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 14 (Original Air Date: September 15, 2013)
When last week’s episode ended with a sentimental exchange between Hank and Marie, the internet was abuzz about what this meant for the characters. Because if Gilligan’s bell has conditioned us to think or feel anything in this kind of moment, its dread.
So in 7 days, we accepted Hank’s death. The arrangements were made. We buried him and we said our good-byes. That’s it. We hardly knew ye and all that jazz. But you dug your own grave, smarty-pants.
A grave that, a mere months prior, gave promise to a better life.
It was on that same ground that Walt and Jesse first cooked in a make-shift RV meth lab. And here’s where we begin this week. Same place. But back to a time when Jesse and Walt had no clue and a lot of aspirations.
In a quiet moment, the scantily clad Walt steps outside and mutters to himself incoherently. Then he picks up his phone to call Skyler. Nervous, he bumbles through his rehearsed lie.
He’s unsure. Meek. Timid. Well meaning, of course, but utterly terrified. We remember this point in his life, when the drug trade seemed kind of fun. Back when it was, What the hell? I’ll cook a few rocks, make a fast buck, then leave the game. Worst case scenario: I’ll be dead in 6 months and my family will be a few hundred thousand dollars richer. Junior and Baby’s school will be paid for. A part of me will live on. And they’ll wonder about their dad for the rest of their lives. Wonder how he could have loved us so deeply that he’d risk everything just to provide for his family.
Skyler and Walt exchange I Love You’s and tentatively schedule a weekend getaway. And suddenly I’m assisting in the funeral planning: Yeah — That coffin. That’s right, the one that looks like Ramesses II. I’ll take it.
Walt fades away. Then the RV and Jesse follow.
The commercials hiccup and bring us right back to the same spot. Back in the now. The gunfire subsides. And from a distance we ask ourselves, Who’s left standing?
Well, not Gomie for one (big surprise there). Hank is on his back, clutching his leg. He sees his partner’s weapon a few feet from his swiss-cheese remains. A spark inside says “Keep fighting,” so he weakly pulls his weight a labored yard or two. He’s just shy of his goal when Jack casually intercepts. “Simmer down, Sparky.” Things ain’t lookin’ too hot.
Todd (aka “Meth Damon”) points out that Pinkman’s missing. Henchmen Frankie and Lester are on it. The gang ID’s Hank and Gomie as agents of the DEA, which pretty much seals the deal. Hank’s to be put down.
Walt swells with humility and procedes to beg that Hank be spared. Its quite pathetic, really. Hank’s accepted Jack’s intent. Any further discussion is really just for kicks: there is no room for negotiation. But its a good thing for Jack that he takes the time to humor Walt. In the midst of his manic pleas, he spills the beans about the $80 million buried in this spot. He offers Jack a ticket to anywhere if he sets his brother-in-law free.
Oh Walt — your soft lil’ underbelly is showing! How cute! How thoughtful and sweet! Things are looking up for the —
Oh shit. Motherfucker just shot Hank in the head.
Ok, so we expected it. But that tiny glimmer of hope that he might make it made for a really hard fall. Inevitable, yes. But how often are the desires of protagonists so coldly ignored? This shit’s real.
Walt falls to the ground and howls mournfully. But the desert stillness mutes the anguish.
Jack smells his buried bones and gets right down to business. He points out the convenience of Walt’s coordinates and the lackeys dig. They take everything. Barrel by barrel, Heisenberg’s empire is dismantled.
But hang on. Even Nazi-Necks have sensitive sides. Jack leaves Walt a single barrel. That’s roughly $11 million, for the folks without calculators. Which is totally almost worth the cost of a dead in-law.
A well-placed time lapse counts the barrels and buries the bodies of yet another pair of supporting cast members. And we’re all left pondering: Why couldn’t it have been Marie?
Meth Damon offers his sympathy to Walt. Jack assures him that, had it not been for his nephew, Walt probably wouldn’t be alive. “No hard feelings,” he says, and the two fine gentlemen shake on it.
As Jack starts to leave, Walt reminds him that he still “owes him” Pinkman. Jack tries to call him on his bluff with his retort: “You find him and we’ll kill him.”
There he is! Hiding in the most obvious spot in the area – beneath a car. Not one of the writer’s best twists, but we’re here for the long haul. So moving on.
Jack’s a man of his word. Jesse’s prepped for execution. On his knees. Staring at two birds in flight overhead. Are they mid-combat? Its an image that disrupts the comfort of an endless blue expanse. He looks away.
MD intervenes. He thinks an interrogation is in order, seeing as Jesse has been in cahoots with the DEA. This information may be relevant. The guy’s got a point, I guess.
Walt approves and they begin to take Jesse away. But wait. Walt’s not finished. He looks Jesse in the eye.
“I watched Jane die. I was there, and I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her, but I didn’t.”
I can’t help but wonder if there is some catharsis in this confession. I’d say there is. But the snarl in his delivery is purely vengeful. His intent is unquestionably malicious.
Jesse’s dragged away and Walt enters his car.
He can’t look at his reflection in the rearview mirror. So he turns it away. Then he drives.
But before long, the car putters out. He looks at the gas gauge. Its empty. A bullet hole is the cause.
Against a soundtrack of the Limliters’ “Take My True Love By the Hand”, Walt rolls his lone barrel of millions through the desert. Then he stumbles across a curious Native American in his modest brick house.
Walt notices a warn but sturdy truck outside. He wants to buy it. But its not for sale. What’s that you say? I can’t hear you over my flapping band of 100 dollar bills!
Walt loads the truck and is on his merry way home. Back to his True Love.
Who is trying to reach him by the way. We catch her as she’s leaving a message. Then Marie comes in.
Still in the dark about her dead husband, Mrs. Schrader is feeling pretty above it all at the moment. She’s fantasized about revenge against Walt and her sister. And she’s got a pretty gnarly inferiority complex. So she brings out the guns.
She tells Skyler that Walt’s been arrested. She demands every copy of the video confession. And she instructs that Junior be informed about all of it. Skyler’s in hysterics.
But her verbal abuse is nothing compared to what Jesse’s been through. We check in to find him in an underground cell, face battered and bloodied beyond recognition. He can barely open his eyes. MD pays him a visit and he’s utterly terrified. “I gave you what you wanted!” He pleas. But he’s needed for a new purpose.
Namely, cookin’ meth. Only its under a pretty hostile work condition. I mean, the overhead ceiling leash could be deemed as a precaution. I’ll accept that. But the photo of Brock and Andrea is just a spirit-killer. Not cool, man.
Meanwhile, Junior’s not terribly thrilled about the new information he’s been fed. He’s got questions. Like, way too many if you ask me. Someone give this kid a bowl of cereal and just be done with it. I can’t stand him when he’s hangry (hangry, adj. experiencing hunger-induced anger).
You know its serious when he starts calling himself Flynn again. But really, onto more pressing matters.
Like Walt promptly getting the fuck out of Albuquerque. He’s back at home and packing like a champ.
Down the street, a stubborn Walt Jr — sorry, Flynn — is doing that thing where he refuses to buckle his seatbelt like some kind of spiteful grannie. And somehow he’s totally impervious to the incessant dinging. I’m really hating this kid right now.
As they pull up, they see Walt. But Wait! Hank, like, arrested you. Crap.
Skyler and Junior bombard the delirious, unrecognizable man in their house. He refutes their questions. Tells them everything’s fine in strangled, stabbing syllables.
Skyler accuses Walt of the murder.
“No!” Walt objects. “I tried to save him!”
Skyler extends her shoulders. Gains height. Mama Bear’s pissed. She roars at Walt. Demands that he leave.
He won’t budge.
What’s the story about the Meth Mastermind Who Cried Wolf? I’m guessing Skyler’s all too familiar with that one. Hence her resistance. And fear.
She’s terrified. Really. And when this kind of mania foregoes rationality, it backs defenseless animals into corners. And when animals are backed into corners, there’s one option for survival. To bite.
Or, in the case of a scared knife-wielding human, to slice. Right across the hand. In seconds, the estranged man and wife wrestle to the floor. Fighting for ownership of the deadly weapon.
Eventually, Junior intervenes. Walt stops. Realizes what’s happening.
“What are you doing?! We’re family?!” He’s falling apart. Shattering into millions of unfixable pieces. Wholly unable to accept responsibility for the collapse of this family unit.
Junior calls the police. Tells them his mom’s under attack by his dad. And that he may have killed someone else.
Walt’s tried the fight. Now he flights. And he takes Baby with him. The blood on his hands soils her clothing. Skyler desperately follows. She begs. She screams with every bit of maternal instinct left inside of her. But the cries are all ignored. Walt drives off. They’re both gone.
So, before we keep going, I’d like to give you all a chance to breath. I may have forgotten to do so at least 3 or 4 times in the course of the episode. And one of the most troubling scenes is still yet to come.
So here’s an intermission.
-Quick cut to Jeopardy music-
And we’re back!
First things First. A genuinely creepy moment with Walt and Holly in a public restroom. He’s still kind of bleedy. And he’s giving her the goo-goo baby talk. Not a developmentally sound parenting choice, but whatever. That’s just splitting hairs at this point.
After Walt proves his complete inadequacy as a father by getting his girl to cry for mommy in like 5 seconds, he decides to give mum a buzz.
The Whites residence is filled with police. Marie and Junior and Skyler all sit in the living area. The phone rings.
Skyler answers. Walt asks if she’s alone. Yeah? Ok, let the hate-fest begin.
There’s not really a tactic here. Its just unbridled, desperate, misdirected hate. He tells her that he took Holly to teach her a lesson. Tells her she’s always whining and complaining. Never obeys him. That she had no right to tell Junior anything. That everything is her fault and a direct result of her disrespect.
Oh, and that she’s a stupid bitch.
I’m not sure if Skyler’s stunned or just trying to keep him on the line. But she’s really great at letting him vent. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to remain so calm if my husband threatened to kill me like he does here.
Which brings me to the most interesting thing about this conversation: Walt concludes by saying “You’re never going to see Hank again,” presumably because “He crossed [Walt],” and then warns “Family or no. Let that sink in.”
Did Walt forget he wasn’t the guy who actually killed Hank? In this particular situation, he finds that assuming that role gives him the upper-hand. He adapts the evil behavior and carries it so close it mutates into something real. Kind of like what an octopus does, only exclusively with bad things that hurt people. Hm.
After the assault and unheeded request to come back home, Walt ominously informs us that He’s “still got things to do.”
He forgivingly leaves Holly in a firetruck in the Albuquerque Fire Station.
Then, next day, he stands in the very spot where Jesse waited for his ride out of town. Could this be Walt’s ticket to freedom? Something inside of me doubts it. But there’s only one way to find out.
Till next week, my beauties! Only 2 more to go…
Or is there an unexpected meaning to that final phone call? An escape plan, perhaps? A shot at Walter White’s redemption? Stay tuned as we peel back even more layers of this deliciously complex series.
To review last week’s episode, click here.