Breaking Bad recap: The Godfather

Walt gets to be the boss, while Jesse moves up the ranks, gangster style
Ep. 06 | Aired Aug 21, 2011

BREAKING DAD Walt (Brian Cranston) tries to shield his son from his dark side

Ursula Coyote/AMC

"Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer."

That's how Walt sums up Gus's plans in this week's episode, by quoting Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II. But that line says a lot more about Walt, who's quickly become the anti-hero of his own gangster epic, a would-be kingpin who's caught between his professional ambitions and his responsibility to his family, between what's business and what's personal. And just like in The Godfather, everyone's starting to turn against one another, forcing Walt to make some bold moves against Gus. (Those poor cleaning ladies!) It's just like some old Italian guy once said: real power can't be given, it must be taken.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is a big Godfather fan—"I admit to borrowing liberally and being inspired by The Godfather and The Godfather Part II," he recently told the New York Times—and it's easy to understand why those movies influence his own show. If the Godfather series popularized the idea of a villain that fans will continue to root for, far beyond the point when he becomes unlikeable, then Breaking Bad is pushing that concept closer to its limit in its fourth season. Like Michael Corleone, Walt started out wanting nothing to do with "the business." He got involved only because he felt it was the best way to protect and provide for his family. But over time, money became way less important than power. Now Walt's willing to waste the car wash's first hard-earned dollar on a Coke, just to teach Bogdan who's boss.

Back in season two, Saul joked that if Walt was a character in The Godfather series, he would be Fredo, the sadsack Corleone underboss who never commanded much respect. Clearly, that's changed. Two weeks ago, when Walt and Skyler decided to give Bogdan a little "incentive" to sell his car wash, Saul quoted Vito Corleone, pointing out that they're making Bogdan an offer he can't refuse. Now that Walt's succeeded his own former boss as the king of the car wash, his plan to overthrow Gus can't be far behind. “So, you are the boss now?" says Bogdan. "You think you’re ready?” And he is. He's not Fredo anymore. Just as soon as he takes care of Gus, he's gonna be Michael.

And that would mean Jesse is Fredo, though he's way more of a sympathetic character. Like Michael's older brother, Jesse's letting others convince him that he's superior to his own boss, simply by giving him a more important job. (Jesse's "Maybe I'm not such a loser after all!" speech to Walt reminded us of Fredo shouting at Michael: "I can help, Michael! I'm not useless!") When Jesse asks Gus why he's been given more responsibility, Gus replies, "I see things in people." But we don't think the thing he's seeing is leadership. Walt knows his time is limited, and Jesse's the only other person who knows the cook. He's also the only person left who'd be likely to avenge Walt's death if Gus killed him. Could it be that Gus is getting Jesse on his good side so that he can convince Jesse to kill Walt?

Gilligan has revealed that, in terms of Jesse's relationship with Walt, "the student becomes the master this season." No matter who's planning to give the kiss of death to whom, we're expecting some kind of showdown between them.

NEXT: What's up with Mike's coughing?

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