Breaking Bad Broken Down: “Confessions”
Is Walt going to kill Jesse in the next episode?
My hunch is that Vince Gilligan will keep the suspense going for another episode or two, but after the end of “Confessions” I can’t foresee the show going much longer with both of them alive. Jesse is finished with Walt and doesn’t seem to care what happens to himself.
One of the most painful scenes in the entire series was when Jesse breaks down crying, telling Walt that he knows that the older man doesn’t actually care about him. I don’t think Jesse is not crying because he doesn’t want Walt to kill him, although that might be part of it. He is crying because his surrogate father has betrayed him. And that’s been the heart of the show from the beginning: the loving relationship between Walt and Jesse.
I suspect that’s the last time we’ll see those two together peacefully. So it was fitting to see Walt reach out and hug Jesse. Walt knows that Jesse loves him as a son, and he uses that to manipulate him, again.
Aaron Paul’s acting in that scene was perfect. Which makes the ending all that much more painful to watch. Gilligan took us from the scene of closest intimacy between the two male characters that form the heart of his story to Jesse’s murderous rage. Unlike all the other characters, who are trying to use rational thought to decide the most advantageous future for themselves, Jesse’s world, and purpose for being in it, has been shattered.
Good question–we at least know that Walt doesn’t die for some time given that a couple episodes ago we saw the flash forward where he had a full head of hair and was returning to his house to retrieve ricin he had stashed there.
I agree that the scene in the desert was the most important scene in the episode as the show has always been about Walt and Jesse’s relationship. It was heart-wrenching because those of us who have seen every episode remember the days when Walt expressed a genuine love for Jesse. Like when Walt ran over the drug dealers who would have murdered Jesse or when Walt stood up for Jesse to Gus Fring. Walt believed in Jesse when no one else did, not even Jesse’s own parents. So in some ways, I think I get Jesse’s response–he has been utterly and brutally betrayed. He had an opportunity to do something for himself when Hank offered to make a deal if he came clean on Walt, but he trusted him yet again.
And speaking of Hank, we have yet to touch on another really powerful scene in the episode where Hank and Marie stand dumbfounded in front of their television as they watch Walt’s “confession” video. That segment began in Gardunos which is interesting because my aunt lives in Albequerque and I remember going to visit her and eating there–they had really great Mexican food. Eventually over the years, we stopped going to Gardunos because it turned into a chain. It “sold out” and the food suffered as a result. It was the perfect setting for the confrontation between Walt and Skyler and Hank and Marie because it illustrates Walt and Skyler’s loss of identity.
The Walt who would do anything to take care of his family and who took a hopeless drug addict like Jesse under his wing and cared for him as if he were his own son seems to be long gone. Walt not only managed to deceive Jesse and Hank but also Walt Jr. as he kept him from hearing the truth from Marie and won his son’s sympathies. And moreover, Walt seems to have managed to turn his wife into a monster as well as she helped make a tape accusing Hank of being Heisenberg. Perhaps, we should have known that Walt’s descent into utter selfishness was inevitable, but to me that is what this episode was all about–reminding us of the good Walt and contrasting him with who he has become.
Skyler’s willingness to go along with Walt’s plan to trap Hank surprised me, because she essentially sealed the fates of her sister and brother-in-law, binding them to Walt’s crimes. It made me wonder how things might have been different if Marie had been sympathetic toward her sister, rather than slapping her and trying to take Holly away. I have a feeling that as soon as Marie took Holly, Skyler turned to Walt’s side. For the longest time, Skyler has essentially been trapped, scared of what Walt could do to her and their family.
But at the end of “Buried,” she’s committed to trying to beat the authorities and keep Walt from being caught. I wonder if Walt’s final request, that she not let the authorities take his money so that he can provide for their family even after he dies from cancer, and Marie trying to take Holly is what makes her willing to go along with Walt. How else can we explain the way she helps him make that video?
If so, that means that in these last episodes Walt has used feigned love for his family (including Jesse) to manipulate people to support him. Jesse bought into Walt’s love for only a short time, and now he’s turning on him with no regard for himself. It makes me wonder if Skyler might have a similar experience. Will she be betrayed by Walt, too? Will Walt reveal that he doesn’t actually care for his family?
On this topic of the intimacy between Walt and Jesse, I’m reminded of this fantastic but gut-wrenching piece in The Atlantic, “Murder by Craigslist.” It’s the story of how Richard Beasley (53) and his teenaged accomplice, Brogan Rafferty, lured single, lonely men into the wilderness with the promise of a job, posted on Craigslist, and then killed them. The author, Hanna Rosin, makes the point that as the family structure in the US shifts, men are creating new relationships to fill the void, and one kind of relationship is between an older man and a surrogate son, as in the case of Beasley and Rafferty. And I wonder how much of that is reflected in Breaking Bad. Certainly Jesse comes to see Walt as a father, and there’s a sense in which Walt is closer to Jesse than he is with Skyler or his own kids. He certainly has spent more time with them during the show’s timeline.
One of the more fascinating dynamics of the show early on for me was watching Walt’s relationship with Jesse grow and flourish while his family relationships, particularly with Skyler, deteriorated. It was an interesting tension because what drove Walt to start cooking Meth was a desire to care for his family. I remember numerous episodes earlier in the show where Walt pulled through for Jesse in profound ways while further distancing himself from his family.
It seems that tension is gone almost completely. Skyler and Walt might have a better relationship now than they did when they were split up, but honestly it seems more like coexistence than marriage. How can Skyler be truly intimate with Walt when their relationship is costing her so much?
These latest episodes have reminded me of Romans 1 where three times Paul says “God gave them over,” meaning God gave those who chose to rebel against him over to the passions of their flesh. God doesn’t force anyone further into sin, He simply let’s them pursue the sinful things they have chosen to commit their lives to. That seems to be the trajectory that Walt is firmly on. He has been given over to the passions of his flesh, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he kills Jesse or even if he betrays Skyler. Walt seems capable of almost anything and that is truly terrifying.
Walt and Jesse’s relationship has always been one of the biggest draws and most intriguing aspects of this show. But while the father/son comparison does exist on a surface level, hasn’t the relationship almost always been manipulative from Walt’s end? Walt often needs Jesse, and more often than not, when Walt is acting as the father figure in Jesse’s life, it’s because Walt knows that this interaction is the way to get Jesse to do what he wants. Think of all of the loss Jesse has experienced and all of the pain he’s endured, often because of Walt or on Walt’s behalf.
I’m not saying that Walt doesn’t care for Jesse, he obviously does/has in the past. The problem is that Jesse needs and craves the father/son relationship with Walt and is often subject to being easily manipulated. It’s more pronounced now because Jesse can finally see Walt for who he is and recognizes Walt’s tactics. If their relationship is truly resembling a father/son one, it’s the most devastating and awful of its kind. Walt has essentially ruined Jesse’s life multiple times over (continually roping Jesse in when he was ready to get out, letting Jane die, forcing Jesse to swallow and accept horrendous actions, such as the murder of a child, putting Jesse through an emotional hell with the poisoning of Brock, manipulating Jesse into the murder of Gale, even when Jesse strongly opposed the idea, etc.).
For me, one of the biggest takeaways from these recent episodes is that Walt’s care for his family, Jesse, etc. has all been a huge front used to orchestrate Walt’s desire for revenge and power. That burning resentment has been inside Walt all along, it’s just that he finally had the means to act on it and was able to use everyone in his life to accomplish it, leaving the people he cares about to be nothing more than collateral damage.
Yeah I think you are on to something, even Walt’s most selfless actions to show love and concern for Jesse were always mixed. Walt almost always seemed to have an agenda with the way he cared for Jesse, almost as if he always knew Jesse wanted a father figure so Walt would give him one so that he could get Jesse to do his bidding.
I still think there’s a false dichotomy between a “loving Walt” of early seasons and the Walt of later seasons. There’s a gradient–but his motives were never purely good, and (as detestable as they may be now) are not purely self-centered. Walt has always been an abuser–that is, a destructive emotional manipulator who controlled people because he needed to have them under his control, not because of their best interests. This is a form of love–an evil, dispicable form of love. The only difference between the Walt of seasons 1-2 and the Walt of season 5 is that he’s gotten increasingly better at manipulating people, increasingly skilled in turning them to his own ends, and it has become increasingly obvious (to others, not himself) that he is a poison destroying those he wishes to love on his own, manipulative terms.
Good point Scott. Thanks for sharing.
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