9.5

Breaking Bad Review: "Say My Name" (Episode 5.07)

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<i>Breaking Bad</i> Review: "Say My Name" (Episode 5.07)

“If you believe that there is hell, I don’t know if you are into that. But we’re, we’re all pretty much going there right? Well I’m not going to lie down until I get there.”

During the intense showdown between Walt and Jesse, Walt pulls off the gloves and drops the façade he’s been putting on for him. He argues that they’ve done terrible things before that are just as bad, and the death of the boy from their train heist is just another casualty that has come as a result of what they do. In the past, murders on this show have always had a reason, or were a means to an end. Either the person being murdered is a criminal, or the murder was necessary for survival. But here, Walt has no illusions about what they have done. The death of the boy in his mind is no different than all the other people they’ve had to murder to get to this point. When Jesse got out of rehab in season three, he told Walt that he come to the realization that he was the bad guy—a sentiment that hadn’t really fazed Walt by this point in the show. Walt now understands this, and has arrived to this same point, but while Jesse has come to learn that he doesn’t want to be that kind of person, Walt sees no other way other than to embrace it.

But we see something much more sinister here. Walt and Jesse’s relationship is toxic and has evolved alongside Walt’s change in personality. On a basic level, Walt views Jesse as the son and student he never had. Conversely, Jesse views Walt as the father/mentor he always wanted, whom he could make proud. Where it starts to get twisted is somewhere down the road of Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg; he’s almost become obsessed with the relationship he has with Jesse and doesn’t like anyone interfering with it. When Gus asked him why he would work with a Jesse (a junkie), Walt replied, “Because he does what I tell him to.” Walt almost has this need for Jesse that is both a power thing, as well as personal nourishment, as he now has no one left that really cares about him. There is a constant theme throughout the show that involves Walt directly or indirectly involved with getting Jesse to separate from other people. His conversation with Jesse about Andrea and Brock this season was manipulative, meant to make Jesse question the relationship, and it resulted in them breaking up. We can also look back at Jane, or even the relationship Jesse developed with Mike that Walt didn’t care for. Walt training Todd to be his new partner almost seemed like an act to defy Jesse, but you can see Walt almost relishing in the fact that Todd respects him and wants to please him. It’s a point that should be noted, but Walt has always struggled to get respect from others. And despite becoming the great Heisenberg, he’s failed to get respect from many people. It’s fitting that when he finally does get someone to respect him, it comes from a low-life criminal who has no values or moral center.

Walt’s plan to continue cooking now that his partners are out is pretty straightforward—a merger. Walt proposes to the Arizona dealers that they take him on as their cook, because he needs distribution. He makes the pitch in a way that positions himself as an incredible opportunity they should be honored to have. So when he brazenly suggests that they get a 35 percent cut, he doesn’t hesitate doing so, even knowing that he’s out gunned. Walt goes even further when he explains that the dealer’s meth is far below his quality, and now that the world has been introduced to his 99 percent pure product, it would be like eliminating classic Coke from the market leaving only the cheap knock-off soda brands. Walt’s dialogue here is showy and bombastic, and he controls the conversation. One of the best moments from Walt to date is when he asks the dealers to say his name and openly takes credit for murdering Gus Fring. It was a fantastic scene that really played on Walt’s alter-ego winning. It also was a logical step for the plot to take, considering that Walt wasn’t going to expand his operation to the lengths that he wanted with his makeshift business.

All the plot threads from throughout the season come to fruition when Hank decides to follow the lawyer representing the hazard pay inmates. The DEA catches the lawyer as he’s depositing all the money that Mike has been giving him, and this leads to the imminent arrest of Mike. I almost expected Walt to make the decision that Mike had to go—just on the fact that he had a warrant out for his arrest. It’s no secret that Mike doesn’t like Walter, and if he got arrested, that’s another loose end they can’t control. But instead, they took a different route. The writers made an interesting decision on how to portray Walt in the episode’s climax. Unlike past seasons, season five has been pretty heavy on Walt lacking any sense of humanity. The whistling scene alone from “Everybody Wins” was enough to send shivers down the spine. It’s the moment when Jesse realizes that Walt is no longer affected by senseless violence. But in the final moments of Mike’s character, we get a glimpse of the old Walt, and not Heisenberg. For all of Walt’s stammering and inflated ego, he’s still able to realize when he’s messed up.

The way the show handled Mike’s death was impeccable. Unlike Gus’ over-the-top death that had us on the edge of our seats, the writers decided to make the scene understated. Outside of The Wire and The Sopranos, this was easily one of the most realistic deaths I’ve seen on television. Violence in real life is not stylized or as over-the-top as it’s often portrayed in entertainment. A lot of homicides happen in the spur of a moment. They can be clunky and fumbled—sporadic. What makes real violence disturbing is how cold and understated it really is in comparison to what we know in entertainment. Walt has a goal set out to get the names of the people who are on Mike’s hazard pay, but when Mike refuses to tell Walt and instead tells him that everything falling apart is a result of his ego, Walt loses it. In a moment of pure anger that has no doubt been bubbling up over time, Walt goes to his car to grab the gun he took from Mike’s bag. Marching over to his car, he points at the window and pulls the trigger. The glass explodes, and Mike drives off and crashes his car into a rock by the river. In that moment, Walt’s face loses all sense of anger and pride, and we see shock and regret. Given the things Walt has had to do up to this point, and his callous attitude towards casualties leading up to this moment, one might have expected Walt to have not flinched.

But up to this point, Walt has only had to kill people in situations where he is forced to take this measure. In this scene, Walt commits his first murder that has no purpose and is purely out of anger. And the moment doesn’t just wash over Walt. It hits him swiftly. As Walt goes down to the ravine to finish off Mike, he sees him staring out to the river. Mike has his gun pulled out, no doubt out of habit, but has it put down as he’s come to the realization that his life is about to end. Instead of wasting what time left he has on trying to take out the man that has shot him, he just wants to take in the moment—so much so that when Walt takes the gun from his hand, he doesn’t even in pay attention. In a quiet hush, Walt apologizes to Mike: “I just, I just realized that Lydia has the names. I can get them from her. I’m sorry Mike. This whole thing could have been avoided.” But Mike cuts him off and says, “Shut the fuck up, let me just die in peace.” The scene is brilliantly shot. Here we have Walt shaking in heavy breaths as he realizes what he has just done, and Mike, with the bright orange sunset reflecting in his lifeless eyes.

The scene really asks you to take a closer look at Walt again. For all of his darker moments, here we see him fully naked and showing some of his humanity again. But this is arguably the worst thing that he’s done up to this point, because of why he did it. I think back to the all the times that Mike has disrespected Walt—or even in this episode, the scene when Jesse affectionately says goodbye to Mike, and Walt intently stares through the window at them. You have to think about all of these things when Walt runs to the car to get his gun. This is a murder that is based entirely on anger.

This isn’t to say that Walt has had some kind of revelation, or that he will find some kind of redemption. I fully expect that Walt is past the point of any kind of redemption, and this won’t in the least stop his plans. Still, the scene showed us that Walt wasn’t fully aware of the kind of things he’s capable of doing. And in this moment where he loses it and tries to take Mike’s life from him, you can’t help but think back to Tuco in season two, who was a complete psychopath and would kill someone for making him angry. Walt was right, the reality is, everything they have done up to this point has been terrible. But there is something much more chaotic and scary when there is no purpose for a death other than personal emotion, and this is what the ending really caught. It’s perhaps the defining moment of Walt completely falling from grace.

It’s ironic that Walt ended the last episode with “Everybody Wins.” In “Say My Name,” an episode about Walt expanding his empire and stroking his own ego, Mike ends up losing his life, and Jesse gets screwed out of his share. Walt is the only one who has won out of this deal, and he hasn’t won anything at all.