‘Breaking Bad’: “Tell Me You Need This”

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Last week, we opened up with Jesse on a playground, and although he didn’t have a line of dialogue, this image established him as the ego-less, shameful child in between two egocentric, prideful men. This week’s episode, “Confessions,” picked up that thread and extended it beyond boys and men to boys and fathers.

The only actual father-son pair on this show, Walt and Walter Jr. (Flynn), had a conversation near the beginning of the hour to demonstrate the tricky dynamics of such a relationship. To Junior, the conversation was a scary and honest heart-to-heart about his father’s cancer returning; to Walt, the conversation was a blatant manipulation to win affection and loyalty from his son while keeping him away from the Schraders.

Jesse, who long ago cut ties with his real family, has always been susceptible to the father figure. Walt has served as a dark and controlling father to Jesse for the duration of the show–a fact that has been underlined time and time again, like when Walt talked about his parenting struggles with Jane’s dad and used Jesse as an example or when a drugged up Walt accidentally called his own son by Jesse’s name. Jesse has committed acts he can never take back or heal from out of respect for this father-son bond with Walt.

But the father figures don’t end there. In contrast to Walt’s dark manipulations, Mike served as a positive and (gruffly) loving role model for Jesse. He is the only person on the show who ever looked out for Jesse’s best interests without other motivations. But Mike is dead now, and that unconditional caring is dead with him.

Three men tried to manipulate Jesse with tender conversation this week just as Walt manipulated his son into staying away from Marie. The first was Hank, who instead of his usual bullying tactics, took to soft-talking to Jesse, faking empathy with lines like, “He really did a number on you, didn’t he?” Anyone with eyes can see that Jesse is hurting, and Hank correctly pinpoints this hurt to Walt. But Jesse has had enough experience being controlled to know what Hank is doing, and flatly turns down his offers of immunity and pleas for help. Daddy #1 strikes out.

The second father figure comes in Walt. He tells Jesse what he really needs is a fresh start away from here, and that would cure all of his pain. We know, and Jesse knows, that Hank is hot on his trail, and Jesse is the only one who can take Walt down. Just as Walt pulled the strings of his own son, here he tries to do the same to Jesse. “Just drop the whole concerned dad thing,” Jesse yells. He can see what’s happening. His frustration is so desperate. He just wants to hear the truth. “Tell me you need this.” He’ll do it for Walt, for his surrogate dad, but only if he hears it straight. Daddy #2 doesn’t win Jesse over in the way that he plans, but he gets what he wants purely because Jesse is so aching for that hug. It’s heartbreaking.

And finally, there’s Saul. Saul has always been more clearly devoted to Walt, if only because he recognizes the difference between an alpha male and a beta male. He’s kept secrets from Jesse and to our knowledge never kept them from Walt. But it would appear that when Saul makes that call and tries to send Jesse on his way, he really does wish all the best for the kid. He even has a fatherly air to him when he scolds the kid for lighting up a joint and says, “Some people are immune to good advice.” Jesse is jittery but complacent. He will go and press the reset button as Walt and Saul are requesting.

As Jesse was standing there on the highway, I felt torn. In some ways, although it’s not what I expected, the reset button is what I always wanted for Jesse. I hoped the final episodes of Breaking Bad would finally allow him some peace and an escape from the hellhole Walt dragged him into. If he had made his escape to Florida or Alaska or whatever, there would be hope for that. And yet I didn’t want Jesse to go. It wasn’t because I would miss watching Aaron Paul on screen (although I would), but because I didn’t want Jesse to leave without ever knowing what Walt had done to him. Jesse deserved to know about the ricin and about Brock, just like he deserves to know about Jane. Everything he has ever cared about has rotted away from his life because of Walt. Even more than not wanting Walt to get away with his meth business legally, I can’t stand the idea of him getting away with all of his crimes morally and emotionally.

He is a master manipulator, as made abundantly clear by his “confession” DVD for Hank and Marie. He wraps lies in the truth and the truth in lies. This season is being set up as Hank and Marie versus Walt and Skyler, but I’m still on Jesse’s side. I don’t care about Hank soothing his wounded pride–I just want Walt to go down for everything he’s done to our boy, Jesse Pinkman.

Saul Goodman quotes of the week:

  • “Beat any good suspects lately?”
  • “So long, Rocky. Keep your left up.”
  • “So you understand my complete lack of chill.”
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