So. All week (on and off, in between what passes for A Life in Random-on-Sea) I’ve been wondering whether Walt told Jesse about watching Jane die because:
a) He is, percentage-wise, now as purely evil as his own product and therefore pretty much out of touch with his inner Whitman?
b) He actually wants his ‘son’ Jesse to do the decent Mythological thing and kill him before the cancer does?
c) The ep’s writer, Moira Walley-Beckett, knew that watching Bryan Cranston deliver those lines to Jesse would become BBs very own Darth-Vader-confesses-to-Luke-Skywalker—with go-faster stripes in a fetching shade of ice-blue. Thus, Walt is not only Jesse’s abusive ‘father’, he’s the kind of Dad who’d allow his son’s girlfriend to die in front of him… and yet this happened all the way back in Season Two, when we didn’t yet know Walt was The Terminator and redemption for all parties seemed just as likely as not. (Interestingly, viewers may still have been rooting for Mr White at this point but in the original script Walt was going to be more actively involved in Jane’s death, however when broadcaster AMC rejected that idea, Vince Gilligan recognised that this would indeed have taken Walt ‘too far, too fast’).
There are few TV dramas episodes that linger much longer in the memory than a day or two (in my ten years as a full-time national newspaper TV critic there were probably half a dozen), and even fewer that have you pacing the room, days after the event, furiously muttering out loud while trying to tie up the loose ends… alone (was that just me?), however last week’s ‘Ozymandias’ was a slice of drama that I know will stay with me forever.
Director Rian Johnson has form: he also directed my favourite Season 3 BB ep, The Fly, and he not only teased out all those magnificently nuanced (in Cranston’s case, malevolent) performances from what remained of the cast but skilfully balanced numerous plot points which could so easily have amounted to a series of diminishing returns. At this key stage in the story arc, how easy it would have been to stack up the kills in Grand Theft Auto-style, leaving viewers viscerally bludgeoned yet still emotionally disengaged to the point where we would shrug a ‘whatever’ at the rising body-count. To maintain the plausibility of so many wham-bam moments while driving the plot and still managing to keep us caring deeply about the outcome is storytelling at its very finest. And the fact that little ‘Holly’ stole the whole show with those desperate heartfelt ‘Mama’s (entirely of her own volition; her real-life mum was, of course, standing right behind Cranston) simply proves that, like the rest of the cast and the ep’s director, the baby was in the eye of the BB hurricane-zone.
So, where are we headed? As with all great stories—as, indeed, with life—I fear the end arriving as much as I accept its inevitability and am therefore braced for it. It seems too obvious for it to be Jesse who takes down Walt; too unsatisfying for it to be Skyler, too unlikely for it to be Marie. It would be deeply wrong (for us, if not Walt) for Mistah White to take his own life, or for it to be taken by random-person-with-gun (or even Saul).
For my money there’s now only one character who has both the emotional strength and the boiling rage to end Walter White’s life in suitably epic and tragic style—by both literally and figuratively breaking his father’s heart.
Yup, it’s got to be Walt Jr… (TBC)