August 12, 2013
This post is 100% spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad 5B:1 (original air date Aug 11) then, to quote Walter White, "Run!"
In my post previewing the final eight episodes I argued that while we could learn some solid leadership lessons from Walter White, he was a deeply flawed manager you’d be wise to avoid like the plague.
Walt’s sterling quality, I argued, was his ability to negotiate, especially from a position of weakness. And as the story of White’s descent comes to a close, I believe it is that asset — more so than his new M60 machine gun, and his trusty ricin — that will serve Walt best.
Persuasion is always more powerful than threats. At the very least it leaves you room to, shall we say, escalate.
The creative team behind Breaking Bad did us a huge favor by pitting Hank and Walter squarely against each other in the cliffhanger of the first of the final eight episodes. There are no secrets now. And it would appear that Hank has Walter dead to rights. With any other perp it would be game over. Instead, it’s game on.
Walter White walked into Hank’s garage. Heisenberg will walk out. Months will go by with no arrest, even though White’s larcenous alter-ego will be a matter of public speculation, if not knowledge.
How is this possible?
Hank knows some of Walter’s leverage. Arresting White, his brother-in-law, would bring shame to both families. But I don’t think that alone would be enough to dissuade Hank from solving the biggest case of his career — of actually sailing into port with his Moby Dick (which happens to be, ahem, a White whale …). Neither will that thinly-veiled "tread lightly" threat on Hank’s life.
No, Walter will play hold cards, neutralizing — perhaps even eradicating — the Hank threat. Here’s how he’ll persuade Hank to back off.
I’ll be Walter:
You took hundreds of thousands of dollars from me — no questions asked — for medical bills and physical therapy. Nobody will believe that you never questioned the source of the money. Everyone will believe it was the spoils of our drug empire, with me wearing the (van dyke) beard.
Everyone will believe that you intentionally torpedoed your transfer to San Antonio — and a big promotion — because you couldn’t be that far from your meth business partner.
Everyone will believe that your pursuit of Mike was to silence him — to protect Heisenberg, and yourself — not to crack the case. Guess what? Mike and 10 other would-be stoolies are silenced. You simply walked away from one potential snitch who was ready to squeal. You used another — the lawyer — just to get to Mike.
Who will be perceived as the more likely drug kingpin? The perfect inside man: Head of the local DEA office, who managed to never quite solve the Heisenberg case — and even irritated your boss into ordering you to scale back? Or, me: A pathetic underachiever with no criminal record? A cancer-ridden man forced to sell his skills as a reluctant meth cook? A sad sack easily corrupted because his dying wish was to leave his family a little money?
Nobody will believe that arresting me is anything more than dishonor among thieves, an attempt to get yourself out of a falling house of cards.
Hank’s got a good case, but Walt’s got a great story. And that part about getting into the business to create an inheritance actually has the benefit of being true. Everyone will believe that.
Any other theory beat this one?
Featured on:Your Career
Posted by:John C Abell