Season 5B of Breaking Bad has been an absolute rollercoaster ride so far and we are just two episodes in. Two. If you are not caught up, the word to the wise still applies; do not read this article because it will spoil one of the greatest shows in television history for you, which you don’t want happening.
Trust me, you don’t want that.
While last week’s “Blood Money” hinged upon the concept of the release from the year of tension that the show gave to its faithful viewers, which saw some deliberate pacing until Hank found himself in his garage with the great Heisenberg who told him to tread lightly, this week involved a lot of falling action to get us yet another step closer to the final payoff. The show really began with a fist to the face and felt like it couldn’t slow down, but it did, in pure Breaking Bad fashion. Breaking Bad can never pick up exactly where it left off to open a show, instead we cut to a guy starting up his truck in the early morning hours only to see a wad of cash sitting on his driveway. He follows a trail of cash until he finds a smashed up red station wagon by a playground with a duffel bag of money in it, with Jesse Pinkman quietly laying on a playground merry-go-round, staring up at the night sky with his head perfectly placed within the center circle, like a fallen angel.
The fast cut is to the garage door opening and Walter walking out as Hank looks on, the boy still playing with his remote controlled car in the street. Walter is oblivious to almost running over the toy as he frantically dials the carwash, only to find out that Skyler is on the phone speaking to someone else. The garage door creaks open again, Hank emerging with a phone in his hand. Things are about to not only get interesting, but dangerous. Walter peels out, racing to the carwash, where Skyler is nowhere to be found. Instead she is at a diner with Hank, who promises protection, his voice and actions reeking of desperation. Hank is at a crossroads, just like everyone else.
A part of you is charged up, you want Hank to nail Walt to that cross to pay for his sins. I mean, he knows. Of course he knows, and we all know, but we also know that Hank has no concrete proof just yet. One statement — on the record — from Skyler will change that and put this all to rest. If we’ve learned one thing about Skyler over the span of Breaking Bad, it is that Skyler is far from innocent in this whole thing, in fact, the metamorphosis of Walter White into Heisenberg has been accented by Skyler White’s acceptance and enabling of Walter’s transformation. Skyler likes money, power and secretly the man that her husband has become, until it catches up with her. She refuses to talk, out of fear of what will happen to her and a complete lack of faith on the part of Hank to protect her, for her family she is implying.
The reality here is that she has helped to orchestrate to dual-lives of Walter White and Heisenberg, to ensure that both men can exist while Skyler plays a dangerous game as the unwitting housewife with her fingers guarding the cookie jar. She has manipulated Walter when it fits her and her “fiction” that she weaves; that fiction is to help her to sleep at night and to make her an integral part of Heisenberg’s empire, somehow exonerating her from any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Walter and Saul are having the money moved and are unsure about what to do about Skyler at the moment.
Just like last week’s episode had that truly incredible scene featuring Badger and Skinny Pete, this week saw Huell and Kuby, Saul Goodman’s goons, moving Heisenberg’s money from the giant stack in the storage facility into barrels to be delivered to Heisenberg and Saul. Of course, if you see a giant pile of money, how can you not be tempted by it, which is exactly what happens when Huell and Kuby see that pile and both lie in it, with a smart line about Scrooge McDuck and his swimming pool vault. These are the humanizing moments that make Breaking Bad more “real;” it’s not just about the sociopaths and the lies, it is about everyone around them who have to live with them, in their wake.
I think when watching this episode it is impossible not to note that Heisenberg’s two biggest victims/accomplices are Jesse and Skyler, who are both handling their lives very differently at the moment. Jesse has lived through the horror, he’s witnessed the madness and his hands have been stained with the blood that greased the wheels, while Skyler has only handled the end result, the money. Skyler is scrambling to keep the narrative — her “fiction” — alive and to somehow play this game to completion, while Jesse has completely given up.
Skyler has never been known to be quiet, as she fights the whole way, including when Hank and Marie show up to the home. Marie does her best to try to reason with Skyler, until she comes to the stark realization that Skyler knew and knew for a very long time. Walter’s Heisenberg might be the monster that was created, but if he is Frankenstein, Skyler is the Bride of Frankenstein. She does her best to rescue Holly from this madness, but Hank knows that there is no leg to stand on with it and tells Marie to return Holly to her mother. This visit, sans any real law enforcement, just tips Hank’s hand even more to Skyler; Hank has nothing but conjecture and theories in the eyes of the law.
We also see the grave reality that Hank faces, as the head of the DEA in Albuquerque who had made his name chasing these masterminds of the blue meth, somehow missed that his brother-in-law was the great Heisenberg. Hank has a sobering moment where he explains to Marie that as soon as he can provide the proof about Walt that he has lost all credibility as well as his job. But alas, all hope is not lost for Hank Schrader, as he returns to the office to hear that his old pal Jesse Pinkman was taken into custody by APD for tossing millions of dollars into the streets.
All of this while Walter, with a new GPS in hand, is in the desert, burying his barrels of money away from the prying eyes of the law or his wife, a possible snitch. After passing out on the bathroom floor, Walter concedes that Skyler should take the money, hide it, and Walter will turn himself in, only for her to reassure him that Hank has nothing concrete just yet and that there is still hope. We know that things go wrong, we’ve seen how the house ends up, but we don’t know which direction the storm clouds roll in from yet.
In fact, we are shown two distinct possibilities for chaos at the tail end of the episode. One is that Declan and his crew in Arizona are running a shoddy operation out of a junkyard in the middle of the desert that is producing sub-par, 70% pure meth. Lydia is brought out to inspect the operation, which makes little sense until you can see what she is truly capable of. We saw her dark side when she put a hit out on Mike and his crew, but she was given a chance to redeem herself. As we’ve seen throughout this show, no one can truly be redeemed, everyone is too far down the rabbit hole, including Lydia.
Lydia had ordered a strike upon Declan’s crew while she hides in the underground bus used as a lab, bullet casings falling through the fans onto her. Todd and his uncle have taken things back from Declan, after Todd was fired after creating a 74% pure meth cook, but nearly burning the lab to the ground once. Lydia chooses to remain ignorant to her actions, walking blindfolded through a field of dead bodies and bullet casings with Todd guiding her through her own irony.
Back in Albuquerque, Jesse is sitting across from his favorite detectives from the APD, who joke and guess as to how Jesse Pinkman found himself in the possession of millions of dollars and a heart of gold to distribute it to the downtrodden citizens of ‘Burque. It’s not clear why Jesse won’t talk; if he’s loyal, scared or just too numb to care if he lives or dies, but Skyler’s scheming and plotting is contrasted by Jesse’s silence. The question that we are left with at the end is will that silence hold up as Hank Schrader enters the interrogation room, or will Jesse Pinkman put an end to the madness and piece his life back together again?
The sound of the merry-go-round creaking over the end credits is ominous and foreboding, both for Walter and for Jesse. Skyler is not going to end the reign of Heisenberg, she doesn’t even feel like her children are in danger anymore. But Jesse? Jesse is in a fragile place right now and I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” to be specific, the track “Stop.” “Stop” is where Pink’s madness has finally built up to a boil, but he’s able, with the last bit of his senses, stop and reflect on where he’s found himself and admits that he wants it all to be over. It’s also the song right before he puts himself on trial.
Breaking Bad is no longer just about Walter White as the brilliant criminal mastermind by the name of “Heisenberg” alone, but now is asking the question; is Jesse Pinkman worth saving, or is he too far gone?
I wanna go home.
Take off this uniform
And leave the show.
But I’m waiting in this cell
Because I have to know
Have I been guilty all this time?”