat's in the Bag...

"After we finish cleaning up this mess, we will go our separate ways. Our paths will never cross."

After their ordeal with Krazy 8 and Emilio, Walt and Jesse mutually decide that after they've disposed of their corpses, they want nothing more to do with each other (oh, how little they knew...*sigh*). This is about the only mutual decision they make. Already Walt is getting into the habit of bullying and browbeating Jesse into doing things he really doesn't want to do. Like Walt insisting that they keep the meth equipment and dead bodies at Jesse's house, despite Jesse's repeated "Not my house!" protests. When Walt first proposes the idea of melting bodies in acid, Jesse is freaked out. Again Walt is simply opting for the most effective scientific method while Jesse has the more human perspective that melting bodies is "messed up". But about a minute later Jesse is pleading to be the one to melt the body in the acid so that he doesn't have to kill anyone. Walt has already convinced Jesse that being 50/50 partners is their shared contractual obligation, even though Jesse rightly tries to point out that this whole thing was Walt's idea and Jesse was blackmailed into working with him.     

Walt and Jesse are both aware that killing Krazy 8 is the more terrible job. Jesse doesn't detach himself from Krazy 8's impending demise, though he is clinging to Walt's original diagnosis that Krazy 8 is already dying from the gas so all Walt is doing is putting him out of his misery. From Walt's perspective, I think he chooses to flip the coin and let fate decide because while Walt doesn't want to commit murder, he may be fearing that if Jesse lost the coin toss, he would end up botching the job and creating even more problems; a fear affirmed by Jesse burning a hole through his bathtub and splattering his hallway with acidic gore. It may appeal to Walt that he gets to be the master and controller in his relationship with Jesse, but all too often that means Walt having to control the chaos that this rampant liability of a partner brings to his life.  

...And the Bag's in the River

"We flipped a coin. Coin flip is sacred."

Considering their opposing moral standpoints in later seasons, it's interesting in the early episodes that Jesse is the more pragmatic one when it comes to the necessity of killing people. I don't really doubt that Krazy 8 would have killed them if they'd let him go and that it was an act of self-defence (even if strangling a chained up man with a bike lock might not feel much like self-defence). Jesse's attitude would likely be very different if he were the one tasked with doing the killing. Jesse has just become worse than useless to Walt in this episode. Jesse can't cope with the horror show that his house has turned into so he's locked himself in the bathroom to smoke the crazy pure meth.

Krazy 8 seems to have his own survival plan to turn Walt against Jesse. I don't think Jesse blabbing all kinds of personal information about Walt to Krazy 8 and Emilio was a betrayal so much as just Jesse's foolishness in the early days. Jesse was driving around with his street name of 'Capt Cook' plastered on his licence plate after all. And though he denies it Krazy 8 was being pretty threatening when Jesse tried to sell him Walt's meth. But as we see again and again in Breaking Bad, Walt doesn't desire a partner who is smart, so much as he needs a partner he can trust. Jesse's "Coin flip is sacred!" may be a desperate plea for Walt to get rid of the scary dying man in Jesse's basement, but it's also another example of Jesse buying into the idea that he and Walt have obligations to each other. Once Krazy 8 proves untrustworthy by hiding the piece of broken plate Walt cannot put his faith in any such bargains with him. That said, Krazy 8 may have only been keeping that piece of plate for self-defence, much like Jesse will one day keep a gun hidden in his waistband while talking to Walt.

Cancer Man

"After what happened it just seems like the thing to do. You know, talk about it. We can't talk to anybody else."

Barely any Walt and Jesse interactions in the next two episodes, but I'm still fascinated (okay, obsessed) by the parallels and contrasts in their separate stories even when they aren't together. They are both disturbed by what they've been through in the last few days. Walt is imagining that police cars are chasing him. Jesse is doing meth and hallucinating that scary biker guys are coming to his house to burn him alive. They both feel alienated among their friends and family, Jesse particularly since he is already an outcast at his parent's house. The only thing that cheers Jesse up on a sleepless night is finding an old chemistry test with his crude insulting (yet well drawn!) cartoon of Mr White sketched on the flipside. Reflecting on their old school relationship - while I'm sure Jesse was a lazy obnoxious slacker kid (and he hasn't exactly changed at this point), it's a little sad that his obvious artistic talent was never encouraged and instead branded 'ridiculous'

There are several reasons Jesse comes to see Walt, though Walt only pays attention to Jesse awkwardly asking if Walt would be interested in cooking a little more meth. Walt's view of Jesse is pretty low at this point. He suspects Jesse of ratting him out and coming to his house wearing a wire. Walt's old threat to turn Jesse into the cops is useless now. Walt's the one who has killed people so Jesse has a better chance of cutting a deal. When Jesse asks about cooking more meth Walt probably just sees Jesse as a desperate junkie after his next fix. But Jesse was really freaked out by what happened with Krazy 8 and Emilio and I think he was seeking solidarity from the one person who went throught that with him. But more than that Jesse is wanting to prove that he is not a worthless scumbag. He fails to change his parents view of him, but he does stay true to his partnership with Walt. He brings him his half of the money even though Walt had forgotten to ask for it, even though Walt assumed Jesse smoked it all and even though Walt is being a bastard to him. 50/50 partners. 

Gray Matter

"Wanna cook?"

The above quote is the only conversation Walt & Jesse share in this episode, but for me it speaks volumes for both their stories. Jesse begins the episode trying to get a job, maybe in a last ditch effort to prove his parent's wrong. But since Jesse screwed up his education and has no legitimate work experience, the best he can hope for his waving a sign around while wearing a 'ridiculous' costume. Just like his friend, Badger. Jesse and Badger partnering up to cook in the RV was an obvious mirroring of the Walt and Jesse partnership, only this time with Jesse in the Walt role. When Walt is not there, Jesse often ends up channelling him, playing the knowing teacher in front of his stupider friends and obsessively striving for perfection. Jesse was once content being Badger level, but now Mr White's "Apply Yourself" has taken root and he wants to be more than "good enough".   

Walt had far bigger prospects than Jesse in his youth. Walt only amounting to being a high school chemistry teacher is Walt's equivalent of a degrading job wearing a stupid costume and twirling a stupid sign. Walt, like Jesse, is also spending time with another partner, his Gray Matter partner. Elliot offers Walt a job as a very thinly veiled act of charity. Walt can't handle the indignity after a lifetime of bitterness that Elliot and Gretchen succeeded with the company that should have been Walt's empire. Walt doesn't want to feel needy. As Walt says to his family the one thing he needs is a choice. That choice comes in the final exchange between Walt and Jesse when they both choose to cook together rather than being forced into it by circumstance. Walt can no longer claim he is only cooking meth because he has no other way of providing for his family and paying for his cancer treatment. Jesse can no longer claim that he's being blackmailed into this partnership by Mr White. From this moment, they work together and they break bad, because this is what they choose to do. 

Crazy Handful of Nothin

"This operation is you and me...no matter what happens, no more bloodshed. No violence."

As Walt and Jesse reaffirm their partnership, Walt sets a bunch of strict ground rules - he cooks, Jesse sells, they don't bring anyone else into their business and they'll be absolutely no more violence - then Walt quickly proceeds to break his own rules for the rest of this episode (and in the seasons to come). It starts with Walt allowing Jesse to finish the cooking for him, which suggests that in some offscreen moments Walt has noticed that Jesse is now 'applying himself' to the chemistry. Walt and Jesse trading roles so early is an interesting foreshadowing. One day Jesse will be able to cook as good as Walter. Jesse will actually be chosen by Gus to replace Walt as the chief cook is his millon dollar drug ring. We'll also see that Walt (or rather Heisenberg) can handle the more brutal side of drug dealing far better than Jesse ever could.

This is also the first episode we really see Walt and Jesse showing compassion for each other. Jesse in his concern for Walt's condition as he's going through Chemo and his admiration for Walt when he deduces that he's trying to leave money behind for his family. When was Walt going to tell Jesse he had cancer? Maybe he wasn't planning to tell Jesse at all. A big part of Walt breaking bad is escape from his terminal diagnosis. Jesse knowing brings them closer together (which Walt possibly didn't want but what are you gonna do) particularly because Jesse now associates Walt with his beloved late Aunt Jenny. And even though Walt is (again) a bastard to Jesse when he struggles to sell enough meth on his own, I think knowing about Walt's plight makes Jesse more determined not to let Walt down. As portrayed in the Team SCIENCE minisode it's likely the idea of Mr White fighting back for his family that got Jesse looking at Walt as a Superhero and Jesse wanting to be his wingman.

There are many reasons why Walt makes his transformation into Heisenberg - needing the money, needing to get respect, needing to lash out after he lost his hair, etc - but avenging Jesse's pain and suffering is, I'd say, the main catalyst. I think Walt finally appreciates that Jesse was right about Tuco and that Jesse knowingly risked himself at Walt's asking. However, in the end Walt's concern for Jesse only stretches so far as well...monetary compensation for his injuries (the extra 15 grand he demands from Tuco), much like the 1.5 million Walt offers in S3 when Jesse is the hospital again after another beating. If Walt really felt loyal to Jesse he should've quit his dealings with Tuco after getting their money and taking revenge. But the creation of Heisenberg gave Walt a sudden rush of superhuman power that he'd never experienced before and his desire for power will ultimately override his humanity and concern for others.    

A No-Rough-Stuff Type Deal

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life. But what kind of life will it be?"

The final S1 episode has a lot of Walt and Jesse in teacher/pupil scenes. Or rather, Walt abusing his position as teacher. Jesse is attempting to sell his haunted fucked up house and wanting to leave town. Which is the best decision Jesse could've made at this time to save himself. For Jesse, having to melt a body in acid and almost being beaten to death is enough to scare him out of the meth game (and that's peanuts compared with what's to come). But even early on Walt can't let Jesse leave. Who else would do all the grunt work for Walt? In the moment when Walt clasps Jesse by the shoulders, emploring him not to waste his potental in meth manufacture, not to live his life in fear, etc, Jesse asks him, wide eyed "What are you doing?!" It's called manipulation, Jesse. You'll get used to it. But it's interesting because for Walt breaking bad means freeing himself from the fear that has held him back all his life. I don't know if Walt realizes yet that for Jesse this experience is not so liberating. Walt is chaining Jesse to him and dragging him deeper into a world that already horrifies him.

But still it's endearing seeing Walt enjoying teaching Jesse about Thermite and Jesse hanging off Mr White's every word. There's already a sense that they are each filling some emotional need in the other and even if Jesse knows he's been used, then Jesse (the disowned son) will accept being used just to be wanted by someone. They are both still naive to how much danger they are in, their status as amature criminals perfectly captured in the silly little bobblehat balcalvas they wear when stealing the methlaymine. Walt has his Heisenberg hat but he is still only playacting at being the gangster as his shock over Tuco beating No Doze to death reveals. Like Jesse points out, meeting Tuco in an empty junkyard is like Walt thinking of himself as a criminal in a movie and it puts them in greater danger. I'd say in later seasons that Jesse develops into the voice of Walt's conscience but in the first season Jesse is at least a voice of caution that Walt doesn't listen to.

A few brief Discussion Questions
1) What is your favourite Walt & Jesse moment from S1?
2) How would you define the Walt & Jesse dynamic in the first season?

Walt & Jesse: Season Two, Part One

Ahh, the first of my hiatus Breaking Bad fan projects. More recapping to come!
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


falafel_musings: (Default)

June 2013

2 345678
91011121314 15

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 08:47 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios