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 12 (Original Air Date: September 1, 2013)
As I write this, a fly buzzes around my head.
I’m not happy about it. For one, this isn’t a familiar workspace. I’m already out of my element. My sense of balance is compromised. When I finally wrestle my attention span into a choke hold, a tiny motor hisses in my ear. I can’t take it. Its driving me mad.
Breaking Bad devotees understand why this detail matters. You’re surely visualizing the pesky contaminant that taunted Jesse and Walt in their old superlab back in Season 3. Like me, you now remember how obsessive Walt became. How he wanted so desperately to control his environment. How that one small wrench in his plan nearly destroyed him.
You probably also remember how he pulled Jesse into his madness. And how it was actually the properly trained lapdog that eventually killed the fly himself. In Walt’s rabid pursuit of his tiny aggressor, he never quite came out on top. Jesse did.
So its curious to now see the power shift in Jesse’s favor.
From the first frame, Walt’s no longer top dog. He sees the remnants of Jesse’s madness and fears the worst. Gun in hand, he surveys his gasoline soaked home to a deafening buzzy crescendo. He’s fully present in this moment and so are we. But alas, his predator has vanished.
Roll opening credits, cut to commercial and we’re back. Now Walt’s thinking a bit more clearly. He hires some exorbitantly paid professionals to vanquish the odor and fix the door locks, but what’s this? He doesn’t want the locks changed, just replaced. A concerned service provider informs Walt that its customary to change the locks in the event of a break-in, but that doesn’t matter. The Master of Sweeping Problems Under the Rug has a very specific motive in mind: Skyler can’t know.
This might strike the viewer as a bit weird. As of late, Skyler’s seemed like a true partner in all this. She’s demonstrated that she can be trusted and will help Walt accordingly. So what is he trying to protect her from this time? Or is it not even her that he’s protecting?
Walt’s oddly vulnerable voice message to Jesse may sound genuine, but I’m not so sure. After his “I might kill you” hate-hug last episode, this plea bargain thing feels more like a tactic. Time to Brain File this one away for later review.
When it becomes clear that no amount of money on God’s green earth could eliminate the gas smell, Walt takes a new approach. He stages an elaborate scene that extends from the car to the family room and calls it a “Pump malfunction.”
Not his best work, I know. And even Junior can see right through the BS. But that’s alright, because blaming the fiasco on a cancer faint is just as effective.
Its agreed that staying in the house is not terribly safe and kind of icky. Junior suggests spending a night or two with Uncle Hank and Aunt Marie. Poor little idiot boy.
That night, outside the hotel, Kuby, Saul, and Walt convene about Jesse. They’ve got nothing. Saul goes out on a limb and says what just about everyone’s thinking: are you prepared to put Old Yeller down? Walt once again surprises, as he snarls: “Do NOT float that idea again. Find him.” You can tell by his cohorts’ faces that, just maybe, there’s another beast they should be worried about.
When Walt retires to his room, Skyler’s waiting. Drink in hand. She knows exactly where Walt’s been and who he’s been talking to. But she wants to know why. Walt tries in vain to deflate the situation. Oh, some kid almost burned the house down but changed his mind. Nbd. He’d never hurt anyone. Everything’s chill. Shockingly, she’s not convinced.
At this point, its easy to see how far in his own head Walt really is. His decided lack of rationality is in no way self-evident. And its scaring the shit out of Skyler. Walt asserts that he’ll talk to his former business associate and the problem will be solved, but not-drunk-enough Skyler knows this game of chess has one solution: KILL JESSE PINKMAN.
Next, drunk lady Heisenberg chills my bones as she asks “We’ve come this far, for us. What’s one more?” Jesus, Skyler. You insufferable bitch, you.
A commercial break sends us back to Jesse, either rehashing old tricks or dousing the White’s home again for the first time. He’s so ready to burn the fucker down until Hank intervenes. He explains that he’s been following Mr. Pinkman since he left Saul Goodman’s to meet his secret escort. And now he’s finally caught Jesse in a moment of manic rage. So you want to burn Walt down? Let’s do it together, Hank insists.
Meanwhile, Marie has problems. And my god, does she yip yap to her therapist about every one of them. Thing is, the only one that has any merit is the one that can’t really be discussed. So instead she talks about how she’s surfed the net for untraceable poisons and stopped doing basic human things like nomnom or sleepsleep. She’s got all these violent fantasies that freak her therapist out, but she impishly assures him, “I wouldn’t hurt anybody. It just feels so good to think about it.”
When Marie returns home, she notices some travel bags conspicuously placed by the front door. Hank’s never really been the subtle type, mind you. And the bumbling words match the bumbling gesture. Marie, you should bounce for a few days. She pokes and prods and Hank shows her an unconscious Jesse and explains his deal. Marie’s not one for information overloads, though. “Just answer me one question,” she instructs, “Is this bad for Walt?” Hank gives a slightly confused, “Yeah,” and she’s satisfied. “Good! Imma go reheat the lasagna now. Carry on!”
Hank snoops through Jesse’s Hello Kitty phone to uncover the voice message left by Walt earlier in the episode. The gears are turning.
Back at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, neither Walt or Junior can sleep. Walt explains that he’s “considering business options,” but his little one has a far more fundamental fear. My dad’s going to die. Walt minimizes his cancer, because let’s be honest, its the least of his problems right now, but Junior seizes the moment and grabs his dad. Holds him close. He may not understand the complexity of Walt’s life, but he instinctively senses that the end is near.
As Jesse composes himself in Hank’s home, he notices the old photos. The only evidence of the formerly ordinary lives these families had lead. Once he leaves his room, he’s greeted by Marie, who offers him coffee. Extending the welcoming party is – surprisingly – Hank’s colleague Gomez. They’ve got a tripod and a camera and all the time in the world. Jesse spills his guts.
Gomez and Hank agree that the confession seems honest, but isn’t enough to hold up on its own. They still need that ever elusive “physical evidence.” Hank’s got a plan: To take Walt up on his offer to meet Jesse, unarmed and alone, in a public place at noon the next day. Gomez thinks it could work, but Jesse has his misgivings. Namely, “Mr. White is the Devil and he’ll kill me.” What a baby!
Hank considers Jesse’s viewpoint then kindly puts things into perspective: This is not a choice. You are a criminal and I am law. Do it or else. Jesse enthusiastically agrees and leaves for a pee-break. Gomez brings up to Hank that Jesse is probably spot on about Walt’s offer being a set-up. But Hank’s conscience is clear. Pinkman’s a lowly criminal after all. “Best case scenario: He gets killed and we have it on tape.”
Then comes the moment of truth. The cameramen are in position. Walt waits on a bench. Jesse approaches, but wait. Who’s that guy? A bald man in black stands a few yards away from Walt and has a major staring problem. Trust betrayed. Jesse paces toward a payphone and rings his enemy. “Nice try.” Walt can’t get a word in as Jesse reads him his death sentence. “I’m after you.” As Walt leaves, he passes his alleged henchman, whose daughter runs into his arms. False alarm, but the damage is already done.
Both men enter their getaway cars. A livid Hank barks at his unlikely affiliate. What were you thinking?! But Jesse promises that there’s “another way” to get him. A few hundred feet away, a weakened Walt calls Todd and informs him that he’s got a job for his uncle.
We’re halfway there, my friends. And the fly is still buzzing.
To review last week’s episode, click here.