Now that I’m no longer curled up in a ball in the corner, weeping and clutching my teddy bear, maybe I can write something about “Ozymandias,” this week’s aptly named antepenultimate episode of Breaking Bad. Apt because Walt finally did it: he destroyed everything and everyone around him, and himself too. He ran away, and left nothing but ruins in his wake, to be swallowed up and vanished by an uncaring desert.
It begins with a desert flashback to Walt and Jesse’s first cook. Says Walt, “The reaction has begun.” Yes it has, Walt. Outside the RV, Walt rehearses what will be the first of many, many lies. It’s a glimpse of Walt’s first tiny step towards becoming Heisenberg. He and Skyler talk baby names, and she suggests Holly, prompting an “Oh fuck no,” from me. What’s Walt going to do to Holly?! By the end, he’s kidnapped her. He gives her up before taking a ride with Saul’s guy to a new life, cut off from everyone he ever knew. The desert scene is a reminder of where we began before watching where it ends.
Then Walt fades away. Jesse fades away. The RV fades away, leaving nothing but the desert. Until the present day scene fades in. The shooting has stopped. Hank is shot in the leg, and Gomez lies dead. Guess that shoot-out we all thought unbelievable last week was more believable than we thought. Uncle Jack says what we all figured on, that there’s no scenerio where Hank lives. After Walt bullshits as long as he can to keep Hank alive, Hank says the obvious: Jack decided to shoot him ten minutes ago. So he does.
Walt collapses to the desert. Something snaps in him here. He has failed. All his intelligence, all his bullshit, it wasn’t enough, and Hank lies dead. Who does Walt take it out on? Jesse, who he spots hiding under Walt’s car. Walt tells Jack to kill him, because why blame himself for what’s happened when he can blame Jesse? It’s up to Todd to save him. (Todd also has the best line of the episode. He claps Walt on the back after Hank’s been shot and his money’s been taken. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he says, with all the feeling of a greeting card).
Then as Jesse’s being led away, as if it wasn’t evil enough that Walt just told Jack to shoot him, he tells Jesse about watching Jane die. He could have saved her, but he didn’t. Now that is cold. Walter White has been completely devoured. All that’s left is Heisenberg.
And all that’s left to Heisenberg by kindly Uncle Jack is one barrel out of seven, which Walt rolls across the desert. Maybe once he’s spent all the money, he can climb in and dissolve himself. One man, one barrel. Walt’s like a figure from myth, clutching tight the object he thinks will save him, when all along it’s been his grave.
The scenes with Marie and Sklyer and Jr. are heartbreaking. For Sklyer, who realizes the game is up, for Marie, who doesn’t yet know Hank is dead, for Jr., who learns the truth about his parents. The whole episode is emotionally crushing. As my compatriot the Evil Genius put it, you want to put your hand in a blender when it’s all over just to calm down.
Walt goes into standard panic mode at home. Packing everything, ready to run. Skyler and Jr. and Holly come home thinking he’s been arrested, but there he is, yelling at them to hurry up and pack. But they’re not going anywhere. Skyler wants to know what happened to Hank. Walt barely even tries to lie. It’s obvious Hank’s dead. Skyler goes for a knife, and I mean really, how outrageously intense is any TV show allowed to be? I wanted to crawl inside the sofa and never come out.
She slashes Walt’s hand and he tackles her. It takes Jr. to pull him off. His arm protecting his mother, Jr. calls the cops. Walt watches in disbelief, crying over and over again that they’re family! They have to stick together! It’s hopeless. They’re lost to him. He scoops up Holly and runs to the truck.
He scoops up Holly?! Sweet jeebus, Walt.
How to read the phone scene? I took it to mean that there was no more Walt, that only Heisenberg remained. All his rage and hatred of himself he directs at Skyler. He’s as monstrous as we’ve ever seen him. It’s a pure Dr. Jeklly and Mr. Hyde split. He is completely unhinged. He should know the cops are there, but when Skyler tells him they aren’t, he goes on a tirade. Yet part of the tirade is to say that he did it all, that she never helped, that she was against him the whole time, and that as before, she’d better toe the line or else he’ll come for her, just like he came for Hank.
Is this a gambit on Walt’s part? Does he know the cops are listening? Is he saying these things because he knows he’s lost? To give Skyler a hope of escaping without the cops blaming her for what happened? He delivers Holly to a fire station immediately after the call, so maybe his rant was an act. Or partially an act. I don’t think he had to act too hard to access those feelings. Everything would have worked out if nobody had ever gotten in Walt’s way, if he’d just been able to do his thing without interference. Walt is broken. He destroyed himself along with everyone else. So maybe his rage is a kind of final gift to Skyler. He’s takes the blame, and severs all ties.
Poor Jesse, brutally beaten by Todd. He tells him that nobody but Hank and Gomez know about any of it, that the tape he made is at Hank’s house. But Todd’s not going to kill Jesse just yet. Instead he chains him up in the lab. “Let’s cook,” he says. Jesse is the gang’s new meth slave. They’ve even got a photo of Andrea and Brock on the wall, in case Jesse doesn’t get what’s going on.
As the episode ends, with Walt stuffing his lone barrel in Saul’s guy’s SUV and climbing in after it, he’s left his world destroyed. He’s going to a new life in New Hampshire, while everyone else is left to pick up the pieces. What’s going to happen to them? Will Skyler get off of being arrested and prosecuted? Will Marie go insane with grief? Will Jesse escape servitude? I’ve been assuming all along that Walt will return to save Jesse. I guess that’s still in the cards.
The next episode is titled “Granite State,” referring I’d guess to both New Hampshire and Walt’s state of existence. A dead stone. Things aren’t to get any prettier. Keep your blender handy.
Previous in this series:
- Season 1, Episodes 1-3
- Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5
- Season 1, Episodes 6 & 7
- Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2
- Season 2, Episodes 3-5
- Season 2, Episodes 6 & 7
- Season 2, Episodes 8-10
- Season 2, Episodes 11-13
- Season 3, Episodes 1-4
- Season 3, Episodes 5-7
- Season 3, Episodes 8-10
- Season 3, Episodes 11-13
- Season 4, Episodes 1-4
- Season 4, Episodes 5-7
- Season 4, Episodes 8-10
- Season 4, Episodes 11-13
- Season 5, Episodes 1-3
- Season 5, Episodes 4-6
- Season 5, Episodes 7 & 8
- Season 5, Episode 9
- Season 5, Episode 10
- Season 5, Episode 11
- Season 5, Episode 12
- Season 5, Episode 13