Jesus. This week’s Breaking Bad opens with flashback to a simpler time, when Breaking Bad was a simpler series. In season one this show was primarily a Coen Brothersy dark comedy with a fantastically juicy premise. We get reminded of the “Walt in BVDs” jokes, the lightness of Walt and Jesse’s odd couple banter, of the un-trusty old mobile lab, of Walt’s hair and ‘stache. It’s worlds away from where we are presently in the timeline of the show, though it’s not even been two years since those days. We get Walt rehearsing a weak lie to Skyler, not yet the master of deception he soon becomes.
Then we cut to the horrible fucking present.
Though it may have seemed glorious last week, the shootout is starkly depicted as the impossible battle it obviously was this time out. Walt pleads for Hank’s life and Hank drops a (sadly muted) f-bomb to Jack, but not until Walt has traded Hank’s life for eighty million dollars. Hank is put down but goes out like a badass, never giving Jack or Walt (who clearly still loves him) an inch. It’s a great, hugely sad end to a character whose been with us since the pilot, who we’ve loved and been frustrated with and (lately) begrudgingly understood. Let’s pour out some Schraderbrau for a fallen hero.
But though Walt begs for mercy towards Hank from Jack, when he eagle-eyes Jesse under the car he twists the knife before feeding him to the dogs. There never was going to be a way for Jesse to ever know about what really happened to Jane unless Walt confessed to him. They teased us with that possibility back in the (stupefyingly) controversial “Fly” episode in season three so I thought that issue was buried, that the Brock revelation was the only one Jesse was ever going to come across. So when Walt throws the truth in Jesse’s face as he’s being carted off by Jack’s boy, it stunned the shit outta me. Is that knowledge going to pay off in some way or was it just a tidy, brutal nod to the nerd speculators?
Todd, who we saw last week making out with Lydia’s coffee cup, is not feeling good about giving a low-quality product to his crush and therefore gets the idea to turn Jesse into slave labor, even giving him one of those dog clotheslines that lets him get around the room in a limited way. Todd’s nice about it in his weirdly emotionless way but the threat is there in the form of a picture of Brock.
While Walt is negotiating transportation for him and his pity barrel from Jack, Marie is fucking up Walt’s last ditch effort and getting away with his family, bringing shit into true Shakespearean tragedy territory. She assures Skyler that Walt has been picked up by Hank and then says that she’ll eventually let her back into the fold if she does the right thing and lets Walt Junior (who Marie ever-so-pointedly calls “Flynn” during their heartbreaking conversation) know who his dad really is. She complies and, yeah, it’s pretty ugly shit.
So when Walt rolls up looking to get them all packed up and out of the house things get heated, with Walter Junior not knowing what to think and Skyler figuring out the gist of it pretty damn quick. Director Rian Johnson sets up an awesomely leading shot where the phone and the knife block are in the foreground with Skyler in the back, and Skyler definitely does not make a fucking call. Walt’s cut and Walter Junior comes to his mom’s aide before calling the cops on him without a second thought. Seeing half the family straight-up hating him makes him go nuts and he flees with baby Holly in another in a long string of intense scenes in this episode. (Is this the most agonizing episode of the show to date? I can answer that one myself. Yes.)
But after the commercial break he comes to his senses and gives her up to some fireman, the most traditional method of abandonment for children, but not before making a deeply moving, brilliantly written and acted call to Skyler that all but assures that none of his actions will fall back on her. It’s just fucking gorgeously done, from the menace he brings to the beginning of the conversation to Skyler’s realization to his crying through the rest of his awful words…wow. He even manages to give Marie the cold comfort of the knowledge that, yup, Hank is deader than hell. Then he takes Saul special vacation package and cut to black.
I’d be more than okay with this episode as the finale, really, but there’s two more coming down the pike and the nature of flashforwards is getting (seemingly, anyway) much clearer to us. As near as I can tell it would seem that yes, the machine gun is for Jack and the boys and yes, the ricin is for Lydia. That much many of us had already been speculating but now the motive for this is coming into view, it being an effort to save Jesse. If this ends up being a suicide/redemption mission by Walt to save Jesse, his “family” member who hates him the most right now, I’ll be all for it but that seems a little too telegraphed to me. This show likes to fuck with our expectations too much to give us exactly the finale we’d guess. Somebody else have a reading of it that differs? Either way, I’m fucking dying to see where Walt’s at next week. If it *is* New Hampshire, do you think he’s chilling with
Vito Spatafore “Vince?”