"When I got my diagnosis — cancer — I said to myself, you know...'Why me?' And then... the other day when I got the good news... I said the same thing." - WW
Huge, dense season. Bad decisions are being made, and the consequences are swift and painful.
There’s a lot of violence: shootouts, cartel murders, fistfights and explosions. And while Hank gets PTSD and Jesse is triggered to use meth, Walt isn’t mentally affected by violence at all. You would think he was a hit man, not a chemistry teacher. Walt sees violence as a by-product of business. Like taxes.
Walt and Jesse survive a kidnapping and murder attempt, but it has cost Walt hugely on the home front. His “fugue state” alibi fuels Skyler’s suspicions about his constant absences, both physical and emotional. She manages her own mini rebellion by eating high sodium food and smoking 3.5 cigarettes. Walt gets mighty preachy about the cigarettes. I guess he’s never seen a meth head’s teeth.
Their marriage is quietly strained all season. When Walt gave up on Grey Matter, he was ignoring his brilliance in favor of banality. He did the same when he chose Skyler, leaving the smart and sophisticated Gretchen for someone sweet, amiable and unchallenging. A good wife, but not an intellectual equal. He resented Skyler for allowing him to be ordinary. But how could she know what Walt was capable of when he buried it so deep?
In a rare moment of vulnerability, Walt admits that he’s lied so much to his family that he gets whatever he deserves. And when his prognosis is updated to positive (and only months ago it was dire), he is enraged. He wants to get what he deserves, in fact he needs to. Which is why he continues to acts like a man with nothing to lose. He’s seen the power and control that comes with being Heisenberg and he can’t suppress it.
Skyler continues her quiet rebellion disguised as selflessness (it’s really a theme for the Whites) by visiting her old boss, Ted Beneke, for a job. Clearly he has googly eyes for her (even though she’s way pregnant). He hires her, and she quickly discovers he is cooking the books. She promises to keep quiet but doesn’t want to be part of it. This woman is a magnet for seemingly normal men who justify their moral failings with altruism.
Walt Jr is basically hating life at home and going by the name Flynn, which really stings Walt. Junior doesn’t just turn away from Walt, he turns toward his uncle Hank.
The thing with Hank is that he’s always thought he’s more man than Walt because of his machismo, but the reason he’s more man than Walt has nothing to do with masculinity and everything to do with emotional availability. Walt is deceptive and selfish, and Hank, when it comes to his nephew, is protective, sensitive and present. He’s actually there for Walt Junior when Walt isn’t. This is why Walt Junior leans on his uncle so much – it has nothing to do with the cartoon chauvinism.
Walt is about business this season, and he and Jesse work out a more comprehensive business model that includes production, distribution, and division of labor – it’s like the blue meth board of directors. Jesse proclaims himself king of a 3-person crew. Obviously a little premature.
Jesse rents a duplex apartment from a wry girl named Jane. His alias: Jesse Jackson. He develops a crush and it’s obvious why: she’s funny and smart and knows exactly who Jesse is (and what he does). She’s the first person who really looks at Jesse and sees everything that’s just below the surface: his vulnerability, his loneliness and his need to please. But the qualities that make him so easy to love also make him incredibly self-destructive.
After a few smokes on the porch, Jesse and Jane hook up on the floor of his apartment, and afterwards she tells him she’s been in recovery for 18 months. Why do guys Jesse’s age never have proper furniture or decent towels? He of course falls in love with her immediately.
Jesse and Jane have a fight because she won’t introduce him to her dad, and she blows him off. He’s devastated at being cast aside. Jesse’s two closest relationships are with people he treats like family, and they treat him like a nuisance. Eventually, Jane and Jesse smoke crystal together; it was inevitable.
On the business side of things, Jesse and Walt hire Saul Goodman, a lawyer/consigliore who makes a lot of their problems go away. He recognizes their brilliance as cookers and their incompetence as distributors. Saul sets Walt up with a big time distributor, Gus, who is everything Walt wants to be: controlled, confident and shrewd. To make the deal of a lifetime, Walt misses the birth of his daughter. He’s told himself that everything he does is for his family, and he really believes it. But his actions are contradictory to his supposed motivation.
Walt refused to give Jesse his share but he also took him to rehab. Why? Partly guilt, for sure. And maybe Walt does have some affection for the kid who used to sit in his chemistry class. But Walt, even when he’s compassionate, is cunning. If Jesse goes off the rails, he will get sloppy and he will get caught. Or he’ll die and Walt will have to find a new partner. Rehabbed Jesse is good for Walt.
When Jesse rescues a little boy from a very sad and disturbing drug house. Unlike Walt, Jesse can’t just make the hard and logical decision to walk away from someone who desperately needs him. So Jesse helps the boy because he can’t not help him.
Jane was bad for Jesse (and vice versa) and, more important, she knew Walt’s secrets. Morally ambiguous land is where Walt lives, it’s where he finds the space to stand there and let a young woman die.
Final shot: Walt standing next to his pool, looking up to a massive explosion in the sky: two planes collide. A charred pink teddy bear falls into the pool. The end of innocence, if there was innocence to begin with.
Attached - newly released promo photos for Season 5.