“Phoenix” marked the fateful encounter of Walt and Donald as we saw two fathers contemplating on looking after their respective children in a seemingly casual bit of conversation of dramatic proportions. Fateful perhaps in influencing Walt’s decision to pay Jesse yet another visit, leading to Jane’s untimely death, forever maiming Donald. As the shadow of karma looms over the joyfully-enjoying-online-charity Whites (!) in this episode, we see more parallels between these two concerned dads whose lives get entangled beyond any solid semblance of reason (see 3.10 where Walt reminisces about the moment). “I expect you on the porch, bag packed, ready to go.” Tragically enough, the planned rehab trip gives place to Jane’s eternal sleep and it is Jesse who in turn ends up being taken to a top-notch rehab center by the concerned teacher/father-figure. The death of Jane and all the promises life had in store for her strikes Donald beyond recovery. Contrast the silent exchange between Donald and Jesse with their brawl in the previous episode. Are these two men indirectly victimized through Walt’s actions? We learn that Jane was born in Phoenix, which then brings us back to the phoenix lander in 2.12. But what’s the connection?
“I can drive.” Donald has lost it all, and mirroring his loss, there’s Walt who goes to save Jesse from drugging himself into oblivion. And this won’t the last time he’ll be saving his surrogate son (see 3.12 or 5.16). The blowfish no longer poses any threat (see 2.07), in fact Jesse seemed like he was pretty much on his way to becoming the next Spooge!! Luckily, despite Mike’s warnings, Walt walks past the fence to save Jesse. Now one might argue about his true intentions throughout the series, but what if Hank had a point in 5.12 after all, and Walt does actually ‘care’ for Jesse in some form despite all the darkness he nurtures inside? Is it to further keep Jesse, the perfect minion, under his thumb as he seemed to suggest in his first meeting with Gus (see 2.11)? Or does Walt hold genuine concern for this poor kid same way Jesse cared deeply for Spooge’s kid, the clear reflection of his shattered innocence?
Planes collide, as the paths of the two fathers meet in unimaginable ways. In parallel with Walt’s divine-looking salvage of Jesse from the depths of crack-hell, Donald enters Jane’s house in a sad sequence with Jane’s spirit still alive in her artworks (discussed further later on). As if Donald is just now getting to know her daughter for real. Jesse is saved, so is Walt free of cancer for now, but it all comes at the price of Skyler leaving and Donald falling as perhaps the most tragic of the victims here. Walt is advised to rest for a few weeks before getting back to work, but Donald’s already back to air traffic control: “after a certain point, time off doesn’t help.” He needs to take his mind off the tragedy, but it’s impossible to do so, and there you have the fatal error causing the air incident. Talk about the mother of all accidents. Later in 3.04 we learn that Donald has attempted suicide, which means, more weight on Walt’s conscience. Was Donald’s fate sealed from the moment he met Walt?
Is Walt Jesse’s savior or the source of his misery? In an unsettling callback to “Mandala”, we’ve got a guilt-ridden Walt desperately shaking Jesse back to life. His comforting hugs go from genuine in here to downright deceptive later in the show up until the moment where Walt himself reveals his role in Jane’s death to Jesse. Even if there was a shred of his innocence in the matter, he downright kills it with claiming the act as murder in “Ozymandias” (“I could have saved her, but I didn’t.”). On the bright side, Walt saving him in this moment of utter despair in “ABQ” and later putting him into rehab gives Jesse a second chance, lighting the path towards redemption, and leading the kid to accept responsibility for all that’s happened, even if undeservedly: Towards accepting that he’s “the bad guy” (see 3.01), one thing Walt never wants to admit (“I can’t be the bad guy.” see 3.02) , true to his signature, subconsciously self-directed justifications as in here: “You didn’t kill anybody.” Perhaps it’s Hank’s death which finally brings Walt back to his senses, just like how Jane’s death marked a great turning point in Jesse’s spiritual quest.
“How about you go on home Walter? Let me handle this.” Interestingly enough, this episode marks the introduction of Mike Ehrmantraut whose role will later on morph into a wiser, non-malicious (unlike Heisenberg) father-figure for Jesse. A development which causes Walt to hold a strong grudge against Mike, culminating in his desperate act of murder (see 5.07). Again, it seems that Heisenberg subconsciously seeks to eliminate all who attempt to take Jesse away from him, be it Mike, Jane or Gus. From the father who set out to provide for his family, Walt gradually turns into a ruthless drug lord whose courses of action leave the innocent, particularly children, victimized. And one could name Jane among the innocent ones caught in Heisenberg’s cesspool of doom. As discussed before (and later on in this entry) parallels are drawn between the newborn Holly and the doomed Jane in 2.12, leading us to conclude that after all, Jane is still the innocent daughter in the eyes of her father at least. Walt has practically let another man’s sweet daughter die.
And what to make of the pink teddy bear? There are more than a few symbolic indications to find in it, but let us stick to the first thing that comes to mind after watching it submerge: that of an innocent looking object burnt in an incident; Walt’s actions have indirectly caused something innocent to die, in its pinkest of all incarnations. Now that feels particularly relevant when you put it against the innocent Holly born in 2.12 and the death of the pretty much innocent Jane. And of course we’re no stranger to kids being victimized throughout the course of the series (kids like Drew or Brock, to name a few). More to the point, one could replace the teddy bear with a dead newborn falling from the sky right into Walt’s pool, to make the ending unnecessarily darker.
The underwater image of Walt standing above the pool is strikingly similar to that of the hazmat suit guy (see 2.04). Adding to the disturbing effect, we were shown the innocent teddy bear wrapped in evidence bag, much like a dead body, much like how Jane is sealed in a body bag. Basically, in one of the show’s biggest stretches of symbolism, out of nowhere, the token of innocence taken right of out Jane’s metaphoric mural, or the other way round, happens to land in the backyard pool of the killer of innocence.