TV Review: Breaking Bad [SPOILERS]
Breaking Bad – Gliding Over All
Season 5, Episode 8
Well that was a long time coming wasn’t it?
I’ve accepted for a few years that we weren’t getting out of this series before Hank realized that his brother-in-law wasn’t really an underground card-counting savant. This just isn’t the type of show where characters can get away without consequences. And since you can usually count on the bigger highs for Walt leading to ever-growing lows, it was appropriate that his brief reign over all he sees end not with another harrowing escape, but with the worst possible consequence.
After Lydia (unknowingly) talks herself out of death by ricin capsule, Walt’s dream is realized. He cooks the meth with a less-educated partner, ships it far away from anything that can connect back to him and without even realizing it collects one gloriously large pile of money. And just when Skyler convinced him to walk away and Walt finished his business with Jesse with a few bags of that cash, you knew the big fall was coming.
Throughout the happy dinner scene with his in-laws I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. My money was actually on Holly having a little accident with the pool, but in retrospect that was silly. Walt’s fall always had to spin out of his own oft-mentioned, enormous hubris. Of course he’d leave a present from a known drug cook just sitting around. He’d done everything so perfectly, from outsmarting Hank time and again to killing Gus and Mike, there was no way he was going down courtesy of Walt freaking Whitman.
Even if it was obviously coming at some point, Dean Norris was fantastic in his “Hey wait a minute…” revelation. There was never going to be an easy reaction to this moment. It couldn’t be triumphant, since Hank at least likes his brother in-law and loves the man’s kids. It couldn’t be sorrowful since it was a notorious bloodhound finally catching his prey. And of course, it was a moment he had to realize how horribly he was fooled by the unassuming nerd right under his nose. Those are some serious conflicting reactions there, so I’ll tip my cap to Norris for capturing it so well. While others have grabbed some repeated and deserved love from the Emmy’s, we should remember how far Mr. Schrader has come from the near stock character he was back in 2008.
The man himself, Bryan Cranston, has been so good for so long as Walter White that I sometimes forget how great he is in this role. Whether pontificating to his former partner, or basking in his ultimate victory, Cranston disappears into this creature and continues to make me forget this is the same guy who stars in one out of every 2.5 movies produced in the last year.
I was worried about how creator Vince Gilligan was going to handle splitting up the 16-episode final season into a pair of 8-episode arcs told a year apart. Anytime a show makes a decision that’s substantively financial (everyone would get a raise if the 8 episodes airing next summer were technically a “new” season), my Spidey-sense starts tingling that it will adversely affect the quality of the show. I certainly like that this episode didn’t feel like a season finale, but an appropriate prologue for the series’ final era.
The eight episodes were at least better than the strike-shortened first season, but there were more than a few times this season (and in this episode especially) where this formerly deliberately-paced epic rushed through some things too quickly. This was compounded when the opening episode focused on Walt’s 52nd birthday, which confirmed the next 15 episodes were going to cover as large a timeline as the previous 46 had. At least the months covering Walt’s reign as king of his world were covered with one of numerous fantastic musical numbers this week. I doubt there could be a more appropriate song for this time jump than Tomy James and the Shondell’s Crystal Blue Persuasion. And how did that not become the show’s theme song three years ago?
While the script was definitely rushed in places, I appreciated the callbacks to previous seasons (the fly, the RV discussion) and the direction by series veteran Moira Walley-Beckett was exactly the level of excellence I’ve come to expect from this show. I loved each of the musical sequences, showing both his glory days and Walt’s new pals gutting and torching all of Mike’s guys (can the last people who don’t think Walt’s an absolute villain please give up their argument? He’s now employing WHITE SUPREMACISTS!).