I might be able to forgive Walter White, but it will be even harder to forgive AMC. When I first learned of this “split-season” nonsense, I was gut shot. Completely devastated. Either the show will attempt to tell two stories in a rushed way, completely antithetical to how the show usually works in its deliberately paced manner, or we will get a half season of set up with a mind blowing cliffhanger and have to wait 10 months for its conclusion, which is completely antithetical to how stories are typically told. Well, I was wrong. We got both. There’s a complete story here, but it’s a rushed story, about a man’s ultimate rise and then “fall”, and there’s a mind blowing cliffhanger that won’t be resolved until nearly a year from now. That’s just bad storytelling, brought on by network greed. Do I sound bitter? I don’t want to sound bitter.
On the plus side, even subpar Breaking Bad is pretty damn great, and there were several great episodes in this batch and some fun character development and a lot of plot twists no one could anticipate. And as far as this episode goes, there are great individual moments and wildly fun ironic music montages. But this story was rushed. Walter White went from struggling local dealer to literal Meth King of the World in the space of a two minute music montage. And then he went back out again. The beats are there and true to the character as we know him, but the execution is lacking. Great individual scenes don’t always mean a great episode. And to be sure, we got some great scenes. There’s Hank unknowingly calling Walt a monster, there’s Skyler and Walt talking like adults for the first time probably since she found out the truth—and finally she seems to get through to him—and there’s Jesse, clearly terrified of Walt coming to his door, but still willing to awkwardly reminisce about simpler times when far less people had been murdered. But still…the sum of its parts are greater than its whole.
But there’s gotta be a reason, right? We didn’t need to jump forward in time and have Walt retire in order to get to the ending we got. Is it just for the purpose of dramatic irony (Walt’s out, and then Hank learns the truth)? Find out in 10 months. Or is there another reason why it has to be this way. Does Walt getting out voluntarily give him some sort of karmic credit in the eyes of the viewers? Are we being encouraged to forgive him? Root for him again? Find out in 10 months. He just killed Mike last week, for God’s sake. Are we really that easy? Maybe. When we learned the cartel killed Gus’ lover, I found a way to root for Gus. And when we learned he regularly visits a man in a wheelchair and taunts him about the deaths of his loved ones, I found a way to root for Hector. Gee, I guess I am that easy. Will I find a way to root for AMC again? Find out in 10 months.
Predictions and questions:
1. Given Walt and Hank’s parallel career trajectories and Hank’s speech about the good ol’ days marking trees, what are the chances that Hank is also “out” when we see him in the final scene. At least three months have passed at that point.
2. Has Skyler really forgiven Walt? Is she as easy as we are? Her smile at the lunch seemed genuine, if guarded. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It seems to me even if Walt’s “out”, the marriage is over. But I guess it’s better plotwise if they’re still together. And let’s not forget, Skyler can only throw so many stones, as she’s done quite a bit of bad things herself.
3. How will Jesse fit in to the final 8? He seems pretty removed from the story at this point. I guess Hank will start looking at him again, too. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for assault and battery. Can Jesse still press charges against Hank if he needs to play that card?
4. Just how will Hank play this? Is he willing to put his wife’s sister in jail, destroy her whole family, and possibly his own reputation? He doesn’t know it yet, but he accepted meth money for his own physical therapy.
5. I think a bargain will emerge. I think Walt will be told to leave town and never come back in exchange for Hank’s silence. But then other forces will necessitate Walt’s return…
Walter White had a cold, unloving father. Then he had a girlfriend and best friend who betrayed him and now he has a cold, unloving wife and a crippled child. Life has been exceedingly unfair. How is it possible that the world doesn’t know how special he is, how brilliant his mind works, how much magic he has?
A year later, everything’s changed. He bested Krazy 8, then Tuco, then Gus, and now he’s even eclipsed Gus. He’s truly built an empire, just as he wanted. And it only took three months. But the cost was too great; his wife, his children, his soul. So he’s out. There’s no challenge left. He’s just a guy, alone, working the weirdest 9 to 5 job ever, and staring into a pool at night, a drink in his hand. (And an MRI unfavorable MRI result? Maybe?…) Even the money is a burden, an albatross that must be hidden and kept dry and sprayed for silverfish.
Happy ending? Sure, why not?! A casual lunch with Hank and Marie filled with plenty of Robert Altman-esque crosstalk and Junior pushing Holly around in a toy car seems to indicate all is well. Certainly, no one on screen seems the least bit worried. Maybe because they don’t know there are two minutes left in the midseason finale and we the audience have our fucking hearts in our throats. How sure was I that little Holly was about to take a bullet to the temple? 99.97% sure.
But no, it’s just Hank, rudely using the master bathroom to drop some kids off at the pool and doing a little light reading in the meantime. Ever hear of a smartphone, Hank? Jesus. What year is it? (Seriously, what year is it on this show? Todd’s uncle talks of killing bin Laden and yet the show started in 2008 and only a year has passed). Hank reads a book with a dedication from Gale in it and it’s fucking on. In ten months. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Breaking Bad, Season Five, Episode Eight: “Gliding Over All”: B+