I binge watched seasons one through four of Breaking Bad on Netflix, with this past season being the first that I actually watched in real time on Sunday nights and hashtagged my heart out with everyone else on Twitter. Before I even started my at times crushing journey into high school science teacher Walter White’s turn into Heisenberg, I specifically remember TV Hangover’s own Pilot mentioning the uncontrollable and incredible emotions that she felt for Jesse Pinkman. When I finally began season one I was excited at the prospect of no longer be an outsider looking in. I tend to be a feeler. I cry a lot and mostly at things that don’t matter and I expected my irrational emotions to translate to my feelings towards Jesse, and then was so disappointed when they didn’t in seasons 1 and 2, and most of season 3. I wondered why people liked this kind of sad, pathetic, meth addict so much and failed to see his redeeming qualities. I couldn’t get to the point where I felt as though I understood him, or anyone on Breaking Bad for that matter. Perhaps it’s because I binge watched and didn’t allow myself enough time to ruminate on these people and form relationships with any of them. Or maybe it’s simply because Jesse Pinkman is the culmination of every dude I dated from ages 22 through 24 and I had formed a barrier that kept me from giving a shit because that’s a long hard road, y’all. It makes perfect sense then that my favorite episode of Breaking Bad is the one in which I finally felt those feelings for who I now refer to as my sweet, sweet Jesse.
The season three finale was my point of no return. Full Measure so perfectly encapsulates the complexity of the members of Gustavo Fring’s handpicked inner circle to his drug empire that I couldn’t tell if I loved or hated these people for the entire hour. The episode opens with Walter and Skyler house hunting while Skyler is visibly pregnant with their first child. Skyler thinks that the house would be good for them and is just what they need at that point in their lives; Walter doesn’t think it’s good enough. It’s a simple scene, and on its own paints Walter as only an ambitious soon-to-be father with big dreams for himself and his family. But we know who Walter is now, and his stubbornness and insistence that they deserve better shows that this is who he has been all along – someone for whom good is never good enough. We know that he loses this battle, as it’s the house the family continues to live in and have yet to upgrade from despite Walter’s visions for their future. Practically speaking, Walter is exactly where he was almost 16 years ago and this makes him literally fucking crazy. Yet he has managed to hide this rage from his family, who more or less pity him as a humble teacher with a gambling problem struggling to keep his family afloat. The fact that he plays both so well is part of what makes Walter so terrifying.
Gus also perfectly plays two people. He’s an evil genius whose ability to be both a charming and savvy hardworking businessman and a literal cut throat drug kingpin make him my favorite Breaking Bad character of all time. When he shows up at Gale’s apartment, nearly knocking the wind out of our sensitive meth maker whose very involvement with these people is proof that the unemployment struggle is real, Gus speaks to Gale about his own ability to run the lab. He is basically asking Gale when he can kill two of his employees as Gale awkwardly sits across from him like a school child afraid to disappoint his teacher. And we know this. We know that Gus is orchestrating Walter and Jesse’s murders and he is still so damn charming.
This same duality is also shown in both Mike and Jesse in this episode. The transition from Mike so sweetly telling his granddaughter that he always learns so much from her to using her balloons to cut the transformer outside the cartel’s place of business to set in motion the execution of a handful of men, literally leaving a pile of bodies in his path, is so precise and well, um, executed that it’s clear to me that you can be both a trained killer and just the cutest gentle Pop-Pop ever. With Jesse, we want to believe that he is mostly good, but his moral compass is skewed, as appears to be the case with most of our leading men. We’re in this mess because Jesse believes that using children in your drug business is wrong, but it’s not wrong to kill those who do. Despite his pro stance on murder, he does his best to convince Walter that killing Gale should be the last option on their list of ways to save themselves. Jesse doesn’t want to do it, but is ultimately forced to in the scene that breaks my goddamn heart. The moment in which Gale opens the door and then quietly begs for his life is heartbreaking. Gale and his perfectly arched eyebrows don’t deserve this and poor Jesse has crossed the invisible line that makes him every bit as bad as everyone else and he knows it.
It shouldn’t be surprising that these men are complex, multi-faceted people, as most of us tend to be the result of a number of different parts, but when you look at a group of men that are all pretty terrible it can be hard to see them as anything more than that. Really. These people are terrible. They’re in a business that damages lives, ruins families, and leaves a trail of destruction everywhere it goes. They’re vicious, self-absorbed, murdering heathens with little to no care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them and their livelihood and each of them appears to be in it more out of greed than necessity. This makes it feel, for some reason, more wrong. And here I am playing the exact same game of moral superiority that each of these terrible humans uses to justify their actions and condemn the similar actions of others. Congratulations, Vince Gilligan. I think I’m ready to break bad.
Guest Post by Ramou of Black Girls Talking.