Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Lethal Combinations of Elements (Part 2).

peekaboo (Thoughts on the second season of BREAKING BAD, written by somebody who doesn’t have cable and by the time he had Netflix he didn’t have time which is why he’s years behind the rest of you.)

As mentioned in Part 1, my overall estimation is that Breaking Bad‘s second season spends most of its narrative exploring frustration and fear. Whereas Walter remains the prime reservoir of this cocktail, allowing either or both emotions to guide his decisions for good or ill, there are also smaller but no less potent doses swimming in the nerves of Jesse, Skyler, and Hank.


Shortly after retaining the services of Saul Goodman — perhaps the only character in the escalating chaos with the nimbleness and absent conscience to survive it [1] — he sums up the escapades of Walt and Jesse with a succinct and painfully accurate “You two suck at peddling meth. Period.” Walter’s ineptitude is borne of arrogance, of failing to grasp that Chemistry Smart is not Criminal Smart. Jesse’s, however, is a product both of his addiction and of his empathy, of a genuine wish to be a better human being consistently thwarted by the situations in which that desire manifests…situations, mind, into which he has willfully entered. One of the more revelatory windows into the psyche of Jesse Pinkman occurs during the episode “Over,” when he shares with Jane his sketchbook of superheroes, a book that Jane observes is filled with drawings that are all versions of him. Time and again, Jesse displays a need to save others at his own expense, such as taking the heat for his little brother’s marijuana or accepting Walter’s “fugue state” plan despite it requiring his arrest and greater risk of incarceration. He stays with Walter not just because of the opportunity to make a lot of money but because he wants something good to come of Walter’s battle with cancer in the way that his aunt’s battle with cancer did not. His deep sorrow for the child of Spooge and Skank very nearly gets him killed, and there is an apparent, tragic yearning in his eyes as he tells that child, before escaping, to “have a good life,” knowing that this is unlikely and that Jesse will not be able to help.

Jesse fears that he himself cannot be rescued; he has a sense that his demons will never let him go. He allows himself the dangerous luxury of feeling in order to have some sense of identity, in part because the identity he previously enjoyed — the carefree “Captain Cook” — has been subsumed beneath the force of Walter. Whether or not he actually loved Jane, he believed he’d found something that felt like it, and the cruelty of having that taken from him breaks him in ways that he didn’t know he could be broken.

Gustavo warns Walter that “an addict cannot be trusted,” which is part of why Walter makes the decision to fight for Jesse’s recovery, but the truth is that what makes Jesse such a liability is less about his drug habits and moreso that he cannot be trusted to compromise himself as completely and easily as Walter has. At this moment, the fact that neither Jesse nor Walter are willing to accept is that Jesse is the better person of the two of them. When Jesse tells Walter that he understood what Walter said when he said “I deserve this,” it’s evident that Walter has forgotten why he said that, and that he never understood this admission in the way Jesse does now.

Next: Skyler.

Current Music: Miles Davis, “Stella by Star Light”

[1] I’m aware that there is an AMC spinoff, Better Call Saul, in production…but I’m also aware that it’s set prior to the events of Breaking Bad, so it remains, for me, up in the air as to whether or not he does survive this series. No spoilers, bitch.

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This entry was posted on January 17, 2014 by in Breaking Bad, Critique, Television.
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