When you’re caught in a lie, you have two choices – confess or dig the hole deeper. If you choose the former, you suffer the indignity not just of having your poor decisions exposed, but being called to account for your sins. If you choose the latter, you may get away with it, but will either make yourself dizzy trying to keep track of the lies or manipulate anyone and everyone to keep from being exposed. And so it is that Walter White has distilled the discovery of *his* big lie down to the most basic human instinct – survival.
It is unsurprising that the descent from mild mannered chemistry teacher to Southwest regional meth lord would involve some fibbing, but the shell game Walt constantly played to stay one step ahead of his wife, his brother-in-law, his partner, Gus Fring, and everyone else in service of his secret life has evaporated. The cruel irony of these final episodes is that Walt is no longer a master criminal. Having earned a stack of money that could not be spent in ten lifetimes, he was one copy of Leaves of Grass away from a clean start. Instead, when Hank ignores his admonition to “tread lightly,” Walt throws a Hail Mary – a video “confession” fingering Hank as the criminal mastermind with just enough of a patina of believability (the $177,000 in medical bills, the shoot out with the Salamanca twins, etc.) that could torpedo any chance Hank would have at surviving the inevitable fallout that will result from admitting to the brass that Heisenberg was under his nose the entire time.
But if Hank is a bull that Walt is deftly sidestepping, Jesse is an emotional kamikaze about to detonate on Negra Arroyo Lane. That Jesse Pinkman would end up being the moral center of Breaking Bad is surprising to say the least, but his arc from small town hoodrat to psychologically tortured multi-millionaire has been fascinating to watch. The surrogate son who long ago stopped believing what “dad” told him finally explodes and acknowledges what was always implied but never admitted – it was Walt the whole time – poisoning Brock, trying to manipulate Jesse into killing Gus, getting rid of Mike (who, in his own odd way, tried to actually be a surrogate father to Jesse), rationalizing all the dead bodies left in their wake, and, as a final indignity, explaining to Jesse that going into the criminal version of “witness protection” was about a new start (even, perhaps, a family) and not about saving Walt’s skin. As a final indignity, that ricin cigarette Jesse has been faithfully transferring from pack to pack is spirited away, you know, just in case.
And like so much else that has occurred on this show, people simply can’t leave well enough alone. While Confessions centered on Walt’s gamesmanship with Hank and Jesse, looming ominously are Todd, his neo-Nazi band of brothers and a tank of methylamine they are spiriting back across the state border into New Mexico after expressing their dissatisfaction with the quality of “blue” being produced by their partners. The trains coming down the track from various directions draw closer and closer because the decisions everyone makes compound previous bad choices. If the first rule of holes is to stop digging, no one here got that message. It was not enough for Walt to prey on Jesse’s emotions and convince him to leave town, he had to strip away a small piece of his dignity as well. Hank, compelled to investigate his brother-in-law, spits nails in the White family’s direction and Marie attempts subterfuge in an effort to pry Flynn away from his parents, but the result is predictable and always the same – the confrontation escalates, the stakes get higher and the possibility that anyone survives the inevitable cataclysm grow smaller and smaller.