Seriable’s Aria Mohtadi reviews Breaking Bad 5.07 “Say My Name”
If Walt had known his place, kept his mouth shut…none of this would have happened…but isn’t that, as the man himself claimed, faulty logic? Mike had a good thing going, and he fell right into the ‘war’ of Gus and his cook. Circumstances, and compromises. What we witnessed at the end of this episode was only partly Walt acting impulsively.. It’s not about making judgments; it’s about choices and their consequences. Mike could have pulled the trigger on Walt by the end of season 3. While Mike took a few too many half measures, Walt decided to go all the way, to the core of Heisenberg’s “principle”.
A battle of custody
One of the major plotlines of the season was resolved, as we witnessed the triangle of amigos fall apart on one man’s greed, one’s guilt and one’s hopelessness. Say My Name is indeed a fitting title for an episode in which we were once again reminded of one of the prime impulses that drive Walt’s transformation: having been deprived of his “proper” role; whether it’s the founder of Gray matter or the perfect husband, in Vince Gilligan’s words (Inside Breaking Bad – “Buyout”) Walt is a man who has felt “less than” for the first 50 years of his life.
When it comes to his closest partner, Jesse, he wants to be perceived as “the” father figure, the savior, the “proud” teacher, and for it to be acknowledged. So starting from the early moments of the episode Walt carefully tends to ‘maneuver’ Jesse (who wanted “out”) and bring him ‘back’ on the ‘right’ track; he counts Jesse “in” as the other best meth cook, putting him in a difficult position of mixed hesitation and gratitude. Walt needs to keep Jesse under his own wings; so it’s season 3 and 4 all over again. Fring knew very well that ascending Jesse to high levels would not sit very well with Walt. In fact, Gus used Jesse on two specific occasions: first, when recruiting Walt in early season 3 (buying Jesse’s product), then when he wanted to get rid of him during season 4.
Actually, Walt had started working on Jesse from last episode’s dinner scene, while playing the victim. Once again Walt tries to bring him back in, this time with a lab ‘all to himself’ as he ‘deserves it’. Sounds familiar; it’s the same strategy Gus used with the superlab, and it eventually worked. But Jesse’s moved on from the temptations, at least there’s a sense of maturity and development in refusing to get his cut and simply walking away from Walt’s crumbling empire. Remember, this is the same Jesse who’d have nasty fights with Walt over his share, same one who’d steal from Gus’ batch by the end of season 3. Gus’ cold management and Walt’s manipulations have ironically improved and ‘repaired’ Jesse’s ego. Walt needs Jesse to maintain the balance, even if there are only faint glimmers of good-old Mr. White left lurking inside.
On the other hand, Mike was surprised to see how Jesse ‘grew’ with each one of Gus’ assignments, after all, this “kid” saved his life. Walt is jealous of the strong bond formed between Mike and Jesse, he needs the “kid” to confide only in him, and not the person who’s insulted his pride the most. Things were never shiny between Mike and Walt, and after Walt refused to take Mike’s advice on Full measures it turned into an ongoing battle. Walt’s actions were the antithesis of Mike’s calculations, tranquility and moral code. Most apparently from the start of this season we’ve witnessed Mike constantly, although out of caring for the team (and most of all Jesse), doubting Walt’s judgment, insulting and humiliating him. And we all know Heisenberg cannot stand condescension.
So by delivering Mike’s “go-bag”, Walt’s hoping to first of all make another ‘manipulative’ move on Jesse; By telling him “You’re out, remember?”, Walt’s trying to appear to be looking out for Jesse while at the same time making him regret the decision of walking out. Second, he wants to figuratively punch Mike right in the face by sending the message that “I’m the one who’s willing to help you, even though you despise me.” . I doubt he plotted Mike’s murder from the phone call, it was about pride, but he kept Mike’s revolver ‘in mind’, just in case. In the back of his mind Walt knew Lydia had the 9 names, but it’s unclear whether he couldn’t remember the fact at the moment or he just wanted to “force” Mike into a condescending argument by demanding the names while knowing he could get them from Lydia…and that’s the beauty of the final sequence, and what makes Mike’s death, though tragic, a “flawless” demonstration of Heisenberg taking charge.
For the last time Mike speaks his mind to Walt, reaching the root of it all; his pride and ego. And Walt, who “cannot be a criminal” (his words to Gus, when turning down his offer – episode “No mas”) sees through Mike’s faulty (yet essentially correct) logic; Walt’s contract with Gus began to tear apart as Jesse decided to take a measure against the dealers who used and killed Tomas, yet the “rationalizing” Heisenberg doesn’t let him trace the events back to season 2 when he wanted to expand his territory and one thing led to another…anyway, it seems he was not planning to kill Mike, but as the great still shot shows him returning from his car and approaching Mike, it happened instinctively. No wonder after Mike takes the shot, Heisenberg vanishes, and we see the same old scared-shitless Walter White emerging with a look of bewilderment. Even checking his sides as he’s running when he’s basically in the middle of nowhere!
And in Mike’s final moments by the river of ‘consequences’, Walt seemingly remembers he could have gotten the names from Lydia…we’re speaking of Two people inside Walt here (check out this amazing video article on Walt’s transformation and it’s relation to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle; from Mr. White’s point of view, he truly thought he could get the names only from Mike up until shooting him, but from Heisenberg’s POV, it’s just another arrow intended to pierce through Mike, carrying the message “I just could have gotten the names from Lydia…what a shame I wasted a bullet on you.” - fitting that Mike chose to ignore Walt and die in peace.
You’re on your own
With Mike out of the picture, even though he was already ‘Out’, and Jesse walking away, Walt’s left ‘alone’ to deal with a whole set of new tasks and many loose ends to tie up:
Who does he replace Jesse with? His absolute antithesis, Todd, of course; having no knowledge of basic chemistry, a ‘teacher pleaser’ and above all a stone cold child-killer. Things seem to be going very well with Todd; notice how Walt likes the way Todd ‘delays’ the money discussion. And luckily, the deal with Declan will go according to plan. Everybody wins; well except for the ones who decided to walk out.
Pop pop goes grandpa
One of the strongest and most heartbreaking scenes of “Say My Name” was probably where Mike, standing behind a tree, watched Kaylee for the last time before leaving her so suddenly. We rarely got to see Mike’s true emotions throughout past seasons, yet in the park scene we saw an amazing expression of Fear and Affection from the amazing Jonathan Banks. Hank was right, even pros make mistakes; and funny how Mike’s final mistake was not putting Saul in charge of the accounts!
Mike didn’t (or couldn’t) escape or fight back in his final moments, he decided to just sit down; lucky for Mike, he’s out, and only Walt left to deal with the DEA.