Breaking Bad, "Crawl Space": the follow Jesse rule

Quick Take: Breaking Bad, "Crawl Space"
"No one is going to prison." - Ted

breaking bad

Review: Breaking Bad, "Crawl Space"
(S0411) At its core, Breaking Bad is a show about morality. Specifically it's about the dynamic, evolutionary quality of morality. For the most part, we have watched the moral high-ground of characters erode around them as they "break bad." Recently, however, the show has shown us that morality isn't simply a one way street. Sure, Walt can start the show as a sympathetic, every-man fighting for survival, only to morph into an ego-maniacal murderer. But as "Salud" and the first half of last night's "Crawl Space" taught us, it's just as possible for a back-room dealing, mustache-twirling (metaphorically, of course), child-murder sanctioning super-villain to become the closest thing Breaking Bad has to a protagonist. Apparently, in the world of Breaking Bad -- and possibly our own world, as well -- the tides of morality, of right and wrong, are fickle ones; ready to shift course at a moment's notice.

Since Breaking Bad is just a television show, albeit a freakin’ great show, it can’t show us precisely what’s going on in any one character’s head. Breaking Bad, and every other show for that matter, has to use subtle shorthand to remind the audience who we are supposed to be rooting for at a given moment. For Breaking Bad, I have developed a pretty simple rule of thumb for determining who I should pull for. It’s called “The Follow Jesse Rule.”

Think about it. For the duration of the show, Jesse has always been the one character that nearly every fan sympathizes with. Sure, he "broke bad" just like everyone else, but that didn't stop him from being someone we root for. So if Jesse (Aaron Paul) is the constant, anyone who is allied with him at any given juncture becomes more sympathetic. When the show began, Jesse and Walt (Bryan Cranston) were partners and Walt was the show's "hero". Then Walt and Jesse began growing apart, and Walt simultaneously became less and less likable. Then Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) came around, and he became a common enemy for both Jesse and Walt. So we rooted against Gus. Maybe we didn't root against him particularly hard -- he is/was totally awesome, after all -- but I certainly didn't want him to kill Jesse and Walt. Eventually, Gus succeeded in cleaving Jesse away from Walt's influence, thus allying himself with our "golden boy" -- for lack of a better term.

All of a sudden during "Salud," Jesse, Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Gus formed their version of the Three Amigos and the audience was firmly Team Gus. If MJG (Mike, Jesse, Guss. Not to be confused with 8 Ball's rapping partner) had rode out of Mexico on a white steed and arrived directly in front of Walt's house, ready to put a bullet in the crotchety old bastard's head, would you have cheered? I know I would have. That's the power of "The Follow Jesse Rule." Gus, due to his proximity with Jesse, went from someone we were hoping would croak on a big bowl of ricin, to a person we were hoping would pull through when he actually does ingest a deadly poison.

Due to the response from last week's episode, I think it's fair to say that many viewers were with me on the Team Gus bandwagon. But were you still with Team Gus after the second half of "Crawl Space"? My answer is a definitive, "I'm not sure." After Gus and Jesse make it back to the States in one piece, Jesse makes a final plea on Walt's behalf. "Let Mr. White go. Pay him off or fire him. Don't kill him," he begs Gus. And lo and behold, Gus listens.

"You are done. Fired," Gus tells Walt. But Walt -- always looking a gift horse in the mouth -- has to have the last word. "Or else you'll do what?" he responds petulantly. Well, Walter, or else Gus is going to kill your family. The idea of Skyler (Anna Gunn), Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and Baby Whatshername winding up in a barrel of acid is enough to humble Walt, and send him on a manic scamper to collect his family and "disappear" them forever. And just like that, Walt regains the moral high-ground. He's back to being a man with a singular goal: save your family. With all of the extraneous nonsense cleared away, I found myself beginning to sympathize with Walt again, for the first time in a long time. Am I still on Team Gus? He is still allied with Jesse, so "The Follow Jesse Rule" would indicate that I should be. But, I'm not sure. I'm conflicted.

By Lucas High

About the author

Lucas High is a man on a mission. That mission: to watch television for a living. Drop him a line at lhigh2@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/LucasHigh.

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3 Comments
On: Monday, September 26, 2011
Lucas High said:
I didn't have the opportunity to shoe-horn this into the review, but "Crawl Space" left me and my girlfriend with a couple of questions about Walt's finances. So we know that Walt takes home a little more than 7 million dollars a year. Is it safe to assume he has been working for Gus for about 6 months or so? If so, we can deduce that he has made at least 3 million dollars. Subtract from that the 800k they paid for the car wash and the 600k Skyler paid Ted. Your are left with a bare minimum of 1.5 million. At the end of the episode, it appeared that Walt was left with maybe a couple hundred thousand in the crawl space. So where did the rest of the money go? Sure, Hank's medical care must have been expensive, and Jr.'s kick-ass PT Cruiser probably cost a pretty penny. But we are talking about approximately 1 Million dollars in unaccounted for profits. Where it at?
On: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Bob Slydell said:
You're "not sure" whether you're on "Team Gus" or not? Really? I love Gus too, but you really have to feel for Walter at this point. Walt has become more and more unlikeable, but there is still humanity left in him. I don't know about you, but I am definitely pulling for the old prick. Sorry to hate, though. It was a good review.
On: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Lucas High said:
Bob, That's precisely the point I was trying to make. Walt has been such a prick for so long, and yet I feel myself drifting back towards his side during his darkest hour.
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