TV Recap: Breaking Bad “Fifty-One”

Walt fingers his Heisenberg {Image © Sony/AMC)

Walt fingers his Heisenberg {Image © Sony/AMC)

And with that, even the Heisenberg hat has turned against us. Remember when we cheered when the hat came on? It was always a special occasion, it was Walt’s superpower and he only invoked it when it was actually needed. To avenge Jesse after he was beat up by Tuco. To meet with Mike and Gus out in the field, after the drug dealers were killed. We may not have always approved of the things Walt did, but goddammit, we loved that hat. But now that Walt is Heisenberg all the time, the hat stays on all the time, even when he’s doing stupid shit like buying hot rods for himself and Junior. The hat is a perversion, a mockery of what it once was. The hat means Walt’s gone for good.

After the cold open, we get yet another breakfast scene. This time it’s a callback to Walt’s bacon “50” in the pilot. Skyler makes a 51, this time under considerable duress, and we know she won’t be there for 52.

And so it’s finally time for a Skyler episode, and just my luck, it’s the best one of the season so far.

But let’s get the other stuff out of the way. Hank and Gomie come to Houston and arrest Lydia’s methalyne delivery guy or whatever, so Jesse is sent in his place. Lydia spots a GPS on the methalyne barrel and says the deal’s off. But Mike realizes it was planted by her and not the cops, so he decides to kill her in the name of feminism. Jesse begs him not to and Walt’s the deciding vote. Nothing will stop this train. She’s the only methalyne supplier; she lives. (And he’s fondling that fucking hat the whole time). Lydia’s a fun character but I’m having trouble believing anyone this high strung and nutty would’ve gotten involved in the meth business to begin with. She seems pretty high up at Madrigal. Surely she’s making plenty of money legitimately. Also, Hank’s promoted to Merker’s old position, continuing the neat parallel Walt and Hank have always had, ascending the hero/criminal ladders simultaneously.

Then Hank and Marie come over for Walt’s birthday and the fearsome fivesome discuss what a crazy year it’s been. Remember the talking pillow? Yes, yes I do, Walt. That was the episode that made me fall in love with the series. And here we are with the five people from the episode, gathering together again. But of course, everything’s changed. First Junior takes off in his brand new car. Then Hank and Marie are phony polite to Skyler, the woman they believe cheated on her cancer-stricken husband. And Walt’s spinning more and more lies, and who even knows what or how he really feels about anyone he used to love, or even if he feels at all. And Skyler—well, Skyler’s still a bit upset. First she plops herself into the pool and sinks to the bottom, pulled out by Walt. Then she convinces Marie to take the kids for a few days. Why? The reason she gives Marie is that she wants to work on her marriage with Walt, but the real reason is that she wants her kids out of the house, out of an environment where their father could come home any minute and start laughing hysterically in the crawl space. So when Hank and Marie leave with little Holly in tow, Walt and Skyler finally start communicating. And it is fucking terrifying. Skyer acknowledges that she’s “in this” now, and there is blood on her hands. But she won’t have the kids living here. Walt wants to know what the plan is. She discusses hurting herself. Walt says he’ll have her committed. She says she’ll say he beats her. Walt counters he’d tell about Ted. He stalks her around the room, relentlessly (this episode was directed by the spectacular Rian Johnson of Brick and the upcoming Looper; see them both) poking holes in each argument, leaning in on her, towering over her, a cobra ready to strike. She admits she has no real plan. But to wait.

Wait for what?

Her eyes squeeze shut in this perfect ‘what do you think?’ expression. “For the cancer to come back”.

And that is some great television, people.

I have a lot to complain about regarding this weird, abbreviated half-season, but even though I’m frustrated that the show has clearly not changed styles and is continuing to move at a deliberate pace, making the first half of the season set up and the second half (a whole fucking year from now) the payoff, I can’t complain too much with great episodes like this.

 

Breaking Bad, Season Five, Episode Four “Fifty-One”: A-