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 15 (Original Air Date: September 22, 2013)
Choice. Its a funny thing, isn’t it? I mean, its nice to be altruistic. To act in pursuit of our needs and desires without implicating other people. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
Depending on our choices, shit can get brutal. Like, car crash brutal. Whereupon impact, pieces shatter and fly into a million different directions. In these situations, no one gets out unharmed.
Just ask any of our key players. Even the not terribly relevant ones. Sorry, Andrea.
Mr. White’s made a few pretty bold moves. The infamous phone call, for one. Which had [almost] entirely abdicated Skyler of her role in the couple’s crimes. The kidnapping. Which, in retrospect, could have been just another layer in the phone call scheme. And then, of course, his sudden disappearance.
We pick up with the red getaway van that whisked away our troubled hero last time. Ed the Extractor pulls into the Vacuum Sales and Service Shop. Out of public view, he opens the backdoor. Howdy Heisenb– uh, Saul?
Our lovable Kevin Costner lookalike has a plan: to become a “douche-bag with a job and three pairs of dockers.” He’s thinkin’, best case scenario, to be a manager at Cinnabon. But first thing’s first: He needs a new photo for a phony Nebraska ID. He wonders about the huge gash on his face. Worry not, Ed assures, we’ll photoshop that shit out.
Saul’s to lay low for a few days. In the meantime, he’ll bunk in the basement. Oh, and by the way, hope you don’t mind having a roommate.
Who could it be? You guessed it: Walt. Erratic and vengeful with way too much time on his hands. He’s got a plan, but first, let’s check in on our mournful little mouse-faced Marie.
She’s got escorts. They promise they’ll find Hank. Ok, that’s comforting… Until they pull up to her home and find it trashed and gutted. Two of the men scout the home while Marie’s promptly removed from the situation. So that’s, what? 30 seconds of screen time? Uh, did I write this episode?
The men search. Then Jesse’s voice, low and broken, invades the scene. The sound carries us to the lair of the thieves with the confession tape.
Jesse’s on screen. Eyes red and puffy. The Nazis laugh as if they’re watching an Episode of 30 Rock [RIP] and they skip ahead. Oh– what’s this?
The crew conveniently land on a bit about Todd. Specifically, his cold-blooded murder of a little boy. “BOOM,” Jesse emphasizes, “Like it was nothing.” He and the victim are identified by name. Should of re-thought that one, lil’ pup. Now you’re the rat.
Meth D’s a bit proud about Jesse’s retelling of the story. After all, with the life choices HE has made, it pays to be perceived as a psychopath. But Uncle Jack reacts from a slightly different point of view: one of his men has been identified. That ain’t cool.
He’s ready to put the kid down, but Meth D intercepts. Its funny how often the interests of Lydia align with the presence of Jesse. He can provide her with the product purity and color she wants. And he also carries information that can help or harm her empire. Which would also mean, if the Nazis comply, that they can get even MORE filthy rich.
But above all, Methy’s got a crush. And he’ll stop at nothing to gain Lydia’s approval.
Jesse knows nothing about any of this. He’s still in his cell. Staring at the photo of Lydia and Brock. Then he notices his ticket to freedom.
A paper clip.
In a faraway land, Walt and Saul play catchup beneath the Vacuum Shop. Walt is madly focused on reclaiming his stolen money. He asks for about five “hitters and mercenaries” to enact his revenge.
Saul, ever the pragmatist, puts things into perspective. Walt being gone will solve nothing. His family won’t be safe. And there’s no simple way to transfer his money to them.
It’s clear to everyone that Walt’s got a bad hand and should fold. But why let that stellar poker face go to waste? Walt assures his audience that it’s only over when he reclaims his rewards and gives them to his family. No more effin’ around.
It’s not over, he gasps over a strangled cough. Ok, Old Man. We’ll believe it when we see it.
Meanwhile, Skyler’s effectively receiving her death sentence. Sort of. Really, its a warning about the legal action she might face for withholding information about her hubbie. The details of which are unclear beneath the the droney squealy noise ringing in her head.
As was the case when Walt received his diagnosis in Episode 1, those specifics aren’t really relevant. What matters is time is running out. And the course of action is anything but certain. Skyler’s at a standstill.
So that night, she quietly complies to surveillance. She sits in a darkened living room of a home once occupied with thoughts of future children. A loving husband. And the knowledge that her sister and DEA in-law were just a phone call away. But this house is no longer a home.
Reflecting over a cigarette, the silence is busted by Baby. Skyler walks into the room.
It’s Meth and the gang. In black masks. Circled around Baby’s crib. A man grabs Sky and covers her mouth. Todd is checking in to make sure nothing has been or will be mentioned about his “girlfriend.” He doesn’t want to come back. Cuz it’s kind of out of the way and gas is CRAZY expensive.
He makes sure the threat REALLY comes through with a shoulder-touch and leaves Sky to mull over things.
Later, Meth and Lydia connect at a coffee shop. He lights up as she steps in and dumbly attempts to follow when she sits back-turned at the next table. She corrects him, as I imagine she would do frequently in the inevitable erotic fan fiction about these two.
He procedes to boast about his good work scaring the shit out of Skyler. But she’s not satisfied. Subtle ain’t her game. Too much risk involved. She suggests taking a break from MD, Jack and the rest of his cronies.
Then Meth D plays his Ace. “We’re up to 92%. And its blue. And We’ve got Jesse locked up in a cage.”
Oh. Thinks Lydia. This changes things.
It’s back to Walt, taking refuge in his New Hampshire hideaway. Ed gives him a tour. Its basic. Month’s worth of canned goods. Steaks in the freezer. Generator. Woodburner. Bad TV reception. Two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. No cellphone or internet access.
It’s casually mentioned that Walt is the subject of a nationwide manhunt. That being the case, Ed promises to bounce in the event that Walt leaves the gate of the reservation. Because no way is he risking his life for that.
Ed will be back next month with newspapers and supplies. Which gives Walt ample time to “Rest up,” and “Think about things.”
As Walt willfully hides, Jesse plots his escape. His paper clip lock pick works swimmingly. Now he stands on a ladder built of a folded mattress and a bucket. He reaches for the top of the cell. Then the chatter nears.
When Meth D arrives with a bowl of ice cream, Jesse’s back in position. Good thing, too. Who would wanna miss out on a delicious mish mash of Peanut Butter Cup and Americone Dream? Guys, I’m pretty sure we were wrong about this guy all along.
I mean, he even takes the tarp off of Jesse’s cage so he can watch the stars! How precious.
Sucker. Now Jesse’s got one less obstacle in the way of freedom. In a quiet moment, he resumes his escape plan. I want to point out how incredible this feat is. Possible, sure, but the upper body strength one would need? Forget about it. I’ll just cook meth till they kill me.
Still, the little man makes it. He runs toward the barb wire fence. He leaps. Ravages his way toward the top. But his captors follow his trail. They picked him up on surveillance. He’s cornered. Helpless.
So he barks. Loud. He’ll never cook for them. Not again. So they better kill him now.
Poor Jesse. You really should have thought this through. Your choices effect the world outside of you. The people you care about. The things you want to protect. They are extensions of you. Just as accountable for every one of your actions.
The photo was designed as a reminder. It was a subtle way of saying, “there are worse things than killing you.” But Jesse is all heart. He took a risky opportunity and it backfired.
So MD and friends take him out for a late night drive. They visit an old friend. Lure her out of her home with the promise of seeing Jesse again.
MD explains that its nothing personal. And in the blink of an eye, she’s gone. Done. Dead. Nobody’s innocent. Nobody’s safe.
Jesse sees it all. And he’s reminded about the boy. Effectively they warn, “Don’t pull the trigger.” Its a matter of choice.
It’s 30 days from Walt’s arrival, and he waits like an adorable puppy at the gates. There he is! Ed! My Master who brings food and supplies!
He’s got replacement glasses. Stacks of newspapers. And updates on the family. They’ve moved out of the house. It’s fenced up now. Largely due to teenagers breaking in.
Skyler now works as a taxi dispatcher. She uses her maiden name. And there’s talk about Grand Jury.
Ed assists in administering Walt’s chemotherapy. He mentions that he’s now a pro after taking a course at the school of Youtube. Solid.
When he tries to leave, Walt begs him to stay. $10k for 2 hours, he proposes. Make it an hour, he bargains. It’s a deal. They start a game of cards, and Walt asks the tough questions.
In the likely event that Ed comes to the cabin and finds Walt dead, what happens to the money then? He asks if Ed would bring his money to his family.
Ed’s answer is honest and brutal. “If I say yes, would you believe me?”
That night, Walt sleeps. Photos of Skyler are all over the wall. Walt’s ring falls off his finger, waking him. He tries to place it back on. It won’t fit. He picks up a string and forms a necklace. Then he sits up. Struck with inspiration.
He takes a box and packs it with money. Then packages it nicely. Next morning he takes it outside to the gate. Overlooks the fresh tracks. And exits.
Next we see Junior in class. He’s got a phone call from Aunt Marie. And you thought we’d seen the last of her, huh? No such luck, buddy.
Junior takes the call in a secluded office. “Aunt Marie?”
We cut to a bar with a woman who is decidedly NOT Marie. “Hold on a sec, Honey.” She passes the phone to Walt.
He’s genuinely elated to hear his son’s voice. He rambles, trying to find an apology and a proclamation of love. None of it quite solidifies. But then comes the plan.
He asks about Junior’s friend Louis. He’s a good kid. Is his address the same? He wants to send a package to him that’s actually meant for Junior. Its important that he say nothing about it to anyone. Its got $100k. He wishes it could be more, but that’s all that fits.
Do you understand?
Junior’s quiet throughout the phone call. We can’t get a good read on him. But when he starts, its clear.
“You killed Uncle Hank!”
Then he pulls a Marie.
“Why are you still alive? Why don’t you just die already?! Just die!”
A screenwriting teacher once instructed that, when creating good drama, we ask ourselves, “How hard should I be on my characters?” To which the response is always the same:
Be unforgiving. Be brutal. Let them fight through it and fight hard. Jesse’s there. And I thought it couldn’t get much worse for Walt, until the next scene.
Walt makes another phone call. To the DEA of Albuquerque. He tells them who he is, and leaves the phone dangling on the hook. His cover is blown.
He heads to the bar and orders a Dimple Pinch. Neat. Then he notices something curious on the television.
Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz. They’re being interviewed about their recent $28 million Grant for drug abuse treatment centers throughout the southwest. It’s perceived as a political move to distance themselves from their Grey Matter co-founder, Walter White.
They minimize Walt’s involvement. He had nothing to do with anything but the name. What’s worse, the Walter White they knew – the kind, wonderful man they befriended – is gone. Buried. Dead.
Walt swells with fury.
The police arrive. But not in time.
And now, there’s
To review last week’s episode, click here.