Say My Name (S5E7)

Full disclosure! I intended to get this one done much earlier but ran into technical troubles. As I made no effort to hide earlier, I was originally watching the series from ripped files on a flash drive a buddy gave me. Since then the entire series has been released on Netflix (like, literally, they were released a day or two after I finished watching all the ones that had been given to me). Just for ease of note taking, I decided to watch the episodes through my browser with Notepad open in another window, so I could type my notes as I watched. However, I work on a very outdated desktop computer or through a pretty low quality laptop, and both of these machines have a tendency to slow down and freeze, especially if I decide I want to back up and watch something I missed. This happened several times and I got frustrated and just shut down the machines each time. I was busy the last few weeks and didn’t have the patience to deal with it.

So when I go to do this again, I’ll either borrow the DVDs from someone or stream them through a more reliable piece of hardware like my Xbox or something.

So to personal friends who were reading this and wondering why I haven’t updated, you know I’ve been busy and I apologize. To anonymous internet strangers, I’ve been busy, and hope you can forgive me, and also hope you didn’t completely give up on me ever updating again.

Anyways, in relation to my aforementioned hardware issues, I watched the first ten or so minutes of this episode like a week ago, and finished it today. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that up until the part where Walt goes to the Car Wash, he and Mike and Jesse were in the process of taking over the management of that Seth Rogen looking dude’s meth operation.

Anyways, going into the parts of the episode I’m certain I viewed and understood as correctly as I’m able to in my chronology of the program:

Mike seems like an interesting character. Another sort of foil for Walt, perhaps? An older guy with a family he’s still very much in touch with who happens to be a criminal, a very thorough and careful one, with lots of contingency plans and preparations he made in the event of his probable apprehension or execution.

One thing that only now dawns on me as I write this, was why did Mike want to have a separate lawyer when he seems so tight with Saul? Did he not entirely trust Saul? Saul apparently has sort of a reputation in the community, has ads that people see, has an unapologetically sleazy air about himself and his business, whereas Dan seems much more charming and personable. I mean I don’t know that,  the only person I’ve seen him deal with on camera is the fat old woman at the bank that he plies with baked goods, which I thought was a funny bit. This may not have been an important or interesting detail, but when he brought her the cake pops he makes a point of telling her that each one has a little face on it, followed by a close up of the little faces on the cake pops. Were any of them indicative of actual characters from the series? I looked up a screenshot and they look generic enough, there’s like a couple smiley faces and a cowboy pig, but I don’t want to conjecture here. I’m sure plenty of people who have a stronger grasp of the characters than I do have done so.

I’m trying to grasp Mike right now. Obviously he was wrapped up in the meth game. My understanding right now is that Gus Firing was once the guy running things. Mike says as much in his last confrontation with Walt, and Hank’s boss refers to the investigation as the Gus Firing case. How long ago did Walt bust up Firing’s operation, how wide ranging and complex was it, and how did the breakup of that effect the price and distribution of the drug in Breaking Bad’s Albuquerque? Obviously this is a huge plot point that I’ve only seen allusions to, one that surely means a lot more to viewers who watched the series in the correct order.

Back to Mike though. Mike seems like an okay guy as far as Walt’s criminal friends go. Sure he’s a little crotchety, but I guess I don’t blame him. From the sounds of things his role in their operation was plenty stable, and he had things worked out really well. Lots of references were made in the final episodes to Kaylee, specifically Jesse wanting to make sure she got some of Mike’s money. Mike obviously was trying to set aside a substantial sum of money for her, and apparently this is the second time his illicit money was seized. Why was he (and by extension Jesse) so concerned with getting her money? He clearly didn’t exactly plan on being around for her 18th birthday. Is he her guardian? Is she just his favorite granddaughter? Is she his only granddaughter? He seems very close to her at least, and if he was her sole guardian that would’ve been really unfortunate if he had to abandon her at the park when the police came looking for him.

Walt is… obviously a complex character. I wanted to like him, but clearly he’s not a simple hero. He’s an anti-hero, a manipulative, driven, sometimes mean guy, or at least that’s how I felt watching him talk to Jesse when Jesse was trying to tell him he wanted out. Is there something I’m not getting? It seemed to me that Walt simply didn’t want Jesse to quit. Jesse is obviously very valuable to him as a meth cook, and at the time of that conversation he didn’t know that Todd would become a comparably competent replacement in time. Was Walt maybe even a little hurt that Jesse wanted to leave him? Were his insults just him projecting his own worries about how he would carry out his business without Jesse?

In the end he had kind of an “oh crap!” look on his face right after he shot Mike and chased after him. I’m still really unsure of how, for lack of a better word, “good” of a criminal Walt is. Obviously I know he’s a talented chemist and is very good at covering his tracks and doing business, I mean how good he is at doing baseline, dirt-dude things like stealing and killing. A lot is made of his reputation as a murderer, but the finale aside, up until this episode I’ve never seen him kill anyone, and he even did sort of a lousy job shooting Mike. He looks unsure of himself any time he handles a gun, and while he got the job done with Mike, he shot him real low in the torso and Mike lived for another five minutes and walked, like, pretty far away from his car before he died, besides managing to drive it like fifty feet. A character like, I dunno, Jack or Todd, probably would’ve aimed for the head or chest, killing him instantly. Then there was Walt realizing with what sounded like genuine remorse that he didn’t need to kill Mike, and fumbling out an apology as Mike bled out. Should I have made anything of Mike having a gun in his hand but not killing Walt? Was he just too weak to do it or did he ultimately decide not to, figuring Walt wasn’t worth it or that he might’ve still been valuable to someone alive?

I’m still not clear on what Walt’s story is with Hank and Marie. I think I conjectured before that they’re asserting Skyler is an addict or had a nervous breakdown or something, and that’s why Hank and Marie are watching the kids, presumably to keep them at a safe distance while Walt stabilizes his criminal empire.

Other questions:

Who, who is this guy Todd shot? I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to that, Walt and Jesse were talking about a boy dying and I thought it was Brock at first.

What was Mike’s role in the larger meth operation that Walt dismantled?

When, why and how did Walt take over Firing’s operation, and did he have a larger reason for doing so besides Mike’s accusations of Walt’s, “pride, and [his] ego?” Was it just so he could get more money?

Random note

“Todd is so clean-cut and simple seeming even though it’s been stated he is a murderer”