- I consider this one of the major “fully charged” episodes, where the crows come home to roost and people are exposed for who they really are. The entire thing is pretty riveting and heartbreaking. It is also the perfect blend of shock, humor, outrage, and pathos. It never really breaks “tone” at all, despite meandering into all of these realms.
- Jesse is clearly marked as a guy who is genuinely “good” despite being in the drug business; you can criticize him for being in the drug business at all, but he seems incapable of hurting others even when he has the chance. He does a lot of violent posturing in order to look like a Bad Dude, but his heart just isn’t in it, and it almost costs him his life. To put it in a nutshell: He goes to murder two junkies for stealing his drugs/money and ends up feeding their kid lunch while getting pwn’ed by them because he just couldn’t actually shoot them and empathizes so deeply with the kid.
- The scenes where he’s with the little boy, who Is being entirely neglected by these two amusing but pathetic dopeheads , are just heart-wrenching. I always wonder what became of that kid. Did he get chewed up by the system, or was he in a better place regardless? The boy hadn’t yet been corrupted by his environment, but it wouldn’t take long if he didn’t get a ticket out.
- Along with Walter’s recent unaccepted (and “strings attached”) apology to Skyler and the way he abused Jesse for driving the RV out to his house, his private conversation with Gretchen here highlights the monstrosity of Walt’s inner world: The demon is fully released, and we see a bitter, hard, calculating, unforgiving pit fiend who has no vulnerability or openness by which to reach him. I don’t know how else Gretchen could have played that scene and achieved any in-roads with Walt, she was in a no-win situation. And this was a woman he had once loved and inexplicably walked out on (why? We never really learn). I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw this episode, when “Demon Walt” – and that’s really how he comes across, he’s about as evil as can be here, kind of who he becomes regularly by the last season – takes over and handles negotiations with Gretchen... and then ends them. Just... wow.
- Watching this episode also really complicates my feelings for Felina, the series finale, where the relationship between Gretchen and Walt is finally resolved. It’s easy to view Gretchen and Elliot as shallow in some ways when watching the last few episodes of the series; but when you go back to an episode like this one, even if Gretchen can be somewhat Pollyanna-ish, it’s a reminder that she actually does have some depth and that Walt actually did wrong her greatly in a few different ways and she was very much one of his strongest supporters for a long time. So Walt rather deserved the defection of his two friends, and his actions in the last episode are again another sign of Walt’s negative qualities rather than an amusing way for him to even things up and achieve his long-term goals. He's still causing damage to the people in his life, even that late in the game.
- Again, another sign of Walt’s unstoppable decline – or actually, “where he is already”: When Skyler tells him about Gretchen’s call, a normal human being (even if they had blown up at the restaurant) would have felt horrific guilt over hurting a friend like he hurt and treated Gretchen. Instead he launches into “full Grinch” mode and makes up an extreme but believable story at Gretchen’s expense in order to weave his own lies even more strongly.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Who wife
Who'd got out of bed to discuss their hard life.
She stared at the Grinch and said, "Walter White, why,
"Why is she taking her money back, why?"
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little wife," the dishonest man lied,
"I think they've gone broke and they have too much pride
"to tell us they just can't afford to keep paying.
"But it'll all be okay, I've been saying and saying."
He does it within flinching. Instead of feeling guilt, we clearly see he's just happy Gretchen has butted out of his schemes. No conscience. He’s already become the demon that walks in the skin of a man, and the rest of the series is just tearing off the costume piece by piece until the demon is always visible.
- Again, compare this to Jesse. Walt badly hurts those he loves in order to remain in control and fulfill his goals; Jesse can’t even hurt his enemies without feeling some degree of compassion for them.