Breaking Bad and Pollock's Sea Change

7:00 AM

Jackson Pollock, Sea Change, 1947
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*Spoiler Alert – if you have not watched past season 3 episode 13, “Full Measure,” do not read this post or watch the video.

We make decisions every day. Most are rather trivial – what should I eat for breakfast, which parking spot do I take – but some decisions stand out from the rest. These are the decisions that drastically change the path of your future. These are the decisions that you never forget, sometimes no matter how you try. For Jesse in Breaking Bad this decision arrived with a phone call.


“It’s gonna have to be you… They’re going to kill me…Jesse, do it now, do it! Do it fast. Do it, Jesse! Do it!”


Jesse immediately reacts, grabbing his gun, jumping to his feet, racing to Gale’s house, only to discover that when the door opens, it's decision time. Jesse has to decide the course of his future, something that, in my opinion, reveals more about his character than any other moment in the series. Breaking Bad reveals as much about Jesse as Walter - his parents that have kicked him out, his girlfriend for whose death he blames himself, his struggle with drugs  – but this moment shows Jesse’s true inner turmoil, his struggle with not only the decision he currently has to make, but all the decisions that led him to that point.


Jesse’s life, similar to Pollock’s painting, consists of layer upon layer of choices and actions, each one overlapping the last, covering or building upon a previous decision. No stroke of color in this painting can be undone, rather, it has to be covered by another color – another action. Pollock couldn’t splatter one color and then remove it; he just had to add a new layer, adding to the composition and individuality of each piece. Jesse’s decisions overlap each other, each one leading to the next. But Jesse never predicted this moment. Standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at a begging man, tears beginning to accumulate in his eyes as he pleads, “you don’t have to do this.


But, in those last moments, immediately before Jesse pulls the trigger, as his eyes fill with tears, he understands that his decision has already been made for him. He does have to do this. His tears come from his realization that he doesn’t have a choice; he has to kill Gale. All of his past decisions have led to this, and he can’t back down now. He understands that he can’t turn back from this decision, and the ones that have led him to this culminating point; he can’t let Gale, Walter, and himself live. One has to go. And at that last moment, Jesse accepts that all his past decisions will be covered and built upon by this one action, as a single color will cover the canvas, and he will never be able to completely cover it up by another layer. 


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