Tuned In

Breaking Bad Watch: Green Light

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SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers for last night’s Breaking Bad follow.

Now we wait. As last week’s episode, “One Minute,” blew up the storyline of the vengeful cousins and threw Walter’s family into crisis, it left us, with him, to go on vigil for Hank in the hospital ICU. (The episode’s title, “I See You,” was both a play on words and a callback to last season’s outstanding, Jesse-centric “Peekaboo.”) And to wait—to wait and see if and how Hank recovers (I found myself still half-expecting Breaking Bad to pull a Six Feet Under and kill him off as he seemed to be recovering in the hospital) and what happens next in Walter’s business with Gus, and the hunt for Heisenberg.

As with so much that happens on Breaking Bad, the shootout has put Walt deeper into professional crisis, as he rushes to be with his family and falls behind on his deal with Gus. (And this after he’s ditched the dream assistant Gale in order to keep Jesse quiet and alive.) It results in an excruciating scene as he encounters Gus in the hospital—”I hide in plain sight, just like you”—and is caught in his lie. And yet for all this trouble, Hank’s fight for his life oddly restores Walter to a place of comfort and competence. He may not have a moral compass. He may barely be keeping his head above water as a meth cooker. And he may be several steps behind Gus and the larger forces conspiring around him. But confronting mortality: that, Walter White has down.

It seems almost redundant to point out Bryan Cranston’s performances from week to week, but he (and the script) again had me rapt as he sat in that hospital cafeteria with his family and recalled driving to that same building for his cancer surgery, and hitting every green light on the way, what would usually be a stroke of luck turned cruel. “And the whole time, all I could think about was: Why today? Why, why can’t I just spend a few extra minutes in the car with my family? I never wanted to be stuck in traffic so bad in my life.”

It was a masterful scene, one that would have played entirely differently earlier in the series. When Walter was afflicted—fallen but sympathetic, with the prospect of his death motivating his descent into crime—it would have been heartbreaking. Even as his marriage was troubled and his lies getting deeper, it would have been ironic but moving. Now—it was still moving, still heartfelt, and yet, also, almost a kind of secret aggression. And still, it moves Skyler, however briefly, to have a moment of feeling for the man she once loved and the marriage she once had.

But the episode also threw the continuing menace into sharp relief, as in the striking scene where the (briefly) living cousin willed himself out of bed to crawl toward Heisenberg/White, leaving a red trail of blood behind his leg stumps. It was bizarre, and horrifying, and yet another in the string of astonishing visuals that this, the most gorgeously stylized drama on TV, now puts together as a matter of course.

Another of those was the submerged view from within the fry bin as the close of the episode returned us back to Gus at Los Pollos Hermanos. Gus takes a call from Juan, who accuses him (rightly) of giving his own green light—to the cousins, to take out Hank—and is then dispatched on his end of the call as Gus listens, then efficiently breaks his phone and throws it away.

The cousins are dead. Does that make Walt safe? Hardly. He may have just gone out of the frying pan and into the deep fryer.