LJ took care of the review of Ozymandius below. But I wanted to do something we hadn’t been doing here at YBTV so far this half season: prognosticating.
I spent much of my day on Monday doing what I’m sure most of you were doing: talking with coworkers, friends and family about the gut wrenching “Ozymandius.” Let me first say that while I do think this is one of the finest hours of the Breaking Bad writer’s room, among many, many fine hours, I think so much credit for what makes this such an incredible hour of TV belong to director Rian Johnson. TV is a writers medium, but Breaking Bad might just buck that trend. The work by the incredible directors of this show, most notably Johnson, Michelle MacLaren and Gilligan himself, has set new heights in showing what is possible with television direction.
Now, on to the theorizing. In the discussions I’ve had and the thinking I’ve done on this episode, I seem to keep coming back to one thing: Scarface. Gilligan has said time and time again that his goal with this show was taking Mr. Chibs and turning him into Scarface. As I sit here today though, and I’ve seen the actions of Walter White over these last 16-17 months, I wonder if he ever was what “Mr. Chibs” represents, or has he always been Scarface, has he always been Tony Camonte or Tony Montana, just waiting to come to the surface? In the beginning, we the audience, and Walt the character, always justified his actions by saying they were “for the family.” But is that true?
At the end of episode 512, “Rabid Dog,” Jesse says to Hank that he wants to get Walt “where he really lives.” Jesse is of course speaking about Walt’s money. Walt didn’t do this so that he could send Flynn and Holly to college, despite the fact that he’s been trying to convince himself of that for all this time. But had that been his real goal, he would have stopped after he had $737,000, the exact amount he calculated would set his family at his death. Instead, Walt kept on going, earning more than 80x that amount. He didn’t do it for his family. He did it for his ego. He did it for his pride. He did it because he got screwed out of billions of dollars related to Gray Matter. And when he saw his brother-in-law with a gun to his head, he thought so highly of his money, the money he earned for his family, that he thought he would be able to buy Hank’s freedom with that money. Money is Walter White’s family. No one and nothing else, just like Tony Montana.
This brings me to my thoughts on Scarface. I keep going back to the scene in episode 503, “Hazard Pay,” with Walt watching Scarface with Flynn and Holly. Included in the scene is a stray comment by Walt, “everyone dies in this movie.” I do know that this line was an ad libbed line by Cranston on the set, and not in the script. But I still find it interesting and instructive. Not only because of the line itself, but because of the context it adds to the scene, and to Scarface the film. Tony Montana goes down in an amazing blazing glory in the famous “Say Hello to My Little Friend” scene, but I’m most struck by the scene immediately before that one.
The scene involves Tony looking for his sister, Gina. And when he goes to her house, what he finds is his partner, Manny, in a robe, opening her door. That part of the scene is not necessarily relevant, but I wanted to set the stage. What comes next though, is what I believe to be instructive. After seeing Manny in that compromising position, Tony kills Manny. Manny was Tony’s best friend, and business partner in the drug trade.
So if everyone dies in the end of Scarface, and Tony kills his best friend and business partner, what does that mean for our hero, Jesse? Today (and I make no guarantees past today with this show), I think it means that the show might end with Walt killing Jesse as Walt starts down his own blazing glory, much as Tony Montana did. I know we all want to believe that Walt is coming back to ABQ to “rescue” Jesse from the Nazi’s, and maybe that is still true, but (1) even if he comes back to save Jesse, that doesn’t mean the circumstances can’t change once he gets there, and (2) given the state of the Walt/Jesse relationship, and the confessions about Jane we just witnessed, doesn’t it seem unlikely that Walt would be trying to save Jesse? He does blame Hank’s death on Jesse after all, right?
If Gilligan really is taking this meek, quiet, whipped husband and man from being Mr. Chibs to Scarface, I believe we have to look to the source material for guidance. I could go on for probably about another 2,000 words comparing the arcs of Tony Montana to Walter White, but I think I’ll leave it at this for now, because, let’s just be honest, none of us can see what Gilligan has coming.