Walter White’s ego has been on the rise for quite sometime now. Finally checked, is the moment where he starts to break?
A thrilling episode with a gut-wrenching conclusion, “Say My Name” offered more heartbreak than an early 2000’s R&B song about a cheating significant other. As per many of the installments this season, it didn’t take too long to arrive at the episode’s origin; the conclusion of Walt’s lecture to the ‘Zona meth crew, jam-packed with an obscene amount of condescension, proved to be just the tip of the iceberg in an episode that featured Walter as the dick boss whose self-assumed power ends up being his greatest downfall. Walt ultimately wins out through a combination of charismatic persuasiveness, logic, and and eerie sense of “you don’t want to f*ck with me” bravado, but also assures his down demise. Because Walt, the epitome of someone consumed by his own legend, makes perhaps the greatest mistake made by tyrants everywhere--he affirms that he’s at his peak. Yes “Greatest Meth Cook in America” is certainly impressive on some level, but by asserting he’s reached the top of his game, Walter inadvertently ensures that he only has one place to go. Gulp indeed.
Following Walt’s decision to keep the business alive (and disregard Jesse’s wishes), he’s confronted by an Ehrmantraut with two feet out the door. Mike lays out the terms of the severance package, to which Walt has no choice but to agree with. Heisenberg is noticeably irked by what he feels to be a lack of appreciation on Mike’s part (an important theme), though this isn’t as much as a conflict point than a sad reality of what Walter has turned himself into. Similar themes carry over to the car wash, though they’re ultimately overshadowed by the continuation of the Pinkman/Skyler chronicles--the tragic story of two people who are unknowingly on the same team, but will forever be separated by their differing opinions on frozen green beans.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the lawyer for the other nine, whose presence in the episode seems to only offer a catalytic function. While I’m not here to criticize any decisions made, the sudden insertion of a relatively important player certainly threw off the pace of an episode that appeared to be progressing towards something mostly based on where the series has been coming from. Regardless, the non-Saul lawyer helps us discover what Mike’s doing with all his loot, further confirming that his path to retirement is now irreversible. During the search of his house, the lack of fire from Mike is almost saddening--he’s given up, and he’s can’t even muster up enough life in that damaged body of his for a resounding “f*ck the DEA” swan song.
We then move to a vintage Walt and Jesse faceoff. We’re at the point where scenes between these two continue to outdo themselves, each of them being more meaningful and important than the next. Heisenberg’s initial strategy of tacit force fails miserably on the fully matured Jesse Pinkman, who's progressed well beyond the stage of student. Jesse’s ability to stand his ground here shows that the two are equals, despite Walt’s psychological need to maintain a superior position to his “student.” Walt, always priding himself on his uncompromising sense of purpose, completely reverses the roles from earlier in the series. Believe it or not, there was one point where Jesse was the f*ck up for voluntarily doing the meth thang. Oh, how the times have changed.
The episode then progresses in deliberate fashion--Hank gets some very Wire-esque advice from his boss (it’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about adhering to bureaucratic ignominy), new cook Todd still appears to be playing some strange variety of charades (I'm pretending like I'm useless, but BOY you couldn't be more wrong), and Skyler hates Walt more than Vince Gilligan hates filming their scenes with any resemblance of light. The interaction provides a nice segue into a Walt crying but actually bugging Hank (an act that can't be going on for too much longer), conveniently positioning Walter for some Class A eavesdropping--they’ve got the lawyer to flip, and it’s conclusive that Mike’s days are now numbered.
Mike proceeds to do some vintage Mike sh*t, shaking off his now insanely hostile tails. Note that what he once did with effortless ease, he now appears to be struggling with. His half-plea half-demand to “the brain trust” showed us that he’s still the same old Mike (always knows what’s up, what the right decision is), but his lack of independence is strongly reminiscent of someone way past his prime, a-la a flamethrower pitcher who can no longer hit 90.
The final “standoff” with Walt, a clear tipping point in the series, managed to stay true to the overall Walter/Mike relationship. Despite vehemently disagreeing on very fundamental issues (Mike not wanting Walter’s ego to run the show, Walter’s ego not wanting anything else but Walter’s ego to run the show), they both clearly achieved a major level of mutual respect. The way everything ends is very fitting--Mike appears to win out ideologically, but an old-age brain fart leaves him victim to the Heisenberg. Heisenberg then, makes a fatal, self-important choice that’s essentially a product of Mike not saying “thank you.”
Mike, despite going out with a whimper, ultimately gets a last laugh--by telling Walt to “Shut the f*ck up and let him die in peace,” he will always remain an unwilling participant in the Heisenberg Dynasty. Mike’s refusal to acknowledge that Walt has achieved an Empire of Greatness, a clear compromisation of the legend and legacy Walt has worked so hard to build, will likely haunt Heisenberg for the remainder of his days. And because of that, Mike managed to go out in true form--secretly with a bang.
Jesse Pinkman “Bitch” Count: Yet another tremendous acting performance, but yet another goose egg. Playing out his own Bildungsroman, is he on to bigger and better things that rampant “bitch” utterances? Let’s hope not
- Episode: 0
- Season: 3
Random Observation(s) of the Night:
- Another episode devoid of Walter Jr. If he’s going to play a role, it’s gonna have to become clear pretty soon. For a brooding, unwanted teenager, could it possibly become clear as crystal? A haunting possibility, but suddenly not far-fetched.
- We’re reaching the point where loose ends need to be tied up, otherwise they won’t be. Have we seen the last of Badger and Skinny Pete? Will Marie have some sort of darkhorse role we haven’t realized? What about Beneke?
- TODD. He’s there for a reason. While it may be easy to forget about him, maybe that’s the point.
- The cancer? Didn’t this whole thing start because Walter had cancer? Hello?
Relationship to Watch: Walt vs. Empire Building: The business cycle has nowhere to go but down. Mike biting the dust made it official, but as previously stated, it was the episode’s intro that really confirmed what will be an inevitable plummet. First Rome, then the British, and now Heisenberg. If we’re ever going to reach the hapless Walt introduced in the season opener, then this whole Mike fiasco has to be the thing that reintroduces him to reality. Ultimately, Mike's death will be demonstrate to Walter that larger-than-life greatness, however powerful in the moment, is merely a function of time. As a great motivator once said, “remember that life is so very fragile. That we are all vulnerable. That we will all, at some point in our lives...fall. We will all fall.”
Heisenberg, you’re on the clock.