Friday, September 7, 2012

Was Walter right for once?

Warning: Contains spoilers about the second season of "Breaking Bad". 

So, I got into a little Twitter argument with theMAC last night, regarding the question of whether or not Walt was right when he let Jane die in that faithful night in bed with Jesse. theMAC's point was this: 

It is a good question. Did I hate him for that? No. In season 2, I didn't hate Walter for anything he did, yet. This got along only in season 4 and strongly so in season 5. And really, I mean, look at the girl.
Can these eyes hint at future insanity? Possibly.
So, now, let's have a look at what happens. After keeping the drug money from the first deal with Gus for safekeeping, Jesse kind of settles with the thought of getting himself killed without half a million dollars. Jane pushed him to blackmail Walter into giving him back his money, planning a total pipe-dream of moving to New Zealand, where Jesse imagines himself to be a pilot for firefighter planes. Yep, they're in that stable a condition. So, with his back against the wall - where Jane kindly and with just the right pinch of insanity in it put him - he gives Jesse the money and decides to do the most reasonable thing, aka go drinking in a bar.

There, as if the universe was trying to tell him something, he meets Jane's dad, and they have a chat about family (although Walter will later claim they talked about water on Mars, which was only a little portion of their talk). The essence of it is that Walt realizes he sees Jesse as his son, and drives back to persuade him to come back to the ground. Jesse is asleep with Heroine in his veines, however, and Jane lays beside him likewise. Trying to wake Jesse, Walt accidently rolls Jane on her back. When she suddenly starts to wretch, her vomit runs down back her throat, choking her. And Walter stands over her, doing nothing, watching her die. It really shows what great actors this show has that the scene totally works without any dialogue; all the stuff Walt's thinking in that moment is written plainly on his face. Seriously, watch this video at 4.00 minutes.

So, did Walt do the right thing, as many commenters over the internet suggest? Was it a favor to Jesse, as some claim? We can easily dismiss the last thought. Jesse really, really loves Jane, and he is devestated by her death, for which he feels responsible (which, cruelly enough, is not entirely wrong). He's a basket case for a prolonged stretch of time, and he decides to be a bad person on purpose in reaction to these events. This certainly doesn't constitute a favor.

This does neither, of course.
If it wasn't a favor, then, perhaps did he at least do the right thing, protecting Jesse from the wrong path his life had taken? This was not Walt's decision to make. If Jesse wants to go down, he can't simply kill people. And denial of assistance is the same as killing, or near enough to make no matter. All he would have needed to do was to roll Jane over, and she wouldn't have died. But Walt didn't. It's true that Jesse surely wouldn't have survived the trip with her and a bag of 600.000 dollars. But now we come to the crux of the matter. 

To state that Walter did this with Jesse's best interest in mind is hilarious. This is Walter White. He killed Jane in that moment because she was a danger to him. She threatened him, and so he took the conventient possibility to get rid of her. It was selfishness at work. Walt couln't know that his action would ultimately trigger the catastrophic airplane accident. But he never acknowledges responsibility for it. It was him who killed Jane, just minutes after talking to her father (of course he couldn't know that, neither, but that's not the point). Walter White brought death and misery to Albuquerque, and this responsibility is his and his alone. Do I hate him for it? Not really, but I can't tell you why. I hate him for things he did more consciously. In that moment, Walter and Heisenberg were still fighting for control. But "pretty evil" doesn't even begin summing up to what lows Walter White is descending in season 2 already.


  1. Nice post! The first time a twitter post of mine resulted resulted in more then an unfollow! I was having a heated debate with a friend which led to my tweet. He is firmly in "Ugh I hate Walt for that because it made Jesse sad and now we'll never know if the power of love could overcome their heroin addiction and downward spiral to death!" camp.

    It's true we'll never know, but while watching the episode I never ever once bought into the idea that Jane would lead Jesse to anything but death. I think that's why I don't hate him in that instant, because he does do this terrible and awful thing and it saves Jesse's life, even if his soul remains in contention. I like Jesse and I truly didn't want his ending to be a needle in his arm.

    But I can't say Walt was right or even selfless. I do honestly believe he wanted to help and save Jesse when he went to his apartment. But he absolutely chose letting Jane die because for him it carried the least risk as I am sure he knew if he tried to separate the two by other means Jane would ruin him, his family, newborn daughter, Jesse, and herself. Not that that excuses his actions or excuses him for creating the situation where they are all at risk. But it all adds up to make the scene so great and conflicting.

    Ultimately though, Walt looked a woman choking to death on her own vomit and saw an opportunity. That's absolutely monstrous and really sets the tone for his character in the seasons to come.

  2. I'm really baffled by just how complex, interesting and well written these characters are. Everyone of them is fleshed out, with his own objectives and agendas. Great, great stuff.

  3. hey Stefan awesome site. I love breaking bad great show, seems to get better and bigger with each season. I dont know if youve seen hbos the wire but thats another great show to analyze with plenty of social commentary and complex characters, right vs wrong, moral dilemmas,etc

  4. Yep, I saw the Wire. When I get a good idea for a subject to write upon, I'll certainly dig into that. Right now I'm on a re-run of BSG, so expect more to come from that direction ;) And thanks for the praise.