By: Paul Andreacchi and Daniel Reynolds
Jesse explained to the naïve Season 1 Walt that unexpected costs in the drug game are nothing more than ‘breakage’. Fast forward merely a year within this story and it is becoming quite clear that the cost of doing business is not limited to a few, or even just those in the criminal underworld.
The children of Breaking Bad have become the breakage in the reckless courses of action taken upon by the central adult characters. This is a new type of ‘coming-of-age’ story told in a truly tragic, and uniquely Breaking Bad, fashion.
Most obvious, Walter Jr. and Holly remain guests of the Schraders as a result of the corrosive environment created within the White household. Walt reminds his son of his authority but Walter Jr. is finally demanding the truth (instead of just demanding breakfast). Junior’s early signs of rebellion reveal an all too accurate instinct that the White family dysfunction is anything but typical. The White children are caught in the middle of two warring and criminal parents. Similarly, Lydia’s young daughter unknowingly is often moments away from an orphanage as a result of the actions of her mother within a criminal enterprise.
Then there is Jesse. Although not a typical child, the series has continually portrayed Jesse as a young man without direction and desperately seeking approval from parental figures. Like the other children of the series, Jesse is pitted between two dominating (and poisonous) personalities while becoming a source of the little morality left within his two warring father-figures.
Most importantly, the children of Breaking Bad are vital to the series by providing a core justification for nearly all the actions of the adults. Walt, Skyler, Lydia, and Mike (remember his granddaughter) all believe that murder, betrayal, and manipulation are justified because, in the end, they are “doing it for their family”. Breaking Bad, however, is slowly revealing that the ‘kids’ are much more than false justification of the crimes and complete immorality of their elders. They are being implicated in the crimes themselves and will likely feel the wrath of their guardians’ actions to an equal or even greater degree than the criminals themselves.
Some of these children, if not all, are bound to be literally orphaned (as Lydia rightfully fears for her daughter) and in a way, these parental figures have already abandoned their children. They have forced them into a life of distrust, misery, discomfort, and worst of all, of questioning whether their parents have put their own interests before the well-being of their children; the purest form of betrayal within a family.
The wandering, innocent child on the dirt bike from the opening and final scene of ‘Dead Freight’ is like any other kid in Breaking Bad. Wrong place, wrong time, with an undoubted tragic end.
Stories exploring childhood often discover that the end of innocence is near. The kids of Breaking Bad cannot comprehend the extent of guilt that their parental figures possess, and how much of that guilt, sin, and tragedy will become their inheritance.
Nothing stops this train. That’s what Walt said last week after Lydia’s possible treachery was exposed. He says they cook, so they cook. Of course, if you wanted to rob a train you’d have to stop it right? Even if it is by something as simple as parking a truck on the tracks and hoping for the best. Like the best episodes of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and crew take a seemingly impossible problem, find an unlikely yet logical solution, and then milk the situation for all the tension that it’s worth.
As with the magnet adventure, Walt loves a good caper. Their setup was simple before. Walt cooked, Jesse helped and pushed it on to the street. It was clock punching work (this was definitely the case, for a time, while working for Gus), but something has changed as of late; the limits are off. The train keeps picking up speed, and while the brakes are there, it is almost more fun for Walt to see how fast he can get this locomotive moving. While the episode implies that the initial train robbery idea is Jesse’s (love that slow zoom to his face as his ‘parents’ fight), it is clear that Walt revels in his outlaw stature.
However, the real thing that needs to be stopped now though, isn’t a train; rather, it is Walt’s mouth. You see, Walt is smart but unlike Mike (or oddly enough, Jesse) he wants, positively thirsts, for people to know. For the second time, his words have trapped him with Skyler. First, when his ‘I am the danger’ comment came back to bite him and now when his proud boasting about his manipulation of Jesse. Oh sure, when Walt is putting on an act, playing the crying husband (with Hank) or the tough mastermind (with Lydia), he can assume the role. Not saying too much, listening, calculating; able to swing down a hammer of force if need be (“Leverage? You have none”). But in those real moments, after a long day of criminality, he has to announce! Because of course, what good is it to be clever and devious enough to rob a train… if you aren’t able to tell anyone?
In a way, perhaps Walt has become like that spider in the jar. Exuding some creeping notion of menace, but ultimately aimlessly groping, trapped in a prison cell he can’t yet quite comprehend.