“I am not in danger Skyler, I am the danger. A guy opens this door and gets shot, you think that of me? No, I am the one that knocks!” Walter White is starting to crack. It was evident in last week’s episode when he foolishly told Hank that Heisenberg is probably still out there. And while much of what Walt says is true (a major empire and business falling apart without him), a part of the rant rang delusional. Walt’s need for power and control is one of the reason’s he’s been floundering so much this season. I believe Walt when he says he is the danger, but clearly at this point, he’s not Heisenberg.
This is interesting for a couple reasons. We’ve seen as season four has developed that Jesse and Walter have actually switched places. In past seasons it was Walter who made all the moves and had his act together, but this year, Jesse seems to be shifting into that position, and Walter is the one screwing up and continuously making mistakes. Of course, most of this has to do with Gus’ well thought-out plan to put a wedge between Walter and Jesse. Yet, when Jesse was able to get the meth from the dealers in this week’s episode, I couldn’t help but wonder—what if Mike and Gus actually see potential in him? This is would be perhaps Walter’s biggest downfall, losing the only person he can trust. As Jesse says, “Everyone needs back-up.” And in a game of strategy like the one Gus is playing, this never rings truer.
We already know that Jesse is being played. But at the same time, we are actually seeing Jesse excel and do things right. I was somewhat shocked when Gus actually met with Mike in front of Jesse, but I suppose it also shows the contempt he has for Walter that he would show his face in front of Jesse and not him. I’m still not entirely sure where Gus is going with this plan. We know that Gus has always hated Jesse, and yet, with all the progress Jesse is actually making, is it actually possible for him to get in favor with Gus? Either way, I think the most interesting aspect of this plot is how Jesse decides to deal with his relationship with Walt.
More than anything else, Breaking Bad has always been a show about choices and the internal struggle of the human character. And more than past seasons, season four has really focused heavily on Walter’s internal battles. There is no doubt that Walter has accepted himself as the villain, but now he has to try to balance that with being a family man. In the scene where he buys his son a brand new car, you could see the satisfaction in his eyes. He wants his son to be proud of him, and damn it, it’s his hard-earned money, why shouldn’t he be able to buy his son what he wants? But of course, this is the dilemma. Someone like Walt who has a major ego and a thirst for power has to limit himself. He has to play by the rules. I mean, he couldn’t even buy an expensive champagne bottle without fear of people getting suspicious. This is also Walter’s Achilles heel. I think back to season three when Gus invited Walter over to his house for dinner. The invitation was meant to show Walt what he could have if he played his cards right. And even beyond that, Gus was showing Walt that he has to play the game and play it well. But I get this sense that Walt doesn’t want to build up to a credible story. He has the money and power now, and it’s the reason that he’s so frustrated with not being able to buy his son a car after Skyler makes him take it back. Above all else, Walter cares about respect and getting credit for what he has done. The fact that he can’t really relish in anything he’s done up to this point is driving him nuts.
“Cornered” marks the halfway point for this season. Vince Gilligan and his writers have made some very interesting decisions this season in regards to Walter. Each season we have seen him get more developed and closer to being a true villain, but for the first half of the season, they’ve really focused on this progression stalling. Before the premiere even aired, one of the taglines for the trailers was, “This time Walt is not in danger, he is the danger.” In this week’s episode we got to explore the possibilities of what that means. At face value, we can assume it means that Walter is a badass, that he fully accepts who he was always meant to be and will no longer take crap from anyone. But as Skyler points out: “Someone has to protect the family from the man protecting us.” Maybe the danger that Walt actually represents is the danger of harming himself and everyone around him.