Where some of us may see a saint, others see a killer. What is important is not just who you are, but how the world sees you. For Walter White on “Breaking Bad” for so many years, victory has not been defined by his own sense of morality; instead, it has been by the projection he gives most of the world as a great husband, a father, and even a victim trying to make ends meet.
But make no bones about it. This is an evil, twisted man, which is what makes the ending of this past episode “Rabid Dog” worthy of our analysis this week in our “breaking down ‘Breaking Bad’” series. We have how Walt sees Jesse, how Jesse sees Walt, how Hank sees both of them, and how Walt’s condition of Jesse has allowed him to see the world. Basically, there are so many projections in this scene at the plaza it could occupy a drive-in movie theater for weeks.
So let’s start here with the known facts: Jesse was supposed to meet up with Walt to discuss recent transgressions in an effort to make amends. Hank forced Jesse to take part in the meeting, knowing that they could obtain enough evidence in order to implicate Walt once and for all. For Jesse, the benefit here was that he could redeem himself and go on to live a happy life. The problem? There was also a chance that he could meet his end in this plaza, as the plan felt like a setup on Walt’s part.
How Walt perceives Jesse – A troubled kid that can be controlled. In a world where he has no problem nearly killing Brock and killing Mike, he finds taking out Jesse, a metaphorical son to him, problematic. He can be himself around him in a way that he cannot with Walter Jr., and wants to use reason over listening to Skyler.
How Jesse perceives Walt – A horrible, twisted murderer of a man who is up to no good. He knows the way in which he lives, and therefore to him a meeting is a death wish. The past evidence gives him no reason to think otherwise.
How Hank perceives Walt and Jesse – To him, this is a victory no matter what happens to Jesse. He is transfixed on the prize of bagging Walt, perhaps so much so that he fails to realize that Jesse cannot be fully controlled. He has been threatened with far worse than prison, and his perception of Jesse as an offbeat, drug-infused punk is off-base.
How Jesse perceives the world – As a sea of paranoia. Walt has conditioned him to think that any unusual man in an unfamiliar setting is dangerous. Therefore, he perceives an innocent man waiting for his daughter as a threat, and bails. Walt created the situation leading to Jesse’s angry phone call minutes later just by being Walt. Perhaps why he has been so hesitant to kill Jesse is that so much of him is now his own creation. Now, he may have to rely on someone else to cut off a limb for him.
These conflicting perceptions bring us now to what we will see Sunday: A showdown where there cannot be a universal threat. These characters’ own past has carved out the future in blood.
Want to see a preview for Sunday night’s “Breaking Bad” episode? Then be sure to click here, and we will have some more news in the weeks ahead.