Breaking Bad Observations: 2.12 Phoenix


Walt and Donald’s lives get entangled in grim ways as partnerships and addiction go hand in hand giving a new meaning to paternal instincts.

  • Unless confirmed by the people involved in the show or linked to interviews, podcasts, etc. the following easter eggs, connections and visual clues are intended for speculation and theorizing.

WARNING: Spoilers from Breaking Bad Seasons 1-5 follow



“Some accidents up ahead. Christ! Today of all days, huh?” - Baby Holly is brought into the world, Jane is put to eternal sleep. The Mandala theme examined in our previous entry truly shines in this episode as Walt’s metaphorical karma-esque universe gives him another test of morality. The unappreciated provider misses the birth of his newborn child in fulfilling the drug deal of his life and yet tragically, lets another man’s daughter die in vain in an attempt to reconcile with a spiritual family member, Jesse. Maybe the big elephant in the room was more than simply hinting at the dominant – matriarcha l- behavior in the tribe, or in this case fatherhood. Maybe Walt should have listened to Gus’ advice in 2.11 and have never trusted or rather, underestimated drug addicts like Jane or Jesse.

  • “You made me miss the birth of my daughter!” – Karma works in mysterious ways. Jane’s final motivations and Walt’s genuine concern for Jesse aside, it’s interesting that the two lovers’ symbolic eternal pact wrapped in heroin-induced serenity, Romeo-and-Juliet style subconsciously, was originally caused by Jesse’s guilt over Combo getting shot, which can be indirectly traced back to Walt’s ambitious exponential turf expansion plan back in 2.05. Walt withholding  Jesse’s share in this episode and later in “Say my name” when the manipulative blood money remark is thrown into the mix to turn the tables, could be viewed as him trying to keep his kindhearted disciple – who tends to get him into trouble for the very same quality – under his thumb. But then there’s this genuine fatherly concern Walt has for Jesse, often repressed by his overwhelming ego, which actually sends him back to the apartment; a soft spot triggered by none other than Donald Margolis whose daughter is also involved in the matter. “If I gave you that money you would be dead inside of a week.” Ironic that it’s Walt and Donald’s inherent paternal instincts, in this case, the concern about heroin addiction, which indirectly leads to the spiritual/physical demise of their ‘children’, Jesse and Jane.


  • “Jesse is like family to me.” (5.13) - The parenthood theme, narrowed to fatherhood, plays a large role in “Phoenix”. The events of the episode play out similarly to those of the final season’s “Rabid Dog”, albeit in reverse order, where Walt contemplates dealing with Jesse and the kid’s wounded conscience. While in 2.12 it’s simply the matter of getting him his rightful share, in 5.12 it’s question of eliminating him for good (raised by Saul and Skyler), and yet in both an imminent threat looms over Walt’s family. While in 2.12 it’s after Jane’s blackmail that Walt finally decides to – to everyone’s benefit, including himself – deliver Jesse’s money, in 5.12 he actually doesn’t intend to put a hit on Jesse until he, out of a false assumption, threatens to expose him. Walt’s undying soft spot for Jesse, his spiritual son, is highlighted in both episodes: “[Hank to Jesse:] He cares about you.” (5.12)
  • Walt’s fatherly pride is first wounded when he finds Ted, of all people, alongside Skyler and Holly, basically filling his role. A point highlighted beautifully when the camera pans over to reveal him. Then we see how Junior’s website portrays our ‘cancer saint’; father, husband and teacher in the eyes of the world, contrasting the dark reality of his double life, perfectly showcased with the death of Jane. The same teacher goes to extremes to salvage the relationship with Jesse, who might as well be his very best contribution to the world; same father who proudly reveals his stacked legacy to his newborn daughter before anyone else. (More evidence as to why it’s ultimately the very same legacy which lures him out and makes him fall for Hank’s elaborate plan in 5.13.) .
  • “I earned that money, me!” The website’s helpless portrayal of Walt also wounds his pride since we’ve come to know him as a man who doesn’t just accept charity (“They use my money, never yours.” 5.16). So Saul ends up using cyber-zombies to launder his money, further fitting the lifeless vessels Walt and Skyler later have to go through in order to keep the empire business alive. “You’re not seeing straight, Jesse.” - Later on through their partnership, Jane essentially snatches away Walt’s authority over Jesse. “Just love them, they are who they are.” Donald’s words motivate Walt to pay Jesse another visit – in better spirits -  and try to talk some sense into him, not euphemistically of course, as he tried to do in 5.09 and later one last time while on the way to the ‘burial site’ in 5.13“Do right by Jesse tonight or I will burn you to the ground.” / “I decided that burning down your house is nothing.” (5.12)


  • “If I had just lived right up to that moment…” (3.10) – The perfect moment Walt reminisces about in “Fly” was perhaps far too fatefully indicative to let him simply drift away afterwards. The documentary narrator mentions dominant behavior among elephants, we hear Skyler’s lullaby through the baby monitor, same one which plays in the cold open of “Fly”. You could even say the flickering alarm lights are symbolically transposed to the smoke detector which later slightly ‘haunts’ Walt’s dreams. Strangely enough, Donald too happens to be watching a documentary, only on the Phoenix lander and water on Mars (observe the TV screen – we also learn in the 2.13 that Jane was born in Phoenix, Arizona). The former documentary shows a family of elephants, essentially treading waters (not in the negative sense, of course) and the latter, by contrast, provides us with a glimpse into the next generation of the planet’s children, with water – the source of life – having been discovered in a supposedly lifeless land, so to speak (fitting the mandala theme, or specifically life, death and rebirth).

Next: Preservation…



  1. Avatar of Jim says

    Great observations, as always! This is definitely one of my favorite episodes, and it was made even better when ”Fly” referenced the baby monitor scene in such a major, significant way.

    I never ever noticed that the pink teddy bear made multiple appearances on the show! I saw it on Jane’s mural, but that’s it. They definitely put something pink in that tree in ”Rabid Dog”. That’s awesome.

    Also really like your observation of Walt taking over Donald’s goatee (and possibly even a bit of Jane’s characteristics!). I think you’re right and I love it. It fits with him inheriting features from his other victims like Krazy 8 and Gus.

    Like: Thumb up 3

    • Avatar of Aria Mohtadi H. says

      Thank you Jim, I appreciate it.

      Yes, among my favorites as well. Probably one of the best hours of the show.
      Absolutely; the “Fly” callback makes it even more tragic in retrospect.

      Upon the first watch I only noticed the one in Jane’s mural and this one in “Phoenix” (although it looked a little suspicious… or ragged in comparison, I guess.). But the awesome guys over at “Breaking Bad Wiki” have managed to find some more.

      Thanks, I’m glad you find that plausible.
      I guess it’s a long shot, but at this point it could fit into the metaphysical spectrum of the show as one of the few symbolic reasons behind Walt suddenly growing a goatee, as far as I can tell. Vince Gilligan has approved the purposefulness behind some of the traits which Walt takes on from his victims, mostly in Gus’ case. As far as Jane and Donald’s major qualities go, I think the duality of paternal instincts vs. reserved manipulation skills parallel Walt’s situation, particularly in this episode. But in the end, the goatee does ‘look good’ on him after all, and let’s say, fits the new commanding image he’s about to put forward from season 3 onward.

      Thanks again for reading the entry. ;)

      Like: Thumb up 1

  2. Aaronia says

    Great observations, thank you. It’s always really rewarding to read your entries, I learn a lot of new things.

    Like: Thumb up 1

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