Breaking Bad – “Live Free or Die” – review

Season five (part one, mind you) kicked shit off by tying up some loose ends from season four, a season which seemed to have one of the more definitive finales on Breaking Bad to date.  Turns out we all forgot about Gus’ laptop and the feed from the superlab contained within it, leading to a big crazy heist of sorts being the central story of “Live Free or Die.”  But though a number of things seem to have been resolved in the episode, there’s still an implication that Gus could haunt the gang regardless thanks to some writing behind a framed photo that’s been booked into evidence.

Saving the cold open for the end of this piece, let’s talk about the less mysterious parts of the episode.  We’ve got Walt running around cleaning up after himself, throwing out the bomb building materials and tossing out the lily of the valley (I’d have been pissed if Jesse just spotted it while having a beer with Walt poolside one day or some bullshit like that) and then his family comes home before he can swig his celebratory drink.  Walt Junior lays out some fucking embarrassing exposition for everyone and Skyler tells Walt that she’s scared of him.

Then he remembers the cameras in the lab and he and Jesse go and meet up with the fairly-back-in-fighting-form Mike, who wants to kill Walt but Jesse talks him out of it.  Mike does some smooth work on the phone and figures out that Gus’ laptop has already been booked into evidence.  Mike’s ready to run but Walt’s confident they’ll find a way to destroy.  In a hilarious scene where Jesse is pulling on mommy and daddy’s pant legs while they argue over his head, Jesse comes up with the idea of using a magnet to destroy the laptop.

They go to the junkyard and buy a van and an uber-powerful magnet off the junkman, Walt needing to borrow from Jesse in order to cover the expense.  They run the magnet van up to the side of the evidence locker, hit it full blast and get away clean.  But while they seem to have successfully managed to fuck up the laptop, they also inadvertently give the cops a heads up that something’s behind the photo of Gus and his lover/partner, something that will probably end up on Hank’s desk toot-fucking-sweet.

Meanwhile Skyler learns of the major fuck up that went down with Ted’s intimidation from Saul, goes to visit him in the hospital.  At first she’s apologetic when she seems him in all his bandages and braces, but after Ted pleads with her, tells her that he’ll never tell a soul about what really happened, she steels up towards him, says “Good” in I-have-the-power-to-end-you type way.

Speaking of talking tough, after the magnet works like a charm, Walt first gets in “I’m the one who knocks” mode with Mike before doing the same to Saul who tries to quit taking him on as a client.  Then the episode ends Walt “forgiving” Skyler in a way that lets her know that yeah, she should be scared of him and yeah, he’s fine with his power over her being the basis of their relationship from here on out.

Now before I get into a whole lotta questions I wanna ask you Breaking Badasses out there, let’s talk the cold open some.  We’ve got Walt hanging out in a Denny’s (is it the same Denny’s Walt and Jesse went to in episode one of last season following Gus’ box-cutter work?) waiting on Jim Beaver’s weapons dealer who gave Walt his snubnose thirty-eight last season.  Walt’s got a whole lot of hair facially and head-wise and has apparently just turned 52 and is carrying a New Hampshire license and license plates on his very un-Aztec-y car.  If we’re to believe what he tells the waitress he’s just come from there. If he’s being straight with her, dig this nerdy parallel: This episode shares a title with a season six part one episode of The Sopranos about Vito Spatafore coming back to New Jersey after hiding out in New Hampshire, whose state motto is…you get it.)  Jim Beaver arrives and sells Walt a machine gun.  Cue opening credits.

Is this going to be a situation like the black-and-white pool shots that opened every episode of season two, where every new cold open reveals something more about what’s happening in the future for Walt?  Are we going to find out what Walt’s doing up in this season at the end of part one of this season or at the end of the show entirely?  Guess we’ll find out next episode if the cold open picks up right after where this one ended or not.

Speaking of upcoming weeks, here’s some shit I’m wrestling with about this episode and the upcoming season as a whole.  First, is Walt gonna let Ted live? The guy fucked his wife and Walt doesn’t like loose ends in the slightest.  Also, when is Mike gonna hear the full story of why Jesse agreed to help kill Gus with Walt and if he does hear it will that influence Jesse’s trust of Walt?  There’s already some major holes in what happened to Brock.  If Gus had nothing to do with it and the lily of the valley was the cause of Brock’s poisoning, is Jesse just assuming that Gus, what, was planning on eventually doing something with the cigarette?

Also, do you think there’s gonna be another big bad guy on the show or is it simply going to be Walt trying to grab power?  Gus took a long time to grow and be set up over the last two seasons and became almost mythical in his power and reach.  Are they really gonna build up another character this late in the game from whole cloth for Walt to butt heads with on a level resembling anything close to that?  I think Walt’s downfall has to be his own power-mad ego, that the real bad guy will be himself, that he’ll either be taken down by Jesse or Hank in some fashion.

But that’s a big, how-the-fuck-do-you-know-anything-about-it kind of question to ask at this point.  The most pressing questions at this point are A) What the fuck is in that picture frame and B) How pumped are you to have Breaking Bad back in your life?

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Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

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About Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

3 Replies to “Breaking Bad – “Live Free or Die” – review”

  1. “Turns out we all forgot about Gus’ laptop and the feed from the superlab contained within it…”

    No we didn’t. I called it in my comments regarding your review for “Face Off”—or the Season 4 Season Finale as its known. Would like to take full credit but a friend pointed it out to me. Check it:

    And welcome back by the way! Been waiting all year for these reviews as much as the show.

    Far as what’s in that picture frame, it’s a bank account and routing number—an account Gus had in the Cayman Islands apparently.

    I hope to hell they don’t do a flash forward before every episode. I very much enjoy my Breaking Bad without any Damages influence.

    But with this week’s cold opening, I’m not so sure Walt’s 52 or that it’s as far ahead into the future as we think. He had to show his Fake I.D. to that waitress, and the I.D. had the name Lambert, and That Guy is 52 according to the fake I.D.

    Just saying, who goes through the trouble of getting a Fake I.D. with their real birthdate on it?

    Think Jesse has accepted that Brock got a hold of the poison on his own somehow, since it’s not related to the ricin at all, and that he just lost the cigarette somewhere. Though the one loose end from that is Saul. Saul Knows that Walt poisoned the kid, and Saul will end up telling Jesse.

    And that, will be an episode to watch for sure.

  2. I think Walt is the bad guy now. The rest of the characters have all been put in their places by him.

  3. Oh yeah, the bank account numbers. That’s our lab notes for this season, right? And no, there’s no time for building a character like Gus from scratch, but there had to be someone behind him. After all, the only reason he wasn’t killed by the poolside
    twenty years earlier, was that the cartel people knew who he was. Now surely there has to be some kind of backlash from that.

    I really didn’t appreciate the Ted scene. Plotwise, all good, but setting it up for us to have a long good laugh at the sight of of him all bracketed up, was not in good taste, and a low for this show. He was ridiculous enough already, this was uncalled for.

    Another low for the show is Steven Michael Quezada. Of all the recurring cast members, he’s the poorest actor by far, and all his lines seem forced. I love this show too much to no be bothered, but luckily he isn’t featured that much.

    Ok, then that’s out of my system. I honestly think this is going to be the best season so far, and that’s coming from someone who thinks the show has gone through a very slight decline for every season. I hated the Gus character, since he took the whole show to another level of unrealistic grandeur, but this episode reminded me a little of the ramshackle days of disposing of Crazy-eight. Just good-old Walt and Jesse (yeah and mike as an extra) trying to solve a single problem without any Chilean supervillain doing behind the counter-shifts at a chicken joint……