DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
With Gretchen back, a stronger motivation for Walt’s sudden career shift is revealed and we learn more about their relationship. Walt took a buyout (see 5.06); he sold his share of Gray Matter for $5000, a company now worth billions he’d co-founded with buddy and business partner Elliot Schwartz. But Walt doesn’t see it that way, in fact he believes that Elliot and his wife Gretchen stole his research work and built their empire upon it. Obviously Gretchen plays an important role in all of this, as we’ve seen flashbacks of her with Walt showing more intimacy than mere business/university lab partners. Walt needs to make up for all the humiliation and ingratitude he’s undeservedly endured throughout the years. Remember how he justified the reason why he’d supposedly run away in 2.03: “I am an extremely overqualified high school chemistry teacher…[…]…I have watched all of my colleagues and friends surpass me in every way imaginable and within 18 months I will be dead.” – So why did Walt break bad in the first place? Was it entirely caused by the cancer, so he could leave some money for his family or are they all nothing more than excuses? Surely Walt likes to believe the former, but the ever-greedy Heisenberg has always been after the “empire” business.
- Walt’s yet another symbolic chemistry lesson in this episode reveals how deep this grudge goes: Dr. H. Tracy Hall, his invention of synthetic diamond and how in the end General Electric went on to make a fortune out of his work, only to honor him with a $10 US savings bond despite his great contribution to chemistry, all reflect Walt’s deal with Gray Matter. Or at least, this is how Walt wants to be remembered; that he was unfairly cut off by his partners, not that he simply walked away as Gretchen points out.
- Furthermore, the mention of Alkenes and how there would be no life in the universe without Carbon bring us back to Walt’s flashback in 1.03 featuring the body composition chart in which there seemed to be a missing element, suggesting that perhaps there is more to a human being than chemistry. When speaking of criminals, the notion of the missing element and carbon itself, make Walt’s question in 2.05 all the more intriguing: “What do you think it is that makes them [criminals] who they are?”
- We’ve mentioned how in the comic book universe, Jesse would be the sidekick-turned-superhero and Walt the supervillain. In a recent interview , Vince Gilligan says that Walt’s superpower is not his chemistry knowledge or his intellect, but rather it’s his great ability to lie to himself: “He is the world’s greatest liar…[…]…he certainly could lie to his family and he can lie to himself. […] He can make himself believe, in the face of all contrary evidence, that he is still a good man.” – This is indeed true, he’s probably told Dr. Hall’s story to himself so many times that he’s actually believed to have been a victim of Gretchen’s scheme. (Also noteworthy that Jesse’s superpowers seems to be compassion and thoughtfulness.) In fact this episode proves this point when Walt makes up an elaborate lie about Gretchen and Elliot being broke and feeds it to Skyler, to cover up his other lie about his medical bills. In a way, Heisenberg could argue that he got back at his old partners by both preserving his pride and involving them in his lie without their knowledge.
- “What happened to you? — This isn’t you.” (mirroring Skyler’s line terrific: “Is that you?” in the pilot) Gretchen is at a loss for words upon getting to know this new version of post-cancer Walt who believes he only owes her an apology, but not an explanation for involving (essentially, trapping) her in his lies. Walt brings out all the grudge and bitterness he’d stored for her over the years, and we finally realize why he refused her and Elliot’s offer in 1.05: “…I should be begging for you charity?! And you waving your checkbook around like some magic wand is gonna make me forget how you and Elliot cut me out? […] My hard work, my research and you and Elliot make millions of it!” –
- “Little rich girl just adding to your millions!” – We do not know what exactly made Walt walk away from Gray Matter, but we know how he perceives Gretchen; without his research, she would have no empire. The examples he gives his students earlier now brings another meaning to the matter: “I like to think that the diamond and the woman who wears it on her finger are both formed from the same stuff.” – Perhaps the missing element is the human potential for evil.
Next: The Spectrum