Season 5 of Breaking Bad has been an exercise in patience for fans of the hit show. When the announcement was first made that the show’s fifth season would be its last, it was a shock to viewers who had assumed that the adventures of their favorite meth dealers may go on forever and even more of a blow when only the first eight episodes of the fifth season aired, leaving the fate of Walt and Jessie up in the air for almost another year. The mid-season cliffhanger left viewers on the edge of their seats since it first aired.
Now that both Jesse and Walt are out of the meth business, would they stay out? Will Walt finally be able to repair the damage he has done to his family? How will Hank react, now that he knows that the man he has been tracking for over a year has been right under his nose the entire time? Viewers were treated to some answers this past Sunday as the first of the final eight episodes aired.
The premiere starts with a flash forward, showing Walter as he goes back to his home on his 52nd birthday. The home is now abandoned and has become a hangout to various teenagers who skate the empty pool in the backyard when taking a break from spraying graffiti on the walls (one such tag reads “Heisenberg”, letting the viewer know that the truth eventually does come out). This cryptic scene was almost immediately pushed to the back of the viewer’s mind as the story continues in the present day.
Having found the break he has been looking for, Hank now understands the old proverb “be careful what you wish for,” and is dealing with the truth behind Heisenberg’s real identity. Through the entire episode, we see the emotional toll that this new knowledge is having on Hank and the confident facade that he usually presents has fallen to the side as he connects the dots. With the final piece of the puzzle in hand, he reexamines the Heisenberg case, taking the viewer on a bit of a retrospective of the show while Hank’s idea of who his brother-in-law truly is crumbles bit by bit.
Walter is living the life of an everyman and has taken to the car washing business very well, even rejecting an old associate’s invitation to come back to the meth/empire business. For the first time, viewers are treated to a glimpse of the family man that Walt is capable of being and it is one of the only episodes during the series where viewers see that Walt can be happy, even without being the king of his empire. The irony in this is that with Hank’s recent discovery, he has never been closer to losing everything than he is right now.
Jesse isn’t faring too well and now realizes that all of his money is blood money, pure and simple. This realization has left him broken and the Jesse that fans have grown to love was almost absent.
In his place stood a character who is so damaged that he would rather throw his money out his car window, almost in an effort to be absolved of his sins, than deal with the burden on his conscience. The episode leads to a confrontation that will have viewers anxious to see the repercussions.
Writer Peter Gould’s familiarity with these characters resonates throughout the episode. Every sentence that is uttered carries some sort of message and there is not a single line wasted.
Even the random conversation that reveals that Jesse’s two best friends are actually huge Star Trek fans adds to the atmosphere of the scene and emphasizes that Jesse is in fact just another human trying to survive the best way he can.
Bryan Cranston took the directing duties this time out and he definitely inspired some of the cast’s best performances to date. Dean Norris deserves an Emmy for his portrayal of Hank in this episode. The gamut of emotions that Hank goes through during this episode ranged from disbelief, to betrayal, to confusion, to anger, and everything in between, and Norris pulled it off flawlessly.
The next line, uttered by Heisenberg himself, was enough to turn any sane human’s blood to ice: “If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.”
The episode was wrought with enough suspense and emotion, not to mention pure depth when it came to the story, that it could have almost been a series finale itself.
Instead, it was simply an opening episode which added layers to the character’s lives that fans can only hope will be peeled away as the show nears its conclusion.
The series remains one of the most well written shows on television and fans can bet that it will only get better as the story comes to a close.