TV Review: “Breaking Bad” Episode 7 – “Say My Name”

Written by Devin Barnes August 31, 2012

“You all know exactly who I am.”

“Say My Name” concluded in a fashion that was both inevitable and highly unexpected, a cataclysmic wrap-up to Mike’s proclamation of Walter White as a “time bomb, ticking ticking away.” Unfortunately for Mr. Ehramntraut, he was around for the “boom,” and involvement in Walter White’s crosshairs tends to end with bombings, bullets and dissolvement in barrels. But what I found most interesting was Walt’s remorse following the assassination, as if catching himself in a moment of rage and feeling shocked at what he’s capable of – and who he’s become – after the fact. He not only seeks fervent admiration, but acknowledgment of his abilities and acceptance as a human being. Mike’s ferocious rejection of Walt – indicting him as the root cause of every wrongdoing in their operation – awakened something monstrous in the formerly meek chemistry teacher. In an effort to earn the reverence, respect and fear of those around him, he’s pushed away those precious few who once professed to care for him most of all. That is the tragedy of Walter White; victimized by his own dangerous pride.

“Say My Name” begins with Mike, Walt and Jesse driving into the desert to rendezvous with a gang of meth peddlers, who Walt aims to convert into dealers for his burgeoning operation; like foot soldiers in a Napoleonic empire. He cuts Mike’s $5 million into the successful deal with these semi-reluctant allies, but conveniently forgets Jesse’s cut – yet nonetheless graciously acknowledges Jesse to be his equal, citing them both as the two greatest meth cooks in America. This raises concerns in Jesse, not reassurances – he informs Mr. White that he appreciates the kind words, but that – and he made this adamantly clear – he’s out, and is justifiably concerned about his $5 million cut. He’s also worried that Walt’s not taking him seriously. Of course, Walt believes he can manipulate Jesse back into the fold with compliments, harassment, screaming, guilt-trips and all manner of unsavoury techniques – even going to far as to deny Jesse his cut (“if there’s a hell, Jesse, we’re going there,” Walt exclaims violently) – but Jesse’s not having it. He’s out, period, end of discussion. Another former loved one (a surrogate son, no less) pushed away by Walter White; his desperate search for acceptance has been superseded by a desire to be acknowledged and respected as “the best.”

“If you’d done your job, known your place, we’d all be fine right now.”

Tensions between Walt and Mike bubble to the surface at the episode’s end, the latter blaming the former for the continuing disintegration of their meth business. “If you’d done your job, known your place, we’d all be fine right now,” Mike growls, leaving an enraged Walter struggling to maintain composure. Walt, desiring acknowledgment and acceptance from those around him, despises Mike’s refusal to respect him – nor does Mike bother to thank Walt for delivering the $5 million dollars he acquired on Mike’s behalf at the episode’s outset. The earlier moment where Walt witnesses Jesse and Mike shaking hands adds fuel to the fire: Walt yearns to be accepted as both chemistry genius and human being; he now seems incapable of forging simple friendships. He feels left out, like a bullied child segregated from his peers on the playground. And, when Mike criticizes him in that final moment, Walt’s lip quivers in abject rage, his head twisting and writhing, like a cobra preparing to strike (his eyes going dark and cold all the while, reminiscent of Gus Fring’s expressions). And strike he does.

“I’m sorry, Mike.”

“Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.”

This episode ends on a sad, poignant note for Walt, Mike and the audience alike. Walt’s apology is genuine, he is shocked at what he’s capable of doing; but it remains to be seen whether or not he regrets his actions. Mike seems oddly compliant with his own commeuppance, preferring to spend his final moments in peace by the river; Walt, horrid behaviour and hubris aside, respects this wish. With Mike’s banker getting busted by the DEA, it’s unclear what his granddaughter’s fate will be, and who will take care of her in her Grandfather’s absence. But, more importantly, one wonders where Walter will go from here. He’s pulled the trigger on the man who continually stood in his way, following Gus Fring’s death; and, in the process, committed his first cold-blooded murder. For this was not self-defense (unlike Walt’s other kills), but a moment of wanton rage – a defense of Walt’s pride and self-esteem. How will Walt cover up Mike’s murder? What would Jesse do if he found out? What will Walt do about Mike’s nine men? As always, “Breaking Bad” leaves the viewer begging for more. I can’t wait for next week.

“This all could’ve been avoided…”

Rating: 8/10

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