Binging Late (S2:E12) – Fireworks on the Train
Walter White laid it all bare in this episode. Saul’s money laundering scheme was smart, but Walt could barely stomach the idea of not receiving credit for the money he “earned.” He became even more irritated as Flynn grew excited with the money coming in. And when the television news got interested in the story of a palsy-afflicted teenager crowd-funding his father’s cancer surgery through a feel-good website, it was almost too much for Walt. If there was ever any doubt before – which there should not have been – Walter’s transformation into Heisenberg is not about the money, it’s not about securing his inadequately insured family, and it’s not about the thrill of the chase. It’s about Walt living up to his megalomaniacal self-image and proving to the world that he’s every bit as smart as his classmate-turned-millionaire Elliott Schwartz.
Landlady Jane’s death was too tragic for me to really write much about. I was impressed with the meticulous ambiguity the writers laid around Walt’s role in it. Perhaps I never really got over the trauma of discussing Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. ad nauseam in my law school torts class, but there’s an awful lot to ponder surrounding the concept of cause in Jane’s retching death. Did Walt cause her death by the act of rolling her over, or perhaps by omitting to help when it became clear she was choking on her own vomit? Did Jesse cause her death by leading a known addict back to drug use? Did Jane’s father cause her death by leaving her in a known drug den, with a known drug user, when he must have known she intended to go on one last bender before checking into rehab the next day? Or did Jane simply cause her own death by administering her own overdose?
There’s plenty of blame to go around (though in a court of law, I suspect one would have a difficult time pinning either Jesse or Walt with liability). I feel for Jane’s father, who will undoubtedly struggle to avoid blaming himself. The same goes for Jesse. Does Walt have enough humanity left to appreciate his own culpability?
Walt murdered Jane. After many re-watches and lots of time and endless discussions with other BrBd fans, that’s my take. That doesn’t foreclose the chance that he murdered her to save Jesse, rather than just to save himself. It’s unlikely, given what we know about Walt that it had anything to do with Jesse other than offering Walt another means of manipulating him. The more often and more ruthlessly he can break Jesse down, the easier Jesse is to knead into shape. He didn’t walk into the room with the intent of killing Jane (so first-degree murder is out) but he relished the chance when it presented itself.
The “Daddy did that for you” line was weird and sick when it happened a few months into this thing. It gets even more noxious as time goes on and Walt’s “it’s all about my family” excuse evaporates. I do like how it echoes the 1950s-ish male-as-breadwinner stereotype that continues to excuse legal-but-criminal behavior in the name of providing for a family.