“A man provides.”
It is the diabolical wording – brainwashing really – used by one drug kingpin in luring a supplier back into the fray, fishing for any weaknesses in Walt’s decision to leave the business. Walt tells Gus he pursued a temporary career of cooking meth to provide for his children, and Gus uses that to push in even closer, to convince Walt that he must return to the business. Money is the only real measure of a man – says the drug dealer. And while Walt isn’t entirely convinced, he’s already in too deep to question his actions now.
In last night’s episode of Breaking Bad, we saw every character suddenly locked into a course of action they may no longer believe to be the right one. Walt, determined to win his family back, is amazed when Skyler allows him to tend to their fussy infant. But then he turns around to see her gone; she will allow him to be a father, but never again a husband. And so he goes back into cooking, whether he likes it or not, signing the divorce papers and leaving them in the baby’s crib (with the baby curiously absent). Walt’s moved out – and he’s taken his duffel bag of drug money with him. It’s clear the money is for him and his kids, not her. At least not anymore.
Hank, meanwhile, turns down the transfer to El Paso, only to realize that the case he stayed put to solve may now be dead in its tracks. But then, a last second clue leads him to the house that once was home to the RV, and to that photo of a junkie smiling right along with Jesse. This is the first solid link, that puts Hank within grasp of tracking down Walt. And I couldn’t quite remember, but doesn’t Hank already know that Jesse and Walt have some sort of connection?
Jesse, meanwhile, has embraced his new role as the bad guy, but when Walt confronted him in last night’s episode, telling him that he’s out, it’s clear that Jesse is rocked to the core. He might be able to handle flying solo, but to have Walt as an enemy? Jesse seems to crack. He chucks a rock at Walt’s car, smashes the windshield, and then almost looks bewildered by his own capacity to destroy. In past weeks, he has asserted himself proudly as the bad guy, but in that moment, he sure looked more like a scared kid, unsure of what his next move should be.
Skyler, too, spends the episode basically reconciling her new life. She has a lover, with an amazing heated bathroom floor, that she comes to despise. She is mortified by the thousands of dollars she finds in a duffel bag in her house, but then seems equally startled when it’s gone. Between those two discoveries, she rationalizes to her lawyer the value of protecting her husband, and hears from her sister, who analyzes Hank’s behavior and says that confronting death changes a man. Skyler has never seemed more comfortable in accepting the state of things, including a drug kingpin as husband, but then she arrives home to find the divorce papers. Chuck the rationalization out the window; Now it’s her move.
So last night began and ended with some dramatic emotional ellipses. Walt wants to win back his family, but only seems capable of winning back his kids. Skyler reluctantly protects Walt, only to see him walk away. Jesse is willing to go on his own, with Walt out of the picture, only to realize that Walt is back – and has squeezed him out of the market. Hot on their trail is Hank, who has staked everything – both professionally and psychologically – on cracking the case.
“A man provides,” Gus says, but what exactly is he supposed to provide? Money? Security? Sex? Stability? Independence? It’s this question that continues to propel Breaking Bad, and after last night’s episode I’m left with more questions than ever – about whether Skyler will now walk away, about whether Walt will cook again, about what Gus’s real intentions are (surely he plans on stealing Walt’s techniques, yes?), about how far Hank will take this, in tracking down Jesse, and then his brother-in-law. Whatever direction we go next week, one thing’s for sure: The introspection is over. All hell is about to break loose.
What did you all think?