Tuned In

Breaking Bad Watch: Take Good Care of My Baby

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Frank Ockenfels/AMC

“What the hell is wrong with you? We’re a family!”

I hope you watched “Ozymandias” with someone you loved. First of all, because I watched it alone — Mrs. Tuned In is not a Breaking Bad watcher — and holy bejeezus in a fire truck, that was a rough ride to take solo. If the end of last week’s episode was a thousand-bullet fusillade, this one was like feeling every one of those bullets hit. It was relentless, intense, excruciating — and amazing. If each remaining episode intensifies this much more than the last, I am going to burst into flames.

But I also say that because, while Breaking Bad may be about drugs and crime and morality and all that good, tragic-downfall stuff, at heart it’s about family: what you do for them, what they do to you and how you fail them. The beginning of “Ozymandias” (read the Shelley poem if you want to know why a hubristic ruin in the desert is relevant) takes us back to simpler times, when Skyler was just an aspiring writer packing up a crying clown for a $9 eBay profit and Walt was just a struggling teacher/car-wash worker with cancer, cooking up his first batch of methamphetamine in an RV. Back then, Walt still had to prep himself to lie on the telephone. Back then, Skyler was asking him to bring home a pizza, not preparing to carve him into slices. Walt was still doing this for his wife and kids. He believed he was going to die, but there were still possibilities.

It’s a little over a year ago. It feels like another time, another planet. Vince Gilligan has famously said that Breaking Bad is the story of how Mr. Chips becomes Scarface. And it’s true, and that’s the exciting, attention-getting way of putting it. But it is equally, and heartbreakingly, the story of the journey from “Will do. Love you” to “You stupid bitch! How dare you.”

(MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: Here Comes the Cavalry)

But before we get to that, a little unfinished family business: Hank, who — despite Walt’s desperate protest that “he’s family” — does die (along with Gomez). It seems at first that he might not; Jack readies to pull the trigger time after time only to be forestalled, and in past episodes this is where Walt might have pulled one more trick, made one more deal. But not this time; as Hank says, there is no deal to be made, and the difference between him and Walt is that he won’t go down bargaining and begging. That is, he is going to be who he is — “My name is ASAC Hank Schrader, and you can go f— yourself” — and unlike his brother-in-law, he will own the consequences.

Walt crumples to the desert floor, broken. When he gets up, it’s not to receive the dignity of death, or even of being robbed outright; Jack leaves him $11 million, one barrel of cash, as a gesture of Todd’s respect — but it’s truly blood money now, as if Jack were not stealing from Walt but just taking a heavy commission for killing Hank. It seems as if Walt’s last scruple died on the desert floor with Hank: he demands an end to Jesse — whom he taunts with Jane’s last moments — and to roll his barrel of cash home.

It is to Breaking Bad‘s credit that this hellish scene in the desert is not nearly the toughest thing in the episode to watch. For starters, there’s the scene I’ve dreaded since the first season: Walt Jr., sensitive and worshipful of his dad, learns the truth. (We see only the aftermath, not the actual revelation, and I’m more grateful for that than for not directly seeing Hank take a bullet to the head.) Walt still carries the crazy, desperate hope that he and his family can survive this — that they can disappear with a money barrel, forget everything and love each other. But that hope dies in Skyler’s office with Jr., just as surely as it did in the desert with Hank.

It’s always been about family for Walt: that was his original impulse, his justification through his own criminal career, and the line he told himself he would not cross with Hank. Back at the White house, we saw that he had well and truly killed all that. He has killed the love that was the one genuine good thing left in him, he has ruined the happiness of the family he told himself he was saving. Wrestling the love of his life on the floor with a butcher’s knife, seeing his firstborn and namesake throw himself over Skyler ready to take a stabbing for her, Walt must see that his family — at least, a version with him in it — is over at last.

But there’s Holly. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? — at least it does to Heisenberg, who is about rationalizing situations and finding an escape. Maybe he can’t have his family, but he can have a family: $11 million and the tabula rasa of Holly, who will remember only the best of him, who will not turn on him or resent him, who will always appreciate her Daddy. As he horrifyingly peels out of the driveway, deafening himself to Skyler’s screams, you can see Heisenberg take control; to him, this is another unpleasantness to get past, one final loss to jettison like the barrels of cash he surrendered to Jack in the desert. He won’t have all his money, but he’ll have a new start. He won’t have his wife and son, but he’ll have a family. Entirely on his terms. Clean slate. Nice and neat, the way Heisenberg likes it.

Instead, however, Skyler and Walt each hear something from their children that makes them find something better in themselves. For Skyler, it’s Walt Jr. telling her that she is just as bad as Walt for not resisting him. And for Walt: “Mama.” He may have engineered a perfect escape, but he seems to realize, far gone and monstrous as he is, that a family born of money and amnesia will never be his real family, or Holly’s.

(MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: You Gotta Keep the Devil Way Down in the Hole)

This culminates in a brutal and heartbreaking phone call to bookend the episode’s beginning, one that makes clear why Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn should be adding Emmys to their families a year and a week hence. Knowing, presumably, that Skyler will be on the hook for his crimes, he gives her an alibi by excoriating and threatening her in the worst terms.

It’s an incredible performance of an incredible performance; where the Walt of the flashback was nervous and awkward in his lying, here Walt unleashes his crime-lord fury, allowing himself only tiny, silent sobs when he pauses. I want to say that his resentment and fury at Skyler is for show — but it’s not entirely fake, is it? It’s clearly not what he wants to say to Skyler in the moment. It’s not, ultimately, what he thinks of her or wants for her. But we’ve seen enough of him to know that it comes from a real place — that there is at least part of Walt that does rage at being misunderstood and held back and unappreciated. He draws on it now self-sacrificingly, though it kills him, but it is still there in him to be drawn on. He’s a method actor, that Walt is.

In the end — or rather, two episodes from the end — it does indeed come down to family for Walter White. And he finally realizes here that he can save his family only by leaving it. That bitter, furious, threatening monster on the phone just now may not be all of him. But it’s the part of him that’s put him where he is now: being disappeared by Mr. Vacuum Guy, with a barrel of money to keep him company, looking at everything he loves in the rearview mirror.

Now for the hail of bullets:

* Very unfortunate product placement there for KoalaKare changing tables.

* Just as Walt turns up the malice in his call to Skyler for show, he also tells Jesse about Jane in the most diabolical taunting way possible. (Here, I’m guessing, out of anger rather than from a plan, but tell me if you disagree.) Walt saw himself as letting Jane die to save Jesse — because he cared about him or because he needed his partner — but he offers no mitigating argument here, making the deed sound as ugly as possible to twist the knife. Your guesses welcome as to whether this will come back to haunt him.

* “We could get it out of him back home. I could do it. We’ve got a history [cheerfully]. And we could take care of the job after that!” Is there a sweeter, more terrifying sociopath than Todd?

* Breaking Bad loves the desert, and “Ozymandias’” opening minutes were a distillation of how the series has used the landscape visually: all those sky shots and impassive mountains, a sunbaked Walt rolling his money across what looks like the yellow floor of hell.

* I’m not sure I have ever before, while watching TV, literally done the thing where you clap your hands over your mouth while your eyes pop open. But that was me watching Walt drive off with Baby Holly.

* I had no advance screeners this week and wrote this live, and fast, in the interest of getting the discussion going quickly. So apologies for any egregious errors. Next week, because I can’t review Breaking Bad and the Emmys at once, there’s a good chance there will be a substitute reviewer in this space. I’ll be back for the finale. But I’m scared.

MORE: Breaking Bad Watch: Confessions of a Middle-Aged Drug Kingpin

236 comments
heisenbergwalt
heisenbergwalt

The smart move would have been for Walt to allow Gus to murk jesse, hank, marie, his wife and son.  None of whom apparently got the fact how much they under appreciated walt...who was building for his kids future and redeeming his mistakes with grey matter associates.  He did now what he should of did back then, strong armed anyone in his path to bend to his will.

heisenbergwalt
heisenbergwalt

Jesse got what he deserved for his betrayal: to know walt watched his girl died, to watch his new girl die and to be tortured do

Hank got what he deserved for not supporting his family, this all could of ended if he had of ended his case

Walt was betrayed by everyone except his daughter.

Walts son is a punk

Marie is a phony do gooder who only wanted the baby girl

Hank is the real coward, for not allowing walt to retire....and destroying thei whites family

Walt went after his when Grey Matter pushed him aside, we applaud him for that

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Agitatus
Agitatus

Thanks for this great and evenly paced review.  Very insightful, and not just a "short list".  It's difficult to write about a show like this with so much involved, and so many different stories within the story.  The depth of the writing in Breaking Bad shows talent that has done their homework.  But I can see that Poniewozik has done his homework here too, when he starts by mentioning the poem by Shelley.  Nice work James.

You can read more of my analysis as well at: xyvector.blogspot.com


motomann414
motomann414

This episode is just another example of why this show is so over rated.  Walt should have been the one to pull the trigger.  Does anyone really believe that Walt would have been so torn up over Hank getting killed.  Just nonsensical.  The writing in this show has been so crappy...and so over rated..since about the mid point in season two.

KHUD
KHUD

* I’m not sure I have ever before, while watching TV, literally done the thing where you clap your hands over your mouth while your eyes pop open. But that was me watching Walt drive off with Baby Holly."

I did this too! Never done it when watching TV before...but BB is on a new level of gut-wrenching heartbreak. 

Mr.Salas
Mr.Salas

It seems to me that Walter gave away some clues to what is going to happen at the end of season 5  while during season two chapter 4 (Down); he tells Skyler about him having a strange dream where he was owner of an antique bike repair shop in Ireland. It seems that Mr. White is going to take a trip to Ireland. I don't think Jesse will be killed, and I also think Hank deserved what he got for being so ruthless and detached unforgiven to others when he considered them to be inferior or criminals, throughout the entire series he makes fun of dead bodies, beats people and shows no compassion what so ever as long as he gets what he wants. I don't think everything Mr. White did was right but in all the madness we have to be able to see that even though he created an empire in short time he also destroyed a much bigger one in less time than DEA could have ever done, and then he got out as well. Sometimes to defeat evil you have to play evil. Don't forget that the only reason for Mr. White to do all this is for his family not his own ego, and that reason is still there although it might seem to have vanished.

billfisherman
billfisherman

It seems to me with Jesse flipping out in previous episodes the Heisenberg  persona is hard for Walt to maintain, ---he cannot be a tough guy around his family or those he cares about --- with the idea his money is being burned (family security) and seeing Hank killed, he is rattled.  He seems to be coming to his senses as he is driving away in the Chrysler but alas a bullet hole in the gas tank puts the recovery on hold a bit.  After the family turns on him and he realizes the baby needs to be with her mother and he needs to be truly alone in this he goes to set things right.  He does Hank no favors saying that he crossed him, he does not implicate Jack and the neo Nazi group in anyway because in his mind they are already dead and Walt is going to get his money back.  Saving Jesse is going to depend on Jesse, if he is still a basket case and thus a threat to Walt and his family, he dies,  If he learns his lesson and stays off dope long enough, Walt may save him in the end.  Getting Skylar a chunk of the $70M he is going to recapture will take a call to Saul, for sure.

g-dub0
g-dub0

As a reviewer, you're choosing the Emmys over the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad?

realvenusinfurs
realvenusinfurs

Now that Hank is dead I just really dont care what happens to Jesse or Walt. I would like to see them reap what they sew. But Hank? He never should have gone out like that. Shot and buried in the desert? So absolutely insulting. He deserved way better than that. 

TobiasMilton
TobiasMilton

I like the Jesse killing Todd through chemistry angle, I hadn't explored that too much. 

I do think Walt realized Todd was not going to kill Jesse, but use him to cook. Think about the fact that after they didn't kill Jesse, they don't get Walt's offer of a final cook - they don't need it either. Todd knows Jesse is almost as good. At least good enough to get the blue. Then Walt has no power over them at all. Walt maybe realizes this and either (as mentioned below) tells Jesse as a stinger, because he wants him to know before he dies (but doesn't want to seem sympathetic toward Jesse in front of the Nazis) or, finally, maybe he wants Jesse to be the one who takes him down and he will go to save Jesse. This last piece of information can be the 'too much' that Jesse needs to not come back to Walt's side once he rescues him. If Walt rescued him under the current circumstances, Jesse might forgive him and maybe Walt wants it all to end, but on his own terms, by his 'favoured son'/progeny.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

I am a "Bad" Man through and through, but as one who was heavily involved in the "drug scene"(not meth) and who finally escaped and got his soul back, All this talk about "family" is fine If you need to hang your hat on something, go right ahead. However, I can state that where Walt is, family has little to do with it. It's all about "ME". How can I pull off a bigger deal? Which friend or total stranger can I pull into my web and watch go down, but still sell them more? How much more money can I make, family and lifelong friends be damned? Eventually it comes down to exactly where Walt is now. Just you and the drug. Far away from anyone you knew or loved. Great show!

Think_again
Think_again

Nothing good ever happens in the desert. I know that now.

AB
AB

My guess is Jesse makes his escape using the phosphine gas trick from Season 1 while cooking.  We were already teased last week with Jack refusing to wear a mask in the cook room.

Mtyokawonis
Mtyokawonis

Jesse can cook til hell freezes over.  What do you think will happen when Walt/Heisenberg finds out he's still alive? Ricin anyone? remember he's got it stashed in the bedroom behind the wall socket.

CamFan
CamFan

Breaking Bad is best show EVER.  What a master class in how to end a series!  Brilliant.

dorianblack1
dorianblack1

This episode was one of a few that came close to Sopranos for me, I mean the whole series doesn't come close to the perfection of Sopranos but this was as close to an episode like 'Knight in White Satin', 'Pax Soprano', or 'Fortunate Son' as I have ever seen. 

Ultimately Breaking is shaping up to be the third most superior show on TV in this current era somewhere after Mad Men tied with or even too Game of Thrones....episodes like this make me think it just edges over Game right now. 

dorianblack1
dorianblack1

They should give Todd and his uncles a spin off like Saul.....seriously. 

DavidHall
DavidHall

The labels over the headlines for these reviews all say "Breaking Bad Season 5." But this is Season 6.

briankcmo
briankcmo

So many amazing things in this episode. It's mind boggling. Two things that stuck with me. First, Skyler is unwittingly to blame for Hank's death. So ironic because she was the one who accused Walt of bringing danger to the family. She led Walt to kill Jesse and were it not for that, Walt wouldn't have had the nazis on-call or led them to the desert. Second, Walt literally dug Hank's grave with his own hands. Little did he know.

blazingbrunette
blazingbrunette

Walt telling Jesse about how he watched Jane die was all because it was Jesse's fault that Hank got killed. Walt did not know that Jesse was working with Gomez and Hank. Walt found that out after calling Jack to come take care of Jesse cause Walt was being set up. Since Jack didnt kill Jesse right infront of Walt's eyes like Walt wanted (Todd's fault), Walt told Jesse about Jane because he wanted to kill/hurt Jesse in the biggest way possible. Brock may have been a clencher for Jesse, but Jane? that was a 2x4 to the face. and as for Walts final call to Skylar? That was for reason. He knew the cops would be there, he took his daughter to make sure the cops would be called. Re-watch the scene with him talking to Skylar when she's with the police, Marie and Jr. 1) Walter is crying while threatening Skylar. and 2) you can see Skylars reaction change from 'BRING BACK HOLLY' to a sad "im sorry". Skylar helped Walt out a heck of a lot with the money and the opening of the car wash to launder the money. Walt helped her in return and made her free from all the problems he's brought to them. He purposely threatened her on the phone so she wont be accused of anything. Walt basically blamed the entire thing on himself. Such a sad moment, and soo beautifully written. i couldn't stop crying this episode :(

P.S Todd is a snake using Brock as a lure to make Jesse cook for him! 

BeckyCF
BeckyCF

I missed the show last night and was practically scared, after hearing all the hubbub today, to watch. I do think the show, overall, is something special -- if you like this sort of thing. But this episode was nothing special in itself. For the first time in a long time with this show, I felt a tiny bit impatient, like I was just waiting for what has to happen (in order for us all to remain completely unchanged by what we're taking in) to happen. And it did.

wlonkausky1
wlonkausky1

then you havent really watched this show if you think that writing is lousy, walt has always been about family, he never intended for hank to hurt let alone killed. walt would have never have pulled the trigger on hank, you need to watch watch the show before you comment

RionachRose
RionachRose

@realvenusinfurs No, he got exactly what he deserved...he went out on his own, proved it takes a criminal to catch one...cops are just a razor hair above the criminals these days...the character knew he was dealing with criminals capable to killing,  he knew were dangerous...and dragged Gomie with him...NEVER liked the character, a blustering fool who couldn't even give the birthday boy his due the very first episode...had the target on his head since day one...

‘If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course… would be to tread lightly.’

JohnReece
JohnReece

@TobiasMilton Jesse won't try any chemlab murder-suicide , that's why Todd has the picture of Andrea/Brock posted in the lab.

mastorofpuppetz
mastorofpuppetz

Not a thing you said was even close to correct, congrats. BB is more consistent in its writing, plotting then sopranos. The Wire and BB stand alone./

mastorofpuppetz
mastorofpuppetz

@dorianblack1 ?? BS, BB surpassed sopranos aehile ago. sopranos had at times been guilty of introducing contrived plot polints and characters with no explanation, and also had some meh episodes in its middle and later seasons.


Only the wire is on par with BB at this point.

RionachRose
RionachRose

@dorianblack1 Breaking Bad has only one show to beat: I love Lucy.

After 50 years since the show closed, the reruns still generate 20 million a year...AMC will do the same...I look forward to hearing from my great grand children about how Walter White shoulda (coulda, woulda) done this or that to get away scott free...

Mad Men is okay, the old school money men's self congratulatory show about the serial cheater, 2nd trophy wife mysterious scoundrel which women find irresistible who has a talent for selling is like no other is not it that great if it were not for the cinematic way the show has been filmed...It lost its juice after the second season...

Game of Thrones has too much story line that isn't explored like that who have read the books can attest to, and relies too heavily on the extraordinary talents of Peter Dinklage (and his role of a life time for "little people" ) and Conleth Hill to carry the the story, along with scant amounts of special effects for the dragons...

It may not have the singular story arc for each episode like CSI or X files..but it is a "comedy", albeit a black comedy, wrapped in drama, tragedy, and foreboding...as evidenced by Jessie Pinkman's tattoo of Santa Muerte (a fallen angel in purgatory trying to win back God's favor who grants both good and evil requests) on his back when he dresses himself after his beating from Hank...

Remember Walter blackmailed him into cooking...and Jessie has paid dearly for this...Walt has no idea it is Jessie that will seal his doom (look at every mishap Walt has faced, Jessie was the reason in each and every one of them) and not his actions/reactions...Walt took care a business...he just got the wrong partner who he saw as one of his students...thus tapping Walt's true weakness...the power of knowledge...the snake of Eden...its just too powerful a show to disappear from TV even after the last episode airs. People will be dissecting the meaning of this show for years to come...

Yeap, a 50 plus year life span for this show...I can see it...




MisterPink
MisterPink

@dorianblack1 With such a level of greatness in writing, directing and acting, Breaking Bad might be better than The Sopranos, Mad Men or even The Wire. Game of Thrones is great, but far from being as good as Breaking Bad

RionachRose
RionachRose

@BeebeLisa GET OFF THIS FORUM, NOT MENT FOR TROLLS LIKE YOU TO FORWARD STUPID THINGS LIKE THIS

vrcplou
vrcplou

@DavidHall Actually it's the second half of Season 5.  They split it up to torture us.

JenniferBunkers
JenniferBunkers

@blazingbrunette I need to go back and watch the phone scene...when I first watched it confused me, and only later did I realize it was because his emotion didn't match what he was saying...and it didn't "click" for me until I read this reviewer's post!

wlonkausky1
wlonkausky1

i think everyone forgets about another tv show that had the anti hero before BB, it is excellent, its called the "the shield" the final season of the shield was every bit as good or may even be better than BB and this is comming from someone who has watched BB from the begining and loved every minute of it, everyone always talks about the wire, it was a good show but in my opinion the shield was much better than the wire, vic mackey was the true anti hero before walter white