Hell hath no fury like a Pinkman scorned.
After sleepwalking through the last two episodes in a state bordering on comatose depression, Jesse Pinkman roared to life in the last 15 minutes of Sunday’s “Breaking Bad,” titled “Confessions.”
It wasn’t pretty, but it was electrifying television.
The episode played like a highlight reel of Aaron Paul, who delivered his best performance yet. Given his Emmy-winning body of work on “Breaking Bad,” that’s saying something.
Jesse quietly refused to play ball when Hank (Dean Norris) tried to get him to flip on Walt (Bryan Cranston).
“Eat me,” he mutters to the DEA agent who once beat him within an inch of his life.
His scene with Walt in the desert was heart-breaking. Walt did what Walt does best: manipulating people into behaving according to his plan. Walt needs Jesse to go away (and for a minute there, I thought he was going to send him to Belize). He tried to convince Jesse it was in his best interest to get out of Dodge and start a new life as a new person somewhere far, far away.
“Would you just for once stop working me?” Jesse says to Walt before calling him out. “Just drop the whole concerned dad thing and tell me the truth.”
But Walt doesn’t drop the concerned dad thing. He knows an Achilles’ heel when he sees one. He’s well aware of how much his former student craves a father figure — craves a family that actually cares about him instead of tossing him out on the street like the real Ma and Pa Pinkman.
Walt hugs him, cradling his head while Jesse cries — no, bawls. Walt’s face, on the other hand, shows all the emotion of a cat. I have no doubt he cares about Jesse but not nearly as much as pretends to. As Jesse sobs uncontrollably in his arms, Walt knows he’s won again.
Another heart-breaking scene ensued after Saul (Bob Odenkirk) called his “vacuum guy” and put the pricey wheels in motion to send Jesse packing. Jesse stands there in a Charlie Brown-like T-shirt, holding a Hello Kitty phone and a sack of cash that looks like some school kid’s giant lunch bag. He’s a frightened child about to head off to sleepaway camp. Except this sleepaway camp lasts forever. In Alaska.
On the way out the door, magic fingers Huell (Lavell Crawford) discreetly plucks a bag of pot out of Jesse’s pocket, just like he did in season four in the infamous ricin cigarette incident.
And then it clicks. Standing by the roadside, waiting to disappear, Jesse figures it out. He knows — or is pretty damn certain — that Walt arranged for the ricin cigarette to go MIA so that Jesse would turn on Gus. He knows that Walt poisoned young Brock and lied about it.
This flips on Jesse’s cray-cray switch and we’re off to the races. He storms into Saul’s office, beating out of him a confession — one of two key confessions in this aptly-titled episode. Saul admits that Walt did indeed have him pickpocket the ricin cigarette from Jesse.
With an animal-like rage (next week’s episode is called “Rabid Dog,”), Jesse races to Walt’s empty house. Walt may be The One Who Knocks, but Jesse’s The One Who Kicks Down the Door. He busts inside and starts showering the place with gasoline.
Jesse went from zero to 60 in this episode. The slow build over the past two installments made his explosion all the more gratifying to watch.
These final few episodes are about epic showdowns, and “Confessions” set the stage for a truly explosive one between Jesse and Mr. White.
— The main confession in “Confessions,” of course, is the bogus, brilliant one recorded by Walt at the beginning of the episode. Skyler (Anna Gunn), further solidifying her affiliation with Team Walt, acts as accomplice as Walter Hartwell White spills the beans to the camera, much like he did in the very first episode. But back then, he was telling the truth. This time, he fingers Hank as a murderer and the mastermind behind a meth empire. It’s another genius stroke of self-preservation by Walt, and one that left me as gob smacked as Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) while watching it. Walt’s convincing tears and anguish as he lied through his teeth about his brother-in-law prove that there is a better actor than Bryan Cranston: Walter White.
— “Breaking Bad” has made me laugh out loud more than most sitcoms. “Confessions” was no exception. Saul was en fuego as he crashed the Hank and Jesse party in the police interrogation room. And I loved the absurdity of Walt, Skyler, Hank and Marie holding their intense pow-wow at an overly festive Mexican restaurant, where an overly eager waiter was chomping at the bit to make guacamole tableside. “Breaking Bad” is a masterclass in how to use comedy to cut through the tension and the drama — a lesson relentlessly bleak shows like AMC’s “Low Winter Sun” would be wise to follow.
— Nice touch having the tarantula scuttle across the sand while Jesse waits in the desert for Walt. It’s reminiscent of the tarantula caught and put in a jar by Drew Sharp, the little boy gunned down by Todd (Jesse Plemons) during the “Dead Freight” train heist. Another reminder of one of the many casualties that resulted from Heisenberg’s reign.
— Someone’s getting their kicks on Route 66. The episode opened with Todd firing up a cigarette at a roadside café with a big Route 66 emblem plastered on the wall. Back at Hank’s office, a Route 66 postcard hung in one of the worker’s cubicles. Has there been other Route 66 imagery I’ve missed? What, if anything, do you think it means?
–Missed last week’s recap? Read it here.