EXPONENTIAL DECAY (Exponential Growth – Continued)
Frustrated and confused after being a given a new life in 2.09, Walt is at a crossroads, unable to live the normal life and yet afraid to picture himself staying as the drug lord. The cancer has figuratively spread to his life, the corrosion seems impossible to deal with and his overwhelming pride has left him ashamed and broken. His helplessness in preventing the spiritual decomposition and his descent into this purgatorial abyss is symbolized by the the rot in the wood and the reconstruction of the crawl space (or rather, his subconscious grave). “It’s all contaminated…” (See 3.10)
- The contamination becomes so overwhelming by season 5, that Walt ironically starts cooking with Jesse in infested homes while in 3.10 he desperately tried to get rid of a single fly.
- This time we see Walt at his most pitiful as he slips back and forth into the darkness. The following observation is taken from Team Breaking Bad‘s Factoids (You can join this awesome group on Facebook.) It perfectly sums up the thematic importance of this episode:
“If I could rename this episode, it would be ‘Jekyll and Heisenberg’“, says the episode’s writer Moira Walley-Beckett: “Up until now, Walt’s had the freedom that came with lack of hope and he’s suddenly presented with hope and it changes everything and he doesn’t know how to feel about it.”
- Moreover, the description above explains his furious burst at the end of 2.09: “When I got my diagnosis, cancer, I said to myself “why me?”. And then the other day when I got the good news I said the same thing.”
- “What are you looking at him for?!” Walt’s fatherly pride is threatened when Junior looks up to Hank. So he demonstrates his authority over his son by pouring him shots and standing up to Hank. We’ve talked about how Hank receiving all the appreciation has affected Walt since day 1 to the point that proving himself worthier becomes a major catalyst in his growing ambition. A scene from 2.03 resembles this one, where Walt again, kind of feels jealous of the attention Hank gets as he’s describing Tuco’s shootout for Junior. Only this time, Junior is the one forcing Walt to drink his juice!
- Hank and Walt, being the show’s opposing forces, go through thematically similar experiences. With Walt, it’s about his obsession with power and control, while Hank needs so badly to solve the blue sky case even if it means compromising his life and career. Walt yanking away from Hank’s hand at the party resembles a similar scene from season 3’s “Green Light” where Hank’s anxiety puts him against a concerned Gomez, as he orders the man to take his hand off his shoulder. Moreover, later through their reckless behavior and frustration they end up bruising their hands, albeit under different circumstances; Walt from punching the dispenser and Hank from beating up Jesse.
- The next day Walt apologizes to Junior for his unjustifiable behavior. The scene plays out like season 4’s “Salud” where Walt apologizes to him for breaking into tears and says he doesn’t want to be remembered in that [vulnerable] state.
- A nice visual continuity between this episode and the pilot is the shot which shows the broken heater by the dumpster. It resembles the shot of his 50th birthday wall hangings all dumped. Both symbolically indicative of his former life thrown away.
- “Over” is also significant since it’s where Walt reconstructs the crawl space; the symbolic subconscious catacomb serving as both his infiltration/escape route (3.02 and 4.13) and his tomb (4.11). Both here and in “Crawl Space” the place symbolizes Walt’s spiritual descent. This time he rises from decay to mark his territory, while in 4.11 by tipping off the DEA through Saul, he basically digs his own grave, loses all hope for salvation and comes close to the fringe of insanity. Fittingly, the camera pans up and frames him in a symbolic grave.
- While in “Over” Walt struggles to eliminate the rot, in “Crawl space” he himself becomes the source of contamination in the eyes of Gus. He’s degraded even more when he’s transported to the meth lab among the dirty laundry. He essentially becomes the fly from 3.10 which has to be quarantined in order to be rid of. And like an insect fighting for its life, Walt has to reach maximum desperation in order to come out winner. His evil schemes mostly emerge when he’s at his most weak and vulnerable. It’s after 4.11 that he plans the poisoning of Brock and the assassination of Gus (Read more about the role of insects on the show, here.)
- Being the good chemistry teacher, Walt advises the amateur tweaker on how to buy efficiently. But then, he realizes he’s only creating competition by doing this, hence Heisenberg resurfaces and intimidates the other dealer/cook. The moment of transition is marked by zooming jump cuts and the beeping sounds from the counter. Coincidentally, we hear Jesse’s microwave beeping in the episode. You’ll also notice that similar “dings” are incorporated in the credits music. This neat auditory indicator is also used in Gus’s Season 4 storyline , as we hear the elevator dinging when he is leaving the station. And In the end it’s Hector’s menacing rings of doom that announce Gus’s death.
Next: “Solution, Dissolution..”