Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Breaking Bad' Recap: Walter 'White Men Can't Jump'

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DIDN'T WATCH SUNDAY NIGHT'S BREAKING BAD EPISODE, THEN THERE'S PROBABLY SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. ALSO, YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING.

'Breaking Bad' Recap: Walter 'White Men Can't Jump'

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DIDN'T WATCH SUNDAY NIGHT'S BREAKING BAD EPISODE, THEN THERE'S PROBABLY SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. ALSO, YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING.

Vince Gilligan is a monster. There are only three delicious, delicious episodes of Breaking Bad left and Gilligan had the gall to lure us out into the desert for a New Mexican standoff, slow everything down to bullet time, and then cut to credits as soon as everything popped off. Thanks for tuning in. Have an A-one day, everybody.

Gilligan left us standing out in the desert in our tighty-whities and only a broken down RV to get home. Let's not tape a goodbye message and take the easy way out, though, because a firetruck is about to come over the horizon carrying a resolution. Instead, let's take a look at how we got here.

Jesse Pinkman is pissed. He's cooperating with Hank in an effort to bring Walter White—the Heisenberg himself—to justice because, "HE CAN'T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH IT." Rather than try to coax a confession out of the man, though, he talks Hank into hitting Heisenberg where it hurts: the seven barrels of cold, hard, cash buried at the end of a rainbow in the middle of nowhere. The problem is that they don't know where in the middle of nowhere that Heisenberg buried his treasure. So, Hank and Jesse go all White Men Can't Jump on Huell.

They take a page out of the Stucci brothers' playbook and stage a photo that makes it look like someone splattered Jesse's brains all over the kitchen floor and convince Huell to spill the beans on what happened to Heisenberg's pile of money. Once they know that it was placed in barrels and buried in the desert, they stage another photo and send it to Walt, tricking him into meeting them at "X" marks the spot. Walt drops the hammer in his Dodge Challenger, vibrating with rage and racing to his money as Jesse explains that Albuquerque deserves a better class of criminal and threatens to go all Heath Ledger on the stash.

Obviously Hank and company track him to the spot where it all began: the spot in the desert where Jesse and Walt cooked meth for the first time. Walt's hiding behind a rock when they show up.

The scene actually pulled Walter White back toward the center of the Mr. Chips-to-Scarface spectrum, if only a few inches. While Heisenberg has certainly bled through the earthy sweater vests of mild-mannered Walter, the man is still under the delusion that he hasn't turned full heel. When he's cornered in the dessert, Walt immediately uses his phone a friend lifeline by dialing up Todd's uncle and ordering a tactical strike on Jesse. But, when Walt realizes that Hank is there, too, he takes his finger off the red button. Sure, Heisenberg's moral compass is as warped as one of Dalí's clocks, but it's still there. He can't kill Hank because Hank is technically still family.

This sentiment is furthered when Hank places Walt under arrest. Walt has the right to remain silent. Anything Walt says can and will be used against him in a court of law. Walt has the right to call Saul and have the sleaze ball lawyer represent him. If he cannot afford Saul Goodman (ha), a lawyer will be appointed to him.

After all this time; after the moral decay, the murder, the drug trafficking, the child poisoning, and the seemingly eternal struggle against his arch-nemisis, Hank, the mighty Heisenberg is placed under arrest and he only has one word to say: "coward."

He calls Jesse a coward for the same reason he can't order a hit on Hank. Heisenberg does not think of himself as a monster. He fails to notice the metaphoric disappearance of Walter White and he thinks that he's still operating within the confines of "good." Heisenberg thinks that his iconic hat is white. And, in Heisenberg's distorted perception of right and wrong, you don't kill family and you don't snitch. The moment instantly brought to mind the infamous words of everyone's favorite Lone Cheese gangster, Omar Little: "It's all in the game."

Heisenberg feels cheated. And, really, isn't that the primary motivation for every step, no matter how tiny, Walter White made toward the depths of Hell? He only sold meth because he had cancer. He only lied about the second cell phone to protect his wife and family from the knowledge that he was breaking the law. He only killed Krazy-8 because Krazy-8 was going to kill him. He only had Jesse kill Gale because Gus cornered him and Walt would have died. He only poisoned Brock so that he could permanently eliminate Gus Fring as a threat. He only ordered the hit on Jesse because Jesse wouldn't listen to reason. Every baby step of Walter White's one-way trip to the dark side can be explained away, rationalized, neutralized, or otherwise painted as a necessary measure. Heisenberg doesn't decide to kill people, he's simply protecting himself when he's backed into a corner. Heisenberg thinks all of the terrible things he's done have been in self defense.

But, now he's handcuffed and in the back of his brother-in-law's SUV. Hank's hardly able to contain his elation as he calls Marie to boast of his victory. But, before he can shut the  hell up and get out of the desert, the Redneck mafia trots over the hill against Heisenbeg's pleas and...

Now, Walter and Jesse are both unarmed as bullets litter the desert and pelt the sides of their vehicles and we've got to wait a full week to learn how Walt can Houdini his way out of those handcuffs and make his way to that diner two years in the future.

I'm going to bill Vince Gilligan for my blood pressure medication because this is getting ridiculous.

Notes

 

  • Anyone else recalling Se7en as Walter White stared off into the distance and saw Hank's SUV sending the desert sand up into the air?
  • There are numerous instances in which Vince Gilligan has explained the influence old western films have had on the styling of Breaking Bad, but this season seems to have more of it than usual. Maybe it's all of the trips out to the desert, but the duel imagery from earlier this season brought this out and, last night, the Redneck mafia drove over the peak of that hill and turned along the valley almost like they were on horseback.
  • Man, Saul Goodman looks like hell.
  • Here's to you, Ms. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. Seriously, can she and Todd do it already. I'm frustrated for them.
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