“Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace.”
We all know that Walt didn’t kill Mike because he thought that he might talk and divulge information about their operation. Perhaps if Mike found out what Walt’s next move was…but the price on his head was too large, and the risk too big. No, what Walt was avenging was a bruised ego.
There’s no doubt about it, given how bluntly he’s stated it, Walt’s creating an empire. And he wants everyone to be at his mercy. The midseason finale, “Gliding Over All,” dealt with what the king of an empire ultimately has to do: cut off any loose ends. And it turns out, there were a lot of them — several men in jail willing to speak up now that Mike (and their money) is gone — all beautifully murdered in one of the series’ best scenes. Wait, did I just say “beautifully murdered”? Because that makes me sound unbelievably sick. But what can I say, it was a beautifully directed scene. In the end of it, however, we’ve come to see just how much Walt has grown from that apathetic, afterthought of a person from the series’ beginning episodes into ruthless survivor.
As soon as the ricin was introduced in this installment, I was half-expecting Skyler to be kicking the bucket by the episode’s end. It’s not that I want her to die or that I think the storyline will go there — it’s just that I believe Walter could be capable of it now. That’s the kind of transition he’s done this entire series. From the beginning, we’ve been watching someone enter into the world of danger and drugs and somehow suffering the consequences for it all. I’m not saying “consequences” as in jail or his life or whatever else, but Walt has paid the ultimate price: his soul. He’s changed down to his core.
This episode solidified it. He quits, yes. He wants his old life back (whatever life Skyler is still willing to give, I don’t know). He wants his kids back, as well. Hell, after telling Jesse they’re no longer partners, he wants him back. And there’s only one way to do that: quitting. But he doesn’t actually get there before murdering nine people in a matter of a couple of minutes. This is Heisenberg now. This is Walter White. Walter White is someone other people have guns at the ready for when he knocks at the door, like Jesse in this episode.
He knows it. A part of him loves it. But this episode was more about him regretting it, pushing away all of the people he cares for and loves. We’ve seen Walt at his darkest moments (and offing nine people is awful as well), but this episode was about him reflecting on what he once had: family. So it’s no wonder that by the time he goes to speak with Jesse about what they once meant to each other, he’s willing to forego the empire he’s built for the relationships he holds dear.
So we’ve seen Walt pay the price by becoming a monster. And he quits. But he’s not getting off that easy. He thought that all he needed was to kill off Gus, but he’s soon realized there are a ton of obstacles in his way to getting back to normal. Namely, he never will. For a show that’s always showing the domino effect of Walt’s actions, now it’s time to directly pay the consequences. And they do it by allowing Hank to read the first page of a Walt Whitman book. What could have seemed cheeky and plain lazy was constructed flawlessly, as is often the case with this series. What other series could introduce something years ago and set it up to be the ultimate demise of its antihero and execute it this perfectly? All those moments Hank had a sneaking suspicion that Walter was the one he had been hunting for this entire time finally just made sense. And Hank’s suffering has finally been vindicated.
But of course, it’s not over yet. There are eight episodes left; Walter is on the lam by series’ end. This episode showed us what a happy ending for our main character would be, but as we know, there’s no such thing as not paying your dues on Breaking Bad. And so we have another eight hours left to see it happen.
In short, a great episode. Season five feels extremely different from the other seasons, and some have told me that they don’t think it’s as good, but I’ve actually been a fan of it. At first, I was weary of there being no Big Bad to fight — but the answer is clear, the Big Bad here is Walt himself. And the tensions between Hank versus Walt that are to come during the latter half of the season (NEXT YEAR, WHY AMC WHY?) are sure to be one for the record books. At this point, who are we rooting for? There’s no wrong answer. I’ve already divulged how sick I am for liking the murder montage. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say a small part of me wants to see Walt succeed. But at the same time, a part of me wants his world to collapse in on him — not because, again, I don’t like him, but because it’s what he’s done to himself.
Ultimately, this series isn’t so much about success or failure, but the consequences that come from those things.