After a lot of waiting, speculating and posturing about what will happen in the final few episodes of Breaking Bad, the world was finally given some answers and left with a whole set of new ones for the next few weeks. In case you were worried or aren’t caught up, yes, this will feature spoilers and no, you shouldn’t read if you haven’t caught up to last night’s episode yet, alright? Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, onto “Blood Money.”
So we were left with questions from last season, perhaps one of the most uncomfortable Breaking Bad cliffhangers outside of Jesse pulled the trigger on Gale at the end of season four. The wait for this was just pure and utter torture, which was compounded by just how secretive the crew behind Breaking Bad can be. The first half of season five ended with Hank on Walter’s personal throne, looking around for some reading material and finding Walt Whitman’s indelible classic, Leaves of Grass, with a special dedication in the front from Gale Boetticher to his “other favorite W.W.”
Think back and remember that it was Walter who initially shed light on the situation for Hank, telling him that it was Walt Whitman that Gale meant, with even a quotation from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in his notebook. It was clear at this point that Hank had figured the whole damned thing out and that it was all because of Walter’s bravado, leaving the book in plain sight like that. Walter believed that he was invincible and it finally caught up to him, with the irony of course being for our friends out there with a literary background, that it was because of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which has been studied to death and viewed by many as a collection of narcissistic and free-spirited poems. We could go into some full, crazy analysis of Walt Whitman and Breaking Bad, but we’re pretty sure you’d get bored by that. Let’s just say, it makes a lot of sense. Of course, Walt never got into corrupting young boys sexually, but we can just ignore “Song of Myself” for this purpose.
In pure Breaking Bad fashion, instead of being brought right into our cliffhanger, we are brought back to the continuation of the opening of season five, where Walter has his big gun and a beard. Kids are skateboarding at the White residence, it is boarded up and fenced off and Walter just gingerly pulls up in his car with his M60 in the trunk, pulls open the gate and walks in. The first real clue we have as to what could have possibly happened to leave the world of Breaking Bad like this is the graffiti on the wall, spelling out “HEISENBERG.” It turns out that Walt is just there to grab the ricin from behind the electrical socket in his former bedroom. The next clue as to what might be going on is his elderly neighbor unloading groceries from her car, staring at Walter who stops and simply says hello to her, causing her to drop her groceries out of fear.
This finally brings us back to Hank, who gets out of family dinner with a monster by faking a stomach flu, driving off looking like he’s going to actually puke while Walter stands next to his window waving his infant daughter’s hand at him. Hank has a very Tony Soprano moment in the car, which means a panic attack leading to a car accident, which leaves Marie and himself shaken up, but for the most part fine. Hank spends the rest of the episode holed up in his garage having documents delivered to him where he begins piecing things together, looking for the pattern that links Walter with Heisenberg.
Meanwhile, Jesse is having a massive breakdown and this time there is no one to pull him out of his hole. In the past it was Jane, Mike, Saul, hell, even Walter pulled Jesse up by the bootstraps in the past before, but Jesse is very alone now. At least he’s not doing meth anymore, he’s just a weed man now, but it’s leaving him in a slump. There is a tense moment when Walter comes to visit, with Jesse concealing his gun the entire time, ready to defend himself, only to find two bags with Jesse’s promised $5 million there. At this point, though, Jesse is over the money and finds himself trying to donate it to Mike’s granddaughter as well as the dirt bike kid’s parents, only for Saul to call Walter to pick the money up, which leaves the money right back at Jesse’s.
You can tell that a real change has happened within Jesse as his pizza addiction has led him from a decent Albuquerque pizza place in Venezia’s, which has been a long-running pizza box within the show, to the downright mediocre Pizza Hut copy that is Pizza 9. I mean, what is Jesse thinking? He has to be in some sort of real funk to be eating overpriced Pizza Hut rip off pizza, right? Jesse is left playing paperboy with wads of cash near the end down in the South Valley of Albuquerque (read: the bad part of town) after passing out at Dog House on Central because he has no earthly clue what to do with this “blood money.”
Walter is back in the chair getting chemo, which makes a surprise appearance from Lydia at the car wash, talking about how his successor’s product is inferior and demanding he comes back, all the more ominous. To Walter’s credit, he is trying to make a go at running a car wash and not being Heisenberg, but he’s clearly used to being in control now and is spending far too much time at the car wash micromanaging his wife. There is just no way for him to sweep Heisenberg aside. He is Heisenberg and Walter White is just a character that he portrays now.
I don’t think that any of us really expected a Hank and Walt showdown to go down in episode one, yet, it happened. It happened and it was glorious. When Walter finds that Leaves of Grass has gone missing he scours the house, only to find that it is nowhere to be found. This leads him to a crazed mission in his tighty whities where he’s scouring his car for a tracking device only to find the GPS unit that Hank made Walter plant on Gus Fring’s car on his car. When Walter shows up at Hank’s we are treated to some awkward conversation as both men skirt around what they both know. The old Walter would have let it go, walked away and let it sit. This is the Walter that Hank knew and the character that Walter has always played around his brother in law, but that man isn’t around anymore.
The little subtleties of their relationship are always on display as Walter has grown over the past few seasons into Heisenberg. Heisenberg doesn’t take ice in his drink, because it dilutes the alcohol, but Walter White always did. So as Walter turns to walk away, the look comes over his face, the look that we all know by now, the one that says that he isn’t going to let this end so easily. Walt abruptly turns around and presents the GPS tracker to Hank, asking him if it is his. This isn’t the Walter that Hank knows at all, which he notes. This all leads to Hank slugging Walter in the face and then Walter’s tearful admission that his cancer is back and that he has six months to live. He’ll never end up in a prison anyway, he explains to Hank.
So we are left wondering what will come next week after Hank asks for Walt to bring the kids by so they can hash this out, only for Walter to explain that he won’t be willing to do that. We still get a cliffhanger, but not without them throwing us a much-needed bone.
This week’s episode lived up to the anticipation and set the pace for the final few episodes of the series; it gave us a lot to digest and think about while still giving some answers to keep us wanting more. There was that incredible montage sequence and oh yeah, there was that awesome discussion between Badger and Skinny Pete about Badger’s Star Trek script involving pie eating and Chekov. I also have a sense of personal irony here, as I’ve been listening to The Church’s “Starfish” album a lot the past week, featuring the track “Blood Money.”
“Blind with dollars
Mined in salt
And you pay for everything in cold, hard cash
Better read through the fine print, you sift through the ash”