Mike getting ready to cover Jesse, or to kill him?

Mike getting ready to cover Jesse, or to kill him?

The biggest controversy from Breaking Bad episode 410 “Salud”  is whether or not Mike intended to kill Jesse just before he himself got shot.  Since this episode aired the debate has been raging all over the internet, over water coolers, and wherever Breaking Bad fans gather.  It appears that very few people are on the fence about this question – they passionately defend their arguments for whichever side they believe.

I myself have tried to stay objective and consider both sides.  I have discussed this with several people and would deliberately defend the contrary point of view to hear all the possible arguments.  As a result, I find myself not able to make up my mind.  Now I have put together a point by point examination of all the arguments I could think of, and all the ones I have heard in order to come to a conclusion.  The table below compares each argument point “pro” and “con” next to each other so that you can evaluate them against each other.  

I recommend that you read through this twice, as I have separated out the arguments point by point, but many of them are interrelated, and on a second reading you can see how they tie together.

Gus / Mike Intended to Kill Jesse

Gus / Mike Did Not Intend to Kill Jesse

The Reasoning


Why Not?

From the start Gus has been extremely careful how he runs his business, and does not take risks.   Jesse is an addict, and even when he stops using, he returns to the drugs whenever he is stressed.   From the first time Gus saw Jesse, he decided he was a risk. Gus / Mike have taken Jesse under their wing and separated him from his mentor Walt.  Jesse is off the drugs and is showing that he can be smart, canny and reliable.  They have given him recognition and won his loyalty, particularly now that Walt and Jesse have come to blows.  Jesse has been a lost young man, but is finally getting respect from others.  Now that he feels valued, he will stick with those who respect him.
It has been little over a month since Jesse tried to kill 2 of Gus’ dealers for killing the child Tomas.  About the same amount of time since Jesse killed Gale.  Gus is not going to let Jesse’s transgressions go – killing members of “Team Gus” are a no-no.   Would Gus ever “forgive and forget”? Jesse has demonstrated street smarts (Helping Mike track down the meth stolen by the cartel); he can run the lab to an acceptable level of production.  His relationship is with Walt is broken and he has no one in life that he can be loyal to… except Gus and Mike.  Gus & Mike are sure that they have his loyalty now.
Gus has learned from his mistakes, and never makes the same mistake twice.   He told Walt exactly this when he had him over for supper in season 3.  It stands to reason Gus won’t make the mistakes that others do- like Don Eladio.   Don Eladio is dropping his guard on Gus, allowing Gus to take his revenge (after 20 years).  Gus will not make the mistake of allowing Jesse to do this to him in the future. Gus respects Jesse’s convictions.  He understands Jesse’s outrage at the murder of Tomas.  He also sees why Jesse has been so loyal to Walt.  But now that Gus has Jesse’s loyalty, he knows how strong it can be.  Mike even said that Gus sees loyalty as the quality in Jesse that stands out.
Despite all the cozying up to Jesse that Gus/Mike have done, it is merely Gus’ divide and conquer strategy for Jesse and Walt.  Besides, if he can use Jesse to get close to Don Eladio to take revenge and solve his problem with the cartel, Gus will do it.  Then Gus can get rid of Jesse. Gus and Mike set out to put a wedge between Walt and Jesse, but as a result, they legitimately see what an asset Jesse is.  Both Gus and Mike smiled at Jesse’s ability to deal with the cartel chemists in their lab, and those two NEVER smile.  They do see something in Jesse and want to keep him on the team.
Gus is certainly aware of Walt/Jesse’s plan to murder him.   He’s had them on camera and had them followed since the day Gale was killed.  It’s pretty reasonable to assume that he has Jesse’s house bugged and has heard all of the plotting between Walt and Jesse.  There is no way Gus is going to let someone who has promised to kill him to go on living. Gus has nurtured Jesse, and with the “final straw” schism with Walt, he now has Jesse on his side.
Walt won’t stand for Gus/Mike killing Jesse, but- if they do it in Mexico, they can claim that the cartel was responsible.  Walt will have no way of finding out the truth.   They then will have Walt completely isolated to cook his pure meth for them, and they will keep a close eye on him.  Plus Walt’s meth is the most pure. Walt won’t stand for Gus/Mike killing Jesse.  Walt will no longer cook for Gus without Jesse.  Gus must take them together, or not at all.Also, with Jesse’s new loyalty and recently demonstrated skills, perhaps they can now eliminate Walt, who has been the driving force behind the plot to murder Gus.   Plus Jesse’s meth meets Gus’ original standards when he set up the super lab, removing the need to have Walt cook.
With Jesse gone they “own” Walt and have him on a short leash. If they kill Jesse they have to put all their eggs in Walt’s basket – not only is Walt set on killing Gus, but he’s got cancer- he won’t last forever.  They have no other chemist waiting in the wings (that we know of at this point) so they need Jesse.
Gus is no fan of Walt, but he is no fan of Jesse either.  But Gus can read people and he knows that Walt is inflexible, Jesse can be moulded.  He knows that he can manipulate Jesse by building his confidence, which will isolate Walt.  This ultimately makes Walt easier to watch and control.Gus only employed Jesse at the insistence of Walt, and has viewed Jesse as an unsafe risk since he first saw him.  Gus wants no risks or vulnerabilities in his business.   Jesse has killed one, and planned to kill other members of his operation.Gus eventually plans on eliminating both Walt and Jesse, but they are the only two cooks that we know of – he must keep one of them.   Gus will keep the better chemist, Walt, whose brother is a DEA agent now investigating his business.  Gus will get rid of the junkie who is prone to relapses, and who basically has no relationships in his life that will become a threat to Gus if Jesse is removed. Gus clearly despises Walter and would prefer to be rid of him.  He doesn’t even want Walt in his presence.  Mike sees Walter as a snivelling little weasel:  Walt deeply insulted Mike by suggesting that Mike might help in killing Gus.  Mike is after all Gus’ bodyguard.  Walter is being isolated and constantly watched and babysat by Tyrus.Jesse on the other hand is being given more responsibility and is being allowed to handle weapons in the presence of Mike and Gus.  Gus would not have taken Jesse to Mexico if he thought Jesse would fail… he has confidence in him.Walt and Jesse are the only two cooks that we know of.  Is it even remotely plausible that Gus would want to kill Jesse and retain Walter?  No.
Gus shows confidence in taking Jesse to Mexico, because Gus has built up Jesse enough to succeed.  He knows that Jesse has been schooled by the best chemist and that he will be able to achieve the required results by using Walt’s recipe.  This will get Gus into the position to take his revenge on Don Eladio.  Then Gus can eliminate Jesse, leaving Walt isolated, and therefore increasing Gus’ hold over Walt. Gus has basically put his own life into Jesse’s hands by taking him to Mexico to placate the cartel.  If Jesse fails, he, Gus and Mike are not going home.  Gus has huge confidence in Jesse at this point.  Jesse then succeeds in this task, and also shows that he can forcefully put down a challenge.  This performance allowed Gus to get into a position to take revenge on his nemesis.   There is no reason to get rid of Jesse at this point.


Mike with the Gun

The gun angle – pistols are very inaccurate and are only good at very short range… the slightest change in the angle of the wrist of the shooter can greatly alter where the round will go.  That said… here is why we can tell Mike was going to shoot Jesse… The gun angle – pistols are very inaccurate and are only good at very short range… the slightest change in the angle of the wrist holding it can greatly alter where the round will go.  That said… here is why we can tell Mike was not going to shoot Jesse…
Description:  (As far as I can tell) Mike puts Gus into the back seat of the car and tells Jesse to “go” meaning go get in the front passenger seat.   Let us use the front of the car as 12 o’clock.   At approximately 10 o’clock is the entrance/exit to the hacienda – from which they just emerged – and is the main direction of any threat.  Jesse is moving forward with his gun down and scanning from 10 o’clock to his right – through towards 1 or 2 o’clock.   Mike opens the driver’s door and then deliberately raises his pistol in the gap between the door’s window and the main body of the car.  It is pointing roughly 12 o’clock, to Jesse’s right, and begins to move left when Mike is shot from the 10 o’clock direction.  In the frame immediately before you see Mike get hit, his pistol is aligned with the car – pointing to 12 o’clock (to the right of Jesse), while his eyes are pointed in Jesse’s direction.  We cannot tell if he is focussed on Jesse or something in the distance.  When the bullet strikes Mike, his right hand comes forward and traverses to the left as the impact of the bullet causes him to now rapidly spin to the left.  Mike’s arm and the gun follow his body’s rotation through the arc from 12 to 9 o’clock as Mike collapses.
Mike is an ex-police officer, so he knows how to work with a partner.  If he sees that Jesse is covering the Right, he should have raised his gun more to the left to cover the hacienda entrance.  His movement with the gun in the 12 o’clock direction indicates his target was Jesse. Mike is a trained police officer, so he knows how to work with a partner.  Jesse is moving to the right to the passenger side of the car so Mike is preparing to cover Jesse’s front and to the left.
If Mike was going to cover the main threat, he would have been facing more towards 10 o’clock when he raised his gun, and raised it on the outside of the car door. Because Mike is right handed, the only space available to raise his gun once the car door is open is in the gap facing towards the front, after which he intended to switch aim towards the hacienda entrance.
Raising the gun in Jesse’s rough direction was a deliberate move – it was not done as quickly as it would have been if Mike was reacting to something.  This was a planned action. Mike is following his police training instincts and is getting ready to cover their escape.
Mike’s gun only moves to the left of Jesse after he is shot. Mike was beginning to move his gun to the left deliberately once his gun cleared the window, but was then shot.
If Mike wasn’t going to shoot Jesse, why was he raising his gun at all?  They were trying to get the heck out of there.  Once he had the car door open he should have gotten straight in and started the engine running ready to peel out the second Jesse got in.  If he was just covering the Hacienda and protecting Jesse by raising his gun, why did he open the car door first?  He should have been “covering” all the while, and then opened the door and gotten in the moment Jesse was safely ready to get in as well. Of course Mike raised his gun after he had the car door open.  He was covering Jesse’s move to get to the other side of the car and get in as well.  Mike had a second to open the door while Jesse was still on his side of the car and had that side covered.

More Arguments

At the start of the scene in the hacienda, Mike tells Jesse “I promise you this.  Either we’re all going home or none of us are.”  This is to reassure Jesse that he is on their team, and they are on his.  This way Jesse will unwittingly help Gus / Mike complete Gus’ revenge plan, and help them escape.   Once they are safely away Jesse is no longer required. At the start of the scene in the hacienda, Mike reassures Jesse by saying “I promise you this.  Either we’re all going home or none of us are.”  Jesse has impressed Gus / Mike over the last few weeks and even more so since they arrived in Mexico.  They want him on “Team Gus”.
Gus deliberately prevents Jesse from having to drink the poisoned tequila.   That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want Jesse dead.  He needs Jesse alive until they make their escape.   There are only 3 members of “Team Gus” at the hacienda… there is no reason to go a man down until the escape is assured. Gus deliberately prevents Jesse from having to drink the poisoned tequila.  If he wanted Jesse dead in Mexico, he would have poisoned him along with the cartel capos.
Why let Jesse have a gun if they plan on killing him?  Mike tells Jesse to find a gun and make himself useful, because they need to make their way out of the hacienda, and they don’t know what threats they still face.   Mike did not have a gun either, just a garrotte, until he took one from “Mexican Mike” Gaff.  There is no risk that Jesse will use the gun against Gus / Mike at this point… Jesse wants to get out of there just as badly as they do.  They will use him to help them make their escape before killing him. Mike tells Jesse to find a gun and make himself useful, because they need to make their way out of the hacienda, and they are all going home together.  Why would they take the risk of telling Jesse to grab a gun if the plan is to kill him shortly after?
It was part of the whole plan to get rid of Jesse in Mexico, once Gus/ Mike had their getaway secured.  By doing it at the hacienda, they can blame his death on the cartel. There is no reason to just up and kill Jesse while they are making their escape from the cartel.  They are nowhere near to being safe just because they made it to a car.  They need “Team Gus” ready for action until they get home.  This would be a silly time to take such a step.

Now it’s up to you to decide which point of view you find more convincing.  Of course, this debate will not be settled unless they resolve it on the show in the future.  For all the furor caused by this, it is now a moot point anyway… at the end of “Salud” Gus and Mike definitely have their lives in Jesse’s hands.

Thank you to Liquid Victor, Gustavo (Bogdan’s Brother), and Lady Heisenberg (still Christy) from the amctv.com discussion forums for their input and review of this post.  Well, there you have it.