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For the most part the motivations behind Walter's many bad choices and irrational actions make sense to me, with the one big exception of the "tequilla scene" in season 2. Giving Walter Jr one cup of alcohol on a special occasion I could understand, but it quickly gets weird after Walter pours a second one.

Hank: What you doing there?

Walter: What does it look like I'm doing?

Hank: The kid's 16. What are you, going for Father of the Year?

Walter: What are you looking at him for? We're celebrating. Come on.

[Walter Jr drinks second cup]

[Hank covers the cup with his hand when Walter tries to refill it again]

Hank: Listen, I'd take a pass on that one if I were you, okay?

[Walter pours more right through Hank's hand]

Hank: Think we've been bogarting this puppy long enough.

[Hank picks up the bottle and walks away]

Walter: Hey. Bring the bottle back.

Hank: Sorry, buddy. No can do.

[Walter stands up]

Walter: My son! My bottle! My house!

Hank: It's all right.

Walter: What are you waiting for? Bring it back.

Hank: Why don't we just call it a day? All right, pal? We good?

Walter: The bottle. Now.

Skyler: What's going on?

[Walter Jr collapses and vomits into the pool as Walter sits down silently drinks more tequilla]

I assume Walter is aware that making his son drink this much when he doesn't normally drink will probably make him extremely unhealthy and cause a big scene (like it did). Walter's dialog seems to imply this is about "control", but I don't see how this behavior increases his control or displays his masculine dominance over Hank or anything like that; if anything it just makes him look unhinged and Hank look like the mature, responsible guy (which is not what Hank normally looks like). If he was jealous that Walter Jr was talking to Hank more than him, I think he would've tried starting a conversation with Walter Jr at least once before doing whatever this was.

The very end of the scene is especially strange. Walter sits down casually and drinks yet more tequila as his son vomits at his feet. It's almost like he's saying "See that? I can make my son violently ill whenever the hell I want. Take that, other people in his life." And that makes no sense to me, unless Walter is far more deranged than I thought he was in season 2.

What was Walter's motivation for making his son drink so much and then causing a scene when Hank tried to stop him?

  • 4
    Motivation: Alcohol-induced anger. – cde Feb 28 '16 at 13:51
35

To understand much of this scene, you have to look at the previous episode.

In the previous episode, Walt had some tests to see the effect of his chemo and radiation treatments. His doctor wouldn't release the results for four days, but Walt noticed a large white spot on his lung and assumed the worst.

Walt then went into cooking-overdrive, as he believed his life was nearly over and he desperately wanted to raise money. In fact, to quote from the wiki:

Two days of cooking yields 42 pounds of meth that will net them $672,000 each

So they made a serious amount of drugs. Later in the episode, Walt's fear becomes even clearer:

"I know I can trust you to, uh…" Walt begins.

"Whatever happens, your family will get your share," Jesse replies.

Then, at the end of the episode, Walt learns that his cancer is in remission. But rather than reacting with joy, he walks into the bathroom and starts punching the metal tower dispenser with all his might.

This scene wonderfully encapsulates Walt's state of mind. He is infuriated by his cancer and how it has affected his life. He is infuriated that he can leave so little to his family. He is infuriated by everything. And right when he finds his cancer is in remission, he's still furious as nothing in his life is settled.

When the episode you watched begins (Over) he is recovering from the aftermath of this information. He tells Jessie he plans to retire, but two important things happened which change his mind:

  1. Hank continues to act the tough-guy and Walt can see how much his son looks up to him.
  2. Skyler thanks everyone for their support, and toasts Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz as "heroes".

The combination of these two events has always been a dangerous catalyst for Walt. He wants to be the ideal father figure for his son and is angry that after all he is done, and all he can leave behind, he doesn't get more "respect". This anger isn't at all directed at his son, but at Hank who is his "competitor" in this regard.

Secondly, throughout the series he has a deep and bitter hatred for Gretchen and Elliot. If he had stayed with the business, he would be a billionaire by now - instead he is a drug dealing, cancer riddled secondary school teacher - and he despises it.

Finally, to the scene in question: Walt is angry, he's drinking tequila, and he wants to assert himself. He demands his son drinks because HE is the man of the house. From his drug dealing, he is now used to being in control. He has dealt with powerful and dangerous men - and now Hank is going to influence HIS son, in HIS own house? Walt can't accept that. So he gets into a macho contest with Hank.

As you rightly point out, to any intelligent observer he comes across as callous and childish - but Walt isn't thinking straight, he's drunk and still processing his cancer remission news.

  • 6
    A very good answer, I 100% agree with you. I would however also add that another one of the reasons that Walt is so furious, unlike everyone else around him who's cheerful and smiling, is the fact that since his cancer is in remission, he has no plausible excuse to continue leading his gangsta life, in which he is feared and in control, or at least has a goal (pile up as much money as he can to provide for his family after he's gone) and so he's forced to go back to his previous boring one, which he has just realized that really sucks. – Pesetas74 Feb 29 '16 at 12:24
  • 3
    His rage stems also from the realization of his wasted potential. From Walt's distorted point of view, the cancer has liberated that potential, but the remission is now taking it all away ... – Pesetas74 Feb 29 '16 at 12:24
  • I'd completely forgotten that he was angry about being in remission the episode before, that does go a long way toward explaining it. And @Pesetas74's point also makes perfect sense in retrospect (after hearing lines like "I'm in the empire business" and "I did it for me" from later seasons) but I hadn't picked up on it at all by this point in the show. +1 with check mark. – Ixrec Feb 29 '16 at 12:32
  • "And right when he finds his cancer is in remission, he's still furious as nothing in his life is settled." There is also a phenomenon where people who have lived with a terminal illness and then turn out to be misdiagnosed lose their identity. They have built their life around having a disease that they do not have. On an emotional level, finding out the opposite is true; is the same as thinking you're happily married for decades, and then finding out that your wife has been cheating on you since day one. Walt's reaction is because he "loses" his self-made identity as a terminal patient. – Flater Jun 27 '17 at 10:06

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