Warning: Contains spoilers.
By: Leigh M. Lane
There are people in this world who subscribe to the belief that all people have their place, their title, a specific role they were made to fill. This week’s episode, “Say My Name,” plays on that idea. It leaves the viewer wondering what Walter’s place in the drug business actually is. Is he a thug? Is he a ringleader? Or might he just be a chemistry teacher who’s gotten far too in over his head?
In the first scene, Walt very confidently manipulates the competition not only by giving them an offer they can’t refuse, but by asserting his dominance over their leader. When, at the end of the scene, he demands, “Say my name,” he is putting the man into a submissive role. In this, one might see a sexual metaphor: figuratively, Walt is screwing the man out of his place as a leader, while taking control over his business and personal profits. Fast forward to the next scene, in which we find Skyler babysitting the methylamine tank, not even knowing what it is or why it is there. When she does ask, Walt sends her to her place, the office. The juxtaposition of these two scenes sets the stage for Walt’s fight for dominance in the rest of the episode.
Mike’s and Jesse’s individual struggles for independence offer clues to just how out of control Walt is. While Mike, a man seemingly in control at all times, desperately works to rid himself of his past and secure his (and his granddaughter’s) future, Walt does everything in his power to keep Jesse under his thumb. When mental manipulation over their shared circumstances fails, Walter resorts to withholding Jesse’s share of the cash. Jesse’s response leaves Walt with none of his original allies left, which might indicate the true frailty of his power.
Todd’s shift in positions is more telling than it first appears. His willingness to be submissive to Walt, even work for free until he proves himself an asset, works as a parallel to the major power shift going on all around Walt. More importantly, however, the “cooking lesson” stands to remind the viewer of Walt’s actual place in life. He may wear the hat of a drug lord, and he may be a brilliant chemist, but because of his own personal limitations, he will always be nothing more than a failed high school chemistry teacher.
The contrast of Hank’s role in this episode is also very telling. His unwillingness to let go of his old job threatens his career. While his refusal to stay in line brings him reprimand from his superior, it also once more leads him to success.
The final scene solidifies the theme, as Walt’s demands prompt Mike to share the most revealing dialog of the episode. Had Walt only “known [his] place,” he asserts, they all might still be fine. It is only because Walt insists upon being “the Man” that the entire operation is crumbling all around them. This challenge to Walt’s assumed authority is what ultimately seals Mike’s fate, while also speaking volumes about Walt’s true character.
Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her writing contains a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often has social or political undertones. Her recent full-length releases are Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. Leigh’s influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. For more about Leigh M. Lane and her works, visit her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.