Breaking Down Breaking Bad: To’Hajiilee

Breaking Bad has earned a permanent place on our culture’s, and my personal, Mount Rushmore of television shows. It’s widely accepted as the last epic saga of TV’s Golden Era, beginning with The Sopranos, and continuing on with The Wire and Mad Men. While other historic programs seem to hover at the same top-notch level of quality, with small peaks and valleys here and there, Breaking Bad seems to instead shape itself as a crescendo, exponentially building momentum until what most suspect will be a climax for the ages. With only three episodes left, those of us watching cannot believe what we are seeing.

If you are not watching: apologies, but this is likely not the Blogcat for you.

The episode titled “To’Hajiilee” that aired this past Sunday is arguably the greatest episode of the show’s run (so far – we don’t yet know what’s to come); Vince Gilligan even said that he thought of all the show’s cliff-hangers, of which there are many, this would be the one about which the audience would be most distraught (in terms of not knowing what will come next). He was not wrong.

As a result, Ezra, Bullets and I had a furious exchange of Facebook messages to try and wrap our minds around what just happened, because even though we all read multiple recaps of each episode, this time, that was not enough. If you’re like us, you know what I mean. This 8,000 word BlogCat should certainly help.

Full Spoiler Alert. Please feel free to add your own thoughts or comments below.

Ryan Simmons: Not sure if you guys have watched this week’s “Breaking Bad” yet, so if you haven’t spoiler alert after this point. If you have … holy cow. A couple of comments:

1) How is Lydia going to be involved in these last couple of episodes? The Neo-Nazis are now more directly involved, but why exactly is Lydia so obsessed with meth? She keeps going on about how important it is to her and everything.

2) I know they couldn’t just have Hank and Gomie cut down instantly, but man these Neo-Nazis are terrible shots. They unload like a hundred shots at them before they get to cover behind the car.

3) Speaking of the Neo-Nazis arrival, Walt did a pretty terrible job of hiding his money if they could drive out there within 5 minutes of him calling. That’s barely enough time to get to Manhattan Bagel from DKE.

4) How much of Walt’s bullshitting to Jesse is to try to convince Jesse versus trying to convince himself? I mean, even in this episode when he is on the phone with him, he is lying about being sorry for poisoning Brock and everything. But it’s clear Walt DOES have some weird fatherly affection for Jesse – more than he ever overtly shows for Flynn.

5) “Low Winter Sun” is so so so bad.

Ezra G. Tischler: The final minutes of that episode were something else. Now, to your comments:

1) I have a sense that Lydia’s life is being threatened by the European buyers. Obviously someone is going to lose the shootout, and based on firepower I would put my money on Hank and Gomie getting dissolved in a barrel before the end of the series. Also, Hank’s phone call to Marie was a good indicator that Hank “may not be home for a while” or whatever he said along those lines. That said, perhaps Walt and Jesse (if Jesse is even alive after the shootout) agree to one more cook for the Neo-Nazis in return for their own lives. The Europeans get wind of Walt’s involvement and further threaten his well-being. This could bring the Lydia story line full circle.

2) Neo-Nazis are infamous for their terrible shooting ability. It has something to do with inferior genetics.

3) In order to get to Manhattan Bagel from DKE, one must contend with Jersey drivers. Put a bunch of Jersey drivers on the road in Arizona and those Nazis show up a good 10-15 mins later.

4) I often think about that episode after Walt and Jesse have their first fight, when Walt Jr. finds his dad all hopped up in pain killers. Walt apologizes to Walt Jr. but calls him Jesse. This makes me think that Walt truly is sorry for the things he’s done to Jesse.

5) Good Cop. Bad Cop. Same Cop.

Ezra G. Tischler: I said Arizona but I obviously meant New Mexico!

Josh Kambour: All great points, and what a great episode! I was pulling my hair basically the last 20 minutes, starting with him getting the picture of the money. While googling for info to fill out my comments below, I came across a great point by Alan Sepinwall: “if this showdown in the desert between cop and criminal, so beautifully staged, shot, written and performed, wasn’t the end that Vince Gilligan had in mind for his series, than how face-melting must the actual ending be?” Holy shit, that just got me all hopped up.

1. The Neo-Nazis were truly atrocious at shooting. Videogame-esque. I really thought that when Neo-Nazi #2 (aka NOT Uncle Jack, whose name is apparently Kenny) squinted slowly and lined up his shot that the first bullet was going straight into hanks forehead. Obviously I was wrong. Did they not do that because they’re not going to kill Hank? We never have any hope of predicting what will happen, obviously (don’t you feel like with 2 minutes left in the entire series, you’ll still have no clue what’s going to happen next?), but it seems a bit weird for them to not kill Hank at the end of this episode if they’re just going to kill him in like the first 5 minutes of the next episode. It’d be just as cliff-hangery, so maybe they did a huge shootout so they can kill Gomie (who has to be dead, right? he already got hit) but Hank somehow survives.

2. Why on earth did Hank and Gomie not just pull out their badges? Did they not have them on them? My friend Gabe from home grasped at straws saying that they were operating outside of DEA jurisdiction, but they were within that authority enough to read Walt his Miranda rights. Furthermore, I’d rather go to jail for violating some legal formality than have a gang heavily moustached neo-nazis unload assault rifles at me.

3. Lydia is clearly under some sort of pressure from her European counterparts, but her attitude toward it is weird. Is it more that she has this irrational desperation to “win” the game, ala Heisenberg – that the money part is irrelevant? Not sure about that. Also, what’s up with the borderline Oedipal relationship going on with her and Todd?

4. Back to the European outfit, I don’t see them ever being more than alluded to. There’s only 3 episodes left so I feel like it’d be underwhelming to have them be the final boss battle.

5. Walt trying to convince himself of things while he’s trying to convince others has been a recurring theme throughout all 5.5 seasons. Usually it comes in the form of “everything I do is for my family.”

6. Thought the exact same thing about Hank’s phone call to Marie. It was too profound to not be ominous.

7. Hank and Gomie certainly took their sweet ass time getting out of there. I understand they want to take a big sigh of relief, but don’t they know how these dramas work! When they were lollygagging around, you knew they were in trouble.

8. Speaking of knowing they were in trouble, I knew without a doubt that Uncle Jack and his crew were coming anyway. A) It was probably smart of them to do so, considering Walt’s immediate and uncharacteristic 180 on the phone. Better safe than sorry. B) We know that Walt finds his way to New Hampshire and grows a beard and a full head of hair, so obviously he wasn’t going to jail. I also didn’t see him getting out on bail (both unrealistic and wayyyy to time consuming) and then fleeing, so there had to be a highway robbery of some sort to get him away. Uncle Jack’s rescue seemed to be a good candidate to connect those dots. C) I think Uncle Jack’s motivation wasn’t exclusively for the protection of Walt – he definitely wants Walt in his pocket to cook. If he misses the opportunity to do Walt this favor, then maybe he’ll never get that 99% blue.

9. Despite strongly suspecting the neo-nazis were going to come anyway, they still did it perfectly. This OKC Thunder beat writer on Twitter said “I feel like I just watched the meth infused version of the Red Wedding.” and I totally agree. With respect to the Red Wedding, Andy Greenwald wrote that a really underappreciated and underused effect is Dread – we know something’s going to happen, but watching it go down fills you with this overwhelming feeling of dread. That’s what I thought about as Walt first saw the truck in the rearview mirror (what an amazing camera shot, by the way). Then the rest of the trucks slowly rumble over the bumpy terrain, inching closer as you fill with a sense of panic. Then they all pop out at once and whip out a COD-MW2 array of weapons. What amazing television.

10. Did anybody else notice how cavalier Todd was when shooting? He had a pistol, was basically shooting from the hip, and looked bored the entire time. Fucking Todd.

11. You know it’s a wild cliff hanger when the “Scenes from next week’s episode” doesn’t include a single frame from the following week’s episode. I wasn’t the only one to point this out:

Josh Kambour: Also, Walt’s little moment when he tries to call off the German Shepherds, and realizes he’s about to give up and that he lost, might end up being a significant one. Maybe he finally stops trying to save face and will start being honest with people. Perhaps this is how Jane’s death will come up. Maybe Walt will just tell Jesse, not because he’s going to throw it in his face or use it to manipulate him – instead just because he’s trying to give himself up.

Otherwise, I’m not sure we’re ever seeing Jesse find out about Jane.

Ryan Simmons: As to Hank and Gomie not pulling out their badges, this is still something that hasn’t been addressed that I am really confused about. In the episode “Confessions,” Hank is basically stalled in his attempt to get Walt. He can’t/won’t go to the DEA (there is even that scene where Gomie asks why they are tailing Jesse Pinkman, and Hank essentially tells him to fuck off). Then, as of “Rabid Dogs”, somehow Gomie is in on the whole thing and they have all of this DEA equipment for the sting in the plaza. Then in this last episode, when they are tricking Huell, Hank makes sure Huell thinks he can’t use his phone and tells him not to discuss the case with Anonymous Agent X at the safehouse, which seems to imply he is still working somewhat outside the bounds of the law.

But then he arrests Walt. I really wish we knew how Hank got Gomie involved in the whole thing, and how he is explaining his absences/equipment borrowings to the rest of the DEA. We know Hank is the boss of the local DEA office, but he has also already been chewed out by HIS bosses earlier in the season for focusing so much on the Heisenberg case instead of the rest of his work. So regardless of whether or not Hank survives the showdown with the neo-Nazis, I would be pretty disappointed if this wasn’t somehow addressed. So far it is the most glaring omission by Vince Gilligan. I mean, how is he even tracking Walt’s cell phone out into the desert? If there’s anything I learned from “The Wire,” it’s not that easy to just track a phone like that.

On another note, I thought it was interesting how in the scene where Walt is getting arrested, he isn’t looking at Hank at all, just staring at Jesse. When was the last time we saw something like this? When Gus brings Jesse to see Tio Salamanca at the nursing home, to gloat about having wiped out the rest of the cartel. Tio refuses to look at Gus, he just stares hatefully at Jesse, but completely powerless. Now Walt is the one who is completely powerless, glaring at Jesse. Just an interesting parallel. Tio was more literally powerless than Walt, being paralyzed by his stroke, but now Walt is just as ineffectual. He can’t stop the neo-Nazis, he can’t stop Jesse/Hank, at the end he is just left immobilized in the car screaming but nobody listens.

Now, as for baseless predictions that will almost certainly be rendered moot within 30 seconds of the next episode, I think both Gomie and Hank die. At the very least, Gomie dies. I like Hank, but I honestly can’t think of a way for him to escape that situation that would feel satisfying. In any case, I think Jesse escapes – as the neo-Nazis are showing up, they briefly cut to Jesse in the car slowly unlocking/opening the door. I think he manages to slip away in the confusion, somehow.

Here’s something else. What if Hank dies, and in the DEA/authorities search of his house, they find Walt’s “confession” tape? What if, as a result of this, Walt fakes his death and skips out to New Hampshire? And what if the only reason Walt’s neighbor is so surprised to see him in the flash forward from a few episodes ago is because she thought he was dead – not because she thinks he was this huge drug lord? Maybe everyone thinks HANK is Heisenberg and that he killed Walt before disappearing/dying/whatever. This doesn’t exactly fit, I don’t think, but Vince Gilligan loves planting clues that don’t develop in quite the way you would otherwise expect. Also, Hank dying makes whatever Marie does next a real wild card.

And yeah, that camera shot of Walt seeing the trucks in the rear view mirror might be the single greatest cinematographic moment in the series.

Josh Kambour: Too true about how Hank has just been given complete freedom by the DEA. How many days has it been since the Leaves of Grass was discovered? Is that clouding our judgement, and he’s really only been out of work for like a week?

Hank as Heisenberg to the public would certainly throw a curve ball into this whole thing…. people have been assuming the “Heisenberg” written in yellow graffiti in the White house, coupled with the Mr. Lambert license, implies Walt’s hiding from the police because his secret came out. I’ve heard others (e.g. Cousin Sal) speculate that Walt fakes his own death before heading for the Granite State, but most have assumed he was trying to escape at least the police, if not also the neo-nazis (which surely must be the case at this point). I’ve never considered the possibility that the “Heisenberg” graffiti could have just referred to the public’s belief that Hank was Heisenberg and that he’d killed Walt. It still seems unlikely at this point, but it’s in the realm of possibility, and something I hadn’t previously thought about.

Some online recapper pointed out that Gomie picks up Walt’s car keys, and presumes that this is an important detail that will come into play later. Not sure about that one.

Another thing: what’s the deal with the children? They always show Walt and Skylar at the car wash together, but then where is baby Holly? Is there a babysitter we’re not hearing about?

I was wondering too about how they were tracking Walt. Maybe they went and put a GPS tracker under his car again and didn’t show us? Cuz tracking that phone was definitely not an option. Either that or they just followed his car out there – after all, they showed up like a minute later – perhaps aided by Jesse’s recognition of where they were, but considering he was driving like 90 and weaving through traffic, I find that unlikely.

Josh Kambour: Now that I’m considering the DEA giving Hank such leeway even more, I had a thought. We’re stretching at this point, but maybe he knows his career is fucked either way, so he’s just going all in on the lone wolf, loose cannon role. Like, he could try to go through all the proper legal channels, but he’d still get fired by doing that, so what’s the point? Just go A-Wol and get ol’ WW on his own terms.

Bullets, I sense your issue with the whole DEA thing isn’t that there’s no sensible explanation, simply that they failed to include one at all. There are a number of ways it could be explained as plausible – they just fail to address the issue, and thus it’s a point of consternation.

Ryan Simmons: Thinking about it more, I’d like to amend my previous prediction that Hank dies, at least in the immediate shoot-out. Hank has one piece of leverage left: Walt’s life. Hank is hiding behind the SUV as it gets riddled with bullet holes, but if he pulls Walt out and puts his gun to his head, the neo-Nazis would stop. How else would Hank get out of it? It is the only option left.

Now, what happens from there is anybody’s guess but I think an interesting subplot this past half-season has been Hank’s “breaking bad.” Obviously not to the extent that Walt has, but Hank has essentially thrown out any regards for anyone else in his pursuit of Walt. The scene with Skyler in the diner, his willingness to sacrifice Jesse, tricking Huell, and possibly getting Gomez killed. Breaking Bad is all about unintended, but logical, consequences. What if Hank’s undoing, in the end, is some effect of the way he has pursued Walt? Hard to say HOW it would happen, but possibly he gets out of the shoot-out alive by using Walt as a hostage, but lays the groundwork for his own undoing in the process. I don’t know.

Walt as a hostage would also be interesting symbolically, because one thing that has become increasingly apparent these past few episodes is how little control Walt has anymore – he has been more or less completely powerless, forced only to react to circumstances rather than create them as he had in the past. Even the little breaks go against him now (like the bald dude at the plaza that spooked Jesse, which sparked this whole thing with the money – speaking of which, I know Jesse was being paranoid, but for a random bald dude was just waiting for his daughter in a busy public place he was REALLY grilling Jesse hard).
As for how much time Hank has taken off work, it’s hard to say. I remember a throw-away line from the very first episode of the season (after Hank found Leaves of Grass, but before his confrontation with Walt) that he had missed work for a couple of days already. But we see him back at the office at least once since then; the timeline of events for these past couple of episodes is a little unclear.

Ryan Simmons: A couple random things I have thought about, but haven’t been able to come to any conclusions regarding:

Walt Jr. vs Jesse vs Todd. So obviously Walt Jr. is Walt’s real son, who is ostensibly the justification for all of the bad he has done, though it has been a long time since Walt has shown any genuine affection for him. At this point, there is plenty of evidence that there is something about Jesse that Walt has latched onto, and uses him as a surrogate son (Ezra brought up the scene where he accidentally calls his son Jesse, too, which I’d forgotten about). Todd, though, has his own rather bizarre affection towards Walt (and calls him Mr. White, in the same way that Jesse did). Somehow, Todd is going to be very important these last couple of episodes, and I think the weird father/son relationships that Walt has built up around him are also going to be important. Walt “wants” Jesse for his son, though Jesse rejects it. Todd seems to treat Walt as a father figure of some sort, though Walt doesn’t reciprocate it. Todd, also, is ruthless (he knows that Jesse is Walt’s partner, and doesn’t even bat an eye when Walt says he wants him dead) and efficient in his own way. Jesse is the son that Walter wants, but Todd is the son that he “gets” in a way.

Also, I’ve been thinking about “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, and Walt Whitman in general, and whether there is going to be some symbolism there in these final episodes. The Learn’d Astronomer poem specifically, is essentially about the meaningless of being taught versus experiencing for yourself, or on a more abstract level about the difference between knowledge and aesthetic experience/appreciation/etc. Emotion over logic, perhaps. I am sure there are a dozen other ways of reading into it, as well. Or, if you take a step back from the textual interpretation and just look at Leaves of Grass as an artifact, it was essentially Walt Whitman’s life’s work. He worked on it his entire life, rewriting and rewriting to make it perfect, it was his legacy. And legacy is something that we’ve seen to be important to Walter White (he’s in the “empire business” after all).

Ryan Simmons: Not to flood you guys with more messages, but reading through some Leaves of Grass, a passage I find interesting/relevant thematically.

“The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves;
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?”

Josh Kambour: Dude, keep em coming. I just wrote to Ezra on g-chat how this has been a great way to fixiate my craving for more breaking bad – you can only read so many recaps of the same episode that you’ve already watched.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why Walt comes back with the beard and the ricin, and at this point am assuming it’s to save somebody. All the events that have transpired this season, and the sort of exhausted look on his face in that flashforward, give you the sense that Walt is not returning to ABQ for selfish reasons, but instead is in some way finally sacrificing himself for the betterment of the people he’s for so long claimed to have cared for. Basically, his family. Assuming this is all true, the huge question is which family member(s) is he coming back to rescue?

Flynn is his actual son, but Walt really doesn’t seem to give a shit about him, and they barely have a real relationship. The times I remember them interacting were all about Walt stroking his own ego; beating the shit out of that bully (btw, who actually mocks a handicapped kid in public, or at all?) in the pilot episode, Walt buying the sports cars, and Walt manipulating him to save face. He always claims he cares about his family, but he never actually displays genuine affection for his real son.

Neo-nazis kidnapping and threatening to kill Holly – an infant girl – would certainly be shocking, but I feel like she’s not enough of a real character to be a real candidate. Idk.

To Bullets’ point about Todd, who the fuck knows what’s going on with that guy. Is his infatuation with Lydia going to actually lead to a plot conflict, ala Lydia persuades him to do horrible things to fuck with Walt? Either way, I doubt that Walt would risk declaring his existence to save Todd, which leads us to….

Jesse seems to be the most obvious candidate. More than any other relationship, this has been the real focus of the show; this fucked up pseudo-father-son thing. Yet how do they feel about each other right now? Walt was ignoring Master Geologist Hank cuz he felt betrayed by Coward Jesse, and then Jesse comes back and spits in Walt’s face. Oh, and Walt was willing to kill Jesse; we learn that there truly is a line that Walt will not cross – he won’t kill family – when he tells Uncle Jack & Co, LLC. to not come, essentially choosing to turn himself in over taking out Hank. Does his opinion on Jesse’s status as a family member flip-flop back to where it was in the back of Saul’s car, when Walt’s yelling at the lawyer about his audacity to even consider putting a hit on Jesse?

Basically, the only person Walt’s actions have ever indicated he cares about is Jesse. But then the only “family” member he’s been willing to try to have killed has been Jesse.

As Whitman might say, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself”

Josh Kambour: Oh, and I forgot to discuss Skylar’s candidacy. I’m really not sure how Skylar fits into any of this. How tragic would it be if Walt’s secret comes out but he disappears and Skylar’s the one who gets dragged in front of the inevitable media circus?

Anyway, does Walt have enough of a real relationship with Skylar to make the trek back to ‘Querque? I feel like their marriage is now purely for show; they want to maintain dignity in the public eye, but they’ve long ago lost any real affection for each other. When they talk now, it’s strictly business. I feel like maybe Walt would come back to save her out of a feeling of obligation, I guess, but not because he actually cares, and that’d be a pretty bleak note for the show to go out on.

Ezra G. Tischler: Todd’s role in the latest episode probably shouldn’t be overlooked. He seems to be getting more confidence, as evidenced by his creepy tea-bagging scene with Lydia and her lipstick. Also, there was the Tourek-esque head shake Todd gave when his uncle asked if Jesse was “angry, like hulk angry.”

Typing this, and going along with the theme of Walt’s sons vying for affection/recognition/whatever, I can’t help but think about the kid that Todd killed during the train heist, Drew Sharp. Jesse clearly has an immature perception of reality. He isn’t necessarily immature but he shows great empathy for children (his younger brother in earlier seasons, Brock, Drew Sharp). For most of the series he seems perpetually stuck in high school chemistry, and I believe it was Andy Greenwald who pointed out his affinity for pizza parties, video games, and highly emotional responses when times are tough. Even Hank and Gomez continually refer to him as “the Kid” (you like that Josh).

Jesse’s childlike qualities are essentially what allowed Walt to manipulate him. These same qualities, particularly his empathy for other children, are why he is now so willing to help Hank get Walt. So, getting back to Todd: Jesse must have immense hate for a child-murderer like Todd. And, now that Jesse has grown up (no longer calling Walt as Mr. White, and manipulating the plan himself) maybe it’s time for a showdown between the two “sons.” Walt’s gun is still lying in the desert sand somewhere near by, after all.

Ryan Simmons: Anyone remember Walt’s speech to his chemistry class in the pilot? “You see, technically, chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change: Electrons change their energy levels. Molecules change their bonds. Elements combine and change into compounds. But that’s all of life, right? It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation. It’s fascinating really.”

Growth, then decay, then transformation. So how does this relate to Walt’s journey (or any of the other characters)? Do we think of it in terms of Walt growing into Heisenberg, then the decay of his control this season, and there is a transformation yet to come? Or was the transformation complete with his killing of Gus (or any other point in the series timeline), and we are just witnessing the beginning of the next cycle? What about Skyler and Hank? We’ve seen each of them grow and decay as the series has gone on. I think this cyclical aspect might be important in the final episodes, though I am not entirely sure how.

Josh Kambour: Maybe he transforms into Optimus Prime!

Josh Kambour: I’m curious about that decision of Walt’s to give himself up. He wasn’t willing to have Hank taken out, so he gave himself up. For that long moment when he closed his eyes and was tearing up, he had finally accepted his fate of getting caught. Ozymadius had finally fallen, and he almost looked relieved. He doesn’t have to keep running around frantically, desperate that his secret stays safe.

Obviously – due to the flash forwards – he doesn’t fall in exactly that way. I wonder what Walt would have done/will do if the situation presented itself where he could again get away with all of it with nobody else knowing. If Hank, Jesse, and Gomie all die right now, would Walt just cook for the Nazis and sit on his money? I’m not so sure. This season, he just hasn’t been as Heisenberg as he used to be.

We’ll probably never know, though. I would guess at least 1, if not 2, of those three guys die right now, but I’d be surprised if they took out both Hank and Jesse in the same moment. Still interesting to ponder.

Josh Kambour: Also, I think the whole Jesse/Todd contrast that Ezra brought up is intriguing. That’d be a great showdown for sure.

I definitely agree with the observation that Jesse has child-like qualities; intense, profound emotional reactions to events, as well as his affinity for actual children (pediatric patdown, anyone?). Todd seems to be very immature as well, but more in his failure to grasp or understand the gravity of his actions, his emotions, or morality as a whole. Jesse has done horrible things, and becomes a shell of a person at times, but at least he recognizes that what he’s done is wrong. Todd, on the other hand, killed Drew Sharp, and yet doesn’t even seem to remember doing so when he recounts the train-robbing adventure at the diner. He desires Lydia, but doesn’t seem to recognize how uncomfortable his approach to her is.

One characteristic of children is that they don’t understand the “why” behind the inappropriateness of things. They don’t yet have an intuition of what is right and what is wrong. That’s one reason why parenting is so hard – kids will be mean or do bad things simply because they can’t comprehend yet that whatever action qualifies as a “bad” thing. This seems to be how Todd behaves in the world. He doesn’t appreciate, or just simply can’t comprehend, the full emotional significance of events that he’s involved with or is at least partially responsible for.

(Tangent based on set theory: It strikes me that kids build their understanding of which actions go in the “good” bucket vs. the “bad” bucket by extension, rather than intension – by member sets, rather than a set of definitions of qualifications. Essentially, it’s bad because I’ve been told it’s bad, rather than recognizing that it holds the uniting principle of being immoral/unethical).

This makes me wonder if Todd is going to kill Jesse. Walt never wanted to take out Jesse – his hand was instead forced, to a certain degree, because it was either that or get caught (in hindsight, it would appear that both will happen). Now, though, if Walt’s secret comes out, the motivation behind killing Jesse is gone. Unless you think that Walt would still want this to happen out of revenge (which I don’t) – to get back at Jesse for being a “coward” and playing him like that – then Walt would no longer want Jesse dead. But I wouldn’t think Todd would understand that sort of nuance. I could just see him having the opportunity to kill Jesse, and does so because he thinks that’s still what Walt wants. He just wants to please Daddy, but wouldn’t understand that things have changed, and that’s no longer what Papa Bear wants.

Ezra G. Tischler: I’m realizing now that none of us have mentioned the buried money. That is the whole purpose for tracking Walt to the desert. I can’t help but think the money will play a role in ending the shootout or ensuring someone’s safety after the shootout. Though, the Nazis already said they don’t want Walt’s money they want his Iron Meth Chef skills, so now I’m just turning in circles. With each passing moment my simultaneous love and hate for Vince Gilligan grows deeper.

Josh Kambour: Hmm… technically they said the equivalent of “that’s a drop in the bucket to the amount we could make if we knew how to cook like you.” I feel like the 7 barrels of cash in the ground would basically be the bucket, so that might change things.

I could see Walt or Jesse telling them about the money as a negotiating tactic. With Jesse unlocking the car door, I’m wondering if he escapes on his own, but maybe Walt offers the Nazis the money in exchange for Hank’s life? Idk.

Ryan Simmons: Technically, they only said the “drop in the bucket” amount to the fee that Walt was offering. Remember, in that conversation, Walt said he was offering 3 times the per person fee from the prison witness murders. Presumably, that isn’t nearly the amount of money he has hidden away. I think the neo-Nazis would react differently to ALL of Walt’s money, versus whatever fee he had offered previously.

Also, I really want to see one more real Heisenberg moment by Walt in these next couple of episodes. We really haven’t seen him channel the real Heisenberg, just the shell of him, since the prison murders. Lately he’s seemed more desperate and chaotic, and he hasn’t really flexed any of his genius muscle. I would likely to see him pull one more clever play.

Josh Kambour: Yea, Bullets’ point about the total amount of money was the one I was trying to make. I’m listening to the B.S. Report about this episode right now, and they recalled that in the first flash-forward, Walt pays for his breakfast with a $100 bill. He must retain some amount of his money. Either he doesn’t give it to the Nazis, or he strikes a deal with them that he’ll go away but he needs to keep some of it so he can live? After all, he’s gotta pay The Disappearer.

Ryan Simmons: Anyway, as Josh mentioned, I don’t really see Walt doing anything purely out of revenge. It isn’t impossible, but as far as I can recall he has never done anything just for revenge in the series. At least, all of his actions have at least had a superficial justification of self-preservation in some manner – even if he was wrong, and often Walt’s lies seem to be more trying to convince himself than anyone else, I don’t think he has yet to do anything to someone purely out of contempt/dislike/spite. Actually, the only thing I can think of is when he quits Grey Matter because of his vague dislike for Elliott (which has something to do with Gretchen, though the details have surprisingly remained unknown … they hinted essentially that Walt had a romantic relationship with her, but she somehow ended up with Elliott. Further, we know they have no enmity towards Walt, but he really does not like them)

Ryan Simmons: Also, I am rewatching the Mr. Lambert flash forwards to obsessively search for more clues that probably won’t help unravel anything.

A couple things to note: 1) Walt is not wearing his wedding ring. 2) He tells the waitress it takes 30 hours to drive there from New Hampshire if you only stop for gas, implying that he drove there in a hurry (and he drove, didn’t fly). Also, it implies he didn’t even stop for food, yet he clearly has no appetite. 3) He meets the gun-dealer in the bathroom and gives him an envelope full of money. The gun-dealer asks him, “I got your word this isn’t crossing the border.” Walt says, “It’s never leaving town.”

Ryan Simmons: Nothing really profound, obviously, but little details

Josh Kambour: I’m guessing the ricin is Walt’s one last clever moment, but whatever it is, I think they need to strike the right balance between not letting Walt win, but not letting anyone else do so either. Walt can’t come back and leave the show victorious, but at the same time, the neo-nazis can’t just win.

Ryan Simmons: The ricin just seems a little too recycled. It would be cool to see something novel. I mean, it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t know if it even fits in with the theme of the show, but some of my favorite moments from the series have been, for example, Walt rigging up the batteries with they are broken down in the desert with the RV, when he makes the fulmanate of mercury to blow up Tuco’s hideout, and stuff like that.

Josh Kambour: I’ve started to turn this into a Blogcat, btw, so reply back if you want to include any other comments.

I think the use of the ricin is pretty interesting. It’s a chemist’s weapon, and sort of ties our major antagonists together. He first created it to try and kill Tuco Salamanca, our first huge villain, by mixing it in with his batch of meth, but then Pinkman claims their secret ingredient is chili powder, which obviously Tuco hates, so the plan is foiled. He next tries to use it to take down Gus, making it in the superlab, but Jesse never used it on Gus because they were becoming bosom buddies at the time. Now you have to assume Walt is going to use it to take down the last big bad guy. One assumes that’s probably going to be used on Lydia, but usually our assumptions are wrong.

Also, most have assumed the M60 machine gun is for the Nazis, and the ricin is for Lydia. How funny would it be if it’s the opposite; that he breaks in the diner’s kitchen and gives the Nazi’s coffee a nice ricin dusting, and then takes out Lydia by unloading an entire magazine into her at close range.

Also, what if the ricin is meant for Walt? Really, he’s been the show’s villain the entire time. What if he’s the last evil-doer to be dethroned. That’d be a bizarre way to commit suicide, I guess, but I haven’t heard anybody suggest that yet.

Bullets, I agree to your point about wanting to see Heisenberg display one more super creative, original genius-scientist maneuver. I’m wondering if the ricin could actually be used in that way, and what makes me think that is your comment awhile ago about Vince Gillgan’s trend of toying with our expectations by bring up foreshadowing devices that play out in ways we would never expect. Maybe we think the ricin is old fashioned by this point, but he wants us to think that because it’s not.

A couple of other points I wanted to make after reviewing our earlier conversation:

1. As we’ve already discussed, Walt lies to other characters (e.g. Jesse, Skylar), trying to convince them that his intentions are at least somewhat admirable, even though (a) it’s not clear that they are and (b) he seems to really be trying to convince himself. Typically he tries to equivocate his actions by claiming they’re FOR his family. In the case of rubbing out Jesse, he’s trying to rationalize it by saying that Jesse’s NOT family. In a way, he’s going in the opposite direction. I wonder if Walt’s come-to-Jesus moment right before getting hand-cuffed will cause him to no longer rationalize in this way, and will realize that he actually does consider him family.

2. Back to the Todd-Lydia romance. Am I wrong in thinking he views her as both a potential sexual partner and as sort of a mother? Obviously he’s got a crush on her, but maybe I’m off on his filial attitude toward her as well.

That was my take, but I’m thinking here that it’s not that surprising, given that, as far as I can remember, she’s the only woman Todd has ever interacted with. The only people Todd has ever interacted with really on the show, Lydia excluding, are Walt, Mike, Jesse, Declan, his Uncle and the gang, and Drew Sharp. Not a lot of estrogen hangin around with that crew. Where are Todd’s parents, specifically his mother? I wonder if there’s some back story where his mother wasn’t around when he was growing up, and so now he has all these confused feelings because Lydia’s the first woman who’s ever been invested in him. Who “believes in him,” or whatever she said at the start of this episode. She doesn’t exactly seem to be doing it out of the goodness of her heart, though, so this might not end well for Mr. Alquist.

3. I’m thinking back to Bullet’s comparison between Hector Salamanca ignoring at Gus while staring at Jesse and Walt ignoring Hank while staring at Jesse. The latter scene is likely an allusion to the first, given the detail Gillian & Company have proven they’re capable of, but there’s a clear difference. Hector was grilling Jesse hard not because he hated Pinkman, but because he detested Gus so thoroughly that he wouldn’t even give him the respect of looking at him. In the scene with Walt, on the other hand, Jesse IS the object of that loathing.

4. Not only was the rearview mirror shot of Uncle Jack’s truck pulling up a spectacular instance of cinematography, I thought it was some cool symbolism as well. Basically, it’s another instance of Walt’s past actions catching up to him. As D’Angelo Barksdale would say, “the past is always with us.”

5. Last but not least, the line from the pilot: “it is growth, then decay, then transformation.” The whole premise of the show that Gilligan pitched to the network was turning Mr. Chips into Scarface; having the good guy turn into the bad guy.

I’m theorizing here, in contrast to what Bullets said earlier, that the show starts AFTER the growth is over, that the pilot takes place right as the true decay is about to begin. It’s not the growth into Heisenberg that we see, then his decay back to Walt, and then some sort of transformation. We don’t meet Walter White until after he won all his awards and started Grey Matter; instead, we are first introduced to him as he starts to decay with his cancer diagnosis and devolution into evil.

This brings me back to the line right before: “It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over.” This makes me think that Walt has already hit rock bottom. We met him, and he was Walter White the Mr. Rogers impersonator, but then by the end of the first half of this fifth season, he was full on Heisenberg/Tony Montana.

That’s not where we end, though. The cycle hasn’t come back around yet. For it to be complete, we need Walter White to come back.

Ryan Simmons: I was going to write a blogcat after Breaking Bad finished, actually. I wanted to see how it ends before I write anything. But anyway, …

Regarding the ricin, it is interesting how it has driven things. Both times Walt wanted to use the ricin to solve a perceived problem (Tuco, Gus) it was Jesse that “ruined” the plan (accidentally with Tuco, then intentionally with Gus). Walt was able to turn Jesse back against Gus with his Lily of the Valley/ricin switcharoo, but that, too, has now backfired.

By the way, reading the Wikipedia entry for ricin, it is apparently thought that it might be used to treat cancer. Maybe Walt cures his cancer with ricin?!?! No, that’s not going to happen, but that would be a pretty funny twist if Vince Gilligan really wanted to just flip everybody the middle finger.

1) So do we think Walt actually has had some massive change of heart? He clearly doesn’t want Hank to be killed, but it isn’t clear about Jesse. He called off the “hit” when he saw Hank and seemed apparently resigned to his fate, but then he gave Jesse the death stare.

2) It’s really hard to figure out what the hell is going on with Todd and Lydia, because neither of them have ever really gotten major screen time. Clearly Todd is a twisted individual at some level. He wants Walt to be his daddy and Lydia to be his hot mother? And Lydia herself is pretty opaque: when she was first introduced she was more or less a minor character, just one of the pawns of Gus’ Madrigal connections. Her original actions were out of self-preservation, because Mike and Walt wanted to kill her as a loose end. She helped them set up the new meth business. But it’s a little unclear what is going on since Walt “left”: she seems to be masterminding things, but at what level isn’t clear. Does anybody remember how Todd was actually introduced? I know it was through Vamonos Pest Control, but I don’t remember how that came about.

3) While I agree in part, Hector DID hate Pinkman, because he saw them try to poison Tuco. Remember when they are kidnapped by Tuco Hector is there, and he sees them put the poison in, and tries to warn Tuco by ringing his bell (though obviously is unable to speak). While his refusal to look at Gus was part of it, it’s not like he didn’t know/hate Jesse in his own right. Remember when Walt showed up Hector gave him the death stare, too, until Walt said that Gus was their mutual enemy. Anyway, I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but there does seem to be some parallel.

Ezra G. Tischler: We’ve brought up some pretty interesting story points, plot inconsistencies, predictions, and analysis. It should make for a good Blogcat, as long as there are breakfast jokes included. Some things I’ll add:

1) I always thought Walt’s transformation happened sometime during his dealings with Tuco. Isn’t that when he started calling himself Heisenberg and wearing the hat? The first time I remember seeing the “the Heisenberg death stare” is when Walt walks back to his car after blowing up Tucco’s headquarters with the magnesium(?) If this is the case, I’d say his decay started when he came to the realization he had to kill Gus. His constant paranoia, increasingly evil deeds and growing manipulation began to spill into his personal life. In essence, Heisenberg and Walt White blended together rather than existing in separate environments.

2) Lydia and Hank have both used language suggesting/foreshadowing their deaths. When Lydia visits the car wash she tells Walt something along the lines of his retirement is killing her. Also, her talk with Todd in the latest episode was either some very strange motivational speech she learned in the corporate world or it was a desperate plea from a woman with her life on the line. When Hank finds out about the rehab bills he tells Marie that it’s the last nail in the coffin, that he’s buried. Then of course, as we’ve discussed, his most recent phone call to Marie really sounded like the final goodbye.

3) I’ve heard about people comparing the show to Hamlet. I never really saw the parallels, but our recent mention of Walt and his fatherly relationships with Jesse, Walt Jr, and Todd (plus Todd’s new relationship with Lydia) make it somewhat of a more feasible comparison. I bring this up because you know more about Hamlet than I do, Josh, so maybe you would want to explore this idea a little more.

Josh Kambour: I honestly don’t remember all too much about Hamlet, nor would I really know that much about it if I did. And even if I did, that would have to wait for another day. This already went on for way too long as it is.

Maybe in next week’s post. Until then.

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