‘Breaking Bad’ Review: Nothing to Confess

By  · Published on August 26th, 2013

For most of “Confessions,” Walt is the eye of Hurricane Heisenberg. While everyone else around him reels and whirls and wobbles, Walt observes quietly and manipulates gently. He plots while others plotz. Now a master of concealment and Plan Bs ‐ so close to finally becoming Gus Fring ‐ he dons his best father-knows-best voice and cardigan to reassure Junior, threaten Hank, and pacify Jesse.

At least temporarily.

Only Junior is clueless enough to still fall for Walt’s act, now almost campy in its wholesomeness. After Walt serenely suggests to his teenaged son that he’s on death’s door again, he and Skyler meet with Hank and Marie to instruct the in-laws that they’re not to use his children as pawns ‐ a demand he makes while using his son as emotional ammunition: “This investigation, Hank. Do you realize what this will do to him?” When Hank challenges him to “step up, be a man, and admit what you’ve done,” Walt placidly responds, “There’s nothing to confess” before handing him his “confession” tape.

The monologue on that tape, a callback to the pilot’s opening scene, is almost hilarious in its wrongness. “If you’re watching this, I’m probably dead, murdered by my brother-in-law Hank Schrader. Hank has been building a meth empire for over a year now and using me as his chemist,” Walt weeps, before spinning his own “If I Did It” scenario of how he masterminded Fring’s death. In a line brined in irony, Walt concludes, “All I can hope is that the world will finally see this man for what he really is.”

Fascinating as Walt’s tape was to watch, I’m not sure that it would be particularly convincing to the DEA. There’s even less proof that Hank is Heisenberg than the apparently nil evidence against Walt. If Hank’s career will come to an end when (or if?) he reveals Heisenberg’s identity to his colleagues ‐ who appear to be increasingly fed up with his antisocial terseness and professional unreliability ‐ I’m not sure what Walt’s tape is going to prove other than Walt’s chessmaster-like machinations.

Indeed, the fast-forward two weeks ago showed the ploy didn’t work; Heisenberg’s actual identity will become common knowledge soon enough. Add the revelation about who paid for Hank’s medical bills, and it looks increasingly less and less like Hank will be the one to bring Heisenberg down.

At the taqueria meeting, Hank tells Walt, “You’re not going to negotiate your way out of this thing.” It’s a wonderfully telling line; Hank blusters about law and order and assumes the pose of correct protocol, while Walt, still channeling Fring, wants to come to an agreement. No one ends up with table-side guacamole.

Eschewing both the law and negotiation is Jesse, who lacks the snitching gene and, after Huell goes through his pockets, any bargaining chips. Jesse finally confronts Walt with the powerless position the latter has put him in; he now has to do what Walt says, or be offed like Mike. At their meeting, Walt gives Jesse a fatherly hug and Jesse leans into it, wanting to believe that his former chemistry teacher (and very briefly, his meth mentee!) really does care for him.

Saul and Walt scheme for Jesse to skip town, maybe to Florida, where he can “get a tan, meet the Swedish bikini team, swim with the dolphins.” At the last minute, though, Jesse realizes that Walt poisoned Brock, beats up poor Saul (with Huell passively watching it happen ‐ hope he doesn’t lose his bodyguarding gig), and prepares to torch the White residence while Walt finally prepares for action by gearing up to send Jesse to not-so-sunny Belize.

For all of Walt’s careful planning, though, he apparently forgot to give Todd the “first rule of Meth Club is you don’t talk about Meth Club” speech. Walt’s former star student is out there blabbing about how he and “Mr. White” and “Jesse” robbed several barrels of methylamine from a train, conveniently leaving out the part where he killed a kid.

Thus, the legend of Heisenberg begins.

In case you missed it, Anna Gunn wrote an op-ed in The New York Times over the weekend called “I Have a Character Issue,” though it should more accurately be called “I Have a Misogyny Issue.” In the brief piece, she expresses horror that many viewers hate Skyler for being Walt’s antagonist, a hatred that has apparently bubbled over to online threats against her: “One [AMC] post read: ‘Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?’ Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?”

It’s not a particularly nuanced view of Skyler; Gunn apparently sees Skyler as one of a “strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated [woman]” but doesn’t acknowledge the character’s more morally gray aspects, like her unwillingness to part with her husband’s drug money. But it’s an interesting read insofar as it illuminates what it must feel like to have so much vitriol directed at an actress for playing a (pretty sympathetic) character and what some fans would apparently like Skyler to be.

Related Topics: