“You will be made whole.”
These strange, almost threatening words are spoken by Mike (Jonathan Banks) in the opening scene of this week’s episode, “Hazard Pay.” They are words that should strike a chord for anyone from any sort of faith background.
The third episode of season five sees a begrudging Mike forced back into business with Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in order to make-back the hazard pay the feds took from his guys’ off-shore accounts. A discovery, remember, that resulted from Walt’s giant-magnet scheme in the season’s first episode. Another reminder that no small action in this series goes without bigger and badder consequences. (This is known as the butterfly effect, most dramatically depicted in what happens after Walt doesn’t stop Jane from dying in season two.)
On the surface, the wholeness Mike promises is related to money; to replacing the confiscated funds that ensured Mike’s guys did their job well. But what does it mean to be made whole? Are there other layers of wholeness going on? Perhaps in Jesse and Andrea’s seemingly good relationship? Or Jesse’s offer to give a double cut from his share of their earnings so Walt doesn’t have to pay his portion. Maybe in Walt continuing to ‘play house’ by moving back home and sharing popcorn while watching a movie with his kids? And this has always seemed to be about more than money for Mike. Are these signs pointing us towards a longing to be made whole? Is this a longing we all feel? Is it a longing that can (or will) be satisfied?
“Hazard Pay” gives us Walt at his ‘best’ and his worst. He’s back at his mastery of creative and terribly brilliant problem solving as he outlines his plan for the team’s new cook sites. Also, in his fatherly (albeit feigned) attempts at connecting with Jesse regarding his relationship with Andrea. But unlike in the previous four seasons, Walt is too far gone. Reinterpreting truth to fit his deceptive scheming, Walt manipulates Marie (Betsy Brandt) concerning Skylar’s (Anna Gunn) affair with Ted Beneke and also twists the memory of Victor in order to excuse his own greed and justify his selfish gain. Walt is so deep in his own web of lies and manipulation that he must actually believe his version of what’s true. Walt has created an alternate reality that he’s living inside and is systematically working to suck the others in with him. And those who don’t get sucked in? Those whom Walt can’t brainwash (Jesse), manipulate (Marie), or control (Skylar and Saul)? Well, they’re the ones who end up getting killed (Gus). That just leaves Mike and Hank…
What kind of wholeness will creator Vince Gilligan offer us as Breaking Bad’s legacy?
The episode concludes by leaving Jesse with a choice between Mike and Walt. As Walt warned him earlier in the episode, secrets do in fact create barriers between people and Walt has kept a lot of secrets from Jesse. It seems like the whole thing is riding (and maybe it always has) on what Jesse will decide to do next.
[For some Breaking Bad extra credit, notice the details of how media conveys deeper levels of meaning throughout this episode: the lyrics to "On A Clear Day" by the Peddlers playing as Walt and Jesse cook, the plot to the movie Scarface that Walt watches with his kids, the sounds coming from Jesse and Brock's video game. As if we didn't already know, Vince Gilligan is good!]