'Breaking Bad' Episode 511 Recap: 'Confessions' Pushes Jesse Pinkman Past The Breaking Point

on August 26 2013 8:39 AM
Breaking Bad 511 Confessions
Jesse Pinkman is pushed to the breaking point in "Breaking Bad" episode 511, "Confessions." AMC
  • During last week’s cliff-hanger on “Breaking Bad,” the show hinted that Jesse might team up with Hank to take Walt down for good, but “Confessions” dispenses with that idea pretty quickly. Instead, we see that even though Jesse is finally starting to see Walt for the manipulative liar he is, he can’t turn him in, either out of some misplaced affection for his father figure or just out of a Hector Salamanca-like aversion to working with the feds. By the end of “Confessions,” though, Jesse is completely unhinged and ready to burn Walt to the ground, literally.

Throughout the season, Jesse has become increasingly disillusioned with Walt, realizing that the man he thought of as a partner and a father had been manipulating him all along. But toward the end of “Confessions,” Jesse finally realizes the full extent. He knows that Jesse poisoned Brock for a shot at killing Gus Fring, and he’s clearly lost it. As the episode closes, Jesse has snapped and begins to burn down the White residence (hopefully without Walter Jr. at home). He’s lost everything because of Walt, and he’s starting to fight back, albeit in a completely insane manner. 

It’s hard not to root for Jesse. When he first began working with his former high school teacher, he was completely lost. At first, his partnership with Walt gave him drive and purpose and a new lease on life, but as Walt continued to deteriorate, he only put Jesse into worse and worse scenarios, until we were left with the broken shell of a man in “Confessions.” Walt has destroyed dozens of lives over the course of “Breaking Bad,” but none so thoroughly as Jesse. The man is a wreck, and it’s looking increasingly less likely that Jesse will survive past the next episode or two. Nothing he does can give him peace at this point. He can only earn that in death. 

“Breaking Bad” was never a show about a man with cancer. From the very beginning, we’ve been watching the cancer that is Walter White slowly destroy the lives of everyone around him. Walt respects Jesse more than most people, and at many times in the series, Jesse is the only one truly on his side. But as “Confessions” illustrates, whatever love or compassion Walt holds for Jesse is far outweighed by his sense of cunning self-preservation.

No matter how evil Walt becomes, though, it's still always fascinating to watch him stay two steps ahead of the competition. He may be a murdering, blackmailing sociopath, but no one can deny that he’s brilliant, and one of his best moves ever comes in “Confessions.” At first, we think Walt is making a real confession video in the event that he’s killed, but as it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. In the video, Walt does confess to cooking meth — for Hank. He frames Hank as Heisenberg and ties him to every crime Walt ever committed. From this point on, Hank is paralyzed. No longer can he take legal action against Walt. 

Walt’s “confession” is shocking in its own right, but the video is especially effective as a parallel to the first episode. After his first go at making meth, Walt grabbed a video camera, identified himself, and explained to his family that everything he had done, he did for them. It was, first and foremost, a reaction to nearly being caught. Walt was shaking, nervous and desperately afraid that his reputation as a beloved family man would be tarnished, but he wanted his family to know he loved him. It was all real, panicked truth. 

Compare that to the video he made tonight. Walt sat down calmly, announced his name, and in one monologue, completely leveled Hank. It was different in every possible way, showing exactly how much Walt has changed over the past year and a half. This time, Walt didn’t wait to react. He made the first move, turning his video as a weapon, not a postscript. 

It’s hard to imagine what move Hank could possibly have at this point. He’s firmly committed to bringing Walt in by the book, but that seems impossible now, as does vigilante justice. If he comes after Walt outside of the DEA now, it will only give more credence to Walt’s lie that Hank is Heisenberg. Perhaps Hank’s next move is to sacrifice himself and bring down Walt in the process. After all, we know from the cold open that Walt’s “secret identity” becomes public knowledge, and perhaps Hank has a hand in that (of course, we also learn that Jesse is at least partially unsuccessful in burning down the White home in this flash-forward).

At the same time, I’m starting to wonder if Hank’s next move will be so important after all. The latter half of “Breaking Bad” season 5 is slowly but surely establishing that Walt’s former partners Todd and Lydia have stepped up to fill the methamphetamine-shaped hole Heisenberg left in Albuquerque. 

Where Walter always operated under some pretense of a moral code and good intentions, however, these two have neither. “Confessions” really drives that point home as Todd’s meth Nazi family comes to town to take over the business. Being the very same meth Nazis who had 10 prison inmates murdered in two minutes, it’s obvious that they’re a force to be reckoned with, and they will almost certainly come back to haunt Walt. It's anybody's guess as to how, but whatever the neo-Nazis do may end up totally eclipsing Hank and Walt's dance. After all, future Walt wasn't lugging around a heavy duty M60 machine gun just to shoot up one or two guys. Something bigger than the two of them is on the way, and it's arriving sooner than they realize. 

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