Breaking Bad: 5.14 - Ozymandias
Last week's episode of Breaking Bad was stunning, one of my favourite so far, and I was wondering how they'd follow it. Well, I said that felt like the first of a two-part season finale, and this one could easily have been the second, as all the plates built up for years crash down onto Walter White's head.
But it's not really the end, they've got two more to go. My blood pressure can't take it. Anyway, review with spoilers now.
King of KingsBreaking Bad has always excelled at the caper episode - the big, slow, fun reveal of some complex trick being pulled, using some combination of manipulation, science and smug intelligence. Last week was a great one of those, with the twist that Walt was the victim rather than the trickster. This week, the fun's over and we delve hard into one of the show's other specialties - sheer, raw, bloody tragedy - and further than they have before. In fact, they underscore that by opening with a happier-times flashback to season one, ticking past in agony as we wait to find out what's become of the characters in the present.
One of the darkest, most morally grim moments in Breaking Bad before tonight was Walt standing over Jesse's girlfriend Jane as she died, and it's probably no coincidence that it's thrown back in our faces early on, to get us thoroughly in the mood for this fifty-minute parade of unhappiness. We kick off with the death of Hank, after a cruel tease that there might be a way out, because we've still learnt to trust Walt's gift for bullshit as much as Jesse once did. Alas, this is the final season, he's run out of clever tricks and no-one's interested. Down Hank goes.
Thus begins the disintegration of Walt's delusion that he can be as big a dick as he likes, because he still loves his family. His show of emotion doesn't impress Jack at all, and Hank's death finally drives Skyler to turn her back on him, even as he shouts "We're a family!" at her - little realising that Skyler is actually putting family first, rather than his version where he says the words then does whatever he wants. In fact, a big thread running through these last few episodes has been the characters finally accepting how full of crap most of Walt's rationalisations are.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair...Then we get that knife-fight, and with three episodes to go and Hank already dead, I was genuinely expecting a White family character to go, for that to be the thing that sends Walt off to grow a beard. But no - instead he gets to run away, taking the one family member who doesn't yet have the IQ points to reject him. Or so he thinks, because even that doesn't work. Meanwhile, he's outed to the whole world. Poor bastard.
All of which ends with Walt's despair-inducing, brilliantly acted phone call, the closest to a genuine selfless act of family love he's managed in years - overacting the villain to take the blame off Skyler, then letting Holly go and finally hitting the road. Jesus. Having lost both the money he earnt and the family he claimed to be earning it for, this is pretty much the end, isn't it? Don't turn evil for seemingly-good reasons, folks, it rarely works out.
Even more so than any other week, I have no idea where they're going next. Now that Walt's hit total rock-bottom, are we going to see him earning a little sympathy back? I mean, the villains are literal Nazis who have enslaved his sidekick, surely we can still root for him against them? Have to wait and see. In the meantime, that was one of the most harrowing, sad, brilliant things I've seen in years. Bravo.