Saturday, August 30, 2014
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'Breaking Bad' Recap: Times are getting hard, boys

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DIDN'T WATCH BREAKING BAD LAST NIGHT THAN YOU'RE DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF THE TYPE OF CULTURE AND ENJOYMENT THAT YOU DESERVE. ALSO, YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING.

'Breaking Bad' Recap: Times are getting hard, boys

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DIDN'T WATCH BREAKING BAD LAST NIGHT THAN YOU'RE DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF THE TYPE OF CULTURE AND ENJOYMENT THAT YOU DESERVE. ALSO, YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING.

Vince Gilligan is having far too much fun watching us squirm and beg for this thing to end. So, instead of starting us off in the middle of the desert shootout where he abandoned us last week, we begin with a flashback to the pre-Heisenberg era when Walt and Jesse were first cooking meth in the RV.

Jesse: So, what's next?

Walt: We wait.

Jesse: We don't got, like, eight more anal things we gotta do, first?

Walt: The reaction has begun.

Jesse: Yeah. I know. So, how long?

Walt: Well, if we had a freezer, the condensed liquid would cool more quickly because, of course, this is an exothermic reaction, which means giving off heat, and our desired product is a crystal—

Jesse: Put me into a coma, why don't you?

The scene is a subtle, poetic nod to the pervasive popularity of Breaking Bad and the way the show's rabid, impatient—possibly even tweaking—fans (raises hand) are clamoring for their final fix. STOP TOYING WITH US AND SHOW US WHO DIES, ALREADY!

Gomez is the deadest. Hank is wounded and, as per usual, clinging to life, crawling for a shotgun. Walt pleads with the Neo Nazis and offers to trade the $80 million he has buried out in the desert for Hank's life. Instead, the Redneck Mafia shoots Hank in cold blood.

As awful as it was to watch, I felt like Hank succumbed to a death he was worthy of. He got to mirandize his arch nemesis brother-in-law. And, then, in the waning seconds of his life, he was able to able to rub Walt's nose in it by calling him dumb for not understanding that there was no alternative ending to Hank's story. His final words were antagonizing, as he told Jack to kill him and get it over with. Above all, Hank understood how the game worked and wasn't going to beg for life. It was excruciating to witness, but appropriate all the same.

After digging up the cash and burying the two DEA agents they just gunned down, Jack decides that he and the Redneck Mafia will spare Walt's life and leave him with a car and a barrel filled with $11 million. Spurred by the death of his brother-in-law and the loss of $70 million (not necessarily in that order of importance), Walt spitefully reminds Jack that he was contracted to kill Jesse Pinkman. Walt snitches on the snitch, pointing out that Jesse was hiding under the car.

In a particularly merciless moment of festering rage, Walt allows Jack and company to take Jesse back to their lab to torture him for information regarding the DEA investigation. To make matters worse, Walt's confession that he watched Jane die and could have saved her is the cherry on top of the "Jesse Pinkman's Life Sucks" sundae.

Eventually, we learn that Jesse Pinkman winds competing in some horrific, meth-themed Global Guts event straight out of the next Saw film. Todd has him shackled and chained around the waist. He's attached to a wire that allows him to navigate a new meth lab without the possibility of escape. It's basically a personal version of Jesse Pinkman's hell. The man wanted out of the meth game on so many different occasions and now he seems destined to waste away, slaving over the cauldrons to produce the same blue crystals that enslaved him for most of his adult life.

Gilligan pulls from Greek tragedy as Walt's car, damaged in the shootout, spews all of its fuel onto the New Mexican highway, stranding him in the middle of the desert. Like Sisyphus with the boulder before him, Walt pulls an oil drum filled with wads of cash out of the back of the vehicle and rolls it through the desert. The image of Walt hunched over, rolling the barrel through the desert was a gorgeous bookmark in the Sisyphean struggle that has propelled Breaking Bad for five seasons, now.

How many times did Walt have to start his operation back at square one? How many times did he have to find new ways and places to cook only to have some greater power hit the reset button on his operation? How many different piles of F*** You Money did he have to amass only to have to give it to his brother-in-law or have his wife gift it to some guy she was banging? Walt's been rolling a boulder up a hill for five seasons and watching him physically roll the barrel through the desert was a wonderful moment.

Plus, the Sisyphean parallels don't stop with the barrel. Sisyphus was first punished to be chained up, but managed to weasel his way out of the situation by entrapping Thanatos, the personification of death in the chains. Walt was in handcuffs, but now it's Jesse Pinkman who's going nowhere. And how many times has Jesse lamented the misfortune of the people he holds close? Jane overdosed in bed with him. Combo was shot dealing drugs with him. Krazy-8 and his cousin were killed because Jesse invited them to do business with Walt. Jesse watched Todd shoot that little boy on the bike. Jesse was there when that meth head was crushed by the ATM. Brock nearly died. As soon as Jesse starts cooperating with Hank and Gomez, they both bite it. It's not a stretch to suggest that Jesse Pinkman is the personification of death in Breaking Bad and he's chained up just like Thanatos.

Also, it's important to note that, in Greek mythology, no one died while Thanatos was chained up. So, expect the bloodshed to temporarily dissipate until Jesse manages to get himself free of those shackles.

After rolling that drum through the desert and procuring a new vehicle for himself, Walt returns home to pack a backpack or five and light a fire under his family's asses. By now, Marie and Skyler have filled Flynn in on what the hell's been going on and the kid is pissed off.

When Skyler realizes that Hank is dead, she pulls a knife on her husband, The Danger. Not her smartest moment. She cuts his hand and they struggle, fighting over the knife. Flynn intervenes and then calls 911. Instead of sticking around for the cops to show, Walt makes a mad dash for his new truck and snatches his people up on the way out the door, essentially kidnapping his own daughter and driving away from his house as a fugitive of the law.

Eventually, he phones Skyler from the road and emotionally skewers her. It is one of the meanest, most hurtful, but simultaneously enchanting speeches you'll ever hear. He rips Skyler apart, spewing misogynistic drivel and chastising Skyler, mocking her and insulting her devotion to him. He basically echoes what Breaking Bad viewers say about Skyler on message boards. But, he does it for her own good. He does it to clear her name.

Walter White growls at his wife and it makes you want to "awww." It's the only time in television history when calling a woman a "stupid b****" was romantic.

And, for her part, Skyler's quivering apology is genuine. She realizes that her husband, The One Who Knocks, is calling her a b**** and admitting to crimes—some of which he didn't even commit—in an effort to clear her and her family of any blame. She's apologizing because she knows that, now, all of Walt's work was for naught. She also knows that he's never going to be able to live a normal life again and that she's going to be able/have to assume the role of the victim rather than that of the willing accomplice.

Earlier this season, Vince Gilligan offered us a glimpse into the future by flashing forward to Walter White's 52nd birthday. In that scene, we watch as Walter Hartwell White returns to 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87104 to retrieve the ricin he previously stashed in an electrical outlet. Upon returning home, Walt locks eyes with a neighbor lady, who shrieks and drops a bag of groceries (specifically, they're oranges because, foreshadowing). The conversation between Walt and Skyler with federal investigators listening in, we see Walt resign himself to a life on the run. He's dying of cancer and realizes he's going to have to live the rest of his short life without his family. On the other end, Skyler apologizes for allowing her husband to hang himself like that as she resigns herself to a normal, suburban life that will never truly be normal again. Walt will be looking over his shoulder for the authorities. Skyler will be dealing with the stares, whispers, and shrieks of the neighbor lady and the like.

We're never going to see Hank again. Walt left his daughter at a fire station and vanished thanks to Saul's guy and his ninja smoke bomb.

But there are still two episodes left and Walt's, "still got things left to do."

Game. On.

Notes

  • "You're the smartest guy I ever met and you're too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago." - Hank Schrader
  • Sisyphus tested his wife's devotion by having her cast his naked, lifeless body out into the public square. He washed up on the shores of the river Styx and, eventually, his spirit returned to Corinth to scold his wife for not loving him as she should. While I think Walt's confession and tantrum on the phone were authentic and true to character, it's intriguing that the result is, metaphorically, at least, that Skyler left Walt exposed and vulnerable to public scrutiny.
  • For a guy who shot an innocent child in cold blood, Todd seems to have more human qualities than his relatives. He's got a picture of Andrea and Brock up in the lab for Jesse. While it could be interpreted as a threat, it didn't really feel that way. Thanatos was released from his shackles by Ares, who bored of conflicts with no casualties. Maybe Jesse winds up being spared by Todd and company, which might spark the return of Heisenberg we see in those flash forwards
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