September 29, 2013 will mark one of the saddest days in television history: The conclusion of Vince Gilligan’s game-changing dramatic series, Breaking Bad.
Truly, few samples of film, standalone or episodic, can match the skillful pacing or narrative flair of this show. And for that reason, I will pay my personal homage through the blogosphere: Episode-by-episode critiques and recaps of the final 8 installments of the series.
Be warned, there will likely be spoilers abound. This is primarily for fans who crave a post-viewing play-by-play. Comments are encouraged.
So without further ado:
Season 5 Episode 11 (Original Air Date: August 25, 2013)
In case there was any doubt, Walter White does not give a fuck. You may have had your suspicions when he directly murdered some folks and poisoned a kid and passively watched a woman die. Mother Teresa he ain’t. But beyond being sociopathic or deceptive or just plain mean, he occupies a whole ‘nother level of grotesque. We’re talking downright evil.
More on that later. This is Breaking Bad, so above any one character is story. And here we have one of the most masterfully crafted in the series.
Pre-title credits, we check in with Todd. He leaves a voicemail with Walt about “a change in management” and asks that he call back for details. In a diner, we see the makings of a next generation meth-pusher in Todd’s cinematic retelling of the Great New Mexico Train Heist. He’s meeting with presumable business partners who later sneak away into a public restroom where one curiously wipes some blood off his boots. Ah, that change in management.
It will be interesting to see where this part of the story will tie into the final events of the series, especially seeing as all the major players seem pre-occupied with other plot lines. But even as we now have questions, these cryptic scenes have dramatic purpose in “the now.” The past isn’t through with these characters. Now, more than ever, every move counts.
Hank’s in a delicate situation. He’s tried desperately to squeeze information out of all of his adversaries. Which includes virtually everyone. Marie’s technically on his side, but let’s be real: that’s a major handicap.
He craves morale. Any reason to keep going. Mr. Pinkman should fit the bill, right? I mean, the guy is DE-pressed. Totally viciously ripped apart inside. Like a lion sniffing a broken-limbed gazelle, this should be beyond easy. But no, not even this guy will give up the good stuff. Saul eventually cuts into Hank and Jesse’s awkward prom dance, but only after its made painfully clear that Jesse’s lips are sealed. How painfully emasculating. Sorry bro.
Back at the Whites, Walt is debriefed by Saul and gives instruction for the next play. Junior yells something to dad about visiting Aunt Marie to help fix her computer, but we know better… Junior’s an idiot with computers! He’s like, the WORST guy to ask for help in that capacity. Walt has to think fast, so he brings up his cancer. But, if you want to leave your dying dad alone to help your kleptomaniac, meddling Aunt, I’ll be fine. I’m sure the neighbors will hear me scream if I fall over. Naturally, the empathetic Junior stays. Sucker.
Before a word from the sponsors, we see Marie freak out at Hank for keeping Walt’s secret a secret. Then we’re taken back to Episode 1 of the series as Walt and Skyler agree to film a confession. Note Walt’s behavior in front of a camera this time around. There’s no sense of fear or urgency or even regret. He’s entirely stoic. Purposeful. Vulcan-logical.
We sit at the edge of our seat through the commercial break and come back just in time to catch a dinner date between the Whites and Schraders. Walt and Skyler play defense, to start. Their opponents assume a more aggressive approach. After continued back-and-forths about child safety and awkwardly ignored guacamole offers, Marie utters the meanest words ever spoken by anyone ever.
“Why don’t you kill yourself, Walt?”
I want to reiterate that Walt is basically the worst person on this planet earth, but shit. This lady really gives him a run for his money with that one. Like, how rude.
The Schraders try desperately to back the Whites into a corner, but all this really does is confirm to the audience that they have NO IDEA who they’re messing with. Speaking of which, back to the recorded confession…
Its done. Well, a rough cut anyway. It could use some touch-ups in post, but for now, its ready for private viewing. H&M watch it at home with a critical eye. Walt wants some feedback.
It was good, brother-in-law. You tell a good story. Very believable emotional responses to the information being presented. I do wonder, though, if this is a narrative that could potentially ruin my life forever. That whole thing about me using my knowledge and power as a DEA to bully you into being my meth cook could really damage my character. I can’t quite prove that Gus wasn’t a business partner either, or that I orchestrated his death for that matter. And the $177k in medical bills that I “forced” out of you? Well, geez. You’d have me in quite a pickle with that one.
Evil is the theme here. Pure unadulterated evil. I know its standard for in-laws not to get along, but this is – Damn. I’m thinking Hank might want to actually take Marie’s advice at this point.
So there’s one threat eliminated. Walt’s way too smart for Hank, and what can he really do? He’s a man of the law – he can’t go rogue. Its about 99% safe to assume that Walt’s got him stalemated. But then, there’s also a loose cannon that needs fixin’.
Saul and Jesse meet Walt in the desert to discuss a few things. Its worth review that, while waiting, Jesse watches a tarantula pass by his feet. Hmm, where did we see one of those before? Ah right, when it was snatched from the cold dead fingers of a dead boy who kinda-but-not-really witnessed the train heist. Point is: He’s dead. Jesse doesn’t like that. Never has.
Walt inspects the vehicle for trackers and asks Jesse about the information he’s given Hank and how much he thinks he knows. Nothing. Perfect. You should get out of here, Walt suggests. Start clean. For your own good.
For all of Jesse’s idiotic impulses and erratic behavior, he’s always been kind of a sweetie pie. And puppy-loyal. Its kind of endearing, but mostly pathetic, and that culminates in a raw moment with Walt in this scene. Jesse feels dicked-around, and he wants some honesty. But more than that, he wants Walt to admit that he needs him. Even if this particular “need” is for Jesse to disappear.
So Walt gives him a hug. He consoles him the way humans like to be consoled. Through physical contact. Warm, friendly, entirely calculated and disconnected human contact.
At the carwash, a heavily shadowed Walt ominously assures Skyler that they’re “fine.” Skyler seems oddly unconvinced. Cut to Hank in his office, calling off the dogs and letting Jesse go scott-free.
So as Saul sends off his client, it seems that all is right in the world. Removing Jesse from the picture is really a key element to Walt’s success. Why? Because Hank is a man guided by logic. When he’s enraged, he’s still effectively leashed to the green grass of common law. Which means, no matter how desperate he may become, there’s always a limit.
But what about a guy whose libido is king? He’s got a human capacity for morality, but what keeps him grounded? Where’s Jesse’s leash?
It was firmly in Walt’s hands, but then he let it go. Find a new home, pup. We can’t take care of you anymore. And it almost worked, before that simple discovery that sent Jesse over the edge. That minute detail that pattered in his mind as delicately as a tarantula on sand.
This is getting REALLY good folks. Stay tuned for next week.
To review last week’s episode, click here.