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Breaking Bad Watch: "Family Is All"

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Warning: Spoilers for last night’s Breaking Bad:

The title of last night’s episode of Breaking Bad, “One Minute,” applies to both the horrifying first sequence of the episode and the terrifying final sequence of the episode. And the quote “Family is all” applies, in a different way, to both as well. It’s true of the cousins, who set out to avenge Tuco’s death. And it’s true of Walter White, who has used the rationalization of family–a sincere one, at least in the beginning, but ultimately a rationalization–to justify his deeds over the three seasons of this series. And by the end of “One Minute,” his family has become more deeply damaged yet by his decision to go criminal.

It probably goes without saying, but Hank’s being stalked, then attacked, in the parking lot was an amazing and painfully tense few minutes of TV; I was literally out of my seat for much of it. First the camera following him, in I’m-going-to-be-killed-o-vision, as he carries a bunch of flowers and says “I think we’re going to be OK.” Then the mysterious phone call (“You have one minute”) followed by this misdirection of a different bald man carrying a tool on the way to his car. And needless to say, the excruciating shootout scene, made more so by the knowledge that the cousin’s vest was probably going to stop Hank’s bullets.

People may argue that the show copped out by letting Hank cantaloupe his attacker’s head at the last possible second. But literally and figuratively, the damage is done. Walter has blood enough on his hands already, of course–the airplane crash as well as the various people who have died from his meth dealing–but now he has literally, grievously hurt someone in his own family. (An especially sad turn of events right after we saw Hank nobly own up to his failings in attacking Jesse and, seemingly, get off the hook.)

The complication, of course, is that to an outsider it must seem that Jesse is the one behind the attack on Hank–just as Walt has brought him in as his new 50/50 partner to keep Jesse from talking, and more to the point, to keep from having to eliminate him. (I haven’t yet seen any future episodes, by the way; I’m just assuming this would be the inference.)

It’s an unexpected change-up, of course, to eliminate so suddenly the killers who were introduced at the opening of the season as a threat to Walter’s life. But as “One Minute” makes clear, Walt and Jesse are the greatest threat to each other and to themselves–as shown, for instance, by Jesse’s reckless threat to give up Walt: even if he trusts Walt enough not to do anything rash based on the threat, how could he think that the men Walt is in business with would take this kind of talk so easily?

Now, with Walt’s brother-in-law badly hurt, Walt and Jesse are yoked together again. They’re not family; but at this point they’re all each other have.