Yo, Mr. Gilligan. This is my favourite scene. I’ve never heard anyone else talk about it, but I was hooked on it – watched it repeatedly and studied it. I had been waiting for Jesse Pinkman to become the man for a long time. I had watched him take that cringe-inducing slide into heroin, watched as that succubus Jane (may she rest in peace) tried to take him away from Albuquerque against his will, watched him get clean and then rip off his own parents and steal their house (yeah, that was cool) and rip off his own Narcotics Anonymous with Skinny and Badger (very cool in its own away), watched him casually snort a couple mounds of crystal off a CD before Walter White slaughtered those two gangsters with his Pontiac Aztec, and watched him murder Gale like it was nothing but also everything.
My favourite scene comes just after this, and a season opener before this. It’s before he bonds with Mike, before he wins over Gus Fring, and it’s the exact moment when Jesse and Walter switch roles forever. It’s the TSN Turning Point. It’s the start of the final fracture that leads us to where we were before Sunday, the finale (I don’t want to spoil the last ending for those who haven’t seen it) – with Walter stranded in New Hampshire with a barrel of cash, and Jesse sold to slavery under white power killers-for-hire who have just murdered the only woman he ever truly loved in a healthy way.
Suddenly, in that Denny’s, Jesse Pinkman is the man. He’s the calm one. The thoughtful one. He’s the one that gets it. Walter doesn’t. Mike doesn’t, and Mike gets everything.
Suddenly, in that Denny’s, Walter White is just another follower who hasn’t yet removed the ‘Large’ sticker from his Wal-Mart/Fruit of the Loom t-shirt. He’s the old guy without a clue. He’s the guy who tells his wife he’s the one who knocks, even though that couldn’t have been further from the truth at the time.
Jesse is the one with Andrea and Brock. He’d kill for them and only them. He loves them so much, he lets them go, because he knows they’ll die with him around. (He’s basically right.)
Walter always talks about doing everything for his family, but Jesse’s the only lover in the group, and Gus and Mike come to see it. He’s the loyal one. He’s the one who isn’t controlled by money, greed, or jealousy, even though he started out as the junkie who blew Mr. White’s retirement fund on strippers and a wasted RV.
This scene is the moment Walt gets desperate. This is the scene that leads to Walter’s climb to the top of the drug world, and leads Jesse to the climb up the moral high ground.
Jesse’s just killed his first human. Ever. He watched Gus slice Victor’s throat like Dexter cuts his ham. He doesn’t seem shaken or even worried. He laughs about it over breakfast.
Walter is still coping with it all – still trying to be a father, a husband, and a drug lord.
In episode one of Boardwalk Empire, Jimmy Darmody told Nucky Thompson, “You can’t be half a gangster… not anymore.”
Ultimately, Nucky completely overcompensates for the embarrassment and the man-stripping he received from the younger James – the one who was at peace with himself, like Jesse is – again, in his own way.
Walter is humiliated in that Denny’s. Suddenly, he’s not the ones who knocks, he’s the one without a clue. Walt completely overcompensates, too. He breaks bad.
Only, he still has no idea what Jesse’s talking about. He doesn’t understand what the kid knows, what Jimmy Darmody knew – once you go bad, you’ll never go back.