This season (excuse me, half season) of Breaking Bad has been full of great shit, but said great shit has certainly felt rushed. So much stuff happened this season that it could have been told over a full, regular thirteen episode season more smoothly – hell, it maybe needed even more time than that. The final episode of 2012, “Gliding Over All,” points out this issue more clearly than anything we’ve seen all year.
So Walt has Todd help him clean up what he did to Mike last week and it seems to go well enough. Jesse is none the wiser and Todd seems like snitching isn’t his bag. Then, as he thought too late into his confrontation with Mike, Walt asks Lydia for the names on the legacy list, but she plays it smart, making herself useful by saying that once the legacies are handled she can expand his business to the Ukraine for a cut of the profits. (I’ll ask for the first time: what about the guys in Phoenix? What happened to his deal with them?) Walt agrees and then asks for help from Todd’s Aryan Brotherhood-ish connections with contacts in jails all over the state. (I’ll ask for the second time: where are the Phoenix guys on this decision? Do they not have guys in prison who could lend a hand?)
So Walt has his Godfather baptism scene with these dudes that have just barely been set up in the show previously, the plan to kill all the legacies in one fell swoop over a few minutes in different prisons going off without a hitch, the ironic music playing over the scene letting us know that there’s no reason to worry about the outcome. Then Walt talks to a very defeated Hank and boom, that’s the end of that problem.
This would be enough to fill a whole episode normally (hell a couple of episodes) but it takes almost half the episode to move past. Walt just has to suggest to these new players that this shit has to happen and, what do you know, it happens. That would’ve been a cool enough end to the half season, really, the climactic moment being the massive slaughter of a bunch of dudes by grisly means, but instead we have another montage following it, this time of Walt’s success as an international meth distributor with the help of Lydia. (Again, what ever happened to the Phoenix boys?) We learn that this montage takes place over just a couple months and that in that time Walt has made more money than he could spend, as Skyler puts it, in “ten lifetimes.” He decides to retire at Skyler’s urging, gets Jesse his five million that he’s owed, apparently (possibly) is cancer-free, gets the kids back from Hank and Marie, and all is right in the world until the final moment of the episode.
Before we talk about that, though, there’s some other things that are bothering me. First there’s the weirdest thing the show has done to date: allowed the kids to stay at Hank and Marie’s for-fucking-ever. That is too goddamn weird to me. Yes, the Schraders and the Whites are close as all hell, seemingly the sole guests of choice at their respective barbeques and all, but marriage problems leading to ditching your kids for more than a week or so? That’s too fucking weird, just never sat right with me. That was a fix that put allowed Skyler to keep from ratting, yes, but also needed some more screen time to make believable, if it could ever have been believable.
Then there’s the thing I’ve been parenthetically hinting at all review: the disappearance of the Phoenix connection. Apparently Lydia and Walt were up and running right away and that was that. Maybe I missed a throwaway line that explained it (and, you know, correct my ass if that’s the case, diligent Broke Badasses) but, seriously, what happened to those guys? Were Walt and Todd able to produce so much that he could satisfy both the Ukraine and Arizona at the same time? Again, a little screen time would’ve cleared this all up.
Then there’s the tossed off nature of his roaring success over, you know, apparently just a few months, success so massive that he has a storage locker filled with cash. It just doesn’t feel right to me. So much happens, so many jumps in just one episode on a show that never used to jump. But then the timeline never seemed weird to me until season five part i, said timeline being first called into question on the fifty-first birthday episode. Breaking Bad is a show that’s never better when they let us in on the process, and lately they’ve just been hurrying past the process in favor of having more cool shit happen. Granted, we’ve never asked for flawless logic or airtight plotting from this show (you could poke all kinds of holes in anything and it’s not a productive thing to get caught up in when enjoying fiction) but they really seemed to stretch it a little too much for my tastes this season.
But all this griping isn’t to say that I haven’t loved the show this season, or even this episode. There’s too many fun and exciting developments going down for me to get too bent out of shape, too many moments that I loved to be bothered by how those moments were achieved. I dunno, though, dear reader, am I alone on this island? Am I the only one feeling like they needed more time to make some of these developments feel less forced and shoe-horned in? Who doesn’t love a fast-paced story but really I think the show has been at its best (note that season three is my favorite) when they let shit breathe, when they take a more Sopranos-ish, character-driven approach. When something major happens every week it makes the major things less special. But again, I might be alone in feeling this.
But that’s enough of my griping – let’s talk about that awesome final scene. The suspense of that wide shot around the pool was fantastic. You’ve got an inane conversation happening at the patio table and Walter Junior pushing around the baby ever so slowly, the scene certainly fooling me into thinking that we’d see Walter Junior take a sniper shot to the head and topple into the pool, Gus-Fring’s-lover-style. But then nothing happens, no bombs or shots or anything. Instead, Hank has to drop a different kind of bomb in the can. At that point it seemed clear that he was going to discover something, and at first I was thinking it was going to be one the many things Walt hid in the light sockets. Instead it was a book signed by Gale Boetticher, leaving little doubt that, yes, Hank’s brother-in-law is the brilliant chemist, W-fucking-W.
It’s a great cliffhanger and one we’re all no doubt dying to see play out toot-fucking-sweet. Too bad it won’t be until next year. Really, if you think about it, such a cliffhanger wouldn’t have been a terrible way to end the series as a whole. It’s a classic movie ending, one that would rile people up even more than the ending to The Sopranos, but it would also be pretty cheap. I always hoped that Hank would get a chance to look like something other than a schmuck, but I didn’t know it would happen with eight whole episodes left. What doe you guys think will open the series next year? Hank helping Walt escape to New Hampshire with a new identity? Walt catching onto Hank’s suspicion and lighting out on his lonesome? Walt somehow able to kill Hank before he can bring it all crashing down on him? The Phoenix boys realizing that they haven’t been getting a shipment for-fucking-ever and doing something about it? (I’ll give it up now but seriously, how did extricating himself from the life, internationally or stateside, come so goddamn easily as well?)
Anyhow, see you next year, Broke Badasses. It’s a long ways off but we’re all in this together.