Monday, August 27, 2012

Meth Monday No. 6: "Say My Name" (5.07)

Hello again, Readers Mine, and welcome to another Meth Monday, were I'll be taking a look at last night's episode of Breaking Bad, "Say My Name" (5.07). As usual, I'll be writing about the episode as if you've already seen it so, if you haven't: !!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut
Coming out of the gate, Walt is large and in charge, showing no fear as he, Jesse, and Mike meet with Deckland and his crew, despite being outnumbered and outgunned. Walt's demand that Deckland "say my name" not only gives the episode its title but also lets everyone know just exactly how much Walt is getting off on being the big bad man. Furthermore, Walt's power-tripping attitude actually works, and he gets everything he wants: Mike out with enough money to pay off his crew, a new distribution network, and Jesse at least temporarily prevented from leaving. Take note of this, because it is the last time Walt gets what he wants for the entire episode, and maybe longer.

First, Jesse still wants out, and no amount of praise, disdain, manipulation, or withholding of money by Walt does one damn bit of good. Skyler will only sit at a table with Walt for as long as it takes to eat a meal, and she certainly isn't going to engage in small-talk with him. Walt is burning bridges and at every step he is becoming more and more alone, while trying more and more desperately to control a situation which is fundamentally uncontrollable. The 'break-up" scene with Jesse is a perfect example. Walt starts with flattery, offering Jesse his own lab, his own cook, telling him that his cook is every bit as good as his is. Back in Season 3, when Jesse was so wounded in mind and body that he desperately needed affirmation from Walt, this would have worked like a charm. But that was a different Jesse. That was before Gale, and Don Eladio, and the last Salamanca, and Gus. Jesse has had enough of killing and of the chaos that cooking causes in his life. By choosing to walk away, even if it means doing so without any money, Jesse is refusing to walk Walt's path of violence, death, and utter loneliness. After all, Jesse has seen how Walt's business has destroyed his relationship with his family. He knows Walt's arguments and attempts at manipulation are bullshit, and he's not buying it anymore. Jesse is a long way from being the kid we met in Season 1.

Walt, of course, can't comprehend any of this. Can't wrap his mind around how anyone could not want the power he thinks he has and the money he thinks he will make. More than this, though, he can't understand why his efforts at manipulating others are failing. It doesn't fit in with his inflated notion of himself as some sort of criminal mastermind. All of this comes out in what, for my money, is the best scene in the entire episode, when Mike - God bless him - tells Walt off and calls him on his bullshit. In Walt's mind nothing that has happened in the course of the last year and few months has been his fault. His primary method of rationalization has been to convince himself that he has never had any choice in any of his actions, that he has been forced to do things in response to the situations he has somehow "found" himself in. It's all an enormous load of bullshit, and finally Mike lays it out for Walt:
"We had a good thing you stupid son of a bitch! ...You could have shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed - it was perfect. But no, you just had to blow it up! You! And your pride and you ego - you just had to be the man. If you'd done your job, known your place, we'd all be fine right now!"
Because it's all true. All of this, everything that's happened, every person that has died, every bloody misstep and mistake is ALL WALT'S FAULT. He owns all of it. Mike tells Walt the truth so clearly and fiercely that Walt can't help but hear it, and he just can't stand it. Can't stand that his reasons are bullshit, can't stand that all he has done is create one crisis after another, and certainly can't stand that someone like Mike can see right through his precious skein of lies. That's why he shoots Mike. Not because of the names he needs, but because he's in a pouty snit over being told the truth to his face, and like the tantrum throwing child he his, when he's in that state Walt just acts without thinking. At all. Only with Walter White, the child in question is a man who has come to see deadly violence as the first, best solution to any personal or personnel problem he might encounter.

Goodbye Mike, and good on you for telling Walt to "shut the fuck up." It's about time someone did.

That's it for this week, Readers Mine. Next Sunday brings the final episode of Breaking Bad this year, and marks the half-way point in the show's final season, which AMC has split into two shot season over 2012 - 2013. Episode 5.08 is entitled "Gliding Over All," and R.J. Mitte (who plays Walt Jr.) has said that next week we'll see a "season" ending "with an amazing twist," so I'll be here next Monday to ramble on about it and I hope you will too. In the meantime, don't miss my co-author's regular spot "Walter White Wednesday" over on Unfettered Brilliance later this week, and check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for various interviews, updates on Wanna Cook and other Breaking Bad goodies that come across my monitor.


  1. Granted Walt is no saint, but to be completely honest Mike is conveniently only looking at half the picture. It was actually Jesse who first shook things up, when the "good" thing they had going with Gus got Tomas killed.
    From there on, maybe Walt could have done some things differently, but quite often he really did not have that many options.

  2. I don't know. I think Walt has always had more options than he has wanted to believe he has, he just didn't like the consequences that came with some of them.

  3. I agree that technically what Mike says is true, and yes, that is why it pushes Walt's detonate button.
    But the real picture is much more complex than Mike is willing to admit, and I would not agree that everything is all Walt's fault.