Season 2 Summary
After Walt and Jesse witness Tuco’s murder of his henchman, No Doz, they become worried that he might try to kill them. Jesse buys a gun to kill Tuco at their next drug meet, but Walt convinces him that it would be better to poison Tuco with ricin that they make in Jesse’s basement. Tuco beats them to the punch though. He commandeers Jesse’s car, with Jesse as the driver, when he tries to leave town, then tricks Walt into coming outside his house, where he’s forced into the car as well. The two end up as prisoners at the rural home of Tuco’s uncle, Hector Salamanca. Tio, a longtime criminal and former drug lord, is now a stroke victim who can only communicate via his bell.
Tuco wants to take Walt – and Jesse, if he’s lucky – to Mexico when his cousins arrive, but before that can happen, the men fight outside the house. Tuco’s gut-shot and Walt and Jesse hiding when Hank arrives, looking for Jesse in connection with Walt’s disappearance. Hank kills Tuco, a wanted criminal, in a shoot-out, and Walt and Jesse trek across the desert to the nearest road. They get back to Albuquerque separately, and Walt pretends to have been in a fugue state for three days, while Jesse says he’s been shacked up with a prostitute. This lands Walt in the hospital and Jesse in a DEA holding cell, where he realizes that Hank has confiscated the drug money that was in his car.
After they’re released, each struggles with his family. Walt’s wife and son are estranged from him, because of what he’s put them through and their sense that he’s lying. Jesse’s parents take legal action to evict him from his aunt’s house, and, with little money and no friends who’ll shelter him, he goes through an ordeal at the repair lot where the RV is hidden, finally “stealing” it. He repeatedly insists that Walt should give him half his money, and, after berating him and getting into a physical fight with him, Walt relents.
Walt’s finished his chemotherapy and has a lot of hospital bills. Hank, secretly suffering from post-traumatic stress, has been promoted. He’s sent to El Paso, where the Mexican drug cartel kills a DEA informant and a federale, and injures several agents in an IED attack.
Having forced Marie to apologize for almost getting her arrested, Skyler only has one relative – her husband – lying to her about his illegal activities. Relations between Walt and Skyler and between Walt and Jesse are strained, as Walt feels he’s losing control of both his wife and his partner-in-crime.
Jesse pays for the RV repairs and storage, buys a new, more modest car, and rents a nice little apartment. More assertive with Walt, whom he calls “Walt” for the first and only time, he has his friends sell the meth he and Walt cook in the RV. Walt gives Jesse his gun back, and says, “handle it” when a tweaker couple mugs one of Jesse’s dealers. Jesse gets a reputation as a tough customer when one of the tweakers kills the other. Actually, he’s shown his tender side with their young son and is traumatized by the tweaker dad’s violent death.
Walt and Gretchen Schwartz argue about Walt’s lies, and we learn that he feels the Schwartzes unfairly ousted him from Gray Matter Technologies, leaving him a relative pauper.
Skyler gets her old job and flirtatious relationship with Ted back at Beneke. When she discovers Ted’s been cooking his books, she agrees to help him, even though this means she’ll be involved in illegal activities herself. Skyler “breaks bad” in this way, because she’s tired of feeling so isolated and envisions having an affair with Ted.
When Walt tells Jesse they should capitalize on his new thuggish image and expand their operations, he does. Soon, however, one of his friends is arrested for selling meth to an undercover cop. Jesse introduces Walt to shyster lawyer Saul Goodman, who has ties with the criminal underworld, and Goodman gets Jesse’s friend off by paying a man to go to prison as Heisenberg.
Thinking he may only have a few more weeks to live, Walt talks Jesse into going out in the desert and cooking meth for four days straight. He tells Skyler he’s visiting his mother, and she drives him to the airport, where Jesse picks him up. Walt and Jesse cook forty pounds of meth, but almost die of exposure when they discover that the RV battery is dead and they’re out of water. Thinking he’s lying on his death cot in the RV, Walt has a flash of conscience and bemoans all the lies he’s told and the fact that he’s made his family suffer. Jesse revives him and gives him the idea of making a battery out of materials they have in the RV, and they make it back to civilization. They have some horrible fights during the four days, but also experience some incredible bonding moments.
Soon after this, Walt gets supposedly good news: he’s in remission, his tumors shrunk 80%. The family celebrates, but Walt’s upset that he missed his chance to go out as a hero. Now he has to live, and he doesn’t know how to do that. He can’t go back to being the fearful Walt, and he doesn’t know how to be confident and make free choices except in the context of committing crimes and hurting people. Skyler, after a day or so, is also depressed, because she’s left with the same doubts as before about Walt’s honesty, and no longer feels they have a real relationship. This is why she’s gravitating toward Ted.
Walt shows how difficult it is for him to go on without his hoped for “redemption as a man” when he encourages his 16-year-old disabled son to drink a large quantity of liquor in a short amount of time, just to deflect the boy’s attention from his macho and truly caring uncle. Nevertheless, the boy continues to love his dad, creating a website for donations for him (which lawyer Saul ingeniously uses to launder some of Walt’s money) and giving a TV interview in which he praises Walt to the skies.
When Jesse’s friend Combo is murdered for selling drugs in another gang’s territory, Jesse’s guilt and desire for human connection lead him to hardcore drug use with his new landlady and lover, Jane, who relapses into heroin addiction. He experiences even more guilt when Jane chokes on her own vomit while under the influence of the drug, thanks to Walt’s midnight “intervention.” As if doing penance, and feeling as fatherly toward his partner as he does toward his newborn daughter, Walt rescues a desolate and suicidal Jesse from a shooting gallery and puts him in rehab.
It’s notable – and noticed by Jesse – that Walt seems unconcerned about what happens to Jesse’s friends, Badger and Combo, and, potentially, Skinny Pete. Jesse’s friends aren’t real people to Walt, who despises them – and Jesse and Jane – as drug users. This is ironic, considering that it’s drug users who’re allowing Walt to amass the fortune he thinks he needs.
Walt’s connection with Saul Goodman leads him to Gus Fring, the real drug kingpin of the area, who’s able to distribute Walt and Jesse’s “product” to several neighboring states, thus making the pair each half a million dollars. In order to make the first deal with Gus, Walt misses the sudden birth of his daughter Holly, for whom he later seems to feel real tenderness, though he also seems to think that she’ll need all the money he’s piling up, ostensibly for her, Junior, and Skyler, more than she needs a truly good father.
Another new character is introduced: Mike Ehrmentraut, an ex-cop who works for both Goodman and Fring. Mike helps Jesse prepare for the arrival of the authorities when Jane dies, and shows Walt where Jesse’s gone later that day in despair.
Throughout the course of the season, Walt and Hank have encounters in which Walt either opposes Hank (of whom he is jealous) or toys with him. Hank doesn’t believe Heisenberg has been arrested, but he still has no suspicions of Walt, his supposedly innocuous brother-in-law.
Throughout the season – in “737,” “Down,” “Over,” and “ABQ” – we see opening teasers that hint at the plane crash that Donald Margolis, Jane’s grief-stricken air-traffic-controller dad, accidentally allows to happen over the city at the end of the season. The crash is both a metaphor for the unintended consequences of Walt and Jesse’s actions and a literal consequence of them. The difference between the two men is that Walt takes no responsibility for all this collateral damage and Jesse is tormented with guilt over it.