Posted on Monday, August 12th, 2013 by Joanna Robinson
As we promised in “The Ones Who Knock” Kickstarter, I will be doing weekly recaps here of each episode of Breaking Bad. For those of you unfamiliar with my recapping style, it’s less of a straightforward plot summary and more a distillation of the most interesting elements of each week’s episode. The recaps will spoil everything up through the current episode (S5E09 “Blood Money”), but won’t spoil any future episodes or even scenes from the “Next Time” segments of the show. There will, however, be some light speculation and straight-up crackpot theories. No theory or speculation is based on foreknowledge of the show. So hold on to your pork pie hats, because here we go.
1. Carol Must Be A Fan Of The Godfather: I’m sorry, it’s Film Studies 101, I’m Pavlovian-trained to think of The Godfather whenever I see oranges spill out on the street. This isn’t even the first time that image has been used on Breaking Bad to signify a calamity. I don’t want to get too far into the theories, not yet, but could Carol’s oranges mean great physical harm is in store for Walt? God, I hope so.
2. Walt’s Cancer Is Back: If Hank, Lydia, Jesse, Skyler, The Czech Republic and Todd’s Uncle’s Prison Connection fail to come through, we know, at least, that The Big C is back to take Walt down. There was a lovely shot midway through the episode that focused first on Walt’s chemo IV and then on his grim face. So now, in theory, we have the answer to last season’s question about why Walt left The Empire Business. It wasn’t, as I had hoped, Skyler’s reasoned plea in the storage locker, but, rather, the handwriting on the wall. That ticking time bomb in Walt’s lungs. We knew from the opening of last season’s “Live Free Or Die” that the cancer would come back eventually. But it’s here.
3. They Weren’t Kidding About That “Ozymandias“ Poem: After the stunning Breaking Bad trailer that featured the sonnet “Ozymandias,” all you well-trained poetry students must have been on the lookout for some of Shelley’s imagery. And you weren’t disappointed, were you?
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
4. Damnit, Todd, You Had One Job: Alright we don’t know for certain that it’s Todd’s fault the purity of the Sky Blue Crystal Meth has gone down to 68%. But, I mean, it’s gotta be Todd’s fault, right? Everything is. Todd’s just proving what we already knew: he’s no Jesse Pinkman. Heck, he’s not even fit to hold Gale Boetticher’s karaoke mic. If the drop in quality is Todd’s fault then that means we’ll be seeing more of Jesse Plemons which, with the exception of Season Two of Friday Night Lights, is always a good thing.
5. Speaking Of Gale, That Was Some Mighty Fine Police Work: Some viewers have complained that it took some cosmic coincidence for Hank to nab Walter and that they would have much preferred Hank’s revelation to come as a result of some more conventional police work. Well there was some definite police procedural payoff in this episode with a sweet little recap of the past four and a half seasons via crime scene photos and case file documents. I’m pretty sure Hank was only one pack of Hi-Liters away from going full-blown Carrie Mathison.
5. Some Of The Reflective Imagery Was Obvious: This was actor Bryan Cranston’s third time directing an episode of Breaking Bad (having previously directed both the Season Two and Season Three openers). He did a fine job, as usual, but he perhaps made a few too many trips to the “damaged reflection” well? The opening shot in Walt’s ruined bedroom was stunning. The refracted shot of our present-day “hero” was haunting enough, but when Walt turned and confronted his own image, things got very bleak.
And, finally, Hank is haunted by his former carefree self. You’ll remember that “Schraderbräu” was the topic of conversation just before Hank left his family to go use the White bathroom. And then his whole world shattered. Because it’s not just Walter that’s going down here. Hank’s entire life has been blown apart and he will never be that grinning guy in the Hawaiian shirt again.
6. Other Mirroring Is Less Obvious: This show is legendary for its tendency to recall shots and composition from earlier episodes. The shot of Walter fastidiously vomiting from his chemo treatment perfectly echoes Gus Fringe’s behavior in the episode “Salud.” Right down to the neatly folded towel under his knees. It’s been pointed out in the past that Walter takes on some of the habits of his victims (e.g. Crazy 8’s crustless sandwiches and Mike’s scotch on the rocks), but he’d have no way of knowing about Gus’s bathroom behavior. More likely this is a writerly way of drawing parallels between the two men: kings on the precipice. Walt’s behavior towards Lydia in the car wash was also quite similar to Gus’s early behavior to Walt in Los Pollos Hermanos.
7. Jesse Has Finally Stopped Believing Walt’s Lies: It took him too long, sure, but the kid was never the sharpest crystal in the meth batch. Jesse put it together that Mike is dead and that revelation has broken any and all trust he ever had with Walter. This scene was heartbreaking not just because of Aaron Paul‘s fine performance, but because Walt almost seems to believe his own bullish*t. And his dogged insistence that Jesse do that same was just miserable.
8. But Did He Have To Throw Away The Money? I mean, of course he did. He’s struggling so hard to hold on to his humanity. But Jesse, brother, how many times have we seen massive amounts of money burned, soaked and otherwise wasted on this show? Too many times. It hurts. The Kaylee Ehrmantraut Fund For Little Girls Whose Grandfathers Deserved Much Better? I could get behind. But watching that money slither down somebody’s storm drain was upsetting.
9. Hunh, That Was Fast: I don’t think any of us expected we would get a Hank/Walt showdown in the very first episode of the season. In fact, creator Vince Gilligan confesses they meant to draw it out. He told Vulture:
When we got to the end of the episode, we thought to ourselves, We always want to end every episode of Breaking Bad, particularly the final eight, with a big development, a big finish. What better than Walt being on to Hank, who is on to Walt? It became apparent to us that, you know, we only got eight of these things left. We wanted to move like a bat outta hell and let the chips fall where they may.
And fall they did. That scene was tense as hell and the anxiety was heightened by the ambient noise of the neighbor kid’s remote control car (another nice call back) and the slow roar of the garage door. We, of course, have to collectively thank Hank for giving Walt the punch he so richly deserved and for inspiring another classic Heisenberg catchphrase: “Tread lightly.” Both Cranston and Dean Norris were incredible in this scene.
10. So What’s Left? We still have to see how Walt gets from beige-wearing business owner to vomit-stained vigilante. Where is the rest of the White family? How did the house become such a wreck? How did Walt’s name get out? Who is the gun for? Will Jesse please, please, please stop crying because it hurts too much to look at him? All this and more on the last seven episodes of this magnificent show.
Crackpot Theory Of The Week: I think we all agree that Badger and Skinny Pete’s Star Trek riff provided some much needed comic relief. But what if it was more? What if the story of someone dying from food-related causes is foreshadowing for whatever Walt has planned for that ricin? After all, if Chekov gets name dropped in the first act, odds are he’s gonna go off before the show is over.
Musical Moment Of The Week: The soundtrack to Hank’s police work was “Wordmule” by Jim White. Good, frenetic stuff.