After last week’s insanely dark, intensity-packed episode, the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad (I will not cry! I will. not. cry.) gives us a bit of a breather and does some heavy-lifting in preparation for next week’s, you know, fucking ultimate episode. There were still some truly harrowing moments (Todd’s “just business” approach to Andrea springs immediately to mind) but overall the episode is a lot of wonderfully done set up.
After I had pretty much written off any chance of seeing who the vacuum guy was, the cold open not only introduces us to him but he’s actually played by Robert Forster, Max fucking Cherry himself. Though it’s a tailor-made role for Forster, he undoubtedly fucking kills it. With his classic Chicago accent and old-school, no-nonsense attitude that occasionally betrays an authentic (though still possibly “strictly professional”) warmth, he leaves a massive impression for a character given to us this late in the game. I didn’t think I could love this show any more than I already do, then they give Robert Forster a great part? Jesus, just wonderful.
Anyway, moving past the Nerd’s Max Cherry mania, we learn that vacuum guy’s client is actually Saul Goodman and that Walt is still waiting to be shipped to New Hampshire. Walt tries to force Saul to come with him and help him plot to get his money back from Jack and the gang but he’s too sickly to even put pressure on a weasel like Goodman. Saul also assures Walt that, nobly-intentioned (and, for the audience, emotionally powerful) as his phone call was last week, Skyler is still looking at a miserable life if she can’t give them her husband. As it was recently announced that the Saul Goodman spin-off is actually a prequel to Breaking Bad, I am a little miffed that the show won’t be about his new life as an Omaha Cinnabon manager.
Walt’s life in New Hampshire is actually worse than prison, an utterly isolated existence with no TV and a limited DVD selection (though he’s luckily got a back-up copy of Wonder Emporium after he inevitably wears out the original), Walt is left to essentially go mad in the woods by himself. He tries to convince himself that he’s gonna go into town and kick some ass, but he can’t work up the courage. He’s wasting away despite getting some youtube-enhanced cancer assistance from Forster, but he’s afraid to take the next necessary step to save his family though his death is rapidly approaching.
Back in New Mexico we learn that Jesse has been cooking up some quality blue during his captivity and given Lydia new faith in Jack’s gang (though sadly not warmed her to Todd’s earnest advances). Todd scares the shit out of Skyler, making sure that whatever she tells the DEA that the black-haired lady from the car wash is not a subject that will be broached. When Jesse tries to make a break for it, Todd makes a point of putting one through Andrea’s head while he looks on.
Which brings me to a point that this episode solidified for me. After the season four finale took out the supervillain Gus Fring in a spectacular fashion, many of us were keeping our arms folded, waiting to see if the show could give Walt as formidable an obstacle in the final sixteen episodes that was half as effective as Giancarlo Esposito’s character. Obviously the previous half season was more interested in making Walt out to be the biggest villain of them all, but I don’t think we should discount Jesse Plemons’ work as Todd.
Todd is such an original and exciting take on the psycho, a guy who will do whatever it takes to be a professional, never faltering when it comes to killing women and children when necessary, while also being creepily polite and blessedly un-sadistic. Despite the fact that he’s behind two of the most horrendous on-screen actions we’ve seen on Breaking Bad, he’s insanely, oddly likeable somehow. He’s such an intentional blank slate of a character yet Plemons’ natural earnestness is always on display.
It’s such a bizarre character and compelling performance that you have to admire the writers’ cunning in their ability to zig when you think they’ll zag. They knew they couldn’t give you another character as all-powerful as Gus this late in the game so they came up with a sociopath who is so unassuming that you hardly think of him as a villain. So here’s to Todd, a sick fuck who wormed his way into the Nerd’s cold, cold heart. May he meet an end that puts some fear on that placid face.
Getting back to Granite State of affairs, Walt has basically been assured that vacuum man will take his money once he finds Walt dead in the cabin in the upcoming months and his lame attempt to get a paltry sum to his son ends in nothing but tears and one-sided hatred, Walt gets himself a drink and settles in to be taken down. But then on TV he watches his old business partners from Gray Matter belittle his contributions to their massively successful company and call him a nice guy. Never one to put up with people perceiving him as impotent, Walt bails on the turning himself in plan and undoubtedly goes to meet with our buddy Jim Beaver, the machine gun man from the beginning of season five.
Before Walt checks out he’s gonna show the world just how rock-fucking-hard his dick can get. Excuse the homoeroticism when the Nerd says he can’t wait to see the mighty erection next week in the final. fucking. episode. of. Breaking. Bad.