Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Walter White Wednesday 46
In "Hazard Pay," the third episode of the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad, Walt throws a fit when he realizes how much of his take of the cook is being whittled away by the business end of things. Enterprises have multiple layers of expenses and he doesn't understand that any more than he understood the concept of "breakage" earlier in his budding career as a drug kingpin. Although Walt's taking home a bigger piece of the pie for a smaller cook now that he's an owner instead of being an employee of Gus Fring's, he's not happy. A three-way split with Jesse and Mike - that he could handle. But it never occurred to him that, on top of supply costs, he'd have to pay his share of the costs of the drivers, the pest guys, lawyer fees and all that hazard pay to the mooks who are keeping their traps shut in return for being paid handsomely. He got into this partnership with Mike (and against Mike's better judgment) with the understanding that Walt was the manufacturing end and Mike was the business end.
But Walt doesn't like how Mike's running his end. Weary of dealing with this pissant who sees dollars but has no sense, Mike issues one of the best lines of any episode of Breaking Bad: "Listen, Walter. Just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James."
It's true. Outlaw and folk hero Jesse James was betrayed and murdered by Robert Ford. Although Ford was a member of James' gang, he was not part of the inner circle and probably never advanced beyond the position of horse-holder. Jesse James was the sort of outlaw who, had he lived today, would probably have had narcocorridos written about him and, as it was, folk songs were dedicated to James' exploits. But he trusted the wrong man, even though he had a bad feeling about him, and he was murdered for making this mistake. Ford had gotten himself in trouble with the law - he wasn't a very good outlaw - and cut a deal with the governor to kill James in return for a pardon for his own crimes. Ford delivered - he did kill James, he did receive his pardon (but not the full amount of reward money), but things didn't go too well for him afterward. He was ultimately murdered by another no-account, who wielded a double-barreled shotgun. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you might say.
Will Walt turn into Robert Ford? Or is he actually Jesse James? Only time, and the final eight episodes, will tell - but I think Mike was on to something here. Walt has transformed a considerable amount since Season 1 - he's a greedy killer who's more than willing to put innocents in danger and lay the blame at others' feet - but he's not the criminal mastermind he thinks he is. He may know enough to roll a barrel instead of frog-walking it, but he doesn't know how to read the blowing winds and say "enough."
At the end of the day, he's still a horse-holder.
Now go over to my co-author's blog and read his latest "Meth Monday" in which he discusses just how depraved Walt has gotten by Season 5!