Breaking Bad: “Blood Money”
Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for the episode of Breaking Bad that aired Sunday, August 11, 2013 (or at least what I could remember at lunch today). If you haven’t viewed this episode yet and do not wish to know what happened, stop now or forever hold your peace. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Also, I’m writing this in a hurry so there will be typos. Oh so many typos. Apologies ahead of time for that.
Wow. Just wow. That was a heck of a way to kick off a season of television, wasn’t it? My love for Breaking Bad is well documented on this site, but in the back of my mind I was prepared to be slightly let down last night, if only because the long wait between the last episodes and last night had driven my sense of anticipation and expectation to ridiculous levels. Somehow, against those odds, the show actually met my expectations and then some. From the cold open (has a show ever done this better?) to Jesse’s gut wrenching search for redemption to the frankly amazing confrontation between Hank and Walter that closed, I don’t think the show could have better transitioned from last “season’s” cliff hanger and set the stage for the final 7 episodes.
I’m such a geeky little fanboy when it comes to Breaking Bad that I’m going to try and recap each of the remaining episodes and give you my take on what happened as well as give a prediction or two for what lies ahead each week. So bear with me and feel free to jump in and speculate. That’s what makes it fun, right?
Here’s what struck me from last night:
- The cold open. Again, just wow. Just like last season, there’s the gaunt, 52 year old version of Walt, no longer bald and still in his New Hampshire guise, pulling up in front of the abandoned, shuttered remains of his house in his junker car with heavy artillery in the drunk that he purchased in the Denny’s parking lot. As the skateboarders shred in the abandoned pool in the back, Walt enters the house, complete with HEISENBERG ominously spray painted on the wall in the living room. (Whose work is that? Jesse? Lydia’s Czech connections? Hank? Walt himself?) Walt retrieves the ricin capsule he had previously hidden behind the wall socket in the bedroom and leaves, but not before being spotted and recognized by his neighbor. His deadpanned “Hello, Carol” was fantastic, especially juxtaposed with the same greeting minutes later. The obvious question here is, “Who is the ricin meant for?” My gut feeling here was either Jesse or Lydia, with Jesse taking the lead by the end of the episode with another dark horse emerging. More on that later.
- I loved how the show picked up with Hank’s discovery of Gale’s encryption to Walt in Leaves of Grass, and moved from his feigned illness excuse to a physical manifestation of Hank’s anger and revulsion at the discovery. Great scene and a great and believable way to move the story beyond that moment of realization.
- Badger and Skinny Pete’s extended Star Trek pie in space riff. *stands and applauds* I can totally sympathize with the “WTF are these guys talking about?” look on Jesse’s face during the conversation though. I’ve sat through a few of those with my friends before.
- Lydia’s back, nervous as ever and running her rental car through the car wash (nice catch, Sylar.) I think her Czech connections and all of the things she has in motion are ultimately Walt’s biggest external threat and the reason for all of the heavy artillery that he’s sporting in the trunk, but we shall see.
- Jesse’s search from redemption and some type of absolution is just a continuous stomach punch. I thought Walt’s insistence that Jesse believe him about Mike was really important and loaded. Not that he really needs Jesse to believe his bald face lies for his own conscience, but in the sense that if Jesse didn’t believe him, Walt would have to eliminate Jesse the same way as he took care of Mike. No loose ends. No half measures. And I don’t know if an actor has ever gotten more out of a few looks than Aaron Paul has with Jesse. Just tremendous.
- As good as everything that preceded it was, the final scene between Walt and Hank was just off the charts good. I loved Loved LOVED the fact that they didn’t try and string out Hank’s discovery of Walt over multiple episodes in a will he/won’t he confront Walt scenario. That scene just played out so well: the awkward conversation between the two at the beginning, Walt turning to leave and then transforming into Heisenberg (the close up of his face made that moment palatable – just awesome), the cocksure way he confronts (and reality taunts) Hank about using the same GPS tracker that he and Hank used to track Gus Fring), the “Oh ****” moment when Hank closed the garage door, and the look of utter contempt he gave Walt in the moments before taking a swing at him and threatening him with prosecution and jail. And THEN, just when you thought Hank had the upper hand, Walt absorbs the attack and coolly turns the tables on Hank, admitting nothing about his crimes, using his returning cancer as a shield and a distraction, and playing on Hank’s sense of family before finally sowing the seed of doubt that forced Hank to admit that he didn’t really know Walt. Walt seized that moment of indecision ruthlessly, dropping a not so subtle warning that was every bit as chilling as any of his previous pronouncements (“I’m the one who knocks” and “Say my name” anyone?): If Hank truly wasn’t sure what to believe he should: “Tread lightly.” It was a threat made all the more forceful by the absolute confidence with which it was delivered, making it clear to me at least that Walt believes he can control and neutralize Hank as a threat. Your move, Hank.
So enough about last night, time to speculate wildly about what’s to come. First, the ricin. Who is it meant for? Right now I’d guess Jesse, likely because he fails to heed Walt’s warning about needing to believe him about Mike’s whereabouts. Another possibility that struck me though other than Lydia: Walt intends to use it himself. His megalomania has progressed to the point where he’d want to even prove that not even cancer was enough to “beat” him, so he goes out on his own terms and at a time and place of his own choosing. I haven’t thought that one through though, so file it away under complete speculation at this point.
Second, the flash forward cold open. Walt has clearly fled NM, assumed a new identity and wound up in New Hampshire. We know from last year’s season opener that he’s turned 52, that his cancer is back with a vengeance and appears to be winning, and that he’s purchased an m-60 machine gun (take that Scarface.) Now he’s got the ricin. We think he’s back to tie up loose ends, but with whom? And who made him leave town the first place? I’m guessing that the expected confrontation with Lydia’s connections spills over into his home and results in collateral damage to his family (Flynn/Walt Jr. maybe?) and he leaves town to try and shield the rest of the family from any fallout, likely under a threat from Skylar about assisting Hank’s investigation. I don’t think threat of prosecution alone is enough to scare Hank anymore, he’s too confident of his ability to find a solution to that threat, but a real threat to his family, the reason he went down this path in the first place, might be enough to make him leave, at least temporarily.
So, what struck you about last night’s tremendous episode and what if anything do you think was revealed about how the story will unfold over the final seven episodes? And am I am completely off base?