The Killings of Walter White: Season 2 (*SPOILERS*)
The Killings of Walter White: Season 2
(Link: Part 1)
Walt’s killings bookend the second season, eliminating Tuco at the season’s start and Jane at its end. In both cases, Walt’s hand is not as direct as in the first season, but his motives and methods in each case reflect the movement of his moral compass.
Walt is at first willing to work for Tuco as a desperate measure to provide for his family, but is convinced by Jesse that, sooner or later, Tuco will turn against them. Jesse is convinced that killing Tuco is the only way they can protect themselves, telling Walt, “It’s him or us!” Walt acquiesces, indicating a shift in rationales. Where killing was previously acceptable only when in immediate danger, it is now justified by a potential threat.
Given Walt’s messy history with direct confrontation and the strength of Tuco’s organization, Walt plots to poison Tuco in order to avoid violence and suspicion. This doesn't pan out, as the DEA gets hold of evidence against Tuco, prompting him to go off the grid, taking Walt and Jesse with him at gunpoint.
When brought to the house of Tuco’s drug cartel uncle, Hector Salamanca, and told that Tuco plans to take them away to a super-lab in Mexico to presumably cook until they keel over, Walt and Jesse decide to speed up their killing plans. Walt attempts to poison Tuco’s food, but is thwarted by the mute Hector Salamanca, who tips off Tuco that he shouldn't trust them.
"Ding Ding, motherfuckers!"
Tuco takes them out back and threatens them, at which point Walt admits they tried to poison him, telling, “You deserve to die.”
There is a struggle, in which Walt grabs Tuco’s assault rifle. Yet though Walt has the weapon, it is Jesse that finishes the fight. Walt never fires the gun. His hands waver too much, and he is unable or unwilling to take a clear shot at Tuco. Through all the chaos that has followed him, Walt has not properly used a gun.
This moment marks something of a milestone, as it is the first time that chemistry fails Walt. Previously, Walt let science and chemistry do most of his dirty work. This time, however, his chemistry-based plan fell apart, and he needed to use brute force. From this point onward, Walt’s plans of murder and intimidation rely on men and guns rather than chemicals and knowledge. It is a sign of the transformation occurring in Walt, moving out of the realm of the chemist and into the realm of the drug lord.
Walt’s only other kill in the season is Jane, Jesse’s heroin-addicted girlfriend. Walt, finding out about Jesse’s heroin habit, withholds his share of a large sale they have just made until Jesse can show that he is sober. In response, Jane blackmails Walt into giving them the money. Walt has the option to walk away after paying them, and it is logical for him to do so, or to kill them both to ensure he won’t be turned in. But Walt finds that he really cares about Jesse, and goes back to his apartment to try to get him away from Jane and prevent his eventual overdose.
While shaking an unconscious Jesse, Walt rolls Jane onto her back, where she begins throwing up, and chokes to death on her own vomit. When Walt sees what is happening, he at first reaches to try to help her, but hesitates, and simply steps back at watches as she dies.
Walt hides his culpability, letting Jesse think she died on her own because he feels that it is the only thing that will shock Jesse out of ruining his life with heroin. Despite this, as Jesse grieves for his lost love, we can see the guilt in Walt, as he comes to understand how deeply he has wounded someone he loves.
This is the first time Walt has willingly caused harm to someone who was not a threat to him. Here it is done with the justification of helping Jesse, yet it is a significant change in what Walt considers an acceptable reason to take a life. And it lays significant groundwork for Walt’s future violence.
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