I’m going to be talking about Season Five of AMC’s excellent crime drama, Breaking Bad. Specifically, the first 8 episodes which left Breaking Bad fans desperate for the final 8. Since everyone had to wait during the Breaking Bad hiatus, I decided to blog my impressions on the half-season before continuing my watch of the show.
As always, if you’ve not seen Breaking Bad, this post will be spoilery, yo.
Usually I breakdown a Breaking Bad season in more than one post, doing a recap in one post and observations in another. Since I only have a half-season to talk about, I’ll provide both a recap and observations in this post. If you’re not interested in my recap but mysteriously are interested in my thoughts, feel free to skip down. You animal.
In last season’s finale: Walt was on the outs with Gus, Jesse was his cook, and Mike was recovering from being shot. Then Gus was assassinated with a wheelchair bomb.
At the end of this season, Walt was voluntarily out of the meth business with a giant pile of money, Jesse was wracked with another load of guilt, and Mike was the opposite of recovering from being shot.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
- The season starts with Walt in the future on his 52nd birthday, with another identity, out of state plates, and has purchased some high powered weaponry from his arms dealer. And that’s the last we see of the future.
- After Gus’ death, the DEA makes the connection between Fring and the super-lab. The protection on Hank and family ceases. Walt tries to get rid of any evidence, but realizes that the DEA by now has video surveillance footage from the lab.
- He uses the need to get rid of evidence as leverage to enlist Mike Ehrmantraut in the the video records’ destruction.
- With magnets, bitches!
- Walt wants to get Mike in on a new operation, he needs to replace the money Skyler gave to Ted but Mike has no interest. Completely no interest. Walt’s lucky Mike just doesn’t shoot him on general principle.
- Walt’s not the only one wanting to clean up things. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, Gus’ connection to Madrigal Electromotive GmbH is terrified that any one of Gus’ former employees, Mike’s “guys”, will turn informant. She wants Mike to kill them, Mike wants Lydia to relax.
- The destruction of the laptop inadvertently reveals foreign accounts with the drug money for Mike’s guys. The DEA cleans out those funds. Mike’s now interested in working with Walt and Jesse but they need methylamine.
- Lydia can’t handle her anxieties, so she hires one of Mike’s former men to kill Mike and the others. That doesn’t work out as she expects.
- Mike spares her, as long as she can provide the methylamine precursor.
- Saul sets up the team with a new operation. Vamonos Pests pest control allows Walt and Jesse to cook meth in residential neighborhoods, using homes vacated during a scheduled pesticide application.
- Skyler is terrified that the children are in danger since Walt is continuing his drug operations.
- At the end of her rope, she attempts to drown herself in the pool during Walt’s 51st birthday.
- Hank and Marie agree to take Flynn and Holly temporarily to allow Skyler and Walt some space. Temporarily quickly becomes indefinitely.
- When Jesse is picking up precursor from Lydia’s warehouse, a police tracking device is discovered.
- Mike suspects Lydia was responsible to avoid having to cooperate as the methylamine supplier, but since Walt managed to bug Hank’s office, Lydia is cleared of this allegation. But Mike’s in favor of killing her anyway.
- She puts them on to the idea of stealing a thousand gallons of methylamine from a train shipment, sparing her life by having the logistical details.
- The team enlists Todd and Saul’s A-Team member (that Irish Guy) in a Ocean’s 11 style heist. The goal is to steal the chemicals with no one being the wiser, and with no deaths.
- But this kid shows up:
- And this happens:
- The alliance crumbles after this.
- Mike and Jesse want to sell their share of the methylamine and end operations, Walt refuses to part with his share, caught up in the idea of being in control of a drug empire.
- Walt has never forgiven himself (or Elliot and Gretchen) for the buyout of his share in Gray Matter. The methylamine buyout is too similar for Walt.
- Walt steals all of the methylamine long enough to get Mike and Jesse to agree to his plan. They’d still be paid, but he’ll keep the chemical precursor and provide the blue meth product to Declan, Mike’s out-of-town connections. Mike agrees to pay the legacy costs to his men from his share.
- The DEA catch Mike’s lawyer distributing funds to the guys.
- Mike needs to flee, Walt volunteers to bring Mike his getaway cache. Walt demands to know the names of Mike’s guys, since they’ll need to be silenced. He is refused and in a fit of anger, shoots Mike.
- Walt and Jesse have a falling out and Walt refuses to pay Jesse, who is not interested in pursuing it.
- Walt decides to get the names from Lydia and brings ricin to deal with her as well. Lydia unknowingly saves her life by bringing Walt in on a deal to distribute his prime product to Czechoslovakia.
- Walt gets an introduction to Todd’s uncles, who wield tremendous influence in the Albuquerque area prison population. At Walt’s insistence, the uncles arrange a massive assassination operation, killing all of Gus’ incarcerated employees who could provide information to the DEA.
- Hank, who had been actively pursuing the investigation into Gus’ business, is left with nothing.
- Months go by with huge profits coming to Walt, who is training Todd in the meth cooking business. Skyler convinces her husband to come with her to a storage unit she’s renting.
- The pile of money she’s been collecting for laundering is huge and uncountable. She asks Walt how much is enough.
- He agrees that they have enough.
- Walt’s out. He brings Jesse bags of money, the cut from the original methylamine deal. Jesse had expected Walt to try and kill him.
- The kids return home. The Whites and the Schraders have a nice dinner together, like old times.
- Hank, in the master bathroom, finds interesting reading material: the signed copy of Leaves of Grass that Dale Boetticher gave to Walter in Season Three.
Time for observations.
Gus Fring’s Operation
With Mike dead, that’s the last of Gustavo Fring’s Pollos Hermanos operation, right? Gus is dead, his cartel entanglements were dead from the previous season, Mike’s guys are dead, and Mike is dead. So that’s it, right?
Nope. Now we have Lydia, possibly the last link with Gus’ old operation. Will Lydia become the new dangerous complication in Walt’s existence? Walt has always had to deal with Hank in one way or another, but it has always been his allies in the meth production/distribution business that have turned out to be the incredibly dangerous threats to his safety.
Even though he’s out, he has to somehow deal with the stop in production to Declan’s out-of-town distributors and Lydia international market in the Czech republic. Maybe this is why Walt has a new identity and an assault weapon.
Skyler the Hostage
Skyler spends most of the season trapped. As broken emotionally as Ted is physically, she’s unable to keep Walt from just moving back in. Walt uses Skyler’s breakdown in front of Marie to his advantage, bringing up the affair with Ted as an explanation and to garner sympathy from his sister-in-law.
Skyler’s only victory is in getting the kids out of the house, but that’s a situation that can’t improve. Her only leverage is to assure Walt that if he can guarantee their safety, she’ll be any kind of partner that he wants.
Once Walt declares he’s out, Skyler lives up to her bargain, acting the part of the loving wife. But clearly, she’s still hostage to Walt. He’s not the man he married, and she has to live with her responsibility for Ted.
Skyler is hoping for Walt’s cancer to return. If it does, it’s a death sentence and it would only be a matter of time before she’d be free of Walt.
Meanwhile, Walt’s cancer has symbolically returned in the form of Hank. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that cancer is just unfairly insidious in that it’s the body’s own cells at work. Someone is never truly clear because at some point in the future, their body might start producing cancerous cells. It’s scary that it’s always so close.
Hank’s pursuit of Heisenberg is like that. Hank is close to Walt, he’s always around. Even though Walt went to great lengths, painful and dangerous lengths to throw Hank off the track, it was only a matter of time before Hank came across Leaves of Grass. Or some other clue.
Walt and Jesse and My Complicated Feelings
Thoughout the show, it has always pained me when these two argued, and has always made me happy when they were in sync.
I can’t really explain this. I’m not in favor of their operations. They should go to jail. But the show is so good at sucking me in, that I bizarrely want them to succeed, and whenever they are at odds, I feel bad.
I mean, Walter White is awful. But even when he’s being scary and creepy, there’s something about the way Bryan Cranston plays him that includes that bumbling hapless person we met in the first episode of Season One. He still has that Malcolm in the Middle aspect.
Anyway, I’m endlessly annoyed at myself for finding myself cutting Walt a break.
I guess I should feel the same about Mike. I can’t help but like Mike. He’s that lovable granddad. And he’s a super-criminal. He must have wrecked dozens of lives.
At the end of the season, Walt is doing well, but when he decides to get out, he feels the need to bring Jesse the money from the last deal. Jesse’s opinion of Mister White has always been important to Walt. It’s not inexplicable, it’s just unclear why that is. Maybe it’s because the two of them have shared so much. There was a time in Walt’s life when he had no one but Jesse to confide in, to meaningfully share his journey with cancer.
Jesse remains the one who unexpectedly acts like a family member. Like on Walt’s 51st birthday.
At their final scene, they casually talk about the problems with their RV. They both seem so relieved that they can talk about something that they can both laugh at, a neutral topic, rather than go into all the painful things hanging over their heads.
Jesse has a gun in case Walt’s there to kill him. Since Jesse knows about the prison murders, he must suspect Walt was behind that. He might suspect Walt of other things, like Brock’s poisoning.
Even though I have all these “I hope they get away” notions (and to be fair, I also want them to get caught, okay, I am an Eagle Scout) if anyone brings Walt down, I’d want it to be Jesse and not necessarily Hank. Although a Hank-Jesse team up would be great.
It’s Usually the Coverup, and Not the Crime
Walt, Jesse, and Mike’s complicated efforts to eliminate Gus’ laptop was amazing. But even more amazing was the fact that had they done nothing, they would have been safe. The laptop was encrypted and with the DEA unable to get at the video, all activities at the lab would have remained a mystery.
Also, the offshore financial accounts would have remained safe. The damage done by the Heisenberg Magnet not only wrecked the evidence container, it wrecked Mike’s carefully constructed legacy cost operation for his guys.
Which pulled Mike back into business with Walt and Jesse, etc.
The Meth Operation
Over the seasons, it’s been interesting to see how Walt’s cooking adapts. From the RV cook, to the disastrous cooking at Jesse’s house that gave his parents the grounds to evict him, to back in the RV, then into Gus’ high tech super lab.
With the lab gone, where would they be cooking? I half-expected them to be cooking at the carwash (on a smaller scale), but I was not expecting them to be cooking in people’s homes. This suburban invasion was so subtly insidious, starting out their cooks in the middle of nowhere, to the protection of industry, then finally involving unwitting and innocent families as shields for their operation.
I’d expect them to move into a daycare center next, at this rate.
The Secondaries were Extra Secondary
We didn’t get a lot of Walt Junior or Marie this season, although they were consistently in the episodes in their respective roles. Poor Junior is so in the dark, as innocent as Holly. Well, no one can be that innocent, but luckily Walt Jr. doesn’t know how evil his dad has become. Because unlike Skyler, I think he’d tell.
Speaking of telling, Walt asking Marie not to tell Hank about Skyler and Ted was great. Because of course she’d tell Hank. That’s what Marie does.
I want to believe that Walt told Marie specifically so she would tell Hank, to let Hank interpret any oddness through that lens. It’s one thing if someone tells you something directly, it’s another thing if you discover it indirectly… you believe it more.
I think Walt was setting up a level of protection, shielding him from Hank’s natural nosy nature.
There are things that I hope I learn about in the final 8 episodes, although it’s not critical if I don’t, because the show is so awesome.
- what happened between Walt and Elliot and Gretchen that lead up to the buyout? I assume it’s mostly Walt’s fault, and it might be okay if I never find out, but I’m curious.
- what happened to Walt’s employment at Sandia National Labs? A few seasons ago we see younger Walt and Skyler buying their home, as a starter home. What brought Walt from Sandia to High School?
- will we ever meet Marie’s therapist Dave?
- what’s the deal with Walt and his mother? There seemed to be references to some serious estrangement back in Season Two.
- speaking of estrangement, will Jesse re-hook up with his parents, or his little brother?
- will Jesse ever learn about Jane Margolis’ death being Walt’s fault?
Lydia is her own mystery. This might totally mean nothing, but she seemed more concerned about her daughter never finding her again (if Mike took her out to the desert for a shallow grave service) than if her daughter found her with a bullet in her head.
WHY IS THAT? She seemed so frantic, it made me think that it was a situation that had happened to Lydia and someone she’d loved.
Seasons ago, we learned that Gus Fring had left Chile, a nation that had been plagued by a right-wing dictatorship and vigilante death-squads who would make people “disappear.” Lydia worked for Gus, I don’t know her background. Could she have been from Chile too?
I hope someone shoots him in the face. Hopefully Jesse does.
Things I Especially Loved
The train heist. I loved how it was a departure from the usual criminal activities. I loved the planning, the execution, how Jesse’s morality and insistence that no one get hurt was a feature.
I was losing my mind during the siphoning, as the train was about to start up but Walt was keeping Todd and Jesse working on the operation. Then the train went off. And I breathed a sigh of relief. Yay! Crime!
And then that kid showed up. And it was crazy intense. Just that moment. I was freaking out. How were they going to get out of this? They’d have to make some kind of deal with the kid. This was a tremendous complication. A ton of things were going through my mind, but none of them involved shooting the kid. Because that was unthinkable.
Then Todd shot him. And of course, I was horrified and to my dismay, relieved. What the hell? How dare they make me have complicated emotions. How dare they? That was awesome.
But someone needs to put Todd in the ground.
Things I’m Not Crazy in Love With
I still don’t know why Saul puts up with Jesse and Walt. It seems like their shenanigans aren’t worth the money. But I love Saul in the show.
I still don’t know if I buy Jesse’s ricin cigarette being extracted during the frisking, or how Walt managed to poison Brock.
I’m not happy that Mike died. It’s not a fault of the show, I’m just not happy about Mike dying.
So, I am a huge fan of Jesse, and Aaron Paul’s performance, because despite him being a drug dealer, he’s earnest and has that aura of (selective) goodness about him. The thing I don’t like about Jesse: sometimes he’s out-of-character. Like the time he was planning on selling meth to customers in rehab, or in Season Three when he’s annoyed that they aren’t making more of a cut from Gus. It seems out of place with the guy who saw the child living with addicts, or later being unwilling to stand up to Walt for the five million.
I bring these things up, not so much to argue with anyone or say that the show is bad. I just think that even excellent television might have elements that don’t work for me entirely. And I’d like to point that out.
And I did.
Okay, I can now finally start watching the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad.
Images are obviously from AMC’s Breaking Bad.
I make no claim to any of the artwork obviously, but I do make some claim to the text of this posting. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved