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 13 (Original Air Date: September 8, 2013)
We’re going vintage. Back to the Indian Reservation To’hajiilee. Where it all began. A private pact between Walt and Jesse has since cracked wide open. And the pipe dreams of familial fortune are now crushed under Hank’s fist.
No one expected it, but the hapless DEA Agent has come out on top. That’s right, Hank finally nabs Heisenberg. And he revels in the moment.
He wants to share it. So he rings up Marie. He tells her what he’s done. What they’ve both wanted for so long. She’s misty-eyed. Congratulates him. They trade I Love You‘s and Hank promises to see her soon. Its a beautiful momen–
Wait, hang on. I don’t want this. I don’t think any one else watching this show wants it. This is not Hank’s battle to win. This is between Walt and Jesse. Between Evil and Misguided Good. What guides Hank’s actions? Pride and duty? Eff that. What about fighting for what you believe is right a la Jesse? Or preserving the one good thing that came of a really shitty situation like Walt? I don’t want the NARC to reign victorious. No way.
Perhaps the writers felt that they owed Hank some kind of tiny consolation prize. Fair enough. But hang tight – what’s that I hear? A team of hired assassins? Gentlemen, commence shootout.
Who will survive? The only certainty is Walt. And Hank’s everyone’s top pick to kick the bucket. Especially after that sappy reach-out to Marie? You’re gone, buddy.
Alright. Let’s take it back…
The episode begins with Lydia, Todd and friends in a meth lab. They’re tweaking the latest product. Solid, indeed. But Lydia, the fierce independent business woman, schools her cooks on ‘branding’. Namely: If it ain’t blue, it ain’t happenin’. An apologetic Todd later explains, over tea, that he screwed up that last batch. It’ll get better, he assures.
As Lydia bids adieu, Todd receives the call that ended last week’s episode. You know the deal. Now a man with a swastika tattoo is out for Jesse’s blood. Should have gone to Alaska, little man.
For now, though, he’s relatively safe. He, Hank and Gomez devise a new plan to “get” Walt. Remember last week’s promise that Jesse “Get him where he really lives?” No dummy, not his house! He’s talking about his money — Stay with me here! They know he’s got it somewhere. But how to find it?
As they ponder, Hank pulls out a bloody wad of meat and throws it on the kitchen floor. While not immediately evident, Hanky’s got a plan:
A photo op! Because what’s more convincing than a pic of a guy with his guts spilling out? It certainly worked on Heffer Huel. When Hank demonstrates an inside knowledge of Heisenberg’s major moves and throws a Jesse “death pic” into the mix, the message is clear. Jig is up buddy. Withhold information and we’ll throw you to the hounds!
Huell doesn’t know much, but it is enough. He squeals about the rental van Walt uses to transport his barrels of blood money. He tells them about the shovel and the fact that the vehicle was dirty, implying an off-road venture. They now know he buried it somewhere in the desert! — Great, that narrows it down.
Walt positions his men for the next move. Neo-Nazi Jack interrogates his client about his reason for the hit. Asks if its a rodent problem. “No,” Walt assures, “He’s just angry.” Walt insists that the hit be quick and painless. “He’s like family to me.”
Is anybody still buying into Walt’s claims that everything he’s been doing is for the family? He continues to hide stuff from Skyler. He seems fairly indifferent about Junior. Does he even know Baby’s name?
I’m not negating Walt’s inital motivation. Sure, he meant well in the beginning. But what matters to him now? Jesse’s up there. Walt has sincerely bent over backwards to protect the two of them. And Jesse preserves Walt’s humanity better than anyone.
Money is also big. When Jesse devises the scheme to hit Walt where it hurts, he doesn’t bring Skyler or Junior into the mix. Behind the righteous for-the-family bullshit, Its all about the Benjamins.
Grim, I know. But not exactly unexpected. Walt, like anyone on planet earth, craves validation. He wants his legacy. That much has been evident since unearthing his missed opportunity in Season 1’s “Grey Matter”. Success is the aim.
And culturally, what defines success? The good graces of a sloppy, hot-headed meth dealer and addict? Or the glossy, prosperous, picture perfect family? Providing for the family is and has always been the goal. But maybe the reasons are a little more self-seeking than we’d thought initially.
He needs his legend. And Jesse needs justice. Something’s gotta give. “Time is of the essence,” Walt tells Todd, Uncle Jack, and pals. He doesn’t know where his prey is hiding. But, he “knows how to flush him out.” The men agree, but the cost is high: Walt must cook for them. One last time.
Hell no! What kind of sick unimaginable perverse thing is Walt up to now?!
He’s the one who knocks. Andrea answers. Walt explains that Jesse’s gone missing and is using again. He’s terrified that his friend may have hurt himself. That’s right. Fondle the heartstrings – it’s his ace in the hole. Andrea rings up Jesse with a phone number Walt provides and leaves a message filling him in on Walt’s concerned visit. Dance, puppet.
When Walt leaves, he has his hitmen keep watch. He instructs them again to make it quick. He also asks that Jesse be lured away from Andrea and Brock once he inevitably comes to the rescue. Keep it classy, Walt.
This plan probably would have worked, too, if Hank hadn’t intercepted the voicemail. He parrots Jesse’s “Nice try, asshole,” and consults with teammates about what’s next on the agenda. They’re still riding on Huell’s squeeze. They know about the rental van. But where did it go? It had no GPS. Hang on, Hank wonders aloud, Walt doesn’t know that.
At the carwash, Skyler trains Junior in customer service. I must say, the little bugger’s not bad. He’s certainly friendly and courteous. But he forgets to send off his clients with a hearty “Have an A1 day!” He feels funny about this part. Skyler explains that its their brand. Like Lydia, she knows the value of presentation.
Things are going pretty well til Saul, face battered and bandaged, enters the place. Skyler and Walt are shaken and pissed. Walt confronts him and learns that Huell’s vanished. Saul warns that Walt’s target may be racking up a body count.
Back inside, Walt gets a text from Jesse. Its a barrel of money in a pile of dirt. Before Walt can even process what he’s seeing, Jesse calls.
“You get my photo, bitch?!” He’s got 6 more that look exactly like it, he says.
Walt’s visibly shaken. He bolts toward To’hajiilee. Jesse threatens with a plan that involves 5 gallons of gasoline and a lighter.
Walt’s heart is racing and we’re right there with him. The life he’s lived, the empire he’s built, is about to dissolve in a ball of fire.
Jesse is practically slobbering with the sweet taste of power. Walt pleas desperately. He resorts to his sob story. His cancer’s back. Burning the money is only hurting his family. His children.
You’re bringing in the kids?! What about Brock?
Walt says he’s sorry. Jesse snaps back, “No, you’re not. But you’re gonna be.”
Sympathy is ineffective. On to logic…
Brock was never really in danger. Walt had the dose measured precisely. And besides, that was a ploy to protect them both. To turn Jesse on Gus so they could phase him out. Walt cites the murders of Emilio and Crazy 8 as risks he’s taken to insure Jesse’s safety.
“Only you’re too stupid to know it!” Walt snarls.
The call drops.
Walt pulls into his spot in To’hajiilee. Back where it all began…
To review last week’s episode, click here.