Meth, Lies and Videotapes: Breaking Bad 05×11 ‘Confessions’ Review

Walter continues to manipulates to survive another day but Jesse is fed up with the lies

Would you just, for once, stop working me?” Jesse Pinkman, 05×11 ‘Confessions

There is one thing Walter White is exceptionally good at when dealing with his enemies and that is his gift for getting out of impossible situations. His back is often against the wall but he fights and conquers those who threaten him usually by outsmarting them (often with the aid of science).

There are two things Walter White is exceptionally good at when dealing with those he considers family and friends, he doesn’t use chemistry tricks and bombs he does something much more devastating in the long term. Manipulation and lies are how Walter controls those he claims to care about. Over the course of the series we have seen him drag Skyler and Jesse to his level and keep them there; to a lesser extent he has done the same with Walt, Jr and now with Marie and Hank.

For all the times Walter has killed someone I still find him at his most terrifying when he is spinning a web of lies and deceiving his would be son Jesse, he knows exactly the right buttons to push to keep Jesse filled with guilt and shame and loyal to his Mr White.  In the first half of Season 5 the way he wormed his way back into the family home and basically refused to let Skyler send the kids away to safety was absolutely chilling. I constantly feared for her safety if she tried to make any move against him.

Walter’s psychological control of those he loves would be incredibly impressive if it wasn’t so scary. It comes all too easily to him now. Again it makes me wonder just how long Heisenberg has been lurking beneath the skin of that mild manner school teacher because no one turns into such a gifted manipulator over night, a part of that psychopathic tendency had to be there all the long.

In Confessions we saw Walter exert his power once again. It started with poor Walt, Jr who has yet to be corrupted by his father and along with his baby sister Holly may be one of the only true innocent characters left on the show (I would add Brock as well though whether we see him again seems unlikely at this point). Walt, Jr has no idea he is caught in middle of a war between his parents and beloved Aunt and Uncle – a battle for his well being and ultimately his soul.  Just as Walt, Jr was perhaps the closest he has ever been to finding out the truth about his life his father had one last card to play.

Walter thought now would be the incredibly convenient time to tell his son his cancer had returned, it was a heartfelt moment in many ways and with every lie Walter tells I do think there is a semblance of truth behind it. No doubt he does love his family and telling Walt, Jr that he is ill again on some level must have hurt. But with Walter it is all about attaining his goals and staying ahead.  He found himself in a difficult situation, Walt, Jr was close to being lured into the Schrader household and so he reached for that trusty weapon – manipulation.

The conversation with his son though was just the opening act to perhaps Walter’s greatest performance – the confession.

The daunting horror that spread across the faces of Hank and Marie as they realised how Walter was setting up Hank matched my own as I watched that scene. I knew Walter was capable of many things but actually pretending to be a pawn in Hank’s diabolical scheme made me gasp. He sounded so believable, he made it seemed so real. If we hadn’t been watching the true sequence of events across the last 5 seasons we would have believed him without a doubt. Oh the confession of a broken down school teacher – scared, manipulated and bullied by a brother-in-law, oh the tragedy, oh the horror. Oh the most convincing of all the Walter White performances.  Whereas he was begging Jesse to believe him in ‘Blood Money’ it would take a tough person not to believe what they saw on that videotape.  Walter had created a new version of his tale expertly built on a foundation of lies.

However, the problem with constantly manipulating and emotionally abusing someone is that in the end everyone has a breaking point.  Just as Walter was successfully getting out of a tough situation with Hank he was about to push his greatest victim too far.

“He really did a number on you didn’t he?” Hank Schrader 05×11 ‘Confessions

Jesse Pinkman is a mess of a man right now; it is easy to forget how much has happened to him in the course of a year.  So let’s recap some of the events – the death of Jane, the murder of Gale, the multiple beatings, the drug addiction, the constant threat to his life, the near fatal poisoning of Brock and  the swift and cold killing of young Drew Sharp.

Walter White is responsible both directly and indirectly for a hell of a lot of those events. Jesse is of course far from innocent  – ultimately he choose to do a lot of bad things and even before meeting Mr White he was hardly an upstanding citizen but there is no doubt he acted the way he did because of the influence of Walter.

There could be an entire book written on whether Walter genuinely cares of Jesse or not. In many ways he certainly does and has often treated Jesse more like a son than Walt, Jr.  He could have killed Jesse many times really especially in recent episodes when the dark pit Jesse finds himself in makes him unstable and a real threat to Walter. But he hasn’t and even in the tense desert scene there is part of Walter that cares for Jesse.

Yet that same part has made Jesse feel awful for the last year over events he wasn’t responsible for.  Walter has no problem in dragging Jesse back into the business when it suits him or kicking him out when it doesn’t.

Every time Walter would once again lie to him or get him to do one last favour I longed for Jesse to find out the truth, it is so horrible to see such a damaged character get screwed over by someone they trust.

Which is why Jesse’s journey of realisation in this episode is such a relief and so satisfying.  It starts in the middle of nowhere (a good place to kill enemies) and once again Walter is feeding Jesse a lie about a nice new life he could have but then Jesse pushes back and asks that for once Walter doesn’t play him.  In many ways it is a lovely scene, a broken down Jesse being hugged by Walter but in other ways it was filled with tension – any moment I expected Walter to kill Jesse if he didn’t agree to leave.

Jesse agrees to the plan but I don’t think it was really because of what Walter said but more like admitting to himself that the idea of moving to a new place (Alaska in his case) would be appealing. That maybe he had to learn to move on. But of course the story of Jesse Pinkman could not end that simply.

The one thing Breaking Bad loves to do is set up story that demands a conclusion, there were many things that Jesse could have found out but somehow the poisoning of Brock seemed the right one.  It involves a child and nothing messes with Jesse more than a child in danger but also Jesse was right all along. He guessed that Walter had done it, was convinced to the point that he was seconds away from killing Walter and yet at the last moment Walter lied and manipulated him into believing Gus Fring was responsible.

Yes Jesse had to find out about Brock because it encapsulates all the awful things Walter has done to him, it was built on a lie to get Walter out of an impossible situation. Now that lie has been uncovered and now Jesse Pinkman has broken through his catatonic state in the most speculator way.  Walter White should be reaching for that gun because one of his victims is fighting back and it isn’t with the law like Hank is trying to do but with pure vengeance.

Further observations

+ The Hank/Jesse scene didn’t get Hank the results he wanted but he definitely read the situation better than he did with Skyler. Hank knows Walter has played Jesse and damaged him; Jesse could still talk if he can calm down quick enough.

+ Hank is in an impossible situation, I really want Walter to be brought down by the proper channels but I have no idea how Hank can achieve this unless he convinces Steve and the rest of the DEA – with his increasingly sombre behaviour and the Walter video confession this will be hard.

+ “Why don’t you just kill yourself?” I love Marie so much.

+ Saul Goodman is the gift that keeps on giving, I’m glad the Hello Kitty phone we briefly saw the other week was put to good use.

+ Despite it coming after an intense Jesse scene I laughed so much at the Skyler and Walter awkward car-wash conversation.  Skyler didn’t do a whole lot this episode but you can tell she isn’t completely on board with all of Walter’s plans – it doesn’t sit easy with her and that makes sense seeing as she is now estranged from her sister.

+ Todd watch: Todd is infatuated by Walter, which would be incredibly sweet if he wasn’t in awe of such a horrible person and wasn’t himself a child killer with a neo-Nazi Uncle. Walter really has no idea the danger coming his way.

+ Breaking Bad has the dinner conversations and we should all be grateful for this. After Jesse dined with Walter and Skyler last year I thought things couldn’t get more hilariously tense, I was wrong. The Whites and the Schraders are not interested in your guacamole thank you very much.

+ Death count: Amazingly no one died; everyone is going to die in the penultimate episode aren’t they?

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