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TV Review: ‘Breaking Bad’ – “Confessions” Are Bad for Your Soul

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What some viewers have been waiting five seasons to happen seemed on the verge of happening in episode 11, titled “Confessions.” Walt (Bryan Cranston) sits in front of a video camera and says dryly, “I am Walter Hartwell White. This is my confession.” Of course, in keeping with Breaking Bad tradition, nothing is ever what it seems, as Walt’s “confession” becomes a warped look into the twisted mind and soul of Walter White. He’s just so damned good at this breaking bad stuff that even the viewer who knows that he is lying gets almost convinced Walt is telling the truth.

The episode really revolves around three key confrontations – Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn) meet her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) and her DEA officer husband Hank (Dean Norris) in a restaurant; Walt has a father-son talk with Walter Junior (RJ Mitte), and Walt has another father-son conversation with Jesse (Aaron Paul). These are the three key scenes around which the entire episode pivots.

When Walt learns that Walter Jr. is heading over to see Marie, he calls his son back and sits him down. Walt opens up about his cancer being back, that he is fighting it, feels good about his chances, and so on. Of course, the loving son Walter Junior is now hooked, and he isn’t going anywhere. Score one for Walt.

confessions 2The scene in the restaurant features the warring family sitting down but they never manage to break bread. The conversation is indicative of the fine writing that has been a factor in every episode, but here the characters have at each other with such tempered ferocity that it is a joy to watch. If they had not been in a public place, things could have gotten very ugly. As it is it was uncivil and heated, with Marie at one point telling Walt to ‘just kill yourself.” It is amazing how her character has evolved, and she has become as protective and diabolical as her sister Skyler, but one thing about these sisters – they stand by their man.

At the end of the restaurant scene, Walt gives Hank a DVD and walks away. Of course, Hank and Marie race home to watch it. While the tape starts promisingly with Walt say it’s his “confession,” within moments he has spun the tale to implicate Hank as Heisenberg and that Walt has been merely a pawn, dragged into drug dealing because he had no choice. The expressions on Hank and Marie’s faces are no doubt meant to mirror the viewer’s, but in truth Walter’s story is so convincing, especially the part about how he paid all of Hank’s medical bills (over $170,000 worth). Hank knows the truth (he has missed his chance to arrest Walt and his career is over) and says to Marie, “That’s the last nail in the coffin.” Obviously, if Walt is going down he’s taking the in-laws along with him. Score another for Walt.

confessions 4While that scene is important, the even more crucial one occurs with Walt and Jesse in a remote desert location. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) has brought Jesse there to meet Walt, who now knows Jesse had been in jail, met with Hank, but was released. When Hank went into the interrogation room, Jesse had no intention of speaking to him, but Saul arrives quickly and ends things. Now, as they wait in the desert, we wonder if Walt has a gun and is going to dispatch Jesse as he has so many others.

Here there is a new Walt angle to be played. He asks Jesse to leave town and start over. It will be good for him to have a fresh start. Jesse begs Walt, “Would you just for once stop working me?” And, of course, the viewer knows how Walt has already worked his biological son and Hank that day. Here Walt goes the paternal route and hugs Jesse. More than anything Jesse has sought this fatherly connection with Walt, one he so desperately needs and wanted from Mike (Jonathan Banks) before his departure for Belize (meaning Walt killed him). Walt’s ploy works and Jesse accepts the idea of going far away. Score yet another for Walt.

confessions 6As Jesse is waiting for the person to come who will erase his identity and give him a new one, he realizes that Saul has arranged for his weed to be taken as well as the ricin cigarette. Jesse surmises that it was used to poison Brock, and he races to Saul’s office where he beats up the lawyer, takes his gun and keys, and storms out.

Saul calls Walt who goes to the car wash to get his hidden gun from the soda machine. Meanwhile, Jesse has gone to Walt’s house and has commenced pouring gasoline all over the place. The episode ends with an impending confrontation between Walt and Jesse and, as has been the case all season, we viewers are left on the edges of our seats until next week.

Perhaps the most important thing to happen in this episode is for Walt’s façade to finally crumble. He is no mild-mannered man who has been forced into doing evil things – he is the devil incarnate. Walt is willing to destroy anyone, and it is clear that Jesse may have been going off to certain death, that Hank is being left to go to prison, and that even Saul is expendable.

Walt does protect his nuclear family, but they are also paying a price. Skyler has basically sold her soul to that devil, and she is dragging her kids into damnation along with her. By siding with Walt she has discarded her sister and Hank, and basically figures that she will sink or swim with Walt. The problem is she is treading water near Scylla and Charybdis, so chances are the outcome is not going to be pretty.

With five episodes to go we are getting the best we could possible expect from series creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan, from an amazing cast, and powerful stories from terrific writers. As we imagine what will transpire when Jesse and Walt collide next week, it seems to me that there can only be one outcome – the surrogate father will be mourning his wayward son.

Photo credits: AMC

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.