'Breaking Bad' Recap: Being in the Empire Business
'Breaking Bad' Recap: Being in the Empire Business
Gina Pusateri
Gina Pusateri
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Last week's Breaking Bad left the viewers much like Jesse, like they'd just had a strong punch in the gut. Throughout season 5, Jesse has been trying to solve conflict in a non-violent way as much as possible, from his "Magnets, bitch!" plan to his ploy to rob the train without having to kill any witnesses. His attempt to be the middle ground between new boss Walt and the braun, Mike, seemed like an appropriate place for him to float.

That is, until an extraneous factor in the form of an innocent child was exterminated.

We've seen Jesse throughout the five seasons go through trials. Sometimes it's hard to remember, considering what he's been through, that Jesse is probably closer in age to the ill-fated spider collector than he is to his associates. But it's not hard to remember that Jesse has always had a soft spot for kids. It seems he has always been at his best when in the presence of kids, whose innocence he always seemed keenly aware of and eager to protect.

But he couldn't protect the innocence of the young child that their new associate, Todd, brutally murdered to keep quiet about the train robbery. The opening scenes of this episode are dark and quiet. The music and the silence mourn the child's passing even as the characters go through the cold, methodical process of his funeral, or the closest thing to a funeral he will ever have.

It's Jesse's responsibility to fetch the body from the truck, which has already had a sort of red New Mexican dirt burial. And while he has the gruesome task of uncovering the corpse, his associates, Walt and Mike, prepare the hydrochloric acid in a laboratory barrel casket that we've already seen so many times before. The barrel and the chemicals that have become a symbol of the destruction of any trace of Walt and Jesse's deadly missteps.

Todd approaches Jesse, who is brooding over a cigarette, probably contemplating life and death and his place in the universe. And all Todd wants to talk about is how the hydrochloric acid smells like "cat piss." Jesse delivers Todd a punch in the face, a direct act of revenge for Todd's metaphoric punch delivered to Jesse.

After recovering from Jesse's assault, Todd tries to convince the gang that he made his decision for the good of the team. He acted on words from Jesse, who had said earlier that no one could ever know that the robbery had gone down. While it seems like Todd is somewhat indifferent about the fact that he is now a murderer, we see a more vulnerable side of him later when he examines the boy's spider in a jar. Is he contemplating his guilt? Mulling over the loss of innocence at his hands? Or merely admiring the spider? It's a subtle enigma that this show has been known to drop in. A little mystery that the audience may never solve.

Jesse tries to convince Mike and Walt that this is not the kind of business they want to run. But his partners not only seem to accept what has just happened, but they try to justify it as well. Later, when they are back at a cook, Jesse is in agony over the boy's death and his parents who will never find a body or never get an answer about the disappearance of the boy. Walt, who would seem more likely to understand because of the mere fact that he is a parent, goes along with the cook, even whistling as he does it. Maybe the fact that he is so unaffected is what leads Jesse to seriously contemplate his place in the business.

Meanwhile, the DEA keeps a tail on Mike and watches him while he's with his granddaughter. It's always so strange to get these juxtaposing scenes of Mike being a loving figure in his granddaughter's life, but when he's not around her, he's basically in the business of violence. Mike knows the DEA is tailing him, because as sure as he's in the business of violence, he's also in the business of not getting caught.

Walt heads back to headquarters after he finishes his cook, only to find Mike and Jesse waiting there for him. Mike tells Walt about his DEA, and Walt is more upset about this fact than he was about seeing a child gunned down. He starts to get angry, and Mike and Jesse are just getting started.

The other two partners tell Walt that they want out. Mike doesn't want to get caught and seems to get increasingly tired of Walt's craziness. Jesse, on the other hand, just can't live with himself after the most recent tragedy and agrees to Mike's plan to sell the stolen methylamine for $5 million a person and retire from the meth business.

Mike and Jesse meet with the buyer to try to sell them the methylamine, but the interested party says he won't buy unless Walt's blue product goes off the market, which Walt has already refused to provide. Jesse goes to Walt to try to appeal to him with logic and reason, things that Walt used to see but has since lost most of his touch with reality and he upholds his refusal. He tells Jesse that he is not in the meth business nor the money business, but the "empire business."

Throughout their whole partnership, Walt and Jesse have been able to share one thing: the fact that they were good at making meth, and that was probably the only thing either one was really good at. Walt was the chemist and Jesse the distributor and then the partner. But at this point, the need for Walt to be good at something, to be the best at something, has taken over his life and made it more important than everything else in it. Being the boss and having an empire is more important than his family, than making money and, more important, than an innocent child's life.

The following scene where Walt asserts more control over Skyler by inviting Jesse for dinner not only furthers Skyler's feelings as a prisoner in her own home, but it also shows a lot about Jesse's character. We see in an awkward but light hearted few moments that Jesse is nothing if not well-meaning and polite towards Skyler, despite the absurdity of the situation.

At the end of the scene, Walt tells Jesse that he has lost everything and accuses him of trying to take away the one thing he had to live for: his business. Once again, he tries to use Jesse's good nature to manipulate him into pitying him while being completely indifferent to Jesse's pain.

On what is presumably the next day, Mike catches Walt trying to smuggle away the methylamine. Mike restrains Walter to a radiator while he goes to meet with Saul and the DEA so he doesn't try to steal it again and mess up Mike's plan to hand over all of the chemicals to the buyers.

Of course, that sneaky sneak of a quasi-genius that Walt is, he wires the cord of a coffee pot into some kind of makeshift torch to burn the restraints off of his hand, doing himself physical damage in the process. At this point, not only is the loss of life of others irrelevant to his business, but his own personal health is also taking a back seat.

When Mike returns from the DEA to find that Walt has moved the methylamine, he is pissed off, to put it lightly. He puts a gun to Walt's head and threatens to kill him for messing up the deal. But before he can pull the trigger, enter again the voice of reason. The voice that insists that there is a way to do this where no one gets hurt. It's Jesse, and once again, he's standing in between Walt and Mike to propose another solution.

He convinces Mike to listen to Walt's plan. It's a plan, Walt insists, where "everybody wins." But even as he says that, we know that everyone who was unlucky enough to cross paths with this gang has already lost. And soon they will too.

Gina Pusateri
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of AMC)

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