teenagers…sometimes you wanna just strangle em

the catalyst of the episode is the cold rationalization of the murder of a child. todd is in this moment the purest expression of heisenberg rationality (“i did what i had to do…i did it for us.”). todd’s actions create a rift in the group, which is quickly beginning to rupture. walt feigns regret (and later, a deep sadness) and procedurally lays out three options for how to move forward (though it is clear his mind is made up). mike, who in the previous episode pontificated on the Two Types Of Heist, as well as jesse, who devised the plan to begin with, must certainly be feeling a certain amount of responsibility for the child’s death. in their response, they are not so far from one another, though on opposite sides of the coin: mike reacts as a parent who has lost a child, while jesse laments the kid as the loss of his own innocence. the dead child haunts the episode, and provokes a meditation on the state of the family in breaking bad.

we get the sense that mike can feel the walls closing in on him. as mike later reveals, the dea have been tailing him “for a while now,” but it is not pressure from the authorities that are weighing on him. rather, when we see a teary-eyed mike in the park the following morning watching his granddaughter – while carefully eyeing gomez who looks on from afar – it is in that moment that he begins coming undone. that his illegal activities have contributed to the death of an innocent child is bad enough, and to know that he has put his own granddaughter at risk simply by association is horrifying.

for jesse, mike has become a kind of surrogate parent (as the two wait in the desert for their first meet with declan, the faintest affectionate smile flashes across his face). the bond between the two endangers jesse’s relationship with walt, however, who can barely contain his indifference to jesse and the dead child. walt’s tone-deaf pitch of “self-sufficiency” as “no one to answer to but ourselves” represents a critical moment of failure in their relationship: jesse, who has within a year lost his parents, jane, and andrea, finds himself more in need of family than ever. walt’s inability (and disinterest) to be the kind of family jesse needs is made painfully clear in the darkly funny, twisted parody of a family dinner scene.

the scene is, among other things, a comment on just how alienated walt has become from the other characters. his existence is toxic enough that his children have been sent away, leaving jesse as the nearest walt has to a son – though it is increasingly apparent that their relationship goes only so far as jesse acts in walt’s interests. that walt had had ever intended his dealings to serve his family now seems a time long since passed. he has his eye on something much grander now: empire. walt’s kingpin ambitions are necessarily at odds with family: skylar is forced to become his opposite, assisting walt only to the extent that it will keep him from getting caught and destroying the family. in the mean time, she has her small rebellion, filling the house with cigarette smoke, waiting for the cancer to put an end to it all. the poison will surely get them both now, but skylar can still hope to contain it.

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