The aftermath of Tuco’s death marks a turning point in Heisenberg’s quest for power, leaving him no choice but to move forward, even if that means estrangement from his family. Walt and Jesse return home with an almost impeccable cover story and Hank comes out winner despite failing to put the pieces together.
WARNING: Spoilers from Breaking Bad Seasons 1-5 follow
THE DEPARTURE PAINTING
Walt’s journey brings him yet another symbolic indicator from that giant subconscious warehouse (in the form of a painting that immediately seizes his attention: It shows a man rowing a boat to a ship (The Crystal ship?) to go on a journey, leaving his family behind. Here, the painting best depicts Walt’s ultimate decision to go back into the meth business with Jesse now that Tuco’s out of the picture, which of course requires more lies to keep Skyler and the rest from discovering the truth. You remembered it right, this is indeed the same painting which re-emerged in the motel in “Gliding Over All” , the episode where Walt would have to deliberately make a hard decision to quit the meth business/empire.
- Notice the presence of a reflective surface (mirror and the window) in both cases:
- Walt chose to depart from his family and effectively his former life in the Pilot when he decided to go into this business. And then again the ‘sailing away’ motif could be referring to Walt having to get separated from Skyler eventually. The fake fugue state reveals more than just Walt’s schemes to further hide his true identity, as it shows that he’s subconsciously drifting away from his former self, slowly becoming more fierce and emotionless. Perhaps the scene in which Walt sneaks into his house (like an trespasser, again) and watches Skyler and Junior connecting while standing in the dark, best symbolizes the notion of estrangement.
- Is the painting a figment of Walt’s imagination or rather, his subconscious repository? Or is Walt’s universe strongly based on karma, predetermination and poetic justice? We’ll get to that later…
THE SECOND REVELATION
He was dealt a bad hand…after years of decency which brought him nothing than regret and humiliation, Walt was finally ‘awakened’ around his 50th birthday when receiving a lingering death sentence due to the cancer. He vowed to correct all past failures, regain his lost authority and make enough money to leave for his family. But it became more than just that, in fact the money was just a catalyst in Walt’s quest for power; he’s risen with a new identity, the opposite of the teacher. Striking fear into the hearts of the rival gangsters, and justifying every crime in the name of the cause. Sounds like a mission…we’ve previously discussed how Walt’s awakening resembles a false prophet’s delusional revelation, or rather god complex, in that he thinks he’s doing the honorable thing. In this episode we go deeper into his subconscious mind as Walt confesses the underlying reasons behind his actions to the therapist (who could also have been a reverend!):
- “I couldn’t a stand a second standing around that house, I just had to get out!” – Heisenberg makes up a half-truth about his disappearance. His lack of authority around Skyler and the constant struggle to keep the truth from her have definitely been the real reasons behind his estrangement and why he’s stepping out of his former life. But why did he have to run? In 1.06 Jesse thought he’d finally realized why Walt had stepped into the criminal world, but apparently there’s more to that apart from the need for money:“My wife is seven months pregnant with a baby we didn’t intend, my fifteen year old son has cerebral palsy, I am an extremely over-qualified high school chemistry teacher, when I can work I make 43700 $ per year, I have watched all my colleagues surpass me in every way imaginable [Gray Matter?], and within eighteen months I will be dead…and you ask why I ran?!” – This of course pretty much sums up all the reasons behind Walt breaking bad in the first place. There’s the underlying recurrence of guilt (“How about feelings of Guilt?”), shame and regret in all of them; He feels guilty that Junior is suffering, regretful of his career in chemistry, ashamed of not being able to surpass his colleagues and then of course he’s running out of time.
- See the incorporation of bright light during the metaphorical confession scene, giving a heavenly aura to the room. The same visual symbolism is used in the Pilot which also shares other similarities with this episode: Heavenly light in the clinic and other instances of bright white light, presence of symbolic paintings around Walt, details such as the mustard stain or the painting disorienting him etc. Is the ‘spiritual’ cancer spreading to his brain, changing his personality, as the physical one devours his lungs?