We are now six episodes deep into season 5B of Breaking Bad and things are starting to heat up for everyone involved. If for some reason you have not caught up with the series, do yourself a favor and watch it in a marathon fashion on Netflix and find the episodes from this season on your on-demand, because you will not regret it. If you haven’t caught up yet and do read this recap, though, you will regret it. Keep that in mind.
Oh my god. I’m not sure if there has been another hour of television that I’ve ever sat through that has been as tense and just downright incredible as this. I feel like this episode was just proof of how great of a television show Breaking Bad and how difficult it will be for another show to top it. There were some incredible moments throughout this episode, times when I found myself literally shouting “NO!” at my television at the top of my lungs, something that I can’t say that I’ve ever done before.
The episode begins with a flashback to Jesse and Walt’s first cook on the RV on that same site, a site which would soon turn into a massacre. The significance of the site soon comes into focus as we see Walter walk out onto the rocks in his underwear to call Skyler and tell her that he was going to be late. This was when Skyler pitched the name “Holly” to Walt for the first time all while Jesse is in the background playing with sticks. No, I’m not making that up.
As Breaking Bad is prone to do, we get an artful scene where they have the camera fixed in the same exact place and shows Walter disappear, Jesse disappear, the RV disappear while the sound of gunfire rings out. Slowly the scene fades into view and we are brought back to where we left off, with Uncle Jack and his gang with automatic weapons blasting away at Hank and Gomez. Hank is hit in the leg, leaning up against the car while Gomez is sprawled out in the open, his shotgun far out of Hank’s reach.
That won’t prevent Hank from crawling for it, though, which leads to Uncle Jack standing over Hank with his pistol at the ready, a bullet in the chamber as soon as one of his men reveals that they are DEA agents. They also realize that Jesse is missing, which leads to Todd ordering two of the men to go find him. Walter reveals that Hank is family and that he would do anything for them to spare Hank’s life, while Hank protests in defiance. This leads to Walter admitting that they were there because of his money, $80 million, which is buried in the area. All of that money could be theirs if they just let Hank live.
Well, Uncle Jack might be a racist and a murderer, but he’s apparently not a fool. Walter did, after all, give them exact GPS coordinates to where he was, something that seemed a bit odd to them. This leads to first incredibly difficult, heart-wrenching moment of this episode, where Jack listens to Walter’s plea before simply unloading a bullet into Hank’s head. Hank had become such a tremendous character over the years, one of the few that you wanted to come out of this whole thing unscathed, but it was never meant to be. Walter falls to his knees in agony as his decisions have caught up with his family again, but this time it was fatal.
Uncle Jack wastes no time before he has one of his henchmen pull out his phone and walk to the exact GPS coordinates, armed with a shovel that was pulled from Hank’s van. It doesn’t take long before all of the henchmen are back, Jesse nowhere in sight, and the money is being dug up. Uncle Jack orders it all to be loaded into his pickup before returning to Walter and making a peace offering of one barrel — approximately $11 million — for him as long as everything is cool. Walter apprehensively takes his hand before reminding him that Jesse Pinkman was still not dead. Uncle Jack promises that if Walter finds him they’ll take care of the job.
As it turns out, while Walter was on the ground grieving, he notices that Jesse was burrowed beneath his car, trying to weather the storm. It isn’t long before Jesse is being pulled up and forced down on his knees, locked in a staredown with Walter. Uncle Jack steps behind him, gun to Jesse’s head as Jesse looks up into the sky and sees two birds fly by before Todd steps in and suggests that they interrogate him to learn what he told the DEA first. Jack and Walter agree, but as Jesse is being taken away, Walter stops them, looks Jesse in the eye and tells him that he watched Jane die and did nothing to stop it. This really was the last great lie that Walter had never revealed to Jesse, and quite possibly the biggest of them all.
Walter is left in the desert with his car and money before he starts heading back only to find that he’s out of gas. A lone bullet struck his car in the gas tank, which emptied him out. This led to yet another odd misadventure for Walter in the middle of the desert, as he pushed that barrel all of the way to the closest house, where he finds an old Navajo man and offers him a stack of cash for his old pickup truck.
This brings us to the carwash, where Walt Jr. is hard at work having an A1 day while Skyler keeps trying to call Walt to no avail. Flynn is happy to greet his Aunt Marie as she walks in, decked out in purple, only for his mother to look a bit less pleased. This leads to a serious talk in the office, where Marie reveals to Skyler that Hank has Walter in custody and that she still loves her sister dearly, but it’s time to come clean to Walter Jr.
Meanwhile, Jesse is being kept like a rat in a cage, holed up in a storm drain and looking like he’s been beaten within an inch of his life. Toddy lowers a ladder down and walks down, Jesse pleading for him to leave him alone, that he told them everything and that no one else had seen the confession tape yet, there was still time for them to collect it. Todd, in his creepy way, leads Jesse up the ladder and into his meth lab, chaining Jesse up to ensure that he doesn’t escape, only for a photo in the distance to catch Jesse’s eye; one of Andrea and Brock. Todd orders Jesse to suit up and start cooking.
We are brought back to an incredulous Walt Jr. on the verge of hysterics facing his Mother and Aunt Marie in the office of the car wash. He, rightfully, calls Skyler a liar and seems to be unable to believe what she’s saying because he had been lied to for so long. He is right, though, he has been in the dark throughout this whole ordeal and if Skyler had her way, he still would be. Skyler and Walt Jr. drive home only to find the beaten up truck in the driveway, with Walter inside packing his bags and panicking. He orders Skyler and Walt Jr. to pack their possessions and to go with him, only for there to be a lot of questions in the air.
Walt Jr. has questions about what his father has done and Skyler, who knew that Walter was in custody by the hands of Hank, wants to know what happened to Hank. Walter initially lies to cover it up, saying that he negotiated for Hank’s safety before Skyler prods and accuses him of murdering Hank. Walt Jr. is losing his mind at the idea of his uncle Hank being dead, while Walter assures her that he tried to save Hank, but it was too late. As Walter goes to grab more bags we are given a shot of Skyler and her two options; a phone next to a set of knives. Of course she opts for the knife and when Walter reappears she quickly pulls Walt Jr. behind her and starts waving the knife at Walter.
Walter cannot understand what is happening or how she’d have this reaction and still believes that he can diffuse the situation, as he advances towards her only for her to slash at him, opening up a nasty gash on his hand. If you know Walter White, you know that he won’t stand for this, as he tries to wrestle the knife out of his wife’s hands, which leads to them rolling around on the ground before Walter ends up on top of her, choking her with one hand and the knife poised and ready to do something with the other. Walt Jr. has finally seen enough and grabs his father from behind, forcing him to drop the knife and relent his hold over her. Walt Jr. gets in between them, protecting his mother while his father watches his son take his phone out of his pocket and dial 911, explaining that his father tried to kill his mother and probably just killed his Uncle Hank.
Walter at this point looks confused, heartbroken and angry, unable to understand why his family would react like this towards him. At this point he still believes that what he has done has been right all along, that he was doing something for them to secure their future. He only has one option now, which is to leave, which he does, but not before grabbing Holly and her diaper bag. Upon Skyler’s realization that Walt took Holly to facilitate his escape, she rushes out the door after him, only for him to make his escape, leaving her covered in his blood and hysterical in the middle of the road.
Walter is no presumably far away, inside of a public bathroom changing Holly’s diaper, with some duct tape on his hand. As usual, he’s talking as if everything was completely fine, showing just how deluded he really can be. As he holds his child she cries for her mother, which seems to be a dawning that he can’t take Holly from Skyler. It’s back to the house as Marie and the police are there issuing an Amber Alert. Marie is in complete disbelief that anything could have happened to Hank, as she mutters, “He was in handcuffs.” Walter calls the house while everyone is there, the police instructing Skyler to talk to him while they get a lock on his location.
This is really one of the pivotal moments of the show here as Walter continues to justify his actions. What comes out of Walter’s mouth is nothing short of completely vile and evil, him blaming Skyler for never supporting him or believing in him. It isn’t clear if he is aware of the police tracing his call and if he is trying to be deliberate or if he is entirely being pushed entirely by emotions here. Is it his ego or him trying to save his family from further problems that leads him to talk about how Skyler knows nothing about what he did and takes credit for Hank’s death, promising her a similar fate if she crosses him again? He does this fighting back tears, which seems to point to him at least being partially deliberate, how much so, we aren’t sure just yet. Marie also gets some finality on Hank here, which is incredibly difficult to watch.
Walter’s last words are, “I’ve still got things left to do” before he tears apart his newly-purchased burner. It turns out that he is standing in front of a fire station where he abandons Holly inside of a fire engine with a note taped to her containing her name and address. A fireman finds her when he goes to turn the alarm lights on the truck off, which does make it seem like his location for the phone call was moderately deliberate to ensure that she ends up home safely.
The episode ends with Walter standing in the same spot that Jesse was in a few episodes ago, with his bags and barrel of cash before we see him load the van up and drive off in it.
This episode was crazy, dense and intense. There are somehow two episodes left and with the next episode being called “Granite State” the only assumption there is to make is that Walt uses this cleaner to run off to New Hampshire, which we can confirm that he did from the first episode of this season where he had a NH license plate and driver’s license. Walter has lost everything now, everything that he ever had. His money is mostly gone, his empire lays in ruins, his family has been torn apart by his actions and most likely wants nothing to do with him and his cancer is back. Also note the significance that both his “adopted” and biological sons have turned against him to the police now. When someone has so little left and has their back against the wall it is very easy to see them doing drastic things. The cold, calculating Heisenberg has no room in this world right now, as the emotional Walter White who has lost everything is all that we have left.
The title of Ozymandias fits this episode so well, as Walter’s empire has completely fallen apart before our very eyes. The question now is; how does he force us to remember this empire?
I can’t help but think of Trent Reznor’s classic song off of The Downward Spiral, “Hurt.”
“what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
you could have it all
my empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way”