Breaking Bad recap: The Ripple Effect

Down by the river, Mike tries to flee, but Walt has poisoned the well
Ep. 07 | Aired Aug 26, 2012

THREE AMIGOS! OR, MAYBE, JUST ONE While Jesse and Mike try to escape the business, Walt stands alone

Ursula Coyote/AMC

When you throw a rock into a river, it ripples. And those ripples spread quickly.

Maybe that's what Mike was trying to tell us, right before he died. One minute, he was standing by the water, skipping stones, watching them form tiny undulations. The next, he was slumped over by the riverside, bleeding to death, all because of a series of very bad decisions made by one very bad man.

It's called a ripple effect, and it's affecting everyone close to Walter White, even those he never harmed directly. (See also: the 747 crash, Gale Boetticher's murder, the death of the little boy with the tarantula.) Walt's just like that rock that Mike threw into the river: if he's gonna go down, he's gonna make waves.

Before I go on, can we just take a minute to pay respects to Mike Ehrmentraut, who has quickly become one of the best characters on this show? I'm a firm believer that your favorite Breaking Bad character says a lot about what you value: Walt is the brains. Jesse is the heart. And Mike is the gut. (Fittingly, that's where Walter shot him, too.) He was always the most level-headed of the three, often playing by his instincts. Most of his hunches turned out to be spot-on, not just the one about Walter being a ticking time bomb, but also the prognosis he gave to Old Joe right before the Great Magnet Heist: "I can see a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not a single one of them involves Miller Time."

It's a shame that he turned out to be right about that last one. But after a lifetime of trying to get everyone around him to keep quiet (his mantra was "Eyes open, mouth shut"), at least he got to tell Walter to "shut the f--- up" one last time.

Frankly, that's advice that Walter could use right now. He cares so much about spreading his own legend, he's getting careless. Trying to convince the methylamine buyers to let him serve as their cook, he can't stop bragging: "A thousand galons of methylamine is worth more in my hands than in yours, or anyone else’s for that matter,” he says, before calling himself (and, begrudgingly, Jesse) the best meth cook in America. "I'm the man who killed Gus Fring," he boasts. And then, like a true diva, he demands: "Say my name." Pronouncing it out loud, the buyer won't soon forget it: Heisenberg.

Obviously, this is Walt's hubris at work. But there's also something deeper going on here. Walt's obsessed with proving that he's a bona fide kingpin, not just some kind of poseur. "Yours is just some tepid off-brand generic cola," he tells the buyer. "What I’m making is classic Coke." The analogy is a callback to last week's episode, "Buyout," which was filled with comparisons between knock-offs and the real deal: Hank complained that Miracle Whip wasn't really mayonnaise. Walt watched a TV report about kelp being passed off as caviar. Jesse complained about microwave lasagna that's frozen instead of homemade: “It's like, yo, whatever happened to truth in advertising?” We could ask the same question of Walt. He's selling himself as the world's greatest outlaw, but if that was true, he wouldn't have killed the one true professional in his operation.

NEXT: "How many more people are gonna die because of us?" 


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