The same goes for Mike, a former cop turned enforcer and fixer for a drug dealer: there's a trajectory that that goes from one bad decision for a broken-down cop to a life of pragmatic compromise. Morals don't enter into it: this is just what he does to put something aside so he can grow old and die comfortably.
But even after this week's episode of Breaking Bad, where Walter gives Jesse no less than two reasons why the former high school chemist won't be getting out of the drug business anytime soon, it's clear that there's no straight set set of circumstances that could lead to a Walter White. This man, this would-be kingpin is the result of a horrible alchemy of rage, impotence, and missed opportunities, now shored up by successes in the drug game and the murder game. With "Buyout," we learn more about Walt, but we're no closer to explaining him.
I wanted to break down this week's episode, which sees Jesse and Mike attempt to sell off their share of the methyl and quit the meth business, by some of the key quotes from the episode.
"It was him or us!"
After the shooting last week, I really didn't expect Walter and company to pull the trigger on go-getter employee Todd (Jesse Plemons), and the early scenes of "Buyout" were really about Jesse, Mike, and Walt's reactions to this new variable. Of course Jesse wanted him gone (as in fired) but Walt and Mike's pragmatism won out.
Contrast Jesse and Todd: the latter is a way more put-together version of Jesse who also happens to be a little bit of a sociopath. I think the Jesse that was willing to sell drugs to a recovery group might not have had as much of a problem doing what Todd did (maybe), but now Jesse is the kind of guy that can't work with Walter while Todd might be the perfect employee/collaborator with Mr. White.
And you can see all of that effort to find the best in Walt just melt away in the cook scene where Jesse catches his kinda-sorta mentor whistling after just telling the younger man that he was having trouble sleeping at night after the shooting. Even Jesse can see that Walt is broken inside.
...while Mike is simply fed up with the whole thing. Sick of being tailed by the DEA, sick of working alongside Walt, and being in business with dangerous men. Personally, I loved that this one little scene showed Mike just wiping his hands of the whole thing.
He wants out.
I have to wonder with this scene, though: are the DEA just that bad at keeping tabs on Mike or is Mike just that good at throwing off a tail?
"I'm in the empire business."
In the earlier scene where Mike and Jesse announce their buyout plans, we know that: first, Walt's not going to take it well and second, Walt's not going to be able to convince anyone of anything.
But in this second scene, I have to wonder what makes Jesse think he can change Walt's mind, which is, as we learn in this scene a pretty messed-up place.
We've heard a bit about the falling out between Walt and his college business partners, but this makes it explicit that leaving 2.5 billion (with a "b," mind you) has given Mr. White something of a complex. But between this and the wrenching dinner scene where Walt confesses that cooking meth is all he has, I'm more convinced that we can come up with reasons for Walter, but nothing will ever really be there to explain him away.
Also, can I say that Skyler is just fearless now? With the kids out of the house and seemingly nothing to lose, she's just going to keep chipping away at Walt.
I don't get why at any point Mike would ever leave Walt alone, but here we are. Mr. White has hidden the methyl and has Jesse and Mike in his pocket with whatever his plan is for the Phoenix-based dealer, and I suspect it can only end in trouble. Walt can't end up even: he has to end up ahead and it's really only a matter of time before the people around him stop underestimating his capability (for evil, for screwing up, and so on).
As we head onwards toward the last two episodes of the season I'm calling it now: Walt's about to make his play and one of our principal characters aren't going to make it out alive.
So what did you think of the episode?
Breaking Bad is in its fifth and final season and airs Sunday nights at 8 ET on AMC.