We all have it. The fifth episode of the 4th season of Breaking Bad (named “Shotgun”) delves deeply into minds of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman while also reminding us that delusion is a colossal character flaw that could lead to the downfall of one or both of of the main characters in a micro and macro sense.
The show starts off with Walter’s Aztek zipping in and out of traffic while we are overhearing him having a conversation with Saul Goodman and leaving, what he feels is, a final voice mail for Skyler. Walt is on his way to to the Los Pollos Hermanos in order to confront Gus (and possibly kill him) over the kidnapping of Jesse by Mike. While he is there, Mike calls him in order to try to reassure him without letting him in on the fact that Jesse and him are on a job to pick up money drops. Walter doesn’t buy it and attempts to strong arm Gus only to find out that Gus isn’t in his backroom office.
Jesse on the other hand has just as much info as Walter at this point and thinks he’s on this joyride for the sole purpose of being offed. He eventually finds out that Gus has sent him out to be with Mike to pick up money drops at different locations throughout the area. Mike gives off the perception that he doesn’t trust Jesse and doesn’t allow him to do anything while reminding him that he is nothing like the deceased Victor, who is implied to be the guy that originally helped Mike do these runs. This is just the set up to Gus’ master plan. At one of the drops, Mike leaves Jesse in the car while he goes inside an abandoned building to pick up the money. While Jesse waits in the car, a car pulls up behind him, blocking the alley. A man with a shotgun starts approaching so Jesse’s survival instincts kicks in and he puts the car in reverse, narrowly missing the man with the shotgun, hitting the driver inside the car behind him, and then speeding off. Mike comes out, witnesses it, and is dumbstruck. Afterwards, Mike is walking alongside a random New Mexican street where Jesse pulls up and picks Mike back up. Mike shows approval of Jesse by allowing him to smoke a cigarette in the car whereas he didn’t let Jesse do that earlier in the episode. All of this proves to be an elaborate ruse when Mike meets Gus in order to talk about (not really since neither of these guys talk too much) Gus’ plot. It turns out that Gus has already mapped out Jesse’s mental topography and used Jesse’s nihilist neurosis at the time, flipped it around, and made him out to have delusions of being the hero in hopes that this will start a rift in the Walter Jesse partnership. I honestly found this a bit hard to swallow (what if Jesse completely bought in to his post traumatic stress over killing gale and allowed himself to be killed by the guy in the shotgun?) but in Vince Gilligan, I trust.
Meanwhile, Walter lumbers on with the cook by himself. During the middle of the cook, he realizes he has to be home with Skyler in order to finalize the paperwork to purchase the car wash. After all of that, Skyler listens to Walt’s voice mail which she misinterprets as Walter admitting how much he misses her and Walter, Jr. This leads to them having sexual relations which Walter, Jr happens to stumble upon which causes Skyler to make plans for Walter to move back in with them. Walter is torn by this. Walter has wanted to move back in since he’s been kicked out. However, Walter is not elated by this at all. Walter wants to come back on his own terms and he wants to feel in control. You can tell from the scene that he feels almost emasculated by the fact that he feels Skyler is letting him 100% back in their lives instead of the other way around. As you may have noticed in the series so far, Walter’s arrogance doesn’t allow him to let other people have credit. Walter needs to feel like he’s in control and when he doesn’t, he is shaken up. This is proven again in the pen-ultimate scene of the episode. Hank talks about Gale Boetticher case and how it’s closed because he feels that Gale is Heisenberg. Walt’s arrogance shines through as he shoots down theories of Gale being a master chef and insinuating that the real Heisenberg is still out there. The episode closes with Hank wondering why a vegan like Gale would have flyer for a chicken place like Los Pollos Hermanos in his notebook.
Walter’s arrogance and delusion of grandeur will eventually lead to his downfall by the end of the series. If Walter allowed Gale to take credit for being Heisenberg, the case would’ve been closed and no one would be on his and Gus’ trail. However, Walter cannot allow anyone to take credit for his magnum opus, the purest meth known to man. This is Walter’s and Walter’s alone. In his mind, he is the author and there is no need for a bibliography because everything came from him and there is no need to let anyone think differently. Skyler forcing Walter’s hand to move back in with his family is also an important aspect to look at when observing the cracks of Walter’s delusion. During the whole series, Walter created this notion that everything he was doing, he was doing it because of how much he cared for his family and those closest to him (Jesse). When Walter showed trepidation when Skyler asked him to come back, it showed this isn’t completely the case. Walter has his own selfish reasons for still cooking. Now, Gus and Mike have built up a delusion within Jesse about how he’s this hero and how he’s now an important cog in Gus’ operation. Hints of a rift are already apparent as witnessed in the scene when Walter notices Jesse’s back in the lab. Is this going to be a rift that finally sets Walter and Jesse on different paths or are they going to come back together once again in order to take down Gus?