Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 6: I’m in the Empire Business
There is no doubt the boy shot at the end of last episode is dead: Mike, Walt and Todd disassemble the bike and place the parts in a tub. No Jesse. They work quickly and wordlessly. Mike looks tired; Walt uses acid to dissolve the bike. Todd digs through a pile of dirt and a little hand pokes through as Walt wearily prepares a new tub for disintegration. The first time Walt and Jesse used that acid it was comically macabre – they were trying to get rid of two low-level drug dealers; they were still low-level dealers themselves.
And as they dismantle the bike the implication is heavy in the air: the boy is next. They’ve destroyed this boy’s life, and behind him a faceless, frantic family who will never know what happened to their son.
Jesse is smoking and agitated, Todd joins him. Not a good move, mean Todd. He tries to make small talk and Jesse clocks him. Todd faces a mini tribunal and pleads his case to Walt, Mike and Jesse. Todd is smooth, appealing specifically to Mr. White like a kid in the principal’s office. Before he leaves, Todd offhandedly mentions an uncle in prison.
Jesse points out that Todd was insubordinate, while Walt lays out the options:
1. Lay-off and pay Todd (not ideal as Todd now has seen everything)
2. Dispose of him (Walt knows even Jesse won’t go for another murder)
3. Demote him back to tenting but keep him off side jobs
Mike and Walt vote for number 3 and Jesse’s upset. Cut to Todd, who kept the boy’s spider in the jar. WTF. Jesse’s right, he is a psycho!
The DEA is watching Mike at the park with his granddaughter. Mike’s coolness has been replaced with weariness. He leaves a “dead drop” decoy for the DEA which reads “F-ck You.” Simple yet effective.
Marie and Skyler are talking about the kids but something’s shifted: they are more like Marie’s kids now. Marie isn’t being condescending but Skyler’s fragility is so jarring compared to Marie’s cool-and-collected maternal adoration for Holly. It’s like Skyler’s the crazy aunt who only comes over at Christmas. Skyler is so isolated and trapped – there’s no relief in sight. The more Marie tries to comfort her, the more Skyler retreats into a corner.
Jesse and Walt are finishing a cook and come across a news report of the missing boy (he was 14). Jesse’s very upset – this may finally be his breaking point. Walt tells him he’s had a few sleepless nights and asks Jesse to push through the pain for a year and a half so they can cook and build a business that ensures these types of mistakes aren’t made again. Afterwards they’ll have plenty of time for soul searching. Like soul searching has a predetermined start and end date. I don’t think that’s how a crisis of conscience works, and it’s certainly not how Jesse processes his grief and guilt. As Jesse leaves he hears Walt whistling a cheerful tune and he knows, he f-cking knows, that Walt hasn’t lost a wink of sleep over that boy. Or anything else.
Walter goes to headquarters and Mike is there with Jesse. Mike tells Walt about his DEA tail, and Walt freaks. Mike says it’s over, he’s out. Walt is surprised. He wasn’t expecting such an amicable ending, but when Walt goes to redistribute Mike’s work, Jesse confesses he’s out as well.
Mike has found someone to buy the methylamine, $5 million each, and the legacy costs come straight from Mike’s share. Walt zeroes in on Jesse and tries to appeal to Jesse’s greed. This is a problem as Jesse isn’t greedy and not driven by ego. Walt is extra pissed because the methylamine is going to his competition, a guy in Phoenix.
Yes they have $300 million dollars worth of methylamine (when cooked), but they can get $15 million with no murders, no cooks, no more collateral damage. But Walt won’t accept getting pennies on the dollar.
I smell a Todd/Lydia/Walt alliance.
Mike and Jesse are in the desert waiting for a guy, as is tradition in drug dealing. But the guy doesn’t want 2/3 of the methylamine, he wants it all so the blue meth is off the market. Without the full load of methylamine, the deal is off.
Walt is sulking in his house in the dark. Walt’s sulking tends to lead to great soliloquies and diabolical plans.
Walt asks Jesse to visit him at home, and even Jesse is surprised. Not so long ago, Jesse showing up within a block of the White house led to a brutal fist fight and Walt calling Jesse a junkie imbecile. But that was the White house, and this is Walt’s house.
Jesse tries to appeal to Walt’s family-man roots – he only needed $700K to begin with and he has far surpassed that. Walt insists they are selling out, as if he’s an artist hawking his work at Walmart
But then Walt brings up Grey Matter. He tells Jesse the story of the humble beginnings and the patents, but won’t go into detail about the personal fall-out. He sold his share for $5K and now it’s worth $2.16 billion. He checks the worth every week. (Imagine how much that stung when he toiled for years as an underpaid high school teacher? Walt White is totally Pete Best, the drummer who was kicked out of the Beatles right before they made it big). Walt once sold his potential for $5K and he won’t do it again. This is his second chance to build his empire.
I suspect the “personal reason” at Grey Matter has also influenced Walt’s decision to sabotage any relationship Jesse has with a woman. Jesse being in love puts his loyalty to Walt at risk.
Skyler comes home, and Jesse is mortified to meet her face-to-face again. Walt insists Jesse stay for dinner and Skyler concedes: this is the wife she promised to be. Jesse gets to play the son in tonight’s unpleasant family tableau. He gamely compliments the green beans and a tipsy Mrs. White replies, “They are from the deli at Albertsons.”
Tonight’s performance of, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was brought to you by Walter and Skyler White.
Skyler refills her wine glass and the tension is palpable. Jesse talks about eating scabby frozen lasagna and tries to tell Skyler how wonderful Walt thinks she is. In a brilliant attempt to emasculate her husband, she asks Jesse if Walt told her about the affair as well. Jesse wants to be swallowed up by the floor, but he keeps eating the beans.
Watching Skyler and Walt play marital chicken is absolutely delicious in the most cringe-worthy way. I could rewind this dinner scene for hours.
Walt confesses to Jesse that his kids are gone and Skyler is wishing for his cancer to come back. Jesse now understands all Walt has in the world is the methylamine and what it represents: redemption, power, money and prestige.
If anyone can empathize with how Skyler feels right now, it’s Jesse. He seems to regard Walt with an increasing mixture of fear, suspicion and uneasiness (which I’m guessing will turn to revulsion). Skyler has emotionally turned and Walt will never get her back. He still has a hold on Jesse but his grip is slipping week by week.
Walt tries to steal the methylamine but Mike anticipated his move. Greedy people are easy to predict. Night passes and in the morning Mike says he needs to run an errand so Walt has to be restrained. He chains Walt to a radiator – again, much like the low-level drug dealer was chained up in Jesse’s basement before Walt strangled him.
Would Mike be so careless when he knows he’s dealing with a cunning, resourceful and brilliant scientist? Are they trying to make Walt a meth MacGyver? Walt burns the handcuff off but it’s anticlimactic.
While Mike attends to his DEA business, Walt unloads the methylamine. Cue Mike holding a gun to Walt’s head and Jesse pleading for calm. Jesse swears Walt will help them get their money and Walt can keep the methylamine. With a gun to his head, Walt delivers an eerie and boastful proclamation “Everybody wins.”
Everybody wins? It seems no one in Walt’s vicinity has ever won anything. And if they do, the victories are short-lived. Two of the biggest “wins” this season have been the heists: the magnet led to bank accounts and the list of 11 and the train heist led to the death of the teenage boy (which has now set off a chain of events that could lead to Walt being exiled). Walt killing Gus was supposed to be a win for everyone, but it just led to the most complex host of problems yet: distribution, legacy payments, lab set-up, DEA attention and chemical sourcing.
Let’s consider this: is Walt just a loser? He lost Grey Matter because of a “personal issue” (considering his ex-girlfriend and former partner are married, the issue seems obvious). But if he was so brilliant, so worthy of greatness, wouldn’t there have been another company, another patent, or even just a better job? And as a meth cooker he’s brilliant but as a meth businessman he’s sh-t. He’s a horrific husband and an increasingly terrible father. His one great coup, killing Gus Fring, hasn’t helped him one bit. Anyone can get a kid to eat some poisonous berries, but so far his brilliant schemes haven’t amounted to much. On the drug manufacturing totem pole, he’s still just a meth cook. And judging by the coffee shop preview in episode 1, Walt’s empire hasn’t materialized.