The penultimate episode of the first half in Breaking Bad‘s final season showed us just how far Walt (Bryan Cranston) will go in his quest for power and, if we had any doubt, adequately shows us that he’s beyond the point of no return.
Let’s bitch it out.
Up until last week, I may have been the only viewer left who had any hope for Walter White. Yes, we’ve seen ample evidence to show how far Walt has come from his humble chemistry teacher beginnings to the drug kingpin egomaniac we see today, but even with one deplorable act after another, I always managed to find a semblance of hope for him (some instances were more obvious than others). Even in last week’s episode where he callously whistled in the temporary meth lab only hours after the team had killed and dissolved Drew Sharp, the poor dirt bike boy, I managed to make excuses. Although his actions said otherwise, I still found myself making allowances for Walt (“Perhaps the whistling is some kind of bizarre coping mechanism?“). After the events of ‘Say My Name’ however, I can honestly say that Walter White can no longer be redeemed.
The episode continued directly from last week’s ending – we find out what Walt’s plan is in which “everybody wins”. The answer: Walt keeps all the methylamine and offers Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) buyers the chance to become Walt’s new distributor for a cut. It’s quite anticlimactic and rested solely on Walt’s ability to sweet-talk a dangerous gang of men with guns. Naturally he does so flawlessly. I couldn’t help but compare to when we were first introduced to Heisenberg in 1×06 ‘Crazy Handful of Nothin’. Back then, Walt got what he wanted but you could tell he was scared sh*tless during the whole process, flinching and wondering if he’d be able to pull it all off. Compare that Heisenberg to the one giving the “Do you really want to live in a world without Coca-Cola?” speech. No weapons of any kind, no theatrics; this Hiesenberg is so collected and confident, he could give Gus Fring a run for his money. This Heisenberg now taunts those who made him cower just a few months ago.
In exchange, Mike got his $5M payoff and Jesse is talked into helping Walt with the transition. As Walt puts it: it’s “the least” Jesse can do. Looks like Walt’s astronomical arrogance finally worked in his favour.
I knew the moment Jesse had to reiterate to Walt that “he’s out”, Walt would shame him into staying. And watching Walt pull the puppet strings is a thing of beauty. First culling Jesse into a false sense of security, then scoffing at his quest for moral purity and finally drudging up the most painful aspects of Jesse’s life: Gale’s (David Costabile) murder, Jesse’s drug addiction and reiterating that he no longer has Andrea (Emily Rios) or Brock (Ian Posada), or anyone for that matter. Walt also manages to curtail his instrumental involvement in every one of those things.
Although it comes as no surprise that Walt takes us on this little guilt trip, I was surprised that Jesse finally appeared to be growing a backbone. While still unable to see Walt’s role in the low points in his life, Jesse calls Walt on his BS. Walt says no one will be hurt/killed anymore now that they’re in charge, but Jesse identifies this as a broken record that it is. The youngest member of group decides to walk away *full stop*, even if it means he doesn’t get a penny of the money he so fittingly deserves. Jesse’s not all the way there, but I was impressed by his significant evolution. Shame that it took another death for him to figure this out. Walt is left screaming in the lab after Jesse leaves; it reminded me of a marriage destined for divorce with half the parties involved completely oblivious. As a viewer who genuinely enjoyed this tag-team, there was a moment of sadness when Jesse finally broke the bonds. It needed to happen, but I had a single tear moment nonetheless. Looks like this is an instance where Heisenberg can’t talk his way into his desired outcome.
Although it’s taken some time (and horrible circumstances) for Jesse to see what Walt has become, Mike knew it from day one. There was something so incredibly satisfying when Mike finally told off Walt so declaratively and concisely. Mike articulated what many viewers are likely thinking:
You could’ve shut your mouth, cooked, and made as much money as you ever needed. But no. You just had to blow it up. You and your pride and your ego. If you had done your job, known your place, we’d all be fine right now.
Of course that was the nail in the coffin for Mike. Walt goes full-out crazy, charging back and shooting before thinking. No more killing, right Walter? Mike’s no angel, but in comparison to Walt, he’s clearly the hero in this drama. After sustaining a fatal stomach wound, Mike inexplicably manages to crawl out of his car and seat himself in the surrounding valley, overlooking a serene pond. In a breathtaking sequence, Mike gets in one more dig at Walt by telling him to “shut the f*ck up” so he can die in peace. All we hear is the tranquil lull of the water and hum of the crickets before the camera pulls out on the landscape, the soundtrack barely registering the distinct slump of poor Mike expiring. It’s an unnervingly peaceful end to one of the show’s most interesting characters.
The worst/best part of this is that there’s no logical reason for shooting and ultimately killing Mike – all Walt has done is prove him completely right. Apparently, no one speaks the truth to Heisenberg! When Walt charges back, it’s no different than watching Tuco (Raymond Cruz) going completely apesh*t and beating his colleague to death way back in S1. Walter White is equally unhinged. I can’t say with any certainty that this moment is the “Boom” moment in the ticking time bomb scenario, but it’s pretty damn close.
- I’m torn on Walt’s final words to Mike: He apologized after realizing that he can get the names of the Fring’s legacy crew from Lydia (Laura Fraser): “This whole thing could have been avoided.” Finally, I detected some (genuine?) regret in Walt’s voice. Is this another instance of injecting that small moment of ambiguity to make us slightly sympathetic for our protagonist? Even if it were, it’s still an instance of too little, too late for me. Walt’s far beyond my sympathies at this point.
- Interesting how during Walt’s beratement of Jesse, he resolved they’re both going to hell (should it exist). At the very least, Walt knows that what he’s been doing of late is beyond any forgiveness from a higher power. A further indication of his lack of remorse.
- As much as I was having a hate-on for Walt this week, I must say, I really enjoyed watching him teach Todd (Jesse Plemons) how to cook. It was nice to get a reminder that Walt was a chemistry teacher for a good part of his life and refreshing to see those skills being used.
- Visually, Breaking Bad never fails to disappoint. No matter how many meth-cooking montages we see, they’re always entertaining. I also enjoyed the playful sequence in the first round of safety-deposit box pay-offs. It’s small moments like these that sets the series apart from other long-form dramas.
What did you think viewers? Only one more episode of Breaking Bad left this year! What will Walt do with Mike’s body? Will Jesse ever find out, and what would that mean for Walt? Now that Mike’s out of the picture and the legacy costs have been frozen again, think that Hank will finally discover Walt? Will Skyler ultimately be the one who rids the world of Heisenberg? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Breaking Bad airs its mid-season finale next Sunday at 10:00pm EST on AMC.