The long-awaited second half of the last season of AMC‘s superior Breaking Bad is so over-delivering on the 10 months of expectation and the 3 months of hype, it’s not even funny. The first two episodes of the last act represent some of the best television I’ve ever seen. I believe BrBa will ultimately render The Sopranos quaint and…well…really good for its time.
Damning with faint praise, indeed.
S5 Ep 10 continued the steady and almost breathless march to the finale in a way that shocked me when the credits rolled. I was watching the episode partly from DVR, partly live, fast-forwarding through the commercial breaks and finally caught up to the show as it was being broadcast, when Hank entered the cop shop interrogation room. Honestly, I thought we were half an hour into the broadcast. Tonight’s 60 minutes flew by faster than one of the show’s gorgeous time-lapse cut scenes.
At the end of that hour, an almost comatose Jesse sits before a presumably still running video camera (any bets as to whether Hank has the presence of mind to shut it off, or whether the two ABQ detectives the team of Pinkman and Goodman has so successfully bitch-slapped in the past accidently get the whole story from Hank’s mouth?) ready to unburden his soul with the whole story. There is a precedence for Jesse giving that story to Hank, the one person he hates more than Walt. Remember the partnership of Walt and Tio? The mute, nursing home resident didn’t bother trying to hide his hatred for Walt, but there was one man who he burned for even more than “Heisenberg,” and that was Gustavo Fring, which motivated the old guy to work with Walt in order to be a wheelchair-bound suicide bomber for the cause.
Don’t be surprised if history repeats itself.
Watching the final act of this masterpiece unfold, I find myself constantly in awe of Vince Gilligan and his writing crew. Making it clear that Hank had figured the whole thing out after 10 months on the crapper was a bold move. Most TV shows would have used their entire inventory of creativity convincing us that Hank’s discovery of Gale’s inscription in Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass didn’t convince DEA agent Schrader that “Heisenberg” was none other than his own dying-of-cancer brother-in-law.
No, the look on Hank’s face as the lynchpin fell into place was for real, and Gilligan’s team took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.
Yes, I know I mixed my authors, and I do know the difference between Frost and Whitman.
The pitch for Breaking Bad was “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface,” but it was an interesting twist tonight, to see Walt lying on the floor of his bathroom, being tended by Skylar, and begging her to keep the money, never speak of it, and pass all of it along to his children. He pleads with his former domestic adversary, now turned ally “Please don’t let me have done all of this for nothing.” Now, we are faced with “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface, and near the end, when all seems lost, including his soul, tries to demonstrate he’s carrying a battered leather briefcase, rather than an M16. At the same time, I do need to remind you that in the flash-forward scenes, a heavily bearded and shaggily coiffed Walt has purchased an M60 machine gun, considerably heftier hardware than Tony Montana’s “little friend.”
And as a side note here, am I the only one who think’s it’s important that the actor who played Pacino’s character’s best friend in Scarface, Steven Bauer, also played the doomed Mexican cartel Godfather, Don Eladio, in BrBa? I love stuff like that, and just know it’s not coincidence.
Hank knows the truth, as does Marie, who by the way, did in tonight’s episode what so many of us would have paid big money over the past couple years to do ourselves, slap Skylar upside the head, and Jesse is in an interrogation room after playing paperboy with millions of meth-money, knowing Walt capped Mike and probably strongly suspicious that the bald one poisoned Brock after all. Just when you thought you knew which way the wind was blowing, that the endgame is near, if not happening, everyone committed to their course, Gilligan and Co. throw a big old spinning, spit-laden fork-sliding-curve ball at us.
Now, it looks like, with Skylar having second thoughts about Walt’s evilness, the money moved to a safe place in the New Mexico desert (and nice tip about how to hide a series of important numbers in plain sight – use a lottery ticket that you magnet to the fridge – I’m going to use that one), and Heisenberg about to board the room-temperature RV to the superlab in the sky (or somewhere further south with a much hotter climate), the pressure is on Hank. He’s damned if he does, damned if he don’t, his 3XL ‘nads completely in the vise. If the head of the ABQ DEA takes what he knows to the office, he’s laughed out of his job, because everyone will know his Public Enemy #1 is related to him by marriage and in Schrader’s words, “10 minutes later, I’m a civilian.” If he keeps it to himself and the info gets out anyway, he winds up in prison, assumed to be an important member of “Team Heisenberg”. Tonight, Walter White gave up his seat on the stove to his brother-in-law. Walt’s worst case now takes a backseat to Hank’s, and that ain’t good for Hank, who, when he closes his eyes to sleep, now dreams of getting out of this with his ass intact, rather than that “tuggy” from Shania Twain.
Either way, though, it’s a good bet Steve Gomez has heard his last “beaner” joke from the bottler of Schraderbrau.