Something I like about Breaking Bad is the importance of episode titles and the clues they sometimes contain. This episode is entitled “Cornered”. What does this refer to? It’s not really Walt – While he is feeling pressure from Gus and a police investigation as always this season, he is not in particularly cornered danger this episode. It’s not Jesse, who is becoming more useful under Mike and Gus. And it’s not Hank, who isn’t in the episode. The episode title surely then refers to Skyler.
Up until this point, we’ve seen Skyler come to accept Walt’s crime double life with a near fervish of excitement. Like Walt when he began cooking meth, she perhaps had been domesticated so long that she needed the rush. But when Walt showed his truly dangerous face in this episode in their confrontation, to borrow a much used phrase, “sh*t got real.” Perhaps Skyler now finally understands that Walt is unhealthy and all those years of feeling pushed around and having a job he can’t rise from built up an uncontrollable monster. My feeling on Walt is one does not simply go from a squeaky clean school teacher to the man he’s becoming now. Walt always had Heisenberg waiting in him after a life of disappointment and stored anger. In that sense Walt’s scene at the car wash was fitting. Returning to a place where he felt his dignity was stepped on as it always was, Walt fed to inner ego monster by asserting dominance over Bogdan – and by taking and wasting his framed first dollar. I believe that if and when Walt goes down at the end of the show, his downfall will be pride, his ego and pettiness. We’ve seen him put Hank back on the investigation trail to petty ego and we’ve seen him leave a huge unnecessary crime footprint by insisting it was Bogdan’s car wash he took. We’ve seen Walt cash in on his ego money by making big purchases like expensive champagne and a sportscar for his kid. All of this is signs Walt’s need to flaunt his power will likely be his undoing. What happens if Bogdan realizes he really didn’t need a filtration system, or realizes Walt is running his business without paying for it? Lawyer Saul was right, the Whites choosing their front on a personal vendetta wasn’t the smart move. Buying a nail salon was.
The most memorable image of the episode was Skyler standing at the Four Corners Monument separating Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico and flipping a coin to decide where to go. It lands on Colorado twice, but she moves it to New Mexico anyways. The message of course, is that you can pretend it’s luck and fate that drives your life, but it’s not – It’s always choices. Just as Walt confirmed earlier in the episode that this had all been choices by him. I am fairly convinced Skyler will be going down with the ship when Walt is caught and this perhaps was her last oppurtunity to get out, before her money laundering crime starts. She chose to stay, cornered between abandonment of family and the devastation sure to come when Walt goes down.
What about Jesse in this episode? For me what’s been happening with Jesse is this season is a matter of power and control, but it’s not about his control over anything, it’s about who controls him. Jesse has always either been under the control of either drugs or Walt. But through their scheme of making his useful, Gus and Mike now control Jesse. Walt has long treated Jesse like he isn’t useful to him, isn’t needed. The classic moment in this episode of course is Walt stating “It’s all about me!” If Walt had a chance to keep Jesse on his side, his ego may have just taken away any chance of that. Gus on the other hand, tells Jesse he sees something in him. Of the two Walt likely still has the better intentions, but Gus knows how to draw the rabbit with a carrot. Now that Jesse is building loyalty to Gus and not Walt, Gus can avoid situations like the Gale murder repeating themselves. Next time Walt needs Jesse to save him, look for more hesitation on Jesse’s part.
A final two points on events in this episode:
- The cartel again attacked a Los Pollos Hermanos truck, this time succeeding. Gus is clearly in trouble between this and the tightening police investigation (foreshadowed in the scenes from next episode). If Gus goes down, it’ll be his fault for not following his instincts and code when it comes to trusting someone like Walt and instead going after the selfish allure of a dominant blue meth empire
- Walt once again shows his pettiness and selfishness by paying the maids to clean his meth lab and getting them deported as a result. Could Walt really be naive to think Gus wouldn’t react to what they saw? Frankly those maids are lucky to be alive.
What's coming next? In the snippets from next episode, we saw Hank presumably putting a light on Gus as a Heisenberg suspect and Skyler starting to launder in the car wash. The rope and heat is tightening on everyone. Stay tuned.