What would it look like if Walt White, Skyler White, and Jesse Pinkman all sat down to dinner together? Watch Breaking Bad and find out!
"You asked me if I'm in the meth business, or the money business. The answer is neither. I'm in the empire business."
One of the elements that makes Breaking Bad so fascinating is the truthfulness of the evolution the characters have undergone (and continue to). While the show was built around the gradual turn towards evil of a once decent (if deeply flawed) man, that being Walter White, it's also about the way the heart of Jesse Pinkman becomes revealed. Somewhere along the line, it has become apparent that if Jesse isn't the conscience of the show overall (not the only one, anyway), then he certainly is the voice of humanity and reason that Walt should be listening to.
It shows itself not only in the beginning of today's episode, during the fallout of Todd the apparently psycho exterminator guy so easily murdering a child after a daring train robbery. Walt once again dispenses with the hydroflouoric acid in order to dissolve the kid's dirtbike, and the boy is buried with his tarantula-in-a-jar (though Todd ends up going back into the shallow grave to retrieve that jar for his own keeping, because he's psycho). It's decided that Todd will still be a part of the tenting crew, since nobody wants to kill him, and they'd have to pay him a lot of hush money if they were to fire him.
Jesse still has a heart, but it isn't in the meth business anymore. So when Mike decides to quit the business because of all the attention the DEA is paying to him (which elicits a hilariously rote reaction from Walt, who starts to sound like an HR rep giving an exit interview), Jesse sees this as his chance to get out too. To him, hooking up with Walt White has been a nonstop cavalcade of beatings, threats, murder (one he himself committed), intimidation, and loss. From his point, why would he continue? Mike has a contact in Phoenix who will pay to take his and Jesse's share of the methylamine off their hand, netting them $5 million each. Jesse urges Walt to get in on the deal as well, which would take him out of circulation. Jesse tries to appeal to Walt's heart, but no dice. Jesse tries to remind Walt that he originally got into this business to make sure his family is provided for, nothing more than that. He can be with his family with no secrets, and no fear of something terrible happening to him ("Is a meth empire really something to be proud of?" he plaintively asks at one point). He can cash in and live on. Walt seeing it as selling out, though. He brings up the fact that Grey Matter, the research company he co-founded in grad school, is now worth over $2 billion, but Walt had himself bought out when he was young for only $5,000. That fact still galls him, and he doesn't want that to ever happen again. He also points out to Jesse that he doesn't have a family anymore, with kids who live his in-laws and a wife who hates him so much that she's hoping for his cancer to come back and kill him. Thus, all he has left is the meth business. "And you want to take that away from me."
That last bit follows an exceptionally tense dinner for Jesse with Walt and Skyler. Walt insists that Jesse stay for dinner, aggravating an already pissed off Skyler. Earlier, Skyler comes this close to telling Marie everything about Walt and their life together right now, but Marie cuts that off when he blurts out that Walt told her about Skyler's affair with Ted. Thus, at dinner, with Jesse doing his motormouth routine just to fill the silences (and Walt and Skyler just glaring at each other), all Skyler can do is drink glass after glass of wine until she asks seethingly asks Jesse if Walt ever mentioned her affair (causing Jesse to comically take a huge sip of his water, just waiting for the awkward moment to pass). Skyler isn't exactly worried about keeping up appearances in front of Jesse, so she just gets up and leaves, taking the wine bottle with her.
Walt not agreeing to sell his share of the methylamine, and by extension his stake in the business, puts Mike and Jesse in a tough spot. Their buyer, Declan, wants the entire thousand gallons, and for Heisenberg's blue meth to no longer be in circulation. Walt tries to steal the methylamine himself, but is caught red-handed by Mike, who ends up tying Walt to the radiator while he's out (trying to get the DEA off his back, via Saul and a restraining order). Walt is able to get out of his bounds (using the wires from a coffee machine to improvise an arc torch, and when Mike returns, he finds the methylamine gone, and Jesse and Mike have apparently come to some agreement where everyone gets what they want. That's where the episode ends, with a pissed off Mike holding a gun to Walt's head, waiting to hear with this big plan is. We'll have to wait until next week to learn what that is, but what this ending accomplishes is that it once again shows us the characters of Jesse. He's always working to smooth things over the best he can, but the fact is, he's always being manipulated by Walt. That's what is most likely happening here. Jesse just wants Walt's approval at this point, and Walt is all too happy to play on that for his own ends.
The best thing Aaron Paul does in playing Jesse Pinkman is the manner in which he finds his emotional truth. Jesse's vulnerabilities are so fully formed by the writing on the show that he is able to find this great balance between the beaten down, shell-shocked young man who's experienced too much hell in too short of a time, and the stoner kid who can rail against false advertising in the TV dinner industry (and how eating frozen lasagna in like eating a scab). Watching and hearing him at that dinner scene, as well as the scenes that surrounded it, was so compelling and it really displayed everything we originally loved about the poor kid, and what we love about him now. He's ultimately a good kid who somewhere along the line got bumped off course and now he's stuck in this morass that continues to victimize him.
Written or Contributed by Royal Nonesuch
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