TV Club

Breaking Bad recap: Forget Walt and Sklyer, I love Jesse

If you leave, Jesse, I will find you.

Breaking Bad (Season 5).

Is Jesse too good for Walt?

Ursula Coyote/AMC.

Like you, June, I got pulled right in by the opening: the globes of yolk staring back at the as-yet unknown eater, and then his odd and, yes, memorable snapping and crackling of the bacon. Walt is the doer rather than the done-to in this episode, and the initial shot sets us up for the way he sees himself: as the maker of his own world. That’s the theme that leapt out at me this week, and I think it’s the answer to your questions, Matt, about why Mike and Saul do things that don’t entirely make sense, based on what we know of them so far. They’re being sacrificed to Walt’s myth-making.

As the hour progressed, and Walt went from determined to assured to backing Saul into a wall, I heard echoes of The Godfather or Dirty Harry and wondered if some lines, in context, were taken straight from the movies. Walt to Skyler about Gus: It’s over. I won. Walt to Mike about how they know the magnet erased the laptop data: Because I say it did. Walt to Saul: We’re done when I say we’re done. And at the end, Walt as gangster husband to Skyler as errant wife: I forgive you. The writing on this show doesn’t usually veer into pointed cliché repeatedly, does it? Readers, any thoughts about where else we’ve heard those simple expressions of macho domination?

I enjoy it when Walt has his up moments in the series, even though I realize that, like Skyler, we’re supposed to worry about what he’s turning into. I’ve never needed to like Walt: I’m Jesse’s girl in this TV Club. And I think the show zings along when Walt is ascending, though of course part of the sizzle comes from knowing he will fall. Even this week, the show has to linger on a reminder of his weakness, from Walter Jr., who crows over the news about Gus Fring: “Uncle Hank is going to be a hero!” To his son, Walt is no power-broker tough guy—it’s still inconceivable. Don’t you think we’re going to see Walt struggle with preserving Jr.’s illusions at some point this season?

Matt, you mentioned Skyler’s fear of Walt and unforgiving tone, in the end, with Ted (wow, sucks to be him): I felt a little impatient in those scenes, maybe because we’ve seen her ricochet between soft and hard a bunch of times by now. She bounces back and forth, rather than getting the kind of sustained narrative lift Walt gets from the writers’ room. It’s a little fatiguing: I mean, is she going to be the gangster wife or not? It’s the choice Carmela Soprano had to make and I think that at some point, Skyler has to pick a persona and stick with it.

But the character I really want to dwell on is Jesse. He makes this show for me: I’m more interested in his evolution or moral decline than in Walt’s. (If you are with me, listen to actor Aaron Paul’s Fresh Air interview if you haven’t already. It’s radio candy.) Jesse saved Walt’s life once more this week, stepping between him and Mike’s gun. Why, exactly? I know they had to come together at the end of last season to off Gus, but Brock’s poisoning can’t be completely forgotten, can it?

Maybe you’re right, June, that we see Jesse spot Walt his share of the money for the magnet and van caper so we think he’s in the hole, but I also think this is a setup for future hard feelings and mini-betrayal. Also, the reason Jesse doesn’t leave town is very basic: I would be heartbroken.

It’s the universal symbol for keys,