Last night’s Breaking Bad left off in the middle of a gunfight, with Gomez and Hank trying to fend off two cars’ worth of Todd’s Nazi family. Gomez had a shotgun; Jack and Kenny each had some kind of assault weapon. But there were Hank and Todd, each with a handgun. Bang, bang, bang. It was just the most recent instance of Todd mirroring another character. We’ve seen him be like Walt, we’ve seen him mirror Jesse, and then last night we saw him mirror both Skyler and Hank. For a very late addition to the cast, Todd sure has become important.
Early on, Todd was a mirror for Mike. In his first appearance — as part of the Vamanos extermination front — Todd spotted a nanny cam in the house Walt and Jesse were about to use as a onetime cook site. It was an instance of Mike-style attention to detail (think of Mike cleaning up Jesse’s apartment when Jane died), with the same kind of modest presence that disguises an intense dark side. Two episodes later, in “Dead Freight,” Todd works seamlessly alongside Jesse and Walt, pulling off the great methylamine heist of ‘12. And then in one of the show’s most striking scenes, Todd pulls out a gun and kills a child.
But dirtbike-riding, tarantula-trapping Drew Sharp is not the first kid to be shot on Breaking Bad. There was Tomás Cantillo back in season three, who was shot and killed in “Half Measures,” presumably at Gus’s behest. If Todd and Gus ever crossed paths, we didn’t see it, but when he killed Drew Sharp, it was a total Gus move. At that point, Jesse thought Gus had poisoned Brock — so in Jesse’s eyes, that was another Gus-style transgression. But Walt knew better; in his eyes, Todd was making a Walt-like move, and in its own sick way, that was flattering. Not unlike the Salamancas, Todd has an important professional criminal relationship with his uncle. Not a lot of solid father-son relationships on Breaking Bad! This is why so many characters seek out authoritative male approval and attention!
Since then, Todd’s bounced between Jesse and Walt. He’s a protégé — so he’s Jesse. But he’s very precise and committed — so he’s Walt. He doesn’t have a natural aptitude for meth-cooking — so he’s Jesse. But boy, is he ever applying himself — back to Walt. When he helped Walt dispose of Mike’s body, he channeled Saul: I don’t need or want a full explanation; let’s just get the dirty work over with. In this season’s “Buried,” Todd leads a blindfolded Lydia through a maze of corpses that she refuses to see or acknowledge, which is more or less how Walt led Sklyer through the first few seasons of the show. Denial’s a hell of a thing.
So we’ve seen Todd channel the bad guys. But he’s channeled the good guys, too. (Good being a relative term here; it’s Breaking Bad, after all.) When he sat at breakfast bragging to his uncle Jake and associate Kenny about the train heist, he sounded just like a season one Hank bragging about his DEA busts; mostly telling the truth, leaving out the unsavory parts, and basking in the adoration of a rapt audience.
Todd’s even able to echo parts of Skyler’s story lines. Breaking Bad is a surprisingly desexualized show. Usually in this antihero genre that Walter White gets lumped in with, we see a tremendous amount of womanizing: We saw it from Tony Soprano, from Don Draper, from Vic Mackey. And often shows that have this much violence — say, Game of Thrones or Dexter — have a lot of sex and nudity to go along with it. Not so Breaking Bad. There’s very little tenderness, very few loving relationships, and almost no eroticism. But then there was Todd’s charged conversation with Lydia and his wistful examination of the lipstick stain she left on his These Colors Don’t Run mug, and suddenly things were as sensual as they’d ever been. The only other time we’ve seen anything that overtly sexual was Skyler singing “Happy Birthday” to Ted*, just before they rekindled their affair. And the way Todd cradled the mug felt like a direct callback to Skyler at the end of “Fifty-One,” when she sat in the living room, ashing her cigarette into an Area 51 mug.
We see Hank in Todd, we Skyler in Todd, we even see Marie’s perky telephone demeanor maybe sort of in Todd. We see parts of Walt and Gus and Mike and Jesse in Todd. And what they all add up to — Todd himself — is someone pretty awful. Oh, he’s devoted, he’s easy to work with, and he even seems to be enjoying himself at least some of the time. But Todd’s also maybe a psychopath, or at least he’s someone detached enough from the experiences of life that he’s unfazed by murdering a child. He’s a bad, bad guy. And with him, Breaking Bad is telling us that the bad side wins out — add up all the good things about the show’s universe, and add up all the bad things, and guess what? The bad part wins. The dangerous part, the criminal part, the cold part, the cruel part — even when someone has goodness in them, when he or she is smart and passionate and reliable. Even then, the bad part is more powerful. Just ask Heisenberg.
* Ted. Not Todd. Ted, just in this instance.