Binging Late (S1:E7) – Morally Awake
I feel like the producers are trying to send a not-so-subtle message. A few episodes back, we witnessed Skyler being a bad girl, snooping around Walter’s back doing the nosy spouse thing and then lying to her sister’s face about her motives for asking about the effects of marijuana. In this Episode 7, things were even more explicit. Hank tokes up on an illicit Cuban cigar, laughing it off when Walter suggests those things are “illegal.” Then Marie, for the second time, goes full on klepto, this time janking an expensive, white-gold baby tiara. What’s the word here, that’s there’s some sort of moral equivalence between these “citizens” breaking the law or lying to loved ones, on the one hand, and Jesse and Walter ripping off a drum of chemical solution from a warehouse and cooking up crystal by the pound, on the other?
Whatever equivalence there might be, there’s a difference between the two in that Hank and Marie’s crimes were strictly for the thrill, where Jesse and Walter break the law to make ends meet. Or do they? Earlier in the episode, after a steamy boinking session in their stylish Pontiac Aztec, Skyler asks Walter why the sex they just had was so good. “Because it was illegal,” he replies. It already seemed, back in Episode 5, that Walter’s reluctance to undergo cancer treatment wasn’t really about the money. Is the same true about his descent into criminality? While the money appears nice, it certainly feels like Walter is getting a lot more out of playing Heisenberg than just the cash.
This episode also marked the end of Season 1. While there was some resolution in that Walter and Jesse now seem pinned together and to have established the foundations of their business with Tuco, the wrap-up on the first season felt quite abrupt. Sort of like this blog post.
It’s hard to shake the finale from my head when reading your recaps. The ‘strictly for the thrill’ observation is prescient, and nicely laid out in the episode. Walt’s famous ‘I am awake’ line to Jesse in the pilot, in response to his question ‘why are you doing this?’, colors so much of the series. Marie, too, needs to feel awake, so she steals. Hank spends his life raiding meth labs, so he’s already awake. Skylar doesn’t have an outlet yet, which may explain some of the hate flung her way as the show picked up steam. The other three already have vulnerabilities and peccadillos while she doesn’t. (This is really exemplified in the pillow scene.)
I will say that the illegality of drugs is taken as a given in the show, rather than a point for debate. Whether the show is consciously staying apolitical or it’s just not a focus, I could never find a ‘the drug war is pointless or bad’ or ‘drugs are bad and should be illegal’ message, as much as I tried to dig out the former.
The ending is so brilliant and perfect that it really makes me jealous of people who saw it in real time and therefore had however many months to think about it. The truth of Walt’s business— and his utter inability to control it—are laid bare. And he and Jesse can only gasp and stare, just like us.