Last post, I explained that my wife and I had just finished watching the penultimate season of Breaking Bad. The previous post was a season recap that probably everyone skipped (fair, I get that) and this post will my analytical observations, or whatever.
As usual, this post will be spoilery for the first Four seasons of Breaking Bad.
Season Four – the Game
This season was pretty much a battle between Walter White and Gustavo Fring. Because it’s super pretentious and cliched to do so, I’ll be describing their conflict in chess terms. Because I’m nothing if not cliched and super pretentious. But before I get around to that, I have a lot more observations to make.
Is Tuco Finally Dead?
In my past recaps, I’ve pointed out that Tuco Salamanca was just the worst type of nemesis. The dead kind that kept on causing problems.
Tuco’s abduction of Walt and Jesse (and his fatal gunfight with Hank) kicked off so many problems. Like the rift between Walt and Skyler, the second cell-phone discovery, Hank’s PTSD, the twins coming north to kill Walter and nearly killing Hank, etc.
But with the cartel wiped out and the death of Hector Salamanca, the wheelchair-bound avenging uncle, is Walt finally free of Tuco’s ghost?
Maybe. Maybe not. I consider the ricin cigarette that Jesse had to still be a Tuco connection since Walter and Jesse created the ricin originally to kill Tuco. I’m looking forward to seeing if the ricin shows up in Season Five.
Is Gus Finally Dead?
Well, yes, he’s dead. Just like Tuco was dead in Season Two. What I’m saying is this: Gustavo Fring has a past that goes back to his exit from Chile. Don Eladio at the poolside execution of Gus’ partner Max was unwilling to kill Gus out of hand, based on who he had been in Chile.
Gus’ Chilean past is still a mystery, and I wondered if his death will have any international repercussions (beyond Mexico, I mean.) Gus might have been too valuable to kill during the cartel attack on his desert facility because of his drug distribution network, but he might otherwise have been off-limits for other reasons. I’m curious if that will play out at all in Season Five, or if Gus Fring is truly out of the story.
Ha, there’s no way Gus is out of the story. Just like Tuco had his Tio and the twins to try avenge his death, Gus has Mike Ehrmantraut, who was recovering from his bullet wounds in Mexico while Walter set up the explosive finale. There’s no way Mike can feel good about this.
But Mike’s also a practical guy. I’m not sure which way that will turn out.
Hank and Marie
This was a rough season for me, since I really like Hank but I was not happy with his crappy treatment of Marie. I mean, I understand his bad attitude, it just didn’t make me happy.
Marie’s kleptomania kicked in again, where she would steal an item from open houses. Her behavior was fascinating, as she would weave an engaging and in-depth backstory for herself. It seemed pretty clear that this was being caused by her extreme unhappiness at home, that she had to go out and pretend to be someone else, with a very different life. And that she’d steal a trophy, possibly as a reminder of this fake life, making it more real.
The upside of her behavior got Hank back into the Heisenberg investigation, through quid pro quo with the Albuquerque Police Department.
Walt Jr. was a pawn in some ways, between Walt and Skyler. Both Skyler and Walt are now lying to their son, with this fiction of a gambling addiction to explain Walt’s behavior and the new money. And Walt buys Walt Jr. a sports car. What the hell, man? So of course Skyler wants it returned. But then Walt is nowhere around when Skyler well-intentionally buys Junior a classic girlie mom-car. No one’s happy about this.
The biggest moment for me in the season emotionally was when Walt Jr. finds his father the morning after he received a righteous beating by Jesse. Walt is ashamed and regretful, and these are things that no father wants his son to see, and no son wants to see in his father. (If they have a healthy relationship, I mean.)
The gambling addiction story is a good cover, and Walt Jr. was extremely sympathetic and supportive to Walt. But it’s all based on lies. I worry for Junior when the truth comes out.
Jesse Descends Into the Underworld
Jesse’s reaction to killing Gale was to pretty much seek distraction, something to take his mind off of what he’d done. His income from the meth lab allows him to keep a hellish, Dante Inferno-esque party going on. It’s soulless and joyless.
Mike Ehrmantraut was almost a guardian angel, dragging him out of his depressive situation and forcing Jesse to come along with him on his rounds. This is pretty much what Jesse needed, to not be alone. And since Mike wasn’t long on talking, Jesse is forced to self-reflect. He might not be at peace with what he’s done, but he works out a coping mechanism.
Being useful to Mike and to Gus is also something that gives Jesse a sense of meaning. It also gets in the way of him being able to kill Gus. Jesse has to try to be true to his loyalty-charged moral compass. He refuses to participate with Gus if Walter White comes to harm, but he can’t commit to killing Gus for Walt. He’s straddling a very thin edge.
Skyler White’s Descent Into Crime
Skyler took a more active role in the criminal enterprise this season. Although Walt’s “I am the Danger, I am the One Who Knocks” speech greatly alarmed her, she stayed to get the car wash operation working. And then, as these things do, had to clean up stuff that began to get messy.
Ted Beneke was her big nemesis this season, being hapless with his finances and then unwilling to use the money she funneled to him responsibly. Her association with him as his company’s accountant was too big a risk.
Sadly for Ted, things didn’t work out too well and I’m curious how Skyler is going to react. She didn’t intend for anything to happen to Ted when Saul sent over his A Team to get Ted to pay up and babysit him until the check cleared. But intentions don’t hold water. She’s complicit in this crime.
And I’m sure now that everything is blowing over with Gus’ death, Walt will remember that Skyler gave Ted all that cash.
Walt’s cancer remained in remission this season, but Walt had a different kind of cancer going on: Hank.
Hank returning to the Heisenberg investigation might as well have been a resurgence of Walt’s cancer. There’s something unfair about cancer, your own body has cells that one day start doing things that ultimately will kill you. It’s hard to treat, and treatment nearly always involves killing off healthy tissue to get rid of the bad. But it has to be treated, it can’t be ignored.
Sometimes, it’s impossible to treat or operate on.
Hank is like that. He’s close to Walt, he’s family. Walt has to protect Hank even though if left to his own devices, Hank will bring Walt down as a side effect of getting Gus. This is one of those cases where the margins are not clear.
Walter White vs. Gustavo Fring: the Chess Match
As I said before, this season was in many ways a chess match between Gus and Walt. You might say that Jesse was the pawn, with Walt trying to manipulate him into killing Gus and Gus in turn trying to isolate Jesse from Walt to remove Walt’s protection.
That actually elevates Jesse and he becomes The Game. Nearly everyone else: Mike, Hector, Saul, etc. even Andrea’s son Brock, are all pieces. But Jesse was the game.
In some ways, Walt has it easier than Gus, since Gus was playing two games: one against Walt and one against the Cartel. Gus won the battle against the Cartel, poisoning Don Eladio and his men, after wiping out the previous associates in Season Three.
But Gus clearly lost against Walt.
What about Hank? Was he a pawn? Was he a separate game that Walt and Gus were playing? No, but Hank was part of the game between Walt and Gus. He was the clock.
Some chess matches are low stakes, each player takes his time. That wasn’t like the match between Gus and Walt. There was definitely a time limit, with pressure to make moves before the clock ran out.
Walt’s ability to convince Jesse that Gus must have been behind Brock’s poisoning was the key, the winning moment. (Well, there was some juggling of the car bomb to come, but I think that was all inevitable. Walt had won over Jesse.)
There’s things that I must know, and I hope they get answered in Season Five.
Brock apparently was poisoned with Lilly of the Valley berries, which we know grows in Walter White’s backyard. The assumption is that Walter poisoned Brock. HOW?
Jesse’s ricin cigarette: Walt must have gotten it out of the pack when they were doing a meth cook (that’s how Walter blamed its absence, but on Tyrus.) I’d like that cleared up.
I’m hoping we learn more about Gus’s Chilean background. Okay, it’s probably not a big deal, but I want it to matter. It’s okay if it doesn’t.
Man, this was a Great Season of Breaking Bad.
Images are obviously from AMC’s Breaking Bad.
I make no claim to any of the artwork obviously, but I do make some claim to the text of this posting. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved