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The Long Winded Blues of the Never

An All Seasons Walt & Jesse recap


Season One
Season Two, Part One
Season Two, Part Two 
Season Three, Part One
Season Three, Part Two
Season Four, Part One

Season Four, Part Two



"He's my partner. I need him. I swear to God."

Early on in the second half of S4, the role reversal is almost complete. Jesse has become the "man who provides", asking Saul to deliver packages of his money to Andrea and Brock even though Jesse is no longer a part of their lives. While Skyler forced Walt into exile in S3, Jesse's distance from his surrogate family is self-imposed, either because he doesn't want to bring danger to them or because he doesn't feel he deserves the happiness they bring him. Walt meanwhile has become the new liability in Gus's drug organisation as he is hopelessly roped into aiding Hank with his investigation. Walt is reduced to cowering and supplicating in front of Gus's cameras, then rushing over to Jesse's house and desperately demanding that he kills Gus, like, now now now! Walt is in that same vulnerable position that Jesse used to be in back when they were working with the likes of Tuco. Walt actually asks Jesse to play the liability role for Gus, thinking it'll give Jesse an opportunity to poison him. It may also be Walt's subconscious wish for Jesse to return to his old role of the panicky screw up so that Walt might return to his old role of the wise master and controller. Jesse doesn't like Gus or Hank, but he doesn't like murdering people either, so he's hoping the two douchebags will just cancel each other out. Walt's "But they'll catch us too!" warnings don't make much of a difference because Jesse likely feels that he and Walt deserve their comeuppances just as much. Currently Jesse just seems to be going through the motions while waiting around for judgement day. Walt takes Jesse's apathy as a form of betrayal and like a paranoid boyfriend he resorts to checking Jesse's phone messages (ironically something Walt always resented Skyler doing to him). Sure enough Jesse is lying to Walt and is having special secret meetings with Gus. And just as this episode starts characterizing Walt and Jesse as long-term boyfriends on the verge of a break up...we get the parallels between the Gus and Max relationship.               

Gus and Max may well have been lovers as well as partners. Hector certainly seems to perceive them as a gay couple and blows them a mocking kiss. Still, Tuco made similar aspersions about Walt and Jesse, calling Walt the 'Daddy' and Jesse his bitch. Whether Gus and Max were really boyfriends or 'brothers' (the title of the episode, implying that they perhaps had familial bond like Walt and Jesse) I think the point of the parallel is to show how emotional ties are perceived as a weakness. The flashback is valuable in that it reveals how (at the beginning of his career) Gus shared qualities with both Walt and Jesse. Like Walt, it seems that Gus was a mentor figure to Max. He was also the more ambitious member of their partnership; the one who would risk doing deals with high level drug lords and drag his naive partner into the danger with him. However, Gus starts off as the salesman of the partnership, not the master chemist. Like Jesse, Gus is viewed as being the more useless disposable half of the team. When the cartel threaten Gus, Max echoes the same pleas that Walt has made when Jesse has been threatened; "He's my partner. I need him". The cartel blow Max's brains out instead and force Gus to look into Max's empty eyes. In this moment, we are forced to look at something we've been spared from seeing, though we've often come very close to it.

If the writers hadn't changed their original plan for Jesse's fate then this scene might have been the end of S1. We can easily imagine Walt having to watch as Jesse is mercilessly killed - all because Walt wanted to get ahead in the meth world. So is Gus Fring what Walter White would've become in that alternate reality? Walt may count Gus as his greatest enemy but he is also undeniably Walt's greatest influence and mentor in criminality. But at this point Gus is more interested in being a mentor to Jesse. Gus has said he "sees something" in Jesse. Does Gus see Max in Jesse? It seems Jesse and Max were both relative innocents who were plucked off the streets and drawn into darker life than they were really cut out for. It may be that Gus now wants to recruit Jesse as his surrogate Max (another street kid who Gus has groomed to be his master chemist) and use him as a secret weapon in his long-awaited revenge. It's not "all about Walt" after all.              


bug4bug 2

"What does it matter? We're both dead men anyway."

The next time Walt and Jesse meet outside the laundry, Walt asks Jesse for a cigarette. Gus's cameras are watching and Walt seems keen to show Gus that Jesse is still his little buddy. Jesse however knows from Mr White's"No" to Go Carts that he doesn't do friendly interaction for no reason. This seemingly casual conversation is Walt's way of quietly bullying Jesse over the fact that he still hasn't poisoned Gus yet. When Walt asks Jesse what he does after work it just seems like his way of stressing that if Jesse is just sitting on his ass watching TV, then he is wasting valuable Gus killing time. Walt is feeling betrayed over Jesse's lies so Walt maybe feels more entitled than usual to be a dick to Jesse. Weary though Jesse is of the abuse and condescension he is still loyal enough to ask Mike what Gus is planning to do about Hank. Which is really Jesse's way of asking what Gus is going to do about Mr White. Mike asks if Jesse would have a problem "if something were happen to the man" and again it's not clear which man he's referring to. Jesse wrongly believes that nobody cares what he thinks, unaware how important he's become in the game. It's shown in the next scene where Mike saves Jesse's life from the sniper and soon afterwards threatens to kill Walt for calling the cops on one of his guys. Mike orders Walt not to even talk to Jesse and their new roles are now clear; Jesse is a protected member of the inner circle and Walt is a contemptible underling on the verge of being whacked.

Soon after, Jesse is invited to a full on dinner date at Gus's house, the same as Walt was in late S3. When Walt was in this same situation he (just like Jesse) strongly suspected that Gus was threatening the life of his partner and Walt also had an opportunity to kill Gus (when Gus handed him the kitchen knife). In this same situation, I'd say Jesse does a much better job of standing up to Gus and protecting Walt from a possible assassination. It's heartbreaking that so soon after Jesse's "If you kill Mr White, you're gonna have to kill me too" vow Walt is tearing strips off Jesse for being a traitor. Yet Walt's outrage makes perfect sense too. Once again, this is Gretchen and Elliot stealing Walt's rightful place. It's another Gale being brought in to replace him. Jesse let himself become the new Gale! A Gale who Walt can't even eliminate because, well...it's Jesse.

Jesse is blind to Walt's neurotic hubris, just as Walt is blind to Jesse's fear. Gus has put it on Jesse's shoulders that ALL of them will die if Jesse fails in Mexico. So Jesse is desperately seeking Mr White's help and guidance because however mean and hateful his old teacher may be, Jesse has always seen Walt as a genius and he has little confidence in his own abilities. But Walt can't see that Jesse is needy and terrified. He can no longer see Jesse's enduring loyalty to him which even Mike and Gus can see and are trying their damnedest to undo. All Walt can see is that Jesse lied to him. And Walt would NEVER lie to...oh no, wait. Walt lies constantly and to everyone. But how dare Jesse tell lies to him and shame on Jesse for not murdering Gus yet. Jesse can't even say "I can't" to killing Gus. He's killed once for Mr White so Walt expects him to do it again. Walt brandishes the bug with pride because in Walt's mind he's the wronged party here. But now Jesse is feeling equally betrayed and in the midst of Walt telling Jesse that he's going to screw up and get killed in Mexico, they wind up beating the crap out of each other. Jesse is smaller than Walt though he's also younger and angrier. So Jesse gets in a few extra punches but neither of them really wins. This fight is really just a frantic physical expression of their bruised betrayed love for each other. It's passionate, frustrated and despairing; the apocalypse of their relationship. After the fight Jesse cares enough to ask the older man if he can walk, but then tells him to fuck off out of his life forever. Wow. Congrats Walt, You finally went too far.         



"I made a mistake. It's all my fault. I just...I'm sorry."

It amazes me that there can be so much juicy Walt & Jesse stuff in an episode where they are on opposite sides of the border and don't share a single scene. The bruises on their faces serve as a constant reminder of their last parting. In Mexico it turns out that Jesse didn't really need further coaching from Walt in the art of cooking blue meth. All he really needed was someone to say "You can do this" and Walt has carelessly allowed those precious words of encouragement to come from Gus. So Jesse delivers an epic smack-down to the cartel chemists and both Gus and Mike smile like proud parents, as if they'd like to say "That's our boy!" They believe it was they who transformed Jesse from a worthless junkie into a capable badass. But if we listen to Jesse's words, his rants about contamination and the sneering condescension in his voice...we know who Jesse really learned this behavior from. He is still Walt's boy; still Mr White's pupil. Jesse is still puffing himself up like a blowfish to scare away the bigger fish as Walt taught him to long ago. Jesse didn't need Walt to coach him for this; his education is already deeply ingrained in him.     

Back in ABQ, Walt is in bed still hurting and mourning the destruction of his relationship with his surrogate son and in his current state he has missed the birthday of his real son. Walt missing Junior's sweet sixteen is nothing compared with the "mistake" he's made with Jesse, but Junior is still a clueless innocent in all this. He has no idea about the hellish other life his father leads, so dad missing his party is really wrong in Junior's world. The kid is craving honesty from his dad and (drugged up on painkillers) Walt gives his son an honest show of remorse. Only Walt isn't really talking to Junior in this scene. His final words "That's good, Jesse" as he is drifting off to sleep confirm who Walt's tearful apology was really meant for, while also confirming that Jesse really is as dear to Walt as his own child. Junior has always been a bit of a strong silent type but he definitely seems to register his dad calling him "Jesse" and I'm still desperate for the kid to tell someone (Hank!) about that particular slip up.    

Back in Mexico, Jesse cooks a batch of meth that is 96.2% pure. Not quite as good as Walt's, but I doubt Jesse has ever scored 96% on any test he's taken before. As a reward for his achievement, Jesse gets sold into slavery. Jesse is understandably upset about becoming a victim of human trafficking and once again he seeks reassurance from one of his father figures; this time it's Mike who promises Jesse "Either we're all going home or none of us all", which at least tells Jesse that they are all in this mess together. The epic poisoning that follows reveals that Gus was really using Jesse as a pawn in his bloody revenge rather than using him as a peace offering to the cartel. But still, Gus saved Jesse from drinking the poison and Jesse (who has been struggling with being a killer all season) instinctively shoots a man dead to protect Mike. Once Mike and Gus had to fool Jesse into thinking he could be a hero. Now as Jesse ensures their getaway, he really has become a trusty soldier for their team.     

Crawl Space


"Last time I asked for your help, you said...I hope you end up buried in a barrel."

Walt is back at work in the super lab, begging Tyrus to tell him if Jesse is back from Mexico and threatening to quit if Jesse is "gone". Getting nothing from Tyrus, Walt resorts to asking Hank for news on any current cartel rumblings. When Hank tells Walt about a play down in Mexico that's left "a lot of bodies" it seems like Walt's worst fears have been confirmed; that Jesse has been killed and even though Gus may have been killed too, it seems that losing Jesse will be Walt's stopping point. And at the same time, south of the boarder, Jesse is making it plain to Gus that Mr White's death will be his stopping point too. Gus is offering Jesse wealth, status and protection; all that he offered Walt near the end of S3. Neither will except the offer if it means the death of their partner. I have to wonder if Gus feels some envy for Walt & Jesse in how they both protect the other from the fate of Max.   

When Walt learns that Jesse is back and has been cooking in the lab without him, he races over to Jesse's house; the place he was told never to come back to. Jesse is playing video games with Andrea and Brock, allowing himself to have some simple fun with people who he loves. Then Walt is at the door and he's saying the name "Jesse" in the most tender breathless way imaginable. The exact way you'd say the name of a loved one if you had feared you'd never see them again and it feels like a miracle to have them standing before you. But in Jesse's eyes Walt is an unwanted intruder. Jesse is the family man now and he doesn't want his shady criminal associate in his home, anymore than Walt ever wanted his wife and kids to be aware of Jesse's existence. So Jesse shoves Walt away, bristling like an angry guard dog. Walt says he's sorry and begs Jesse to help him since Gus is going to kill Walt if he thinks Jesse doesn't need him anymore. Well, Jesse did need Walt; he begged for Walt's help only a few days earlier - and Walt's response was to wish failure and even death on Jesse. Walt may sincerely regret those words but he can't deny that he said them.

Walt is soon brought to his knees by Gus and his thugs for his mistake of driving Jesse so far away. But it is only in this moment that Walt realizes Jesse's loyalty to him still remains. Jesse won't let Gus kill him. Not that this is much comfort to Walt as Gus tells him he must stay away from Jesse forever and not interfere with their plans to kill Hank, promising to murder Walt's wife and children if he goes against these orders. Walt is terrified enough that he is ready to forsake his Heisenberg life and disappear with his family. When Walt finds the money he needs missing from the crawl space, a fit of insane laughter tells us that Walt has disappeared. Walter White has gone bye bye and Heisenberg is in control now.  

End Times


"You're the last piece of the puzzle. You are everything he's wanted."

Walt sends his family into police protection and waits in his own home for whatever consequences are coming to him. While Walt waits he spins a gun, wanting fate to choose his next move for him. Walter White was a man of science who felt sure he lived in a random universe. But Heisenberg is a mythical being born out of Walt's cancer; a super-villain who can cause planes to collide by talking to strangers in bars and then letting their children choke to death. Heisenberg does believe the universe revolves around him and he yearns for the power to control it. The gun of destiny points first to Walt himself and then to the Lily of the Valley plant. It's a choice between suicide and an evil act of betrayal that just might save him. When Walt plans to poison Brock with the flower and trick Jesse into thinking it was the ricin, I wonder if Walt had a clear idea how Jesse would react. Walt surely knew Jesse would panic and come to him for help and maybe that was all Walt was counting on. At the end of Walt's journey into darkness, maybe Walt just wanted Jesse to be there with him, as Jesse was with him at the start. Jesse might be the one to kill him or he might be Walt's salvation. Either way, it seems better than Walt waiting to be killed by one of Gus's goons. 

Tragically, Jesse was already trying to reach out to Walt, worried by Gus's promise of an "appropriate response" to Walt leading the DEA to the laundry. Jesse sits at home playing with his lighter the same way we've seen Walt playing with matches and I think there's a good chance Jesse would've chosen to come to Mr White's aid on his own. But by that time it's too late. Brock has already been poisoned and Jesse runs to Walt's door to demand answers. Walt leaving the gun on the couch seems very deliberate to me. He was giving Jesse the power to judge him and decide his fate. Walt seems stunned that Jesse has actually guessed that he poisoned Brock and even figured out the way Walt got the cigarette off him. The only thing Jesse gets wrong is Walt's motive; which is manipulation rather than revenge. Walt trusts in all his powers of manipulation to bring Jesse back onto his side. Judging by the return of Walt's crazy laughter, the idea to frame Gus for Brock's poisoning comes to him on the spot. He reminds Jesse of Gus's previous abuses of children which had hurt Jesse so deeply. He calls Jesse "the last piece of the puzzle", stressing to Jesse how important he is where Walt had previously made him feel worthless. And finally Walt grabs the gun and dares Jesse to shoot him in the head. Walt wasn't there when Jesse shot Gale but he knows how wrecked Jesse was afterwards and so he plays on Jesse's trauma and guilt. And Jesse lowers his weapon, like a whipped dog brought back to heel. 

If Walt sucked at convincing Jesse to do his bidding, then Heisenberg is a master at it. He tells Jesse not to risk his own life, he tells Jesse to just get in his car and drive away from it all. But Jesse is now determined to kill Gus, just like Walt always wanted, so Walt dutifully offers to help Jesse, like this whole thing was really Jesse's idea. The only trouble is that Jesse is not faking any of his emotions. It may be Walt's plan for Jesse to keep a vigil outside Brock's hospital room to draw Gus out of hiding, but Jesse really doesn't want to leave Brock and he really is devastated that this little boy is (seemingly) dying. So while Jesse tries to hold it together when Gus visits him, there's still a quiet accusation in Jesse's eyes when he talks of the poisoning and Jesse can't help but flinch when Gus touches his shoulders. So because Jesse was still torn up over the kid who Walt poisoned, Walt doesn't get to blow Gus up this time. Jesse is still the coin deciding Walt's fate and his destiny hasn't been decided yet.    

Face Off

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"They said it was most likely a flower called Lily of the Valley."

Even in Walt and Jesse's darkest hour, it pleases me that they can still be funny. Jesse's "Did you just bring a bomb into a hospital?" line is an inspired echo of Walt's "You brought a meth lab to the airport" line from S2 and another great reflection of the two characters role reversal. Who would have thought that Jesse Pinkman would become the sensible one of the pairing? Walt also relies on Jesse to come up with a brilliant solution to save them both from certain death and it used to be Walt's job to do that. Jesse does think of something, though he is snatched away by two FBI agents who want to question Jesse over his ravings about ricin at the hospital. Again, the consequence of Walt pulling this psychologically abusive manipulation on Jesse is that he can't fully control Jesse's incriminating emotional outbursts. So Walt has to gets Saul in to see Jesse before Walt is given the key to defeating Gus Fring, not to mention getting rid of Hector Salamanca, another man who wanted to harm Walt and his family. Walt gets the victory he has been wanting all season. Jesse gets kidnapped by Gus's thugs and forced to return to the lab, which most likely confirms to Jesse's mind that Gus was always the bad guy who was using him, whether that was true or not. Walt gets to rescue Jesse from Gus, like he wanted to do in the opening scenes of 'Shotgun' and this time Jesse really is chained up in a dungeon. Walt's face is covered with the blood of the goons he's just killed and he lets his 38 Snub fall from his hand to hit the floor in a shot echoing Gus dropping his boxcutter. The king is dead. Long live the king.

And Jesse is right back to being Walt's loyal servant, helping him to burn down the lab and evacuate the laundry. Only this sequence doesn't feel like Jesse acting as a servant. Walt and Jesse pull on their masks then strip off their gloves in unison; their movements mirroring each other as if to convey that they have truly become equals. This moment feels incredibly liberating; Walt and Jesse boldly freeing themselves from the oppression they have lived under ever since they agreed to work for Gus Fring. I don't really know why they later meet on a rooftop, except that it is the perfect setting to symbolize their escape and elevation; from the dungeon to the top of the castle, from being slaves to ruling the city. But Jesse isn't thinking about their rise to power now. Jesse is weeping with relief because Brock is going to live. Brock is going to live and Andrea is taking Jesse back and Mr White saved Jesse's life and Jesse is free of Gus and the Kafkaesque lab. For the first time in four seasons, Jesse Pinkman is getting a happy ending. Only...it doesn't quite feel right. Already there's an uncertainty in Jesse's eyes and he's looking to Walt again for reassurance. Walt promises Jesse that all is well and Jesse is so relieved that he is willing to accept that for now. 

Walt and Jesse shake hands; a handshake that's yearning to be a hug (especially from Jesse's side) but perhaps the fact that they don't hug shows that there is still something keeping these men apart despite the co-dependence that always draws them back together. As Walt will say in S5; "Secrets create barriers between people" and though Walt's secret betrayals (with Jane and now with Brock) were designed to bring Jesse back to him, Walt will always be aware of the damage he's inflicted on his young partner and surrogate son. Walt needs Jesse and not all of that need boils down to control and manipulation. Walt loves Jesse too, but it's a love that he's abused and contaminated and poisoned. Jesse has always been the lost kid trying to come home but Walt can't be that loving father figure who can return Jesse to a state of wholeness. Walt's the one who's broke Jesse apart and brainwashed him to suit his own purpose. Walt can't call that love. He can only shake Jesse's hand and trick him into a new partnership.

Walt & Jesse: Season Five, Part One

Date: 2012-11-19 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falafel-musings.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading and commenting as always, han!

Walt and Jesse are in a marriage of sorts. I think Jesse is often a surrogate Skyler in Walt's crime life as well as a surrogate Junior. I'll talk about this more in my next recap but Jesse is definitely a spouse figure as well as a son figure. It's not a sexual thing, but there is something very romantic about their relationship. Maybe because Walt feels so much more passionate about his crime life than his home life.

I only have one more Walt & Jesse meta post that I can do (S5, part 1) before the final episodes air next summer. But I'm sure I'll have loads to say about the first run of S5 episodes. Maybe I'll do a Walt & Jesse predictions post sometime in the hiatus?


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