Breaking Bad, The Beginning of the End

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Breaking Bad, The Beginning of the End

This week’s episode of Breaking Bad, “To’hajiilee,” is as heart-pounding as television gets. For the first time in the entire series, we see Jesse outsmart Walt, and even though Heisenberg has been defeated and completely retreats into the shadows, the consequences of Heisenberg come back to bite Walt in the ass. Let’s recap all the craziness that happened this week.

The episode starts with Todd, his uncle Jack and their neo-Nazi crew giving Lydia a sample of their meth batch. It’s 76%, an improvement from Declan’s 70%, but nowhere near as pure as Walt’s 99.1%, and it’s not blue. Lydia emphasizes that her clients pay top dollar for the blue meth, which prompts Todd to offer for his uncle to “smooth things over with them.” According to this guy, there is nothing murdering whole groups of people won’t solve. When Lydia leaves to catch her flight, he examines and traces her lipstick stain on a mug with his fingers. Nuanced creepiness is the creepiest.

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Jesse surprises Hank and Gomez with a convincing plan. Since Jesse knows Walt better than anyone in this context, he says that he knows one piece of evidence that Walt would never destroy: his fortune. They devise a plan to use Huell to get the location of Walt’s buried money. Hank lies to him and tells him that Walt’s on a killing rampage and that Huell, Saul, and Kuby are all on his list — in fact, Kuby’s already missing as they speak. And to prove it? He shows Huell a picture of Jesse with his brains blown out (faked with brains bought at the butcher shop). Huell is freaked out, but doesn’t understand why he’d be a target. Hank brings up the buried money as a loose end, and takes the opportunity to ask him for some details, which Huell, shaken and wholly willing to cooperate in exchange for protection, delivers. One of Heisenberg’s biggest mistakes, that he made repeatedly, was working with cohorts far inferior to him in intelligence and cunningness. Someone like Huell can be compromised with one made-up story and a fake photograph (although I will say that dead Jesse looked pretty convincing).

Walt’s meeting with Todd and his uncle goes as planned. As you may recall, at the end of the last episode, Walt calls Todd and says he’s got one more job for his uncle. Now they’re working out the details of the job. Jack asks what the deal is — “rat patrol?” Walt adamantly says, “No, no, not a rat. He just won’t listen to reason. He’s just angry. He is not a rat.” Walt even goes so far as to say that Jesse is like family to him, so he wants the kill to be as fast and painless as possible. Read that sentence again. Only on Breaking Bad would this kind of relativism come off so naturally. In exchange for the job, Jack doesn’t want Walt’s money, but for him to cook one last time and get Todd up to speed (it’s the classic give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish philosophy). Walt reluctantly agrees, but to just one cook and only after the job’s been done. The next step is to flush Jesse out.

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I never thought the next scene would happen. It doesn’t even accomplish much, except to create that expert juxtaposition that the show does so well. Walt shows up at Andrea’s house, where she’s getting Brock ready for school. Walt waltzes in and casually says hi to Brock, the kid he poisoned not so long ago. Brock looks at him without saying a word, a suspicious glint in his eye. Walt explains that he can’t get a hold of Jesse and is getting worried. He tells her that he’s been using again and that the two of them had a massive fight. Walt just wants to make sure that nothing has happened to Jesse, and maybe he’d answer if she called. The worried dad persona returns again. Andrea calls and leaves a message, which gets intercepted by Hank, who says, “Nice try, asshole.”

Hank checks out the rental place where Walt got the van from, but it turns out there was no GPS on it. Something clicks in Hank’s mind and he realizes, “Yeah, but Walt doesn’t know that.”

Saul visits the car wash, where Skyler’s training Junior to ring customers up. Is there symbolic meaning here? Does she secretly think Hank will take Walter down, so she prepares Junior to take over the family business? Does she suspect something even worse will happen to Walt? Or even to her? Anyway, Saul’s presence is more than a little disturbing for Skyler and Walt (the banged-up face doesn’t help either), and Walt demands an explanation. Saul says that Huell’s disappeared and asks about Jesse. Walt says he’ll call, but Saul asks what if it’s a setup? Maybe he’s not as dumb as you think. And Jesse himself is about to prove it.

Walt receives a text from Jesse of a photo of one of the barrels of money, setting the grand finale in motion. But right before Walt receives the text, he looks at Skyler and Junior with a glimmer of hope in his eyes, or maybe it’s regret because he can sense something is about to go wrong, but either way, it’s really sad that that might be the last time Walt lays eyes on his family ever again.

Walt speeds down the highway as Jesse taunts him on the phone, saying that Huell told them everything and that the van he rented had GPS on it. He says he’s burning $10,000 at a time until Walt gets there. Walt is livid as he pleads with Jesse to leave his money alone. He reveals that his cancer is back and that the money is for his family; it belongs to his children. Jesse mocks Walt’s concern for children. Walt says he’s sorry about Brock, admitting guilt for the first time, and tries to get Jesse to see that he knew exactly how much poison to give him and that everything has been carefully planned out on his part — killing Emilio, Krazy-8 (references to their early days), all of it. Walt says he did all that for Jesse, who has gone silent on the other end.

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When Walt arrives at the spot in the desert where he buried his money, there is nobody to be found. That’s when he realizes that they were never there to begin with; there was no GPS — he had led them right to the spot. He takes out the battery in his cell phone, climbs a boulder, and has a coughing fit. He spots a car pulling up and hides with his gun in hand. It’s Jesse. He quickly reassembles his phone and calls Jack, saying that he’s got Jesse in his sights. It looks like he’s got backup, maybe two other guys. Walt gives Jack and his crew the coordinates, but then realizes that Jesse is with Hank and Gomez. Walt is frozen with shock, and he does the only thing he can do at that point. He calls off the hit and prepares his white flag. As Hank starts yelling for him to come out, Walt looks like a totally defeated man, which he is. There is not a trace of Heisenberg left as a tear falls from his eye.

Hank spots Walt and points his gun at him, telling Walt to drop his. For a second it looks like Walt is about to put the gun up to his temple, but he drops it. Walt complies with everything Hank tells him to do: put your hands up, walk toward me slowly, stop, turn around, walk backwards, get on your knees. Jesse looks elated, like he can’t believe this is happening, that he won. Hank cuffs Walt and tells him about their genius plan. They bought a barrel, filled it with money, and snapped a pic right in Hank’s backyard. Walt gives Jesse a look that says, “You’re dead to me.” Hank finally gets his moment of glory as he reads him his Miranda rights. Walt says, “Coward” slowly at Jesse. Jesse spits in his face, and the two almost go at it until Hank and Gomez separate them. This contrast with Walt’s adamant insistence to Jack that Jesse wasn’t a rat is almost heartbreaking. Walt has always cared for Jesse, even as he was ordering a hit on him. But now that’s all gone.

Then Hank does something that filled me with a dread that I haven’t experienced since when the band started playing “The Rains of Castamere” at the wedding in that Game of Thrones episode — you all know the one. Hank calls Marie and tells her the good news, they both sound relieved and ready to start a new chapter, and then they exchange tender “I love yous.” Fuck. When something that good happens on Breaking Bad, it’s only so it can be ripped apart. Jesse and Jane’s relationship, Walt and Gale’s partnership, and, of course, Walt’s decision to get out of the meth business. So, as expected, Jack and his crew pull onto the scene and take out assault rifles galore. Hank and Gomez take aim, announcing that they’re cops and demanding that the crew drop their weapons, but they don’t, and suddenly it’s the most tense standoff in television history. Walt, who is handcuffed in the back of a car, frantically and repeatedly yells “Jack, don’t do it!” but Jack and his men are oblivious. Jesse is in the other car, slunk down and terrified. He starts opening the car door, and everything goes silent.

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Jack’s side fires first, spraying Hank and Gomez with bullets. Miraculously, they take cover without getting hit and continue to fire back. As the bullets fly overhead, Walt falls over in the backseat, and the episode ends. It took me a while to process the gravity of the situation and recover from it. That last scene was the definition of “shit just got real.” Who’s dead? Who’s alive? What will the body count be? Was that the last conversation Marie will ever have with Hank? Will her relief turn into devastation? And what about Jesse? My prediction for the survivors is Walt (obv), Jesse, Todd, and maybe Jack (I could really take or leave Jack; he’s so boring to me). With Hank out of the way, one layer of the epic ending has been peeled off, and now it all comes down to the two remaining adversaries: Walt and Todd, with Jesse as possible collateral damage. Can’t wait to see how close or completely far off I am. What are your predictions for the last three episodes?

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