Plus a bit of Charlie Rose ex machina….
How we got from there to here.
Why we can’t leave well enough alone.
Who then, can be saved?
Everything is just so terrible now in this Breaking Bad world. Destruction, imprisonment, suffering and death.
For the pride of one man.
I was a little irritated at what I’m calling the Charlie Rose ex Machina. It struck me the same way Walt’s overhearing of Hank and Gomie’s conversation that then set in motion the mass prison-killing. It was a half step too far in neat plotting convenience to me. Here’s why:
I find it hard to believe that a person could be in utter isolation for months, dying, facing mortality in that direct way, without coming to any deeper understanding of himself – unless that person is truly insane of course, and I don’t think we’re supposed to think that severe, diagnosable mental illness is Walter White’s problem. Even the phone call to Flynn indicates no greater understanding. He’s still on the I DID THIS FOR THE FAMILY TAKE THE MONEY BECAUSE I KNOW THIS WILL HELP LOVE DADDY train. You’d think that even if he didn’t have a full-out epiphany, he would have come to a little deeper understanding of what he had done and how, er, counterproductive it was. You’d think that facing the end of his own life, apart from his family, with his family destroyed,and the individuals emotionally shattered would alert him to the fact that, you know, it didn’t work.
I know, I know. There is not way that a creative work “must” go. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that I find it harder to believe that Walt’s time in the cabin didn’t change him even a little bit than to believe in Jesse’s Giant Magnet.
It would have been harder to show, especially with such a short time left, but if Gray Matter is really at the heart of this, it would have made more sense for Walt to have spent months stewing and then come to some realization on that score, and then take it from there.
Yes, life is full of accidental, serendipitous discoveries, and some of them change the course of history as we know it. But as gripping as Walt in the Woods was (seriously, not being ironic – it was ), I’m sticking to my guns that unless a person is truly unbalanced, dying in a cabin in a woods knowing that you’ve destroyed your family is going to change a person.
Here’s my other reflection.
As I watched and thought about this episode (haven’t rewatched yet), I was overcome with an oppressive feeling of helpless imprisonment. As Todd politely says before politely offing yet one more innocent, ”…this isn’t personal.”
That is the point, isn’t it? Walt doesn’t view any of the human beings he comes into contact with as persons – including his own family. They are objects, all of them, from Jesse to Gale all the way down to the anonymous victims of his product.
And all to serve and feed in his apparently insatiable pride. This isn’t a story of a good guy gone bad. It’s a story of a prideful man who refused a better way every single time it’s offered to him. You might even say he rejects grace, for that’s what it is, even when it’s another criminal who’s raising the possibility.
Nope, can’t have it. Not only because it involves suffering, but mostly because it might require humility and admitting that he is a human being surrounded by other human beings.
At the beginning of last season’s Mad Men, we see Don Draper reading The Inferno. If you recall, for Dante, the bowels of Hell, where Satan reigns, is not a hot place. It is ice-cold, and Satan himself is frozen in place, separated from all, suffering for eternity because of his…pride.
So Walter White ends up in the frozen north, isolated, alone and broken because of pride.
But he still doesn’t seem to know it. His pride breaks everything, but he just doesn’t get it. Not even now. Seeing Elliott and Gretchen on television after months in frigid isolation doesn’t produce a recognition that most of the rest of us might see a glimmer of: Ah yes. I’ve caused unimaginable pain, and, this might be why…..
No, he gets all Heisenberg, and part of the audience – Team Walt – cheers.
Will it be turned on its head? We’ll see. All I could feel after this episode was the deep, deep grief for this world that isn’t real, but actually is, you know. It’s real because everyone is broken because of fear, greed, and the root of it all, pride. They don’t need revenge. There’s not one vengeful act that would help a single character in this world or that would mend a single broken soul or restore a shattered relationship. It would be just more of the same, more, more and yet more of the same.
What is it they need? As we watch, what is it that we want so deeply for these people, for this whole little broken world playing out on our screens?
Is it just revenge?
Or do we sense in our bones that they need – and deserve- something more?
No, it’s not a real place.
But maybe…it is.
For some reason, I feel like saying, “Calling Hazel Motes.” There. I said it.