Breaking Bad – Say My Name
Say My Name was very much an episode about big-noting and bravado, about the many men of Breaking Bad measuring themselves to see who’s biggest. Whereas the Walt of season one would have wimped away from any such show of power we are shown almost instantly in this episode just how cocksure the character has become. I expected Walt’s big plan to deal with the gang to be something scientific, some sort of secret chemistry trick that only he could think of, but instead of using his intelligence to solve the problem he instead went with instinct; his smug staring down of a mad Mike at the end of last week’s episode was simply a warm-up for what was yet to come at the beginning of this one.
In the first of many reversals this week Walt walks out of the car without a hint of fear and instead of whimpering at the gang members, instead of begging for his life he simply tells them that he is in control here, that they now work for him and his confidence is so great that they believe every word. That same hubris that has caused so many major missteps throughout the series not only saves his life but nets him a new potential ally (though chances are t won’t actually work out this way). To add insult to injury he doesn’t simply stop at declaring himself the Alpha dog of this pack but instantly starts ordering them to do tricks: to sit, to speak and to, as the title suggests, “Say My Name!” and when they do what is the answer they give (the right answer)? Not Walter White, but Heisenberg.
So Walt was a wus and Heisenberg is a big man, this we’ve known for a very long time. At first though Heisenberg was just an act, he was a costume that Walt wore to help him get through the terrible and terrifying things he was experiencing and enacting on a daily basis. Over the past season and a bit though we have seen this dynamic reverse, with Heisenberg taking over permanent possession and only putting on a ‘Walt’ mask when he needs to seem weak or moral; his humanity is now the mask in the same way that it is for Superman (after all Clark is the one who wears something to cover his face, as the famous line goes). Mike was the only man able to see through both disguises and through the bullshit at the badness that lies beneath – he’s never liked Walt and probably never would have regardless of the situation that they were in.
Ever since their first tangle in the bar Mike has been sure that he could best Walt in any way that he would ever need to, but the problem is that Mike never takes into account Walt’s desperation and sheer insanity: He snuck up on Walt in the laundry but by then Gale was dead, he had Jessie snuggled up by his side as a second but before he could move Gus was murdered and then he ties him up with a single strip of plastic because whats Walt gonna do, burn himself out of it? No matter what he did Walt was never going to be able to convince Mike that he was a real man because Mike kept those preconceptions locked in so tight, he wasn’t willing to change his ways like many old men aren’t. This confidence also saved Walt though it cost Mike everything, the X-ray vision that normally saves his life ended up costing him it.
In an episode of such twists and reversals it was strange to see Mike’s demise so deeply foreshadowed. The episode opens with him cleaning up all of his loose ends, as if preparing to die; prophetic to some, predictable to others. That though isn’t so much of an issue, instead I would say that the pacing of it is what perturbed me (and I hate to say that since I have been getting so sick and tired of everyone else shouting about the pacing of this eight-episdoe season). The storyline here was undeniably brisk though, to set-up so many elements and have them all pay off within the same episode is unlike Breaking Bad. Chekov has a gun, a key, a car a promise of immortality and even a schmuck lawyer (Saul even got to do a bit of showing off in this episode) that he creates and arms in the second act, all of which explode in and are essential only to the story in the third. It was kind of contrived. Maybe though I’m just disappointed because I so wanted Mike to ride off into the sunset; the ending that he got though was still pretty Western and very pretty, so worse things have happened.
Another twist of sorts came in the way that though so many of Mike’s final words were straight to the point I do wonder if maybe they were missing it somewhat since even if Walt didn’t have a family ( which he really doesn’t at this point) he would still be stuck here because he doubled down by making the deal with a mob much less inclined to allow his defaulting than Jessie is. Similarly, while Walt’s words to Jessie in that scene are perhaps the worst he could have used, what he says is actually also right in a lot of ways: Jessie doesn’t have a life, nor has he seen his family in years ( or ‘a year’ since the timeline is so whack) so what is he going to do once he quits making meth? What is there left but to use it?
Despite their accuracy the acidity of the words Walt used do betray his true intentions to Jessie, who is now starting to re-shape his own preconceptions of this person he once knew as ‘Mr.White’. The question is, will he figure out who Walt really is in time or will he follow in his second mentor’s path and simply be another name added to Walt’s toll? Will Walt return to take control? There seemed to be a glimpse of him hiking out in the scene by the river, some real regret when none was needed since no-one else was around. Only one week left till we find out that or at least the direction that the show will be heading towards in its final stretch before it slips onto its side with a similar, sickly thud.