we’re not leaving anything to chance

skyler white’s ambitions as a novelist – set up early in the series, then, for the most part, abandoned – finally pay off in this episode in which she constructs a thoroughly detailed apology/explanation scene, set to take place during a family dinner. she practically has to drag along an uncooperative, resentful walt, who perceives the entire exercise as a way for skyler to further demonize and humiliate him. walt’s complaints generally center around the amount of dialogue dedicated to him apologizing – or as walt puts it, “making me look like crap” – and he spends a great deal of the “rehearsal” negotiating down the number of times he has to use the word “terribly”. walt ends up not having to work all that hard to sell his remorse, once hank shows him and walter jr. gale’s ridiculous karaoke video. walt is visibly shaken, and his apology comes across as quite sincere, as gale continues to haunt walt from the beyond the grave, reminding him that he does indeed have some things to answer for. as for skyler’s plan, it appears to have been a success. marie has already bought into the story, walter jr. is mostly interested in what it means for his prospects of getting his own car. hank, on the other hand, is bemused at best, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the story will hold up in the coming episodes. if nothing else, hank has proved throughout the series to have a fairly well-tuned bullshit detector (aside from, of course, his critical inability to make the connection between Heisenberg and his brother-in-law).

‘open house’ ended with hank beginning to flip through gale’s lab notes, raising the question: what, if anything, would hank find that incriminated walt? the scene shifts from the dinner table to hank’s bedroom “office”, and here walt finds some real demands being made on his acting abilities: he must carefully toe the line between innocent curiousity and doing what he can to remove any suspicions that might arise from gale’s notes. when hank points out gale’s mysterious “w. w.” dedication, walt’s first response to defuse hank’s mock accusation with humour is awkward. it isn’t until walt remembers gale’s appreciation for the poetry of walt whitman that he offers a more confident – and clever – explanation. “you freakin braniac. you freakin braniac!” hank says excitedly. walt’s greatest weapon is not his ability to dissemble, but his intellect. unfortunately, it’s the pride that goes with his intellect, his need to be the smartest kid in the class, that is his weakness.

it’s his pride that causes him to oppose skyler’s scripted pseudo-confession, under the guise of criticizing its mannered attempts at provoking sympathy. what he fails to realize is that the notion of a lie agreed upon as an effective means of self-preservation is not unique to his wife: walt later confronts jesse in a similar attempt to straighten out a story by (insensitively) demanding a play-by-play of the night of gale’s murder. of course, jesse is still far too traumatized to relive that night on his own, let alone with an aggressive, frantic walt yelling in his face.

jesse – now sporting a shaved head, which seems to be an indication of moral decline for the characters of breaking bad – is utterly unconcerned with these desperate, superficial survival tactics. if the deteriorating situation at jesse’s house is meant to represent the current mental/emotional state of its owner, the Paranoid Babbling Guy represents the voice of fear. jesse appears not to hear his ceaseless rambling at all, instead focusing his attention to more practical concerns like making sure there’s enough pizza for everyone. the reason jesse appears so unaffected by the fear that seems to have overcome the others is that he is perhaps the only character willing to admit, or perhaps even able to recognize that the situation is beyond repair. no matter how bad things have gotten for walt, he is not about to admit defeat, refusing saul’s offer of a clean escape. meanwhile jesse, unblindfolded, stares blankly out the window as mike drives him out into the desert, resigned to what is almost certainly his demise. it’s as though death is the only real escape jesse can hope for, and perhaps the only outcome he feels he deserves.

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