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A better ending?

I just posted the following on Nick CR’s excellent BB blog, Tucker’s Hole (tuckershole.wordpress.com):

Vince Gilligan, a cool guy from what I can tell, and indisputably a great writer, did what he set out to do: tell the story of Walter White going from Mr. Chips to Scarface. Ending “Felina” with the “Special Love” song and Walt dying with a smile on his face was perfectly in tone with the arc of the series as a whole, and — along with Jesse getting away and Flynn probably going to get $10 million soon — gave us as happy an ending as possible. If you think about it outside the context of the show, however, it’s a bit ridiculous — and very sad — that Walt loved the blue meth and his ability to make it more than anything else in life. Especially since so many people died and suffered for that self-involved, egoistic love.

I can think of a much better ending. When Gilligan and company saw what good actors Dean Norris and — especially — Aaron Paul were, they expanded the characters of Hank and Jesse. I think they should have gone even further in this direction, especially in Jesse’s case, in the last season. I would have liked very much to have seen Jesse take the maturity and agency he was developing under Gus and Mike’s tutelage and apply it to his relationship with Walt and meth-making. We could have seen him decide to work with Hank rather than come to it accidentally in the midst of an unreasoning, drug-assisted tantrum. It would have been interesting to have seen the two of them develop a relationship and come to respect each other.

I would have had Hank die much as he did, and then Jesse carry on alone as the “good guy,” perhaps still being being taken prisoner by the Nazis, but not having to be rescued by Walt — maybe even taking Walt — as well as the Nazis — down in the end. Todd, Lydia, and the Nazis were pretty boring villains to go on so long, so another possibility would have been for Jesse to have escaped from the desert shootout and then gone to the DEA.

As you can probably tell, I cared much more about Jesse than I did about Walt, who I saw as pitifully limited, essentially cowardly, and not deserving to tie up all his loose ends and die a good death. Aaron Paul has said he thinks Jesse may have deserved everything that happened to him, but I disagree. He’s young and redeemable and could have had a good life with Brock and Andrea, leaving at least one happy young family at the end. That’s all Jesse truly wanted — connection and family, and I wanted to see him get it, not through luck, but through his own efforts. I thought Andrea’s death was completely gratuitous, Jesse’s suffering excessive, and his lack of character development disappointing.

I still voted that I was satisfied with the ending, because it was good in its way, but I think a better ending was possible.

 

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Season 4, episode 6: “Cornered”

Breaking Bad, 4-6: “Cornered”

Opener

Again, we start with blue breath. Two men in black knit caps are on guard in one of Gus’s trucks, lined with Pollos buckets. Again, there’s a sudden stop, and – pop! – the driver is shot. The two men raise their automatic rifles, but meanwhile, outside, a black dryer-type tube is put in place that pumps carbon monoxide from the truck’s exhaust into the trailer. Other men put a lock on the door and a brick on the accelerator. The three men stand around eating a sandwich, chips, and an apple from the dead driver’s lunchbox as the men inside the trailer try to break out. Coughing, they shoot air holes in the trailer door.

Finally, after they’re sure the guards in the truck are dead, the outside men – obviously, from the cartel – open the door. One of them uses a special scanner to highlight a fluorescent mark on one of the buckets.

Scene 1: Casa Blanca

There’s a picture of Gale on Skyler’s laptop as she twice listens to Walt’s last phone message.

He wishes her good morning when she brings a mug of coffee to him in the bedroom. “Afternoon,” she says.

“Really – Jesus! You shouldn’t have let me sleep so long!”

“You needed it.”

Still wearing the dark pants and dark red shirt he wore to dinner at Hank and Marie’s the previous night, Walt sits on the edge of the bed. “I don’t even know what I might have said or done last night…”

“Did you know this Gale Boetticher person?”

“My God, exactly what did I say last night?”

“Just enough. Did you work together? Who killed him? Was it the people you work for?”

“Definitely not.”

“Was it somebody who at some point might want to do the same to you?”

“No.”

Skyler sits down beside Walt, and says, “I think I know what happened last night.”

“What happened last night was I drank too much wine.”

“You told Hank that the man he was looking for might still be out there – that it might not be this Boetticher after all. And I was up all night wondering why you might say that to him.”

“I was drunk, Skyler.”

“But then I remembered your black eye – the business disagreement you didn’t want to talk about…”

“Skyler, I don’t want to talk about any of this, ever. Firewall, all right? Church and state. That’s how we need to approach this thing.”

“And then I remembered the message you left me the other day – when you said you loved me. Walt, I think you’re scared. I think that message was a kind of goodbye, and I think last night was a cry for help.”

“Oh, Jesus…”

“I think some part of you wants Hank to catch you.”

“That’s it, exactly – you’re like Dr. Joyce Brothers here!”

“If he caught you, at least all this would be over.”

“Yes, that’s a tremendous weight just lifted off me. Now I understand myself. Thank you!”

“Walt, I’ve said it before – if you are in danger, we go to the police.”

“I do not want to hear about the police!”

“I do not say that lightly. I know what it could do to this family. But if it’s the only real choice we have – if it’s either that, or you getting shot when you open your front door…You are not some hardened criminal, Walt! You are in over your head. That’s what we tell them. That’s the truth!”

“It’s not the truth.”

“Of course, it is. A schoolteacher with cancer, desperate for money, unable to even quit…You told me that yourself, Walt. Jesus, what was I thinking? Walt, please! Let’s both stop trying to justify this thing, and admit you’re in danger.”

Walt’s tried straight objection, sarcasm, even some vehemence, and nothing’s deterred his clear-seeing, mother bear of a wife from the course she’s on. Now he brings out the big guns of his newfound powerful masculinity (as he sees it). “Who are you talking to right now?” he demands, advancing on Skyler. “Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make in a year? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. You know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going in to work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up. Disappears. It ceases to exist without me. No – you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to. So, let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens this door and gets shot, and you think that is me. No. I am the one who knocks!”

Walt goes into the master bathroom and shuts the door. We see him taking a shower, then coming out, a towel wrapped around his waist. “Look – I was – ” he starts to say, but Skyler’s no longer there. He looks down the empty hallway. “Skyler?” Her car’s gone.

Scene 2: next day at the car wash

Bogdan reminds Walt he’s getting the car wash “as is.” Then he says, “So, you’re the boss now…You think you’re ready? Being boss is not easy…The important thing is to be tough – to make cashiers wipe down cars. Can you be tough, Walter? I’m sure you can handle. And, if not, you can always call your wife…As is…” He hands Walt the key, then surveys his wall-hung air fresheners. “Who’d have thought that…many years…almost forgot.” He takes his framed first dollar earned off the wall.

“As is, Bogdan,” Walt says, holding out his hand. After Bogdan leaves, Walt breaks the glass in the frame and uses the dollar to buy a can of soda from the machine.

Scene 3: dinner at Mike’s café

Mike’s having dinner, Jesse just coffee, as country music plays in the background. Jesse’s hand shakes violently as he stirs his coffee. He wraps both his hands around the mug to lift it.

“You okay there?” Mike asks.

“I’m fine. Just not using is…”

Mike pushes his plate of food across the table. “Eat somethin’.” Jesse starts eating, as Mike’s phone vibrates. “Yeah? That’s both of ’em. I’m on my way.”

“You need any help?”

“No,” Mike answers, putting money on the table. Jesse has a new dad, one who perhaps cares more about him than the other one.

Scene 4: Casa Blanca, a car lot

Walt and Junior are having breakfast, Walt wearing black pants and a salmon colored shirt. “What did she say?” Walt asks.

“Asked if I was okay and not to worry.”

“Is there a rough timetable as to when she’s coming home?”

“It’s about the gambling, right? She can’t understand – it’s not like you’re doing this to hurt her…You can’t help it.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Look – you have a disease. It’s like you’re an alcoholic, right? I read it online. She’s not even allowed to be mad at you. She can’t be mad about the cancer, can she?”

“Those are two very different things. It’s not a disease – it’s choices I’ve made and stand by.”

Later, in the car, Junior says, “You’re not movin’ back, are you?”

“No…Hey, know what? School can wait.”

Walt drives to a car lot, where he says, “I think it’s time we got you your own car. What do you think?”

“I think if you’re going to buy me off, buy me off!” Junior answers, grinning.

Walt buys Junior a flashy red Dodge Challenger, which we see parked in the Whites’ driveway to comments of “Wow…amazing…good lookin'” from Walt and his son. “Glad you like it,” Walt says.

“I do – thank you, Dad.”

Scene 5: the lab

Jesse’s leaning on his car, smoking a cigarette, when Walt arrives at the laundry/lab. “So, you’re here,” Walt says.

“Yeah.”

“You’re not here – for work…”

“Yeah, man. Jesus.”

“Jesse! Come here…” Walt urges Jesse to move to a more private spot. “I need an update about these little field trips you’ve been taking with Mike.”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with you. We just drive around, check on things, pick up money, stuff like that.”

“And you’re his bodyguard, right?”

“I said I guarded him. Like backup. Like a second set of eyes. Everybody needs backup, right?”

Both men are dressed in black, as they stand confronting each other.

“It has to be you,” Walt continues. “It can’t be Tyrus, or any of a couple of dozen muscle heads that Gus has working for him. It has to be Jesse Pinkman. Why? Is there something about you that I don’t know? Are you a former Navy Seal? Do you have to have your hands registered as lethal weapons?”

“Register this,” Jesse says, giving Walt the finger and turning to go.

“All I’m saying is, do you really believe you mean anything to these people? And I’m not trying to be insulting. I’m just trying to make you see things clearly.”

“I see that they don’t want to kill me, but they don’t like me getting high. I see that this probably started as Gus getting Mike to babysit me. But you know what? I saved Mike from getting robbed. Even killed maybe. So, maybe I’m not such a loser after all.”

“What if it’s just a set-up? What if this robbery wasn’t even real?”

“You are such an asshole.”

“Like you said, Gus can’t kill you, because of me. He knows I won’t stand for it. He needs me, and he hates the fact that he needs me. So, what does he do? He goes to work driving a wedge between you and me.”

“You’re an asshole. If you’d been there, you’d know it wasn’t a set-up.”

“Wait a minute. How long did those guys chase you? The way you describe it, they gave up pretty damn easy. No, this whole thing – it’s all about me.”

Jesse gives Walt a long, disgusted look, then turns and walks away.

A few minutes later, the lab phone rings for Jesse, who says, “Yeah, I’ll be right up.”

“What?” Walt asks.

“I gotta go.”

“What? Am I supposed to clean all this on my own? Hey!”

Walt takes off his protective gear, dresses, and goes up to the laundry, where he uses broken Spanish to convince three Honduran ladies to clean for him for two hours. Still in his street clothes, Walt sits back and drinks coffee, lifting his mug to the camera.

Scene 6: the Four Corners

Skyler, not knowing what to do, has taken Holly to the Four Corners National Monument, the place where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado come together. She sets the baby, in her mouse-eared pink hoodie, down in her car seat on New Mexico, and tosses a coin. It lands, heads up, on Colorado. Still unsure, Skyler tosses the coin again, with the same result. She looks at Holly, and pushes the coin with her foot back into New Mexico.

Scene 7: a tweaker house

Mike parks his anonymous light blue car in a poor Albuquerque neighborhood, and Jesse asks, “What’s the deal?”

“The deal is we’re watching that house.”

“What for?”

“A little birdie told me there are some guys in there that have three pounds of our product, which they sure as hell didn’t get from us. We’re going to wait till somebody comes out.”

“Why don’t we just pistol whip those bitches and show ’em who’s boss?”

“Meth heads are unpredictable. I don’t care for unpredictable. So we wait. Sorry to burst your bubble, kid, but that’s 90% of the job.”

Declining a pimento cheese sandwich, Jesse gets out of the car. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Mike says. “Where you goin’?”

“You said they’re sellin’, right? Maybe I’m lookin’ to buy.” He goes and knocks on the metal-grilled door.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m here to buy.” Someone is shouting in the background.

“Answer the question.”

“My name’s Diesel. You maybe got some of the blue?”

“We don’t sell to strangers. Get off the porch, asshole!”

“Tucker!” comes the voice from the back of the house. “You shut the door!” The door shuts.

Back in the car, Mike wipes his mouth and takes a sip of coffee from a Styrofoam cup. “Guess we’ll go with Plan A then.”

“Pop the trunk, wouldja?”

“Why?”

“There’s somethin’ in there I need.”

“And what would that be?”

“I’m getting those pricks outta that house.”

“Oh, your first attempt being such a wild success.”

“You may know this whole P.I.-sit-in-the-car business, but I know meth heads,” Jesse says, getting out of the car. Mike pops the trunk, and Jesse gets the shovel, goes to the house’s dirt front yard, and starts digging a hole.

Tucker comes out. “What are you doing?”

“Digging.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

“How deep are you going?”

“I don’t know. How deep do you think it is?”

“Pretty deep.”

“Hey – you mind takin’ over for a minute?”

“Sure.”

“Mind if I use your john?” Jesse goes into the usual trashed tweaker interior.

The same voice calls, “Tucker!” three times, then, “Who the hell are you?” The second tweaker, wearing only a pair of jeans, has a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“It’s cool,” Jesse tells him. “I’m a friend of Tucker’s.”

“What do you want?”

“Uh,” Jesse says, spotting the Pollos bucket on the table, “I just want to buy some of the blue.”

“It’s not for sale.”

“I know you were sellin’ earlier, so…”

“Yeah? How you know that?”

“Tucker told me.”

“Tucker needs to learn to keep his damn mouth shut. Tucker! Tucker!”

“So, ah, you gonna hook me up?”

“I’ve had enough of Tucker’s asshole friends. Tucker!”

Jesse stands just inside the entrance to the room. “I think he’s outside. Want to just go outside?”

“Tucker! Tucker!”

“Hey…hey…Let’s go find Tucker. Let’s go outside.”

The guy, who has sores on his face and metal teeth, comes up to Jesse, rifle pointed at him. “I don’t have enough for you!”

“Yeah – yeah – I get it. I don’t want to start any trouble.”

“Trouble? Trouble? What’s that mean – trouble?”

Jesse has his hands up. “We’re cool – we’re good!”

“You can’t know that! What does that mean? Don’t put thoughts in my head!”

The guy’s distracted by seeing Mike come up behind Jesse, and Jesse hits him in the head with a glass object and grabs the rifle. As Jesse pants and the guy moans, Mike sees the cartel’s message, written on the lid of the Pollos bucket: “Estas listo para platicar?” (“Are you ready to talk?”)

Outside, Tucker’s still digging, up to his knees in the hole.

Scene 8: the laundry, Mike’s café

Walt’s saying thanks and goodbye to the Honduran ladies, and giving them the rest of their money, when Tyrus says to the women, “Ven conmigo ahora.”

“Where are you taking them?” Walt asks.

“I’m putting them on the bus.”

“Why? What bus?”

“The one that takes them back to Honduras.”

“Hey, wait a minute! This was my idea! Tell Gus to blame me, not them!”

“He does.”

Mike and Jesse are eating dinner at Mike’s diner when Gus appears, saying, “We won’t be long,” Jesse goes outside.

Mike tells Gus, “The crew that hit our truck gave away the cargo to a couple of local nobodies, without keeping anything for themselves. It was all about sending a message. Which they did, literally. It was written on the bucket lid: ‘Ready to talk?’ I know you’re not really asking for advice, but let me hire ten to fifteen more good operators, and we hit ’em back, hit ’em hard, hit ’em where they live.”

“No. This war stays cold for now.”

“What about their message? What’s the answer?”

“Set up a meeting. Let’s see what they have to say. How did he do today?”

Gus, dressed in black, comes out of the restaurant, and says to Jesse, “I hear you can handle yourself.”

“I guess.”

“Goodnight.”

“Hey, excuse me – why me?”

“I like to think I can see things in people.”

Scene 9: Casa Blanca

Skyler pulls into the driveway beside Junior’s new car. Inside, Walt and Junior are eating dinner.

“Mom!”

“Hey, sweetheart!”

“Did you see what’s in the driveway?”

“Yeah, I saw. So, that’s yours, huh?”

“Yeah, Dad got it for me.”

“Well, that was certainly nice of him.”

“The car is super safe, and I’m going to drive at the speed limit or below. It gets great gas mileage, too. Okay, if I take it around the block?”

“Yeah, just around the block, and be careful.”

“It’s great to have you home, Mom!” Junior leaves.

Skyler clears the dinner table, as Walt stands beside Holly, on the floor in her car seat. “I guess we should talk,” he says.

“Well, I think you said plenty the other day…Did you get the car wash keys?”

“Yes…Skyler, I may have overstated things earlier, but I need you to understand that you are safe – you, Junior, Holly. Everything that I do, I do it to protect this family.”

“So, buying that car – that was protecting your family?”

“Okay – maybe it’s a little flashy, but he needed a car. And I’m his father, and I should be able to get what he wants.”

“It goes back. Tomorrow.”

“Skyler, it will crush him.”

“That car directly contradicts our story. And, if you’re so invested in protecting this family, it means protecting the story.”

“I wanted to do something nice for our son…I just worry that he’ll blame you for this.”

“Oh, he will. Once again, he’ll blame his bitch mother for taking away what his loving father has given him. So – thanks for that. But you know what, Walt? Someone has to protect this family from the man that protects this family.”

Walt looks completely deflated, as Skyler takes Holly back to the bedroom.

 

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