Breaking Bad: Madrigal, Money, and Metanoia

Episode 2, Season 5 by Samantha Curley

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan dropped another prophetic bomb at the end of the second episode of Breaking Bad’s final season when Walt says:

“You know it gets easier. I promise you that it does. What we do is for good reasons. There’s nothing to worry about. There’s no better reason than family.”

Excuse me, Walt, did I hear you correctly? Did you say family?

Walt (Bryan Cranston) continues to deceive himself into thinking he is making the right choices – good choices – for the sake of his family. But this episode, more than any other of the season, begs the question, “Walt, what family are you talking about?” Your terrified wife (Anna Gunn) who couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t speak a word to you (or anyone) the entire episode? Your son (R.J. Mitte) who has been abandoned by every adult figure in his life? Your infant daughter who will grow up having to confront her monster of a father? Your brother-in-law (Dean Norris) that you’ve used and deceived to build your drug empire?

Walt has no family left. Yet, the fantasy of family continues to motivate his downward spiral. “Madrigal” forces each character to confront the question: Why do you do what you do? A question that seems to boil down to either money or family. And let’s be honest, Mike (Jonathan Banks) might be the only one choosing family.

It was eery and unsettling to watch Walt in his cocky attempt to become Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). His calm, yet demanding demeanor; his relational manipulating, flat affect, and plotted confidence. (It physically hurt to watch him cover his tracks in the cigarette and salt scenes with Jesse.) Walt’s every move reeks of Gus, even as he extends a handshake to Mike after their first meeting of the episode. While the new mantra is, “If Gus can manage it, so can we,” let’s just remember where Gus ended up…

As Walt’s storyline becomes, well, pure evil, we continue to hope for the redemption of characters like Jesse (Aaron Paul), Mike, Hank, even Saul (Bob Odenkirk) to some extent. These characters have become the wise sages of the show; the ones who have eyes that see. Jesse’s genuine, yet unknowingly misplaced repentance in the show’s opening scene as he apologizes to Walt, “How could I have been so stupid.” Mike’s warning to Walt about being a ticking time bomb and his ironic, punchy wisdom in the diner: “Here in the real world we don’t kill eleven people as some kind of prophylactic measure.” Hank continues to sense there is something beyond the surface, while remaining unable to exactly put his finger on it. I wonder (with a sense of foreboding) where his good questions and intuition will take him. Even Saul comes through with the lottery analogy pleading with Walt and Jesse to get out while they’re still alive.

Where will these characters be when the bomb finally does explode? When bad is officially broken? We can only hope as far away from Walt as possible. Sadly, there are few avenues of metanoia (deep repentance, change of heart) left as viable ways out.

Join us each week as we blog through the epic final season of Breaking Bad: 

Episode 1: Is Redemption Possible for Walter White?

Episode 2: Madrigal, Money, and Metanoia

Episode 3: Breaking Bad Made Whole?


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