Binging Late (S2:E7) – Bonds
To those of us who watched it, the scene inside Gretchen and Spooge’s den of despair drove home the humanity and empathy that separate Jesse from Walt. To those who heard about it on the streets, it apparently drove home that Jesse is a bad dude not to be messed with. I’d expect that this kind of reputation comes with a host of undesirable trappings, including amplified police attention and challenges from rival toughguys. For now, at least, it seems to be all upside for Jesse and his rag-tag army of pushers.
A few episodes back, Jesse finally stood up to Walt. Even at the time it felt a turning point in their relationship. It took getting kicked out of his house, falling into a porta-potty, and enduring more of Walter’s abuse to get there, but Jesse finally reached his breaking point and physically demonstrated to his “partner” he wasn’t going to take it anymore. While Walt was his typical detached dick self when he first heard of all Jesse endured in order to “take care of it,” he seemed to take on at least some degree of respect and appreciation for Jesse’s efforts when he learned the streets is watching. Hopefully all of this signifies a trend for them both, as between Jesse’s spinelessness and Walter’s opposite condition, I was starting to lose interest in what happened to either one of them.
On the subject of Walter’s condition, I’m not really sure yet what to call it. What’s the right phrase for someone who recently learned he is prematurely dying of terminal lung cancer, and yet behaves like such a self-pitying, self-destructive, self-absorbed asshole that you can scarcely muster an ounce of pity? “Narcissist” lets him off too easy, and only partially acknowledges the depth of Walter’s raging anti-social behavior. “Asshole” is way too generic. For now, I’m going with “human paraquat,” with a nod to Jeffrey Lebowski.
I never thought this show played Hank’s PTSD quite right. In some ways, it was just difficult for the show to create a character as rich as Hank was meant to be in a world with Jesse, Walt, and [upcoming big bad]. Those guys sucked up so much oxygen that Hank’s story got lost (like Marie’s) even though the show ostensibly paid attention to it.
This episode, where so much of Hank is revealed and developed—his narrow view of the enemy, his political ineptitude, his PTSD—felt like an afterthought, a one-time dump of character exposition that served primarily to contrast the dangerous world Walt and Jesse are entering with their newfound confidence. Hank can seem as though his character only exists as it does because his cluelessness of Walt has to be explained somehow. And what better way to show that than the way he mocks his new crew for appreciating that the cartel prays to the same god they do.