Breaking Bad: Phoenix
by Allison Waldman, posted May 25th 2009 3:29AM
(S02E12) Walter White, be careful what you wish for. That's the thought that occurred to me watching this penultimate episode of season two. Is it possible that Walt might actually make it through this bizarre journey to the dark side and actually come out the other side in one piece? For a time, it sure seemed possible.
For starters, there's Holly. Sky finally has the baby and she's perfect. The scenes of domestic bliss at the White's contrasted with the wreckage at Jesse's bungalow. Vince Gilligan may make Walter's perfection of crystal meth seem like a noble achievement -- the best ever cooked in New Mexico -- but seeing how Jane and Jesse's lives have deteriorated in just a few weeks of shooting heroin seemed like the ultimate anti-drug message. They were as gross as the meth couple with the ATM machine that Jesse found so disgusting.
Walt's dealing with Jesse's drug use has become a major theme. If Jesse had been part of getting deal done and not tripping, he and Walt would have never been at odds over the pay-off, which resulted in Jesse saying way too much to Jane about his partnership with his former chemistry teacher. Jesse may believe in the unwritten code about not turning on a partner, but Jane didn't. Her threats against Walt -- which may have been sheer bravado -- propelled the story in a direction that was completely unexpected.
Walt understood that Jane has a hold over Jesse, but he didn't realize how strong until the scene in the classroom, when Jesse hurled a glass at his head because Walt called her his "junkie girlfriend." That should have been a major warning sign to Walt. Jane's father, Don, should have also seen the warning sign when she overslept for NA meetings, defended Jesse to him, and coerced him into not finishing that call to the police. Giving her a little more time was a critical error, one Don will never get over.
How great is Saul Goodman? If you need to launder money, watch Saul figure out a way. Walter Jr.'s "Save Walter White" web site was a brilliant way to feed the kitty with Walt's drug loot via zombie donations. How did Walt ever getting along without Saul?
Was it too random for Don and Walt to meet at the bar, two strangers who strike up a conversation, not knowing they're talking about the same troubled kids? I don't know, but maybe it was something like cause and effect, some oblique science reference that's in the subtext of the show.
Walt referred to Jesse as a nephew, revealing an emotional connection heretofore unspoken. But would Walt have returned to the bungalow if he hadn't had that talk with Don? And if he hadn't gone back to Jesse's, would he have done what he did -- or rather chose not to do -- that is save Jane's life? His instinct was to save her, but he stopped himself.
The parallel between placing the baby on her side and propping her up with a rolled towel to keep her from choking and Jane telling Jesse to sleep on his side was unmistakable. And once Jane was choking to death on her own vomit and Walter let it happen, something that was done could not be undone. It was like that classic scene in The Little Foxes, when Bette Davis lets Herbert Marshall die by not giving him his heart medication. Walter giving in to his dark side. He was in tears, but was he truly sorry?
And now, what will happen when Jesse wakes up?