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US TV Recap

'Breaking Bad' recap: 'Say My Name'

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Season 5, episode 7

What Walter White has always wanted is notoriety. Beyond money and even beyond power, he wants that. Accepting the $5k buyout from Grey Matter wasn't just a rip-off in financial terms; it also meant that he received none of the credit for what the organisation went on to achieve, despite the veiled reference to his name contained in the word 'Grey'. Walt wants to be a man whose name people know, and in this episode's measured, knife-edge opening he finally got his wish.

But if Declan saying his name - "Heisenberg" - represents the pinnacle of achievement for Walt, then everything that came after reeked of karmic justice. Jesse abandons him, Skyler has dropped even the pretence of caring what he has to say, and while the episode ends with him decisively "winning" the long-standing feud he's had with Mike, it couldn't possibly have felt less like a victory.

Breaking Bad 507 'Say My Name'

© AMC



Much of Jonathan Banks's steadfast and minimalist performance over the past four seasons has registered so below-the-surface that it's been easy - given the slew of showier turns he's surrounded with - to overlook just how consistently strong his work has been. But this week, for the first time, Mike gets cornered, and Banks takes full, heartbreaking advantage of the opportunity to play genuine fear and vulnerability in the park, confronted as he suddenly is with the reality of never seeing his granddaughter again. And so, when Walt makes his ignorant dig about having family who depend on him, it's enough to goad Mike into initiating the long-awaited confrontation that ends up costing him his life.

The logic of quite why Mike would agree to let Walt bring him the bag didn't feel developed - it made sense that he'd refuse to let Jesse come, wanting to protect him at all costs, but trusting Walt was a stretch. But it probably came down, once again, to Mike underestimating Walt; he turns his back on him, having riled him with the very worst choice of words imaginable: "You should have known your place." If anything was going to drive Walt, who spent his downtrodden pre-Heisenberg life always knowing his place both in his work life and in his marriage, over the edge, that was it.

And if he had to go, writer-director Thomas Schnauz couldn't have dreamed up a more beautiful shot to send Mike out on. That serene, sunlit lake cut a striking visual contrast to the gruesome and graceless deaths major characters have tended to suffer on Breaking Bad - Jane suffocating on her own vomit, Gale shot through the eyeball, Gus's face being blown off - and fittingly so, for a character with such quiet, world-weary gravitas. His final words, too, could not have been more in keeping with the straight-talking, straight-shooting veteran we've come to know and often love.

Breaking Bad 507 'Say My Name'

© AMC



RIP, Mike. Add one more chalk line to the scoreboard of devastating secrets for Walt to keep from Jesse, whose earlier goodbye scene with Mike was a particularly wrenching moment in an episode full of them.

Jesse's feelings towards both Walt and the business became a little unclear by the end of last week - one minute he was glaring suspiciously at Walt whistling merrily as he worked, the next he was being seemingly won over by the Grey Matter story - but it turns out not only that he still wants out, but that he's not feeling so great about Mr White either.

At this point, Walt and Jesse have broken up and come back together more times than Ross and Rachel, and this doesn't feel remotely momentous enough to be the final split, but the scene was still one of the season's most powerful. It's a mesmerising, emotionally cruel would-be seduction; "You want it just as much as I do, and it's not wrong to want it," Walt murmurs, imploring Jesse to stay with him mere moments after he's performed a step-by-step masterclass in psychological manipulation.

Breaking Bad 507 'Say My Name'

© AMC



One moment he's the loving, encouraging teacher, telling Jesse what a great cook he is and offering him his own lab; the next he tells him he has nothing in his life and is good for nothing but cooking meth. It's maybe the most openly vicious Walt's ever been to him, at once playing on his surrogate son's insecurities and appealing to his very worst impulses. In contrast to Mike, who repeatedly tells Jesse to take care of himself and wants him out of the business once and for all, Walt has never looked like a lousier, more contemptible excuse for a father figure.

What's interesting is that the first time, Jesse seems wholly unaffected by Walt's flattery - there was a time not so long ago when all he wanted was his approval, but this week Walt repeatedly placed Jesse alongside himself in terms of cooking prowess, and Jesse wasn't buying it. It's equally astonishing to hear Walt, after all of his endless justifications and guff about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, admit that if there is a hell, he and Jesse are already going there.

His new partnership with Todd, meanwhile, can only end in disaster. It's clear that Walt wants Jesse, but he probably doesn't realise just how badly he needs him - the last thing he needs is to be in business with somebody who has even less of a moral compass than he does.

Final thoughts:

- One of the episode's first shots shows Walt absently toying with the watch Jesse gave him: the object that has always represented the emotional sway he has over Jesse, highlighted at the start of the hour which saw that sway finally begin to crumble.
- Declan uses food colouring to make his meth look like Walt's blue - and suddenly the significance of that "artificial caviar" ad that Jesse was watching in the lab last week becomes clearer.
- The television channels in Albuquerque seem to solely play classic films with thematically appropriate tie-ins for their viewers' lives – this week we have Mike watching The Big Heat as the DEA vainly search his place. Actually, he might just have stuck the DVD on as one last "F**k you" to the feds.
- Hank neglecting his managerial responsibilities in order to stay on the Fring case was predictable, but now that he's been overtly told not to play favourites, he's got a choice between deliberately flouting orders or backing off of the case. No prizes for guessing which path he takes…
- After their one-sided interaction last week, it was interesting to see Skyler and Jesse's much briefer beat here. For probably the first time in the show's history, Jesse came out of a scene looking like the lucky one – "Vámonos" is still a viable option for him, while she can only wish.

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