10 Things We Learned From "Breaking Bad" S5E11 "Confessions"

As we promised in "The Ones Who Knock" Kickstarter, I will be doing weekly recaps here for 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 (S5E11 "Confessions"), but won't spoil any future episodes or even scenes from the "Next Time" segment 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. Confessions: The titular confession of the episode, of course, was not quite what we were expecting.  After Pinkman's defiant "eat me" to Hank in the interrogation room, we're left with this much more damning piece of "evidence."  In a deliberate mirror to the pilot episode's heartfelt and improvised confession, this cooly calculated web of lies is Heisenberg at his most conniving.  He manipulates facts and bends reality as it suits his needs.  That's been Walter's MO for the entirety of the series.  Side note: I love the continued Western showdown imagery that Hank and Marie represent in this shot.  They're squared off against Walt in a classic three point configuration that's reflected in the painting over Hank's bar.

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I also admire the way director Michael Slovis had Walt's taped confession blur, warp and distort as the lies continued to tumble forth.  Chilling, horrific imagery.  And, of course, that tape wasn't Walt's only bravura performance this week.  Before manipulating his son with cancer half-truths, Walt literally puts on stage make-up.  Albeit not very well...

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2. Temptations: If we follow the religious imagery that Walt so cannily distorts with his "confession" we get this, The Last Temptation Of Jesse Pinkman.  Here everyone's favorite martyr goes into the desert to treat with the Devil one last time.  And like he has before, Walt is all purring seduction: "Jesse will you let me help you?  I don't like seeing you hurt like this.  It is time for a change.  Get a legitimate job.  Something you like.  Meet a girl.  Start a family.  What's here for you now anyway?"  In the bible, Satan flies Jesus to the top of a mountain and show him all that could be his. And here, of course, we all cheered when Jesse/Jesus sees the Devil for what he is and our hearts sank when he succumbed anyway. Is Jesse headed for the ultimate sacrifice?  I wouldn't be at all surprised.

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3. Revelations:  But before we get there, we're here at a roadside revelation.  This scene played out brilliantly allowing us, the audience, to share Jesse's panic and confusion before everything snapped into place.  The disorienting camera angles and Aaron Paul's absolutely stunning performance sold the importance of the moment.  He let that maroon van (and possibly his salvation) pass him by.

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4. The Good Son:  In the last biblical allusion I'll make in the recap, we come to this trinity of Todd, Jesse and Walt Jr.  One of the most important lies Walter White/Heisenberg seeks to defend is this idea that he's a Good Father.  That, like he mentions in that confession from the pilot, everything he's done, he's done for the good of his family.  But as we watch these trio of boys, Walt's three sons, we see how that's the biggest lie of all.  The episode starts with Todd (The Good, Dutiful Son who sees Walter for who he is and still greedily laps up the Heisenberg Kool-Aid) placing a phone call to Mr. White, sounding for all the world like an abandoned child desperately seeking his father's approval.  We then move to Todd bragging to his Uncle Jack and Sidekick Kenny about the train heist. Todd uses glowing, effusive language to describe Walter but the actual action he's describing is how both he and Jesse were put in mortal danger because of Walt's stubborn pride.  The description of how Jesse was literally railroaded is particularly chilling in light of the rest of the episode.  Will Todd's boasts about Mr. White get Walt in trouble with Uncle Jack in, oh, about nine months from now?  It just might.

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5. The Bad Son: We've already addressed this scene, but the father/son language is worth noting.  Jesse, of course, is The Bad Son.  The rebellious one. He also sees Walter for who he really is and rejects him.  Or tries to.  Jesse came to his relationship with Walter with a lot of vulnerabilities surrounding the notion of being a son and being rejected by your father.  When this kid, this damaged kid begs Walter to "drop the concerned dad thing.  Just tell me you don't give a sh*t about me," I defy your heart to stay in one piece.  Though it's not entirely black and white, we all know Walter doesn't have Jesse's best interest at heart and it's worth remembering that Walter murdered Mike, the closest thing to a father Jesse ever had.  Walt's manipulation here is one of his most hateful crimes. Which brings us to...

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6.  The Real Son: Unlike Jesse and Todd, Flynn has no idea who his father is.  His devotion is blind and he eagerly absorbs every lie Walt tells him.  You can make the case that Walter really does care about his biological son, but the way he invokes Jr.'s name in the confrontation with Hank and Marie ("Junior has already been through a lot this year") is absolutely repugnant.

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7. Aunt Marie Took The Gloves Off:  Speaking of the Mexican Dinner From Hell, Marie went right for the jugular, didn't she?  And though this interchange may lack some of the punch of earlier Walter White Death Wishes (it's no "waiting for the cancer to come back" is what I'm saying), this was a great performance from Betsy Brandt.  More fun with color imagery, I'm sure we all noticed that both Hank and Marie have abandoned their usual color scheme for black (or navy).  An odd choice give that they're ostensibly the good guys and our villains (Skyler and Walt) are wearing white.  But Breaking Bad has never been all that interested in moral certainties.

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8. How Badly Is Skyler Broken?  Despite the fact that she declared herself pretty clearly Team White last week, I think we were all a little surprised that Skyler helped Walt tape that confession.  I mean, she was reluctant, sure, but she did it.  I'd be tempted to say that Skyler had broken bad completely were it not for the lighting in this scene at the car wash.  Walt is filmed entirely in shadow, he's just a looming black figure.  Almost like a demon or specter haunting Skyler.  I don't think she's beyond salvation, I think she she could still get out from under that black cloud.

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I also really like this side by side comparison of Jesse and Skyler and their shared inner turmoil in this episode.  They're here because of Walter.  Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

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9.  And Now For Something Completely Different:  As I've mentioned the last few weeks, I really appreciate the attempts on the part of the writing staff to keep a little levity in the proceedings.  So three cheers for our guacamole-obsessed waiter...

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...and for Saul's cell phone selection.

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10. I'm Guessing This Is The Precise Moment They Started Engraving Aaron Paul's Name Onto The Emmy:  Seriously.  Wow.  I was less impressed with the gas can final sequence, despite Aaron Paul's phenomenal anguish.  We know from the flash forward that the White household doesn't burn down, so I was pretty unconcerned in that scene.  But here?  Did I think Jesse might haul off and shoot Saul or Huell?  I did.  I really did.  I thought someone was headed to Belize and both Paul and Bob Odenkirk knocked it out of the park. 

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Crackpot Theories Of The Week:  My favorite crackpot theory this week comes courtesy of the godfather of Crackpot Theory Shows, Damon Lindelof.  He noted that while Walt and Jesse are out in the desert, Walt leans against Saul's LWYRUP license plate in a way that the "L" is obscured.  Leaving us with WYRUP or "Wire Up."  Is someone about to start working with Hank?  Jesse, after he puts down that gas can?  Saul himself?  We shall see.

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My other favorite crackpot theory pertains to Breaking Bad as a chronicle of deaths foretold.  For example, Jesse saying to Jane "you weren't supposed to wake up" to which she responded "ever?"   Sure, maybe Marie's idea that Walt should kill himself might come to pass, but I'm more concerned with Hank saying to Marie "You killed me. This is the final nail in the coffin."  He's speaking hyperbolically as it pertains to the case Walt has made against him, but what if this is what gets Hank in the end?  What if it somehow ends up being Marie's "fault?"

Musical Moment Of The Week:  The rompin' stompin' ditty playing over the opening scene as Uncle Jack, Kenny, Todd and a seriously under-camoflaged tank of Methylamine make their way back to Albuquerque.

As is often the case with Breaking Bad and musical cues, the jaunty music is completely incongruous with the menace that Todd and co. represent to Walt.  However much of a threat Hank and Jesse present to the White family, I have a feeling those fun-loving, curb-stomping neo-Nazis  are about to make things much worse.

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