With Breaking Bad one episode away from the finale, we take a look at last night’s episode.
Be warned – there are multiple MAJOR spoilers ahead!
Last week’s final shot of Walt, Jesse, Hank and Gomez being shot at by Jack’s crew was one of the biggest cliffhangers in recent television memory. Completely outgunned and with no hope of escape, things looked desperate for Hank. Just a few minutes earlier he had achieved the triumph he had been questing for all year, the apprehension of Heisenberg aka Walt, his brother-in-law. Now things looked desperate, possibly even fatal. But we all know Hank is made of stone, right? He’ll figure a way out of this. Walt doesn’t want him dead, after all. There’s away out of this for Hank, there must be.
But before resolving the cliffhanger, Breaking Bad took us back to the first cook at the same spot, back when Walt still had hair and Jesse was still full of snark towards his former teacher. There was almost a quaint “ah, them were the days, hey?” sense of looking back as Walt explained to Jesse details that Jesse really didn’t give a damn about, and then fumbled his way through his first lie to Skyler about working late. Jesse and Walt bonding as they cooked up their meth, Walt stumbling to tell lies that later would slip so easily from his mouth – and still with hair. Them were the days indeed.
Cue the fading out of the past and the fading in of the current stand-off at the same location. Walt is in the back of Hank’s car, handcuffed and keeping his head down as he the bullets fly. Gomez is dead, a gunshot wound to the chest, whilst Hank was shot in the leg, and out of bullets. Still, everyone watching must have felt a slight relief. Okay, minor character dead, Hank injured – it looks like (phew) there could be some way out of this for Hank.
Then we remember that this is Breaking Bad, operating in a much meaner television landscape than it used to be and never shy of shocking you.
Hank, out of bullets, is surrounded by the villains. Walt pleads for Hank’s life, desperate to save his brother-in-law, even though he knows that means it is the end of the line for him. He offers hs money, all $80 million of it to save Hank’s life. Jack seems to consider the idea. Walt is pleading in a way that we have never seen before, his remaining shreds of humanity determined to save the one thing that matters to him – family, his last fallback (and a point that will act as the episode’s refrain throughout).
“You are the smartest guy I ever met…and you are too stupid to see…he made up his mind ten minutes ago” Hank says.
And that’s it for Hank. One bullet straight to head.
Hank is dead.
Walt, still handcuffed, falls to his ground, overcome with grief and horror. Hank wasn’t like the others. Hank was family.
But Breaking Bad wasn’t going to stop the shocks there. It’s a credit to the ongoing brilliance of the writing of Breaking Bad that the death of a major character which will leave viewers reeling is almost overshadowed by what transpires next. Hank’s death is dramatic, sure – but what follows dwarfs it in a lot of ways. Because Walt is about to lose the one thing left he really cares about.
But before that happens, there is still Jesse to deal with. Walt, collapsed on the ground, spies his one-time partner hiding under the car. After he has recovered from Hank’s death enough to speak, he rats Jesse out, and it looks as if Jesse is about to get a bullet from the boys as well. But there is a slight reprieve – Todd wants to find out what Jesse has told to who and then after that they will finish the job. Walt, not in a position to disagree, nods. The boys load up 6 of the 7 barrels of cash that he buried here and leave him with one (around $10 mil). Hank doesn’t try to stop them taking the lion’s share of his ill-gotten gains – it’s not as if he has much choice.
Before that, though, Walt stops by Jesse and twists the knife in: “I watched Jane die.”
Walt blames Jesse for Hank’s death, of course. Jesse is more than dead to Walt now, Jesse is someone he actively wants to be hurt, even tortured – and this is exactly what we see later on as Jesse, beaten and bruised and with no hope of escape, is forced to start cooking meth again for Todd and co.
The opening sequence seemed even more poignant. Ah, them were the days, hey?
With a barrel of 10 mil left to him, Hank has one goal – get his family and get out, get as far away as possible. But whilst he is en-route to get everyone, a new twist to the story is thrown in.
Marie confronts Skyler and tells her that Hank has Walt. Skyler is her sister, so Marie will “help her through this” but “from now on everything changes.” She demands every copy of the recording that Walt made implicating Hank as the ringleader of the Meth operation. Skyler agrees. But Marie goes one step further: she demands that Walt Jr. be told the truth. Right now. Skylar seems to swallow this all a little too easily, however she agrees to go along with her sister’s plan. Cue a cut and one of the greatest uses of the clichéd phrase “Are you out of your minds???” I can recall. Walt Jr. now knows everything, as related by a tearful Skyler.
But no one yet knows what has happened in the desert. Everyone thinks that Hank is right now booking Walt.
Walt shows up at their home and a few minutes later Skyler and Walt Jr. also arrive. Walt demands that everyone pack so they can get out of there and start a new life. They still have ten mil, its enough, but they have to go now. Skyler quizzes Walt but he won’t give up anymore information. He’s begging them to leave. Skyler wants to know how Walt got away from Hank, but he’s evasive – they have to go, now.
And then things really get messed up. You’d probably been thinking that Hank’s death and Jesse’s torture were going to be the most dramatic moments of this episode. Surely that is enough, Breaking Bad? One main character death, another in bad shape, and our main character on the lam with his family? That’ll do it, right?
Not even close. Because Skyler has an epiphany that she probably should have had a long time ago. Walt, her husband, is a very dangerous individual – and she has to defend her family. She takes a knife and turns it on Walt, at first in a defensive, territorial way but a struggle ensues. Walt’s hand is cut. the pair roll around on the floor, fighting for the knife (anyone else think that Skyler was going to end up accidentally stabbed to death here?). Walt Jr. wards Walt off, and phones the police. There’s an intruder in the house, he tells the police.
Walt’s family, his whole reason for going down the path of darkness in the first place, has turned against him. All Walt wanted to do was provide for his family. Now he has lost them for good. His tragedy is, surely, complete. Ozymnadias, indeed.
Devastated and in a desperate bid to hold onto something – someone – Walt grabs Holly on the way out, the last family member he has that won’t turn against him and drives away, leaving Skyler standing in the street screaming after him. A short scene a few moments later sees Holly calling for Mama again and again as Walt changes her diaper. Even his innocent child rejects him. In this simple moment, Walt lose everything that is dear to him. Out of the mouths of babes….
(Revised:) A phone call to Skyler a few hours later has Walt appearing to be confused and rambling. He chastises Skyler for whining about how he made the money, he is outraged that Skyler told Walt Jr about him. With tears rolling down his cheeks, Walt seems to be trying to scrabble back some last bits of power. “Toe the line, or you will wind up just like Hank.” He reminds her that Hank crossed him and Hank was family, and look what happened there. “Maybe now you will listen, maybe now you will use that head of yours,” he snarls, but its all an act. Walt knows the police are listening in and is spinning a lie to cover for Skyler. (Thanks to Bruce Bowers for pointing out the initial misreading of this scene.)
Skyler, with the cops listening in, pleads with Walt to come home and bring Holly back.
“I’ve still got things left to do,” he says ominously, before throwing the mobile away.
Leaving Holly at a fire station with a note attached about where to return her, the last we see of Walt is him standing by the side of a familiar looking road. He has taken Saul Goodman’s offer, the one extended to Jesse a few episodes earlier, of a new life. Leaving with his barrel of 10 million dollars and two episodes left, we only know this for sure – Walt isn’t finished, and he will return. We’ve seen that – but why will he come back? What are the things that he has left to do?
How is Breaking Bad going to top this episode for sheer drama and brilliance? Honestly, there was a part of me thinking “that could be it, right there – that could be the ending and it would rank up there as one of the most brilliant endings in TV history.”
But thankfully it isn’t, and we still have a little further to go on this journey. Although how they are going to top the multiple “Holy F***K” moments in this episode escapes me completely.