It’s a bittersweet moment. After waiting for over a year, we finally get the second half of Breaking Bad’s last season. It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for, yet dreading as the end is nigh! So how did what many have heralded as the best television series EVER in the history of the world fare in its triumphant return?
Let’s bitch it out.Last time we saw Walt (Bryan Cranston) he was sunning himself by the pool, living the good life with what appeared to be his reunified family, fresh off his throne as kingpin meth dealer god, seemingly out of the business for good. The big cliffhanger that held us over for the past year was Hank (Dean Norris), whilst on the crapper, innocently discovering the Walt Whitman book essentially implicating our Walt as the notorious Heisenberg.
In any other series we would expect Hank to go through a long drawn out journey, cycling through the stages of grief before finally confronting Walt and bringing him to justice. But this is Breaking Bad my friends, and I knew right from the outset that we wouldn’t have to wait for a confrontation, but we would be just a few scenes away from it. For me, it was by far the best scene of the night, delivering the good ol’ Breaking Bad satisfaction I’ve missed for so long.
I just loved how the whole sequence unfolded – very deliberately toying with our traditional narrative expectations. The scene starts out exactly as we would anticipate: Hank anxiously tries to hide his investigation as Walt slowly makes his way up the driveway. They exchange stunted niceties, as Hank tries to conceal his true emotions, and Walt very nearly saunters off without revealing his discovery of the GPS tracker. Instead of delaying the confrontation to a later episode, we only get a brief pause before Walt turns around, pulling the GPS out of his pocket. The garage door slowly lowers and the floodgates open.
Norris clocks in his best performance to date as he purges the various emotions we saw building in him throughout the episode. The anger he exhibits isn’t solely directed at Walt and the danger Walt has brought to the entire family, but you can see Hank wrestling with his own cluelessness that Walt was under his nose the entire time. The anger quickly turns to sorrow and disbelief, but Norris doesn’t opt for an overly histrionic performance. Indeed, he’s all over the place, but his emotions are played out in a believable fashion that is palpable and heartbreaking. Hank has never been a character I cared for, but in this scene, you gotta feel for the guy.
Cranston, as usual, is brilliant. It’s remarkable how I can simultaneously despise Walter White, but also feel sympathy for him even at this juncture in the series. He doesn’t flat out admit to Hank that he’s Heisenberg, and initially it appears that he’s even trying to deny it by telling Hank he’s delusional with his crazy accusations. In the next breath, he reveals to Hank that his cancer has returned and he likely only has a few more months left to live. Even if Hank could prove it, there wouldn’t be a Heisenberg to sentence. I’m in awe Walt’s arrogance, but the smoothness of his speech had a small part of me rooting for him a little. The talent of both Cranston and the Breaking Bad writers are to thank here.
Hank, through teary eyes, meekly whispers that he doesn’t know who he’s talking to anymore, only to have Walt retort “then maybe you should tread lightly”. It’s clearly a threat, and Cranston delivers it with such delicious confidence that we’re certain there is no Walter White – only the say-my-name, one-who-knocks Heisenberg remains.
Despite what we saw of Walt throughout the episode – the reunified White family, talking about maximizing air freshener sales, and even shooing away Lydia’s (Laura Fraser) invitation to return to the ‘biz’ – the Heisenberg who killed anyone who got in his way remains ever present. It’s unbelievable to think that Walt could just swoop back into his old ‘Mr. Chips’ lifestyle simply because he left the business – far too must has transpired and Walt is decidedly changed because of it. The show is smart enough to know this and thus, doesn’t take a cop-out by fruitlessly trying to redeem Walt in the series’ final episodes.
So the episode ends fittingly with Walt’s threat to Hank: “You may have found me out – but know this – family or not, you don’t want to get in the way of Heisenberg.” I have to applaud Breaking Bad for staying true to its characters and not pandering to the audience by giving us simplistic and formulaic narrative conventions. I have no idea what will happen next and I’m all the more excited.
Sigh. Aren’t you glad Breaking Bad is finally back?
- It’s suggested that Walt will stop at nothing to protect himself, including getting rid of Hank, and this sentiment is echoed in his earlier scene with Jesse (Aaron Paul). Again, I just loved how Cranston delivers his bald-faced lie to Jesse about not killing Mike (Jonathan Banks). There’s a kind of sincerity that makes you almost believe him. It’s quite significant that Walt declares, “Jesse, I need you to believe this,” not because he cares about Jesse’s opinion of him, but because it would essentially save Walt the trouble of having to kill Jesse later on. An ignorant Jesse means an alive Jesse and a safe Heisenberg. And P.S. – good on Jesse for being smart enough to know that Walt did indeed kill Mike, but was able to convince Walt otherwise
- True to Breaking Bad season premiere fashion, we’re given a further glimpse of things to come. The last we saw of flash-forward Walt (FFW) he was eating a birthday breakfast by his lonesome at a Denny’s just before purchasing an M4A1 machine gun in the parking lot. This time FFW slowly enters his almost unrecognizable former home, which now looks like a condemned house. His mission: to get the ricin vial he hid in the bedroom outlet, for reasons unknown
- It wouldn’t be Breaking Bad if the episode wasn’t dripping with visual metaphors. There were so many delectable moments that there’s too many to list, but here are a couple of my choice examples: 1) The pause that FFW takes looking at his reflection in the broken mirror in the dilapidated old bedroom. It’s fragmented, marred and divided. Brilliant. 2) Both Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are very purposefully wearing cream/off-white throughout the episode. I may be reading too much into it, but I see it as a clear indication that they’re attempting to be the pure “Whites” they once were, but instead having to settle for an “off” white, or sullied version of their former selves. 3) The moment Walt discovers the GPS device on the car and we get an accompanying crane shot pulling back, visually shrinking him in stature. I love it when shots like this echo Walt’s vulnerability and desperation, even if it’s only momentary
- The entire episode feels like a trip down Breaking Bad Memory Lane. From Hank’s investigation montage where we got photographs of all the casualties in the wake of Heisenberg’s rise to power to the upward shot of Jesse through the glass coffee table to the tighty-whitie comeback, it started to sink in that we’ve only got seven more episodes left (Sniff)
- I’m not certain what to make of Skyler. The way in which she’s interacting with Walt (sleeping in the same bed with him, entertaining buying another car was franchise, pushing Lydia into her rental car) would suggest that she’s accepting Walt back into her life. But there’s something about her body language that tells me she’s just trying to make due with a bad situation for the sake of her children. She’s not nearly the loving Skyler that we’ve seen in seasons past, which is understandable considering how she pulled an Ophelia just a few episodes ago. The jury’s still out, but I still maintain that Skyler is the key to Heisenberg’s ultimate undoing
- Amidst the seriousness, I do appreciate how Breaking Bad inserts moments of humour to ease the tension. The Hello Kitty burner phone in Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) desk is a winner. Contrast this with the stoner Star Trek talk, which I felt dragged on a bit too long for my liking
So what did you think viewers? Are you happy/sad that Breaking Bad is finally back? How do you feel about Walt’s cancer returning? Do you think Walter will ever get to enjoy all that money he sold his soul for? Will Jesse ever snap out of his pity party cycle and make something of himself? Will Hank suffer the same fate as Gus and Mike? Give us your theories in the comments section below.
Have an A1 Day!
Breaking Bad airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC