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Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 1: Live Free or Die

July 16, 2012

The new triumvirate of meth power, but for how long?

Some gut reactions: the show seems darker, as in less lighting; Jesse’s voice sounds a little different, doesn’t it?; hooray for the return of the goofy junkyard guy; am I the only one who was a little angry they showed the “I won” phone call again?; Mike goes from feeding chickens to kill mode pretty fucking fast.

As far as I can tell, this episode was about the aftermath of Gus’ murder, and not just in terms of the physical evidence that needs to be eradicated. Indeed, that was taken care of relatively easily; the more important consequence of Walter’s victory over Gus (and Tyrus, don’t forget him, that introverted muscleman) is the boon to Walter’s ego. Walt’s nefarious and fucking brilliant plan took out a man who, per Jesse’s rough calculations way back in Season 3, made over $90 million a year distributing meth—and that’s before we get into the untold riches he earned from Los Pollos Hermanos. Accordingly, Walter feels like the king of the universe. His pride is so great that he can no longer accept no for an answer. Sucks for Saul.

Click to embiggen, if you want to make this your desktop

Saul’s other function this episode was to revive the Ted Beneke subplot. Ted’s fate was left uncertain at the end of Season 4, and many fans, including myself, presumed him dead. But no, that would be too easy. “He just woke up,” Saul says. Skyler and the audience soil themselves, Will Ted Beneke really be the one to take the Whites down? When Skyler visits to investigate, we see the grisly result of Ted’s bump-on-the-head. He resembles Darth Vader without his mask on. Fortunately for Skyler, Ted treats her like the Emperor, saying he will never cross her. He is scared shitless; luckily, he has a bedpan.

While Skyler briefly accepts the freedom and empowerment that comes from someone else’s fear of her, she can’t reconcile that with the terror she feels around Walter now. (What, she didn’t know he could build an improvised explosive device when they got married?) When he hugs her at the very end of the episode, she freezes up like I did as a young kid whenever the Chuck E. Cheese mascot would touch me at birthday parties. Underneath the ostensibly warm exterior lies the unknown. Walter’s declaration of forgiveness hammers the point home: his hubris is at an all-time high. It’s only a matter of time—say, seven more episodes—before he flies too close to the Sun.

(Random thought on a minor point in the show: I think the money Walt borrows from Jesse will be a sticking point between the two later on. He doesn’t have much decency left, but does he have enough to pay off his debts? Will something as mundane as a few thousand be the wedge that finally drives them apart?)

There are 15 episodes left, seven more this summer and eight in the next, so Walt’s arc from “Mr. Chips into Scarface” is nearing its end. The big question is: When will we see the Walt of the flash forward, who breaks bad bacon to celebrate his 52nd birthday alone in a Denny’s, who has a full head of hair and hipsterish glasses, whose cancer seems to have returned to Season 2 levels, who carries a New Hampshire driver’s license that identifies him as Mr. Lamberg Lambert? I believe that by the end of this half-season, Walt will reach the point where he needs to go on the run, change identities, the whole shebang. Skyler will leave him to protect Junior and Holly, or Hank will come too close to catching him, or both. When I saw that big gun in the trunk of the car, I was reminded of Scarface’s “little friend.” The internet tells me they’re not the same gun, but I feel like Walt might be using that gun the way Scarface used his: to make a last stand.

Please discuss with me in the comments, I’m lonely.

From → Media, TV

  1. GraNola Bar permalink

    I agree with you that the show on the whole has taken a dark tone. But its more than just a tone. The show is throwing it at us, like they want to make sure we dont overlook how mentally twisted Walt has become. That moment when Walt says “I forgive you” to Skyler was more than just creepy, its terrifying. It doesn’t even seem like Walt cares or even registers the fear she has for him, like he’s the godfather or something. yea hubris is a good way of putting it. i definitely think its going to get him somehow. that same hubris is what got Hank back on the hunt (walt planted a seed of doubt in hanks mind at dinner back in season 4 if you dont remember).

    I think it would be a damn shame if walt falls because of Ted. I mean I hate Ted. Idiot drives his company into the ground, gets a huge check and his first thought isnt I should pay off my back taxes so the IRS doesnt arrest me. I hope that’s not the direction the writers are going to take, seems too soft for the show. i think its going to be walt that ends up screwing himself over. I also don’t think that Jesse and him will break apart. While it is a possibility, their staunch loyalty to each other has been a pillar of the show since the beginning. i dont want to think that they can eventually break apart with so much history between them. I think about it and it is very possible. I mean Walt has already started to look at Jesse as a person to manipulate into his plan, shown by that whole lily of the valley stunt.

    As far as the “I won” phone call, it parallels a scene in Batman: The Animated Series, when Batman says “I am vengeance, I am the night, I AM BATMAN” (link below). While Batman is questioning his own worth and reaffirming his role in Gotham, so too is Walt. But Walt’s epiphany is on the flip side of the law. Walt has come so far from his high school teacher days. Can you imagine if the Walt that exists today went back in time when he got shoved out of the company Gray Matter from his friend, i think his name was elliot. Instead of leaving the company, Walt would be all like “you want me out, no. i dont think so. heres whats going to happen” and then 20 minutes later walt is sole owner and CEO of Gray Matter.

    i dont know, just my thoughts.

  2. Yee I remember Walt’s wine-fueled speech to Hank. Gale isn’t a genius, he clearly copied! Pride/hubris has been a problem for Walt since the beginning, when he wouldn’t take Elliot’s money.

    And I wasn’t suggesting that Ted would bring him down. I was trying to say that, at that moment when Saul says Ted just woke up, it seemed entirely possible; he’s a loose end. But Ted made it clear he doesn’t want any more trouble. I agree that Walt will, in the end, fuck shit up for himself. I said as much, that he’ll fly too close to the Sun. But I think it will be instigated by Hank coming close to catching him.

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