“The past is the past. … Now that’s over. You’re out, and so am I” – Walter White, ‘Blood Money’
The question of when did Walter White become Heisenberg is one that every Breaking Bad fan has no doubt asked themselves over the course of four and half seasons. It isn’t just a case of when did he become a badass hat wearing drug lord but the entire series has been about when did Mr White become morally corrupt? When did he go just too far? When did he lose his soul completely?
It’s easy to point towards the big events in show’s history: the death of Jane, the poisoning of Brock and say that is when the former science teacher went too far. However, I believe that Walter White has always been Heisenberg. That Heisenberg isn’t just the King of Meth but wants to be the King of Everything. That even if as Walter declares to Jesse this week that he is out of the business that Heisenberg is still very much part of what makes Walter White tick.
An unhealthy combination of pride mixed with arrogance has always been Walter’s biggest flaw and also one of his strongest assets as this complete confidence in his abilities has helped him survive longer than the average person would. The fact he left Leaves of Grass just lying around his house showed how overly confident he has become over the course of the 18 months since his initial diagnosis of cancer (18 months is a rough guess but a large chunk of time definitely lapsed in Gliding All Over and most people have estimated its around a year and a half since the pilot).
In a way Walter has always been about showing off, he wants people to know just how good he is – and there is no doubt that Walter White is definitely extremely talented not just with chemistry but in his ability to think and scheme his way out of impossible often life threatening situations . Yet this self-importance often bordering on smugness keeps on rearing its ugly head. Take the the season 4 episode ‘Shotgun’ – he just couldn’t let brother-in-law Hank believe Gale was the brains behind the operation. Of course all of this has led to Hank figuring out the truth – or at least part of it (he has yet to find out about some of Walter’s more malevolent acts). All of this now seems to mark the beginning of Heisenberg’s downfall.
The pride has always been there though, lingering under layers of bitter resentment. Whilst extreme circumstances can change a person, often what desperate times actually do is reveal who they really are.
Heisenberg has been waiting to come out and play, perhaps ever since Walter realised just how successful the company he sold his stake in for $5000 was. How long has the resentment and anger been building? It could have been for years and so when Walter gets the chance to solve all his money problems and get the cancer treatment he needs does he take it? Of course not. In that moment Walt allowed his pride to consume him. After years of wondering what he could have been, he says no to any outside help. He had to prove he could be something, that he could be someone. He lets the mask of mild mannered loving husband slip and thus begins his slow and steady descent into the gutter.
In the confrontation with Hank, Walter is confident that he is the one in charge, perhaps even revelling in the fact that Hank knows about his greatest work. Yes he is a little stunned after being punched but immediately he is threatening Hank and warning him to “tread lightly”. He should be terrified that a DEA agent knows the truth but knowing Walter he probably thinks he is still too clever to be caught.
Perhaps he is right; perhaps Hank won’t be able to able to go through with it (or even get the chance to). But even if the threat of Hank is eliminated the fact is Walter White is still doomed.
In ‘Blood Money’ he tells countless people he is out of the business but whilst he can attempt to convince Skyler, Jesse or Lydia of this the consequences of what he did will always be there and they will ultimately catch up with him. You can’t blow up a retirement home, murder rivals, poison a little boy, emotionally manipulate a wife (as well as your business partner/substitute son) and still expect to be out of it.
Jesse Pinkman knows this too well If Walter White is pride then Jesse is guilt and shame all wrapped up in a lingering depression.
Jesse can’t help but take on every bad thing that has happened and hold himself personally responsible. He wants to make amends, he wants to honor Mike, he wants to try and help the pain the parents of a murdered boy. He fell deep into depression when Jane died and has been there ever since really, the death of Gale just making things that much worse. Jesse is plagued by self doubt, which is why he held on deeply to any praise that Mr White gave him. Jesse knows the things they have done in the name of surviving and the meth business aren’t justified.
Hank won’t give up as easily as Walter believes and Jesse given the right push could be pretty dangerous. Factor in the unknown dangers (rival drug dealers, the unstable Lydia, Skyler) and Heisenberg may well be King now but every reign ends eventually.
You can never leave your past behind not when it’s scattered with blood and bodies. No one gets out.
+ Dean Norris brings his A-game here and no doubt to future episodes. Everything after Hank leaves the bathroom is brilliant work, especially loved the panic attack in the car and then his reaction to Walter in the garage.
+ The cancer is back, of course Walter is probably not going to tell Skyler about it knowing how much satisfaction she would get but I wonder if she knows already.
+ Skyler seems to be pretty content with her situation right now, how much of it is just being resigned to her circumstance or like I think binding her time till the cancer gets Walter.
+ Badger and Skinny Pete talking Star Trek is a thing of beauty. If the proposed Saul spin off happens it has to include these two.
+ Aaron Paul portrayal of depression and shear hopelessness is so impressive. You can see that pain across his face especially in the Walter/Jesse scene but also the lack of energy and apathy that often comes with depression. He seems to have given up on life entirely.
+ Hank got a montage! Breaking Bad sure loves their montages and I love them.
+ Flash Forward time: So the tease we got at the start of S5a continues in this episode. The White household seems completely trashed and ruined and friendly neighbour Carol absolutely terrified of Walter. I wonder how long it will be till we catch up with that timeline and just who is dead by that point. Walter still clearly has a lot of enemies judging by the gun and ricin.
+ Death Count: Everyone got out of this episode alive, probably won’t be too long until that changes.