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Vinny Ginardi: Put in the unique situation of having to deliver a midseason finale where the second half of the season won’t air for nearly a year, Breaking Bad had to provide an episode which presented some feeling of conclusion to what we’ve seen this year while also placing a stepping stone into the final eight episodes next summer. For the most part, this episode did all that and more.
An episode full of beautiful montages, especially the one accompanied by the fitting “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, “Gliding Over All” in many ways differed from almost every episode we’ve seen. For a show that in four full seasons only passed about a year in time, in this episode alone we jumped several months. In that time period, Walt built the empire that he always wanted, and seemingly, at Skyler’s request, bowed out on top. Though has he really? It feels a bit strange that Walt would all of the sudden back out now that he finally has everything that he was trying to obtain. Is it possible that Walt learned that his cancer has returned and that is way he left the business? Or has he really not withdrawn, and is once again putting his manipulative skills at work to have both his empire and his kids?
No matter what the truth is, another factor will affect Walt in the final eight episodes: Hank’s discovery. While I assumed that Hank would eventually uncover the truth about Walt, the timing and way he learned that Walt was his ‘monster’ felt perfect. At work, he’s careful, diligent and determined. Outside of finding Heisenberg, he always seems to be able to get the job done. Yet Heisenberg has been in front of him all along. The only way for him to really see the truth about Heisenberg is if he stumbled into it when he was least expecting to, because he would never suspect his down-in-the-dumps brother in-law otherwise. And now we have eight episodes to see what Hank does with this information.
Too bad it’s not for another year.
Michael Cresci: I personally believed that Walt really meant it when he said “I’m out” and that makes the final scene all the more interesting. I’m torn about this finale. I enjoyed it greatly and found the prison sequence to be one of Breaking Bad’s most thrilling, and brutal, sequences ever. The montages, in general, were masterful pieces of storytelling that balanced all the best elements of the show but they also showed a few of the problems with an 8 episodes “mini-season.” It was odd to see a show that is always so slow and methodical jump so far ahead. A little of the impact of Walt’s seeming dissatisfaction with building an empire was reduced by the fact that it was merely a montage. Still, the montage was so well done that the message still came across. Walt has ascended higher and higher this season but now that he’s gotten to the top he’s realized that he’s all alone and doesn’t feel much more validated as a man. Could he have stayed “out?” I don’t know. I really don’t. His reaction to Mike’s death showed me that Walt is still inside Heisenberg somewhere though he’d never be able to truly return. But the final revelation made sure that the consequences we’ve always expected are, at long last, coming.
There’s a lot I want to talk about (especially that deceptively perfect final scene) but first I’d like to ask you a few questions, Vinny. 1.) Do you think Walt meant it when he said “I’m out.” 2.) Has Jesse’s role on the show been too reduced by Walt’s increasing alienation? Where does he fit in going forward? 3.) How much freaking money was in that pile? Someone on Storage Wars is about to be very happy.
VG: Some excellent questions there, Cresci. I’m going to answer each individually.
1.) Do you think Walt meant it when he said “I’m out.”
I’ve been going back and forth on this since the episode aired. The general consensus seemed to be that he meant it when he said it, and has truly left the business. Walt was very reflective in this episode, isolated and sitting alone in several different scenes. As you mentioned, he’s risen to the top but he is by himself and being the ruler of the empire didn’t give him the satisfaction that he had assumed it would. It’s very possible that this, coupled with the possibility that his cancer has returned, has given Walt enough of a reason to leave.
On the other hand though, I’m not sure he could just walk away so easily. As we’ve discussed in a few our posts before, every action in this show has consequences. How would Lydia react to Walt backing out of their partnership? Would their operation end all together or did Walt hand over the keys to Todd, who we still know so little about? I can’t imagine Lydia would let Walt off the hook so easily, especially given the large success they have experienced thus far. And as I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t put it past Walt to manipulate his wife in order to have both the family life and the business life that he wants.
Really, I’m still not sure whether I believe him or not. Either way, we know nine months down the road (in BB time), it will appear that Walt has re-entered the meth business and will be in serious danger.
2.) Has Jesse’s role on the show been too reduced by Walt’s increasing alienation? Where does he fit in going forward?
Yes. While almost all of this season has featured Walt being overtaken by Heisenberg, Jesse was almost nowhere to be seen. I really enjoyed the eight episodes we’ve seen so far, and I understand that the main story of this show is the descension of Walter White, but the four previous seasons provided us with an ever-changing and compelling relationship between Walt and Jesse, and while this may not have been the show’s original intent, their relationship and the character of Jesse had become an essential part of the show. Of course, perhaps the only way to focus on Walt’s isolation was to reduce Jesse’s role for the time being, but I think we could have seen more from him outside of his interactions with Walt, as we did in season four. Going forward, I would think we will see more from him than we did in these first eight episodes. He has become the heart and somewhat moral compass of the show, which is an important viewpoint to have as the show’s main character becomes increasingly more difficult to relate to with each episode. I, like many others, am in the belief that Walt will die come the series’ end. But before this season began, my gut feeling was that it would be at the hands of Jesse after he found out about Jane or Brock (or now Mike), but given the way these first episodes have progressed, it’s starting to look like Walt might die the way he has been living: all by himself.
3.) How much freaking money was in that pile?
A bajillion dollars, or somewhere close to that.
So Cresci, what do you make of how Hank finally found out about Walt, and what do you think it means for the final eight episodes?
Michael Cresci: In reference to my question about Jesse’s reduced role and Walt’s sincerity, I recommend you check out Vince Gilligan’s recent interview. He addresses a few of my questions.In reference to your question, HANK FOUND OUT! I’ve thought long and hard about the ending to this episode and I keep finding new reasons that it was brilliant.
Let’s start with the actual viewing experience. Each season finale (and I’m treating this like a season ender) had, until this point, ended with a death. Tuco beat his crony to death in season 1. A plane exploded and rained bodies onto Walt’s driveway in season 2. Jesse killed Gale in season 3. And the greatest villain in the history of television had his face blown off in season 4. With this in mind, the writers did what they do best. They used our expectations against us. That long scene of the adults amiably chatting about hair products and brewing while Walter Jr./Flynn walked Holly around the pool was ominously serene. It was a level of peace and contentment at the White household which has been absent for quite some time. Hell, it was the first time all season that a scene there was well lit. Doom seemed on the horizon. Any number of big bang finales rushed through my head. Hank somehow knew (the eerie “I used to love to go camping” scene might have been a clue) and the cops were surrounding the house. Something was going to happen to one of the kids. Some criminal or Todd or God knows who was going to come and shoot the place up. The whole thing was filmed in long-shot and that’s always spelled doom in Breaking Bad. Of course, none of this happened. Instead, Hank, the goofy but skilled detective, went to take a dump. Then at long last the missing piece, the answer to the case which never
seemed quite right, was thrust in front of him in one sickening moment. Dean Norris’s face deserves an Emmy for that scene (put it up there with Tio Salamanca’s Emmy for ‘Best Performance Playing an Immobile Character’) and the short flashback to Walter saying “you got me” was the perfect touch. Hank finally sees that the only way Heisenberg could have eluded him this long is by being the last person he’d ever suspect. Walt almost had him convinced Heisenberg was dead, or a myth.
But there’s more to the brilliance of this ending. For starters, Walt may be out of the game. That makes him infinitely harder to nail. Hank can’t trail him because there’d be nothing to find. Just a car wash owner who wears nothing but khakis. Beyond that, the premise of Hank hunting Walt has been in place since very early on. It’s always been a driving force of the show and felt like an inevitability. In recent seasons, though, it’s seemed more and more like they’d never cross paths. Hank was chasing Gus or Mike and getting promoted to the point that he couldn’t keep following the blue meth. Now he seemingly has no options. All he has his the gut knowledge that Walt is his man. Is he going to ruin his wife’s life by having her sister arrested for money laundering and being an accessory. Ruin the lives of his niece and nephew? Who can he reasonably tell? How can he keep his job if he’s been extremely close to Heisenberg for over a year. His boss lost his job for having Gus over for a few BBQs, Hank would lose his job in utter disgrace. There’s seemingly no play for Hank yet he has to do something. This has set up an amazing scenario for the final eight episodes and set a clear story arc into place that will bring Walter back to the thing that started all of this: Family.