Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About Walt Jr.
Talking television.
Aug. 26 2013 9:00 AM

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

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I’ve got a bad feeling about Walt Jr.

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 11
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad

Photo courtesy of Ursula Coyote/AMC

Watching this episode, I wished that a clueless waiter would wander into my living room and break the tension by offering me a drink. I need one. Walt is smarter than Hank, but his dastardly confession, co-signed by Skyler, was the latest example that just when you think there is no lower for Walt to go, there is always lower for Walt to go. This maxim now appears to apply to Skyler as well: The Whites have an infinite supply of moral sub-basements. If Marie was going to forsake her traditional purple for her trip to the taqueria, she might have considered wearing armor, not just black.

Bryan Cranston has a particular tone of voice—all nice-guy reasonable and soothing—that, to the initiated, is his absolute creepiest. It showed up three times in this episode: in the confession, in his conversation with Walt Jr., and then in his conversation with Jesse. In all three instances his dulcet tones masked a hard-core furthering of his own agenda. With both Walt Jr. and Jesse, Walt played the concerned papa to ensure that the boys would physically do what he wanted. The parallel there absolutely terrifies me because I think it is just the latest intimation that something truly horrible is in store for Walt Jr. When Walt called Jesse “son” in the season premiere, my blood ran cold.

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Walt may have a biological son, but Jesse still is the son Walt never had. Jesse knows Walt so much better than Jr. does, and is so deeply, dysfunctionally entangled with his father figure that even after calling Walt out precisely—“Can you just stop working me?”—all it really took was a big bear hug to right things. Meanwhile, Walt Jr. is an increasingly flimsy justification for all of Walt’s misdeeds, the pliable, innocent, clueless kid who Walt and Skyler are blindly convinced can be kept safe and unknowing. Walt Jr. feels like another ball that Walt doesn’t even know he has in the air.

And Jesse looks like he’ll be commandeering most of Walt’s attention for the foreseeable future. Jesse’s reaction upon figuring out that Walt had poisoned Brock was satisfying, but only very, very briefly. Just like Hank, when reminded of Walt’s extraordinary intelligence and ruthlessness, Jesse went off half-cocked. Both of these men know Walt’s vast strategic powers, but instead of plotting how to best him, they get angry and ineffectual. Jesse still has something to learn from his teacher: Make a better plan.

You can understand my complete lack of chill,

Willa

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

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