Breaking Bad: 5.13 - To'hajiilee
There are three episodes left after this Breaking Bad, but you wouldn't know it from watching this episode. This one, in isolation, feels like the first half of the finale, like next week should be the last one. Except it isn't - we still need to go all the way into future skinny bearded Walt. There's a lot to do, and for a while before seeing this, I wondered how they'd ever get there is a satisfactory way.
Now? I'm not really thinking about that anymore. So, what's so great about this episode anyway? Let's talk about it with spoilers.
A taste of your own medicine, bitch?I've mentioned Hank/Walt parallels a few times in past reviews, and here, Walt sees the tables fully turned. His DEA brother-in-law and former sidekick team up to pull the kind of stunt on him that he's been doing on other people for years - only without the inevitable violent ending, because Hank isn't as much of an amoral monster (well, not yet anyway), but the junior partner does say "Bitch!" a few times.
The Hank/Jesse team's slowly unfolding scheme has exactly the pace and excitement of past Walt/Jesse scams, the gentle build and the final "Of course!" moment, culminating in that moment where we, the viewer, realise exactly what's going to happen, but the show doesn't feel the need to spell it out. It just, y'know, happens, because it has to, while we watch with mounting dread. Through clever groundwork, the show has made that the only possible outcome, and why didn't we (or Walt) think of it before?
In particular, Walt's flight into the desert whilst pleading with Jesse on the phone, and everything after that, might be one of my favourite sequences in the season so far, perhaps even the entire show. If this had been the beginning of a conclusion, or even the actual climax, to the entire Breaking Bad story, I wouldn't have been disappointed. But apparently Walt has further to fall than this, which is both exciting and genuinely unsettling. Are we headed for an even more terrible version of the Gus set-up, with Walt held prisoner and forced to cook meth until he finally dies?
Anatomy Of A CliffhangerMore immediately, will anyone die as a result of that final shootout? Conventional TV wisdom says that if they're going to kill someone in a final moment, they show the death, but if your heroes stay alive long enough to cut to cliffhanger, they're probably going to escape. Will Breaking Bad buck that trend? I mean, I thought Hank was screwed as soon as he stopped for an emotional chat with Marie, but maybe they'll just take Agent Gomez out instead. Or neither.
Anyway. Outside the action-packed final few minutes, we get a reminder of Andrea and Brock, Walt Jr getting enjoyably starstruck by Saul (sensing he ought to befriend that guy quick for a gig on his potential spinoff show) and more insight into the strange world of Todd, a puppy dog who wants to please everyone so just obeys his most recent order. His storyline has finally crashed back into Walt's, but I still feel like there's more to come from Lydia and her mysterious business connections. Another reason I'm glad there's three episodes to go.
Will beardy Walt emerge next week? Will Hank survive? I honestly don't have a clue. Breaking Bad is car crash television in the good way, headed for a disaster that we can't seem to predict or stop watching. I literally have no complaints. One of the best episodes so far in an already excellent season.