Breaking Bad – Walter White Murder Victim Power Rankings

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There has been some criticism about this season of Breaking Bad — more than its fair share — that it isn’t living up to its own lofty expectations set with the past two seasons. To which I have to say, it was virtually impossible for the series to improve from season three to season four. Season three was one of the three best dramatic seasons of television of the last decade (and as far as I’m concerned, at this point in the history of the medium, “decade” is synonymous with “ever”), if it were to improve on that we might as well end television. Spoilers ahead.

I’m not entirely certain we’re ready for something better than season three of Breaking Bad, at least not this manner of storytelling. It would be like our grandparents growing up with the internet or Doc Brown seeing himself in the future. The results would be cataclysmic and we might be spiritually incapable of dealing with the fallout.

That said, this season has been nothing short of fantastic television. A slower draw (which is the root source of most of the gripes), and that’s saying something. But as a result, every episode has quite literally been better than the one that preceded it since “Box Cutter.” You could cut the tension with a spork and we’re building to something monumental this season, and the best part is pretty much everything is on the table. The only thing I can say with any degree of certainty is that Walter White will still be alive by the end of the season, anything else could transpire and I’ll be shocked, but only because of the likelihood of it, not because it came out of nowhere or is inconsistent with what we’ve seen so far. And with the exception of maybe The Sopranos, I can’t remember ever saying that about a television series.

So Walter is now feeling boxed into a corner with the discovery of Jesse lying to him and the uncertainty surrounding Hank’s investigation at the end of Sunday night’s episode, “Hermanos.” And since history has proven that Walt’s at his most lethal when he feels like his options are limited, for this week we’re instilling the Walter White Murder Victim Power Rankings. In other words, from least to most probable, these are the people most likely to meet their demise at the will of our lead.

13) Tio/Hector

Tio has proven — emphatically, at that — that he isn’t a threat to anyone’s freedom, and he rendered physically incapable of retaliating in his own right. With Gus having seemingly wiped out his entire support network, he only has to worry about Walt seeing red when crossing his retirement home, and recalling the time he prevented him from killing Tuco with the Ricin burrito. 

12) Huell

Meanwhile, I get the feeling that Huell, Saul’s bodyguard, is begging for a Ricin burrito. Also, he should probably be higher on the list, but he’ll have to do something of consequence other than stand around and look like he’s trying to keep himself from falling asleep and/or shitting his pants. If he wisely stays uninvolved, he should be safe.

11) Tyrus

I get the impression that Tyrus does the killing in any arrangement which murder is a viable option.

10) Skyler

I’ve mentioned before, I think Walt is absolutely capable of killing anyone on this show, but he won’t go after his own family unless they become an imminent threat to his freedom. It has been reiterated so many times that its become apparent I read way too much about this show online, that Vince Gilligan has described the arc of Walter White as, “Mr. Chips turns into Scarface.” In the final act in Scarface, Tony murders Manny. Now, obviously him murdering Jesse would be the appropriate analogy in this case. But if Skyler keeps suggesting they go to the police (when he had the black eye, the morning after his drunken baiting of Hank), combined with how controlling he considers her to be, she might not be long for this world. But I can’t imagine he’ll be put in this position until late in the series.

9) Bogdon

It’s really, really unlikely, simply because his arc on the show appears to be over. But if Walt  is in his commonly pissy mood, sees Bogdon crossing the street and has that illegal firearm on his person, I’d say it’s more likely than not Walt puts a bullet in his head and takes the eyebrows as a souvenir.

8) The Guy in the Oncologist’s Waiting Room

Just out of a clear yet misguided sense of superiority. Walt’s clearly in total control…until he loses it minutes later and runs around town pleading with everyone he knows not to kill himself or anyone else.

7) The cashier at Los Pollos Hermanos

Probably no one has been on the receiving end of more unprovoked shit from him than this poor woman, and until Gus is taken out of the picture she’ll have at least one more confrontation, it will consist of Walt screaming in her face over nothing she’s privy too. He’s always at his most disgruntled when he walks into that place. At least Gus bailed her out this episode when Walt went into the chicken shack over the tracking device.

6) Merkert

This is Hank’s superior at the field office. If, like this show always hints at, Merkert is in Gus’ pocket and Walt catches word of it. And if, something were to happen to Hank that wasn’t instigated by Walt, but rather by either Gus at Merkert’s suggestion or vice versa, Walt’s vengeance won’t stop at those without badges. Walt wasn’t present for Gus’ interrogation, but if he saw how apologetic and easily convinced Merkert was by Gus’ explanations, Merkert gruff demeanor could be his downfall.

5) Saul

It really makes absolutely no sense that Saul would be five and Huell eleventh. You’d assume that if Saul goes, Huell is going either shortly beforehand or thereafter. So this list is admittedly illegitimate. Sorry, you’ve been sold a fake bill of goods.

Logistics aside, though, Walt only barely tolerates Saul’s very existence, as it is. And he’s absolutely integral to Walt’s process and advancement. It’s a partnership of convenience, to be sure, and the second it turns inconvenient, there isn’t enough overweight, dimwitted bodyguards on the planet that will be able to protect Saul from his killing machine benefactor.

4) Hank

Hank is totally on the chopping block, but I think Walt still has a shred of empathy tucked somewhere in him, as evidenced by his pleading with the Super Lab camera for Hank’s life. Hank is also just as likely to be murdered by Gus or Mike, which drops him down a couple spots. But at the same time, however; if Walt is present for Hank unveiling him as Heisenberg…well, I hope Hank is armed and isn’t resting on his laurels. Given his weakened physical state, I don’t think that will be the case.

In a way, I don’t know if there’s been a more heartbreaking scene than him airing every minute detail of his investigation and relying on Walt to plant the tracking device on Gus’ car. He’s playing right now with such a stacked deck and still has yet to realize it, which is at least partially his fault. But while Gus had Max (now has Mike and an army of underlings) and Walter (thinks, and still may) has Jesse, Hank has no such reliable partner. Gomez has moved on and everyone else’s loyalty seems tenuous at best. Essentially, to solve this puzzle he needs someone to bounce ideas off of, and it has to be someone he isn’t in the middle of pursuing.

3) Jesse

I went back and forth with putting Hank or Jesse in this spot, and opted for Jesse since the lie Walt caught him in is perceived to be so big by Walt that it may be irrevocable. Given the nature of the story, Jesse is the second least likely character to die and I think the story would suffer without Aaron Paul, but he’s received less screen time this season than he has in the past (or at least it feels that way), it almost feels intentional to prove he’s expendable.

It seems more likely than not that upon this discovery Walt will pander to Jesse as he has in the past when he’s needed him, but in light of the horror show he lived through in the first episode this season, Jesse is far more perceptive now than he was the first three seasons (see him analyzing the Hank-Gus conundrum with Walt on Sunday). What will determine his fate is how he uses that perception to either his detriment or benefit. If this were a Survivor season, Jesse would be the swing vote holding all the cards for exactly one episode.

2) Mike

In the same vein as Tyrus, I don’t know if Walt is capable of killing Mike. He might really, really want too, but Mike is far too suspicious of anything Walt does to actually put himself in harm’s way. And yes, this would include eating or drinking anything that Walt may serve him. He sort of took a backseat in “Hermanos”, set aside some investigative work on Gus’ behalf. Mike doesn’t appear to be straying from Gus, which is imperative for Gus to maintain his stranglehold on the drug trade. But if Walt is going to take out Gus, unless Mike develops a strong enough affinity for Jesse to switch sides, Walt will probably have to go through Mike to get to his target.

1) Gus

The focal point of our last episode also heads our countdown. While he’s easily the hardest person for him or Jesse to kill, he’s also the most logical target. No one outside of Gus is targeting Walt or Jesse. Mike loathes Walt but doesn’t have real reason to see him dead other than it’s the orders of his employer and he wants revenge for Victor, but if he’s forgiven Jesse for the latter (as it at least seems he has) then I’d have to imagine he’s forgiven Walt as well.

Everything those two have done, though, has been a personal affront to Gus and his bottom line. Gus may have toned down his need for revenge (though if there was ever an episode that demonstrated Gus is in for the long-con, it was this) in light of his past and knowing how he could end up like any of his other vanquished foes. In no small part, I think he sees himself in both Jesse and Walt. Walt, in his ambition and ill-equipped beginning stages, and Jesse in his vulnerability, which Gus exhibited after Tio murdered Max. It became clear that Gus wasn’t always the stoic, ice-cold, duplicitous and calculating drug lord he’s morphed into today, yet we understand how and why he became that way.

If Eladio had allowed him and Max to walk out of his place without a deal, Gus might have reconsidered his career path and veered out of the drug game entirely. Once they decided to execute Max, it became clear he wouldn’t ever stop until he had overthrown his predecessors. It took roughly two decades, but you can tell from Hector’s angered expression that it doesn’t sting any less. So now Gus is stuck here, aware he has to avoid the fates of Hector and Juan Bolsa and whatever the hell happened to Don Eladio, yet also has to be weary of the latest incarnation of what him and Max were at one point in time in Walt and Jesse.

Unwittingly, this is all going to factor into Walt’s approach from here on out. Obviously he is gunning for Gus, but if Jesse doesn’t adhere to his demands and Gus is limiting communication to very public confrontations at Los Pollos Hermanos when the DEA is tracking his car, then his cause is fairly hopeless. The good news for Walt is Gus is elusive and clever enough to avoid law enforcement and keep them all out of prison. The bad news is that same elusiveness and cleverness could turn Jesse completely against him and buy Gus enough time to find a permanent replacement cook. Expect the world on this series to erupt in the next couple episodes.

So that’s where we stand after Sunday, and with each passing episode that’s as well-constructed as they have been, when whatever the season is building to actually happens it will be completely earned. In an episode that was all about brotherhood (bloodline or otherwise) and control, no one seems to have any of it, and we’re finding out that at least in this show’s universe, the former is necessary in attaining the latter.

Even Gus is feeling the walls closing in between the cartel, the DEA and whatever crazy shit Walt might pull (like poisoning his coffee). If Gus is that far removed from having full control of the world he inhabits, it puts into perspective how delusional Walt’s waiting room lecture actually is.

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