Breaking Bad Countdown: Season 5, Episode 11 – “Confessions”
This is an episode recap by Thought Pollution writers Colin Neagle and Liam Green. Spoiler alert, #dealwithit
Almost all of Breaking Bad’s major plotlines stem from its central character’s reaction to chaos. Whenever Walt’s plans go awry, he has to get creative, often manipulating those close to him so he can squirm out of his pickle-du-jour just a step ahead of his adversaries. That’s how almost every major situation has played out, from Walt’s first day in the Bounder – with Krazy-8 holding a gun in his face – to his last day in the Bounder, with Hank holding a badge to the door. And it’s been the same for every event in between and since.
This week’s episode took that theme and raised the stakes until Walter was forced to go all-in.
At the episode’s start, Hank and Marie take a page from Walt’s playbook, attempting to manipulate those close to Walt in order to bring him down. It only makes sense that Hank would turn to Jesse, Walt’s criminal surrogate son, who represents Hank’s chief interest, while Marie would try to gain leverage through his actual son, one-half of her biggest concern.
Walter has been doing this for much longer, and only pulls the ace out of his sleeve once Hank and Marie make it clear that they aren’t going to fold, during the show’s most awkward/brutal dinner scene since Jesse complimented Skyler’s green beans (they were from the deli at Albertson’s, FYI). Marie asking Walt to kill himself to end everyone’s troubles is warranted, but shocking nonetheless.
So I was correct – sort of – in my earlier prediction when I said Hank’s medical bills would ultimately prevent him from bringing the hammer down on Walt. The simple fact that Hank benefited financially from the drugs Walt manufactured makes him an accomplice, legally speaking. As one famous fictional dirty cop once said, “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.” While I’m bragging, though, I should admit that I did not know Marie agreed to let Skyler pay Hank’s medical bills without Hank’s knowledge. This explains both Hank’s insistence on persecuting Walt and Walt’s confidence that Hank could never do so.
We should have known something big was going to happen as soon as we saw Walt’s brilliant falsified confession. Everything had followed Walt’s plan. Hank and Marie tried to flank Walt through two of his weakest spots. Walt, recognizing this, threatened Hank and Marie with an atom bomb. He played ‘rock’ to their ‘scissors,’ and both sides lowered their weapons. As soon as he promised Skyler that everything is OK, Walt also promised the audience that nothing would be.
With this as context, Jesse’s revelation is a testament to the Breaking Bad writing staff. Going into the season, the writers knew the most devastating turn this story could take would be for Jesse to turn on Walt. They had plenty of material for doing so: Walt let Jane die, killed Mike and poisoned Brock. Nobody else knew Walt was there for Jane, and Jesse wasn’t really that close to Mike, so the most logical path was through Brock.
The setup is almost so simple it’s genius. Jesse finally does what we’ve wanted him to do since he killed Gale and agrees to skip town and leave Jesse Pinkman behind. But he has trouble diving in, and just like anyone who’s slowly stepped into cold water has quickly learned, it’s much easier if you listen to your friends (Saul Goodman, in this case) and just cannonball off the diving board. So it makes perfect sense that Jesse would pocket a bit of weed, as both a symbol of the life he’s leaving behind and just something a stoner would do.
By forcing Jesse to play by the rules and leave every trace of his old self behind, Saul unwittingly reveals the most important detail of Jesse’s old life in the most dramatic way – just seconds before it would be too late.
Looking back, Walter’s plan to frame Gus Fring with the ricin was his only major plan that didn’t somehow go awry, at least not immediately. So when it finally did, it’s only fitting that it would turn Jesse into the latest agent of chaos just as Walt has successfully fulfilled his most permanent plan. Instead of turning to Hank to blow the situation up, he turns to a gas can. Once Jesse realizes why he couldn’t find his pot – which he would burn as an effigy of sorts for his old life – and remembers how Huell had similarly frisked him once before, that time for the ricin cigarette – Jesse instead sets out to burn down the facade masking Heisenberg, the man who had made his old life so fit for the torch.
CRAZY-ASS THEORIES SECTION:
Colin: Let’s get this out of the way – after dousing the house in gasoline, Jesse is going to spray-paint “HEISENBERG” on the living room wall. Before Jesse can light a match, Walter is going to bust in, fight with Jesse, and eventually shoot him to death. Walter Jr. will witness it, and all hell will break loose.
Skyler, at her wits’ end, will follow Walter Jr. and join team Schraeder, telling Walt to turn himself in or #killyoself. Walt will run to Saul, order the Jesse Pinkman special from that vacuum cleaner repairman, and flee to New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, Todd and The Aryans (which sounds like an evil Andy Dwyer band name) will arrive in New Mexico just in time to get Heisenberg, whose criminal skills Todd just can’t stop talking about, and find his family instead. The Aryans, not giving a fuck about Walter’s problems, will threaten to murder his wife, son and daughter unless Heisenberg works for them. They’ll probably need Lydia and her resources to track him down.
Mr. Lambert will subsequently go shopping for an M-60 as an answer for the Aryans and small vial of ricin as a sweetener for Lydia’s tea.
Of course, that will be the plan. What he does when it blows up in his face is almost impossible to predict, and is the main reason we’re still watching Breaking Bad anyway.
You like how I brought that full-circle?
Liam: I do indeed. That’s a crazy-neat version of events and I think at least a few of those things – most likely the stuff involving the Aryan power circle – will come to pass.
That said, I don’t think Vince Gilligan and his writers will remove Jesse from the board that quickly. I’m basing this mostly on Jesse’s appearance in some of the AMC publicity stills of Aaron Paul, where his hair is longer and his beard thicker than it is right now – close to how Walt’s is in the Mr. Lambert timeline. (Has anyone made a BEARDS MEAN THE DARKEST TIMELINE joke yet? I hope not. Also I know it’s goatees in the actual line from Community, but the point is the same.)
Anyhow, while it’d be a gut-punch on the level of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones or Jin and Sun on Lost (#sorrynotsorry for spoiling old shows), I think that they’ll keep Jesse around for more than four episodes.
Honestly, I think it’s more possible that someone in Walt’s family would die before the final few episodes. That would finally eradicate Walt’s oft-stated falsehood that what he’s done is worth it for their sake. He would be left with only his violent, infectious pride and the damage it’s done, and be forced into a final reckoning as a result. If anything’s clear from what we’ve seen so far, I think it’s that there’s no way this series doesn’t end with Walt’s death. And now I’m wondering if it might somehow come at Jesse’s hands – a brutal denouement indeed, a Hamlet for our ugly times.