Stack Your ‘Breaking Bad’ Analysis Against a Pro [Video]
In television, when villains hatch psychological plots beyond our notions of human decency, are we amused and perhaps equally reassured, thinking we could never concoct such evil?
What Happened in “Confessions”?
In the last episode of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Walter White records a confession. But instead of baring his soul on how he built of a crystal meth empire, he fabricates a twisted story, framing his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, as the drug lord, Heisenberg. Walt brings up the money that he gave to Hank to pay for Hank’s medical bills as evidence of Hank’s dirty hands. (In the show, Hank’s wife, Marie, accepted the money not knowing the source.) Walt gives the confession on a CD to Hank and Marie. Perhaps it’s only a threat, warning Hank to back down in his obsessive pursuit of bringing Walt to justice.
The Confession: Maybe Not So Clever?
One former detective who has chased down drug cases, and who now works as a partner at the law firm, McGuireWoods, Dale Mullen, doesn’t find Walt’s ploys so clever. In fact, he points out holes and major tactical errors in Walt’s confession.
“If Hank were the mastermind, the kingpin of the operation, why would he have needed over $100,000 from Walt? Does that make sense?” asks Dale.
Dale was a chief prosecutor, special assistant U.S. Attorney at the Attorney General’s office in Virginia. He also worked for the City of Richmond as an undercover police detective. He worked on a DEA task force, handling drug investigations with the FBI. With that background, Dale calls Walt’s recorded confession a monumental mistake — for Walt.
By showing his cards, Walt allows Hank to mount his defense. According to Dale’s assessment, Walt cut off all other possible avenues of a defense or escape. “Tactically, it was really poor to commit it to a permanent record and hand it over to an agent of the DEA. If he had spoken for five minutes to any reasonable attorney, they would have told him absolutely do not do that,” says Dale.
What’s Up with Jesse?
Jesse Pinkman seems more inclined to exacting his own revenge on Walt than cooperating with the authorities. The last episode ended with his dumping gasoline throughout the Whites’ home, suggesting possible arson charges, in addition to drug crimes. In our Lawyers.com video, Dale explains why Jesse might not be a good fit for the federal witness protection program. (Willingness to come forward is key.) He also explains several tactics fugitives use when hiding in plain view.
How realistic was Jesse’s loyalty to Walt? In Dale’s experience, most criminals talk and testify against each other. The opening diner scene with Todd Alquist’s meeting with shady characters in the drug world felt realistic to Dale, as it was filled with clues for a detective.
The Evidence Trail
“Everything we do leaves evidence,” says Dale. “Every piece of evidence in the commission of a crime is eventually discoverable by someone. Criminals are notorious for leaving behind sloppy bits of evidence that allow themselves to be captured.”
Dale suspects the marijuana, which the attorney Saul Goodman took from Jesse will resurface in some way. He found it hard to believe that the fixer hired to help give Jesse a new identity, would have no problem with the huge sack of cash but would not allow $25 worth of marijuana in Jesse’s pocket.
What pieces of evidence have you observed to help predict what’s coming down the line?
Watch out. With “Breaking Bad,” it can be hard to tell what attention to detail is artistic photography and what is an intentional clue, a bread crumb to something more sinister.
Match Wits with a Former Undercover Narcotics Agent and Prosecutor
Dale traces the development of the criminal mind, comparing Walt to people he met during his investigations. He also gives his advice on what the characters should do. Watch our Lawyers.com video and compare your thoughts on “Breaking Bad” to a crime sleuthing pro.