Honestly, I'm starting to kind of envy the Netflix crowd. I wouldn't want to be stuck waiting months and dodging spoilers, mind you, but the process of marathoning these final episodes of Breaking Bad seems pretty exciting: it seems that we're progressing along a seamless causal chain at this point, with no release of tension between episodes; this would make for one hell of an experience taken all at once. Much like when Hank emerged from the bathroom last week, we resume the prior action down to the minute, this time signified by an opening garage door. And also like last week, the aftermath just beyond the credits is a thrilling prospect.
When last we saw Hank and Walt, they had come clean about their suspicions and in turn come to blows. As they emerge from Hank's garage, their shared first impulse is to call Skyler, with Hank beating Walt to the punch.
Hank and Skyler meet up for coffee, where he's deeply sympathetic: he's finally making sense of her unusual behavior -- the pool-jumping, giving up the kids -- and he's happy to place all the blame on Walt. Things get weird, however, when he tries to get Skyler to start testifying then and there. Skyler sensibly concludes that she might need a lawyer on hand, while Hank is uncompromising in his desire to get Walt behind bars. Communications break down.
While Hank is meeting Skyler, Walt is getting his affairs in order with Saul. Saul offers his own brand of comfort and understanding, floating the possibility that he'd have a much better shot if both his money and his brother-in-law disappeared -- as he says to Walt, "It's an option that has worked very well for you in the recent past." For the time being, Walt still has his limits, drawing the line at family.
Hank's next move with Skyler is to send in Marie. The strategy backfires as Marie learns the depth of Skyler's involvement with Walt's business, leading to an angry stand-off when Marie tries to take Holly. Doing his best to remain diplomatic, Hank manages to talk Marie down.
While I've accepted that Walt is a monster for quite some time, I don't think I was ever really rooting for Hank to be the one to take him in. That's starting to change: Hank's humanity and diplomacy with Skyler make him the closest thing this show has to a good guy, and his determination to take down Heisenberg by any means necessary is totally understandable. While he's been a solid supporting presence throughout the show, it's starting to look like this is Dean Norris' season.
Pride Before Fall
Walt buries his money in the desert, passing out in his trademark tighty whities shortly after he arrives home that night. Sensing that this might be the end, he offers to turn himself in on the condition that Skyler keep all the money -- otherwise, it will all have been for nothing. Her reaction is a subtle character paradigm shift: since they can't keep the money if Walt goes down, she breaks a bit bad herself and suggests that they keep quiet for now.
Lydia, meanwhile, is on meth lab duty tonight: Heisenberg's old operation isn't meeting its promised standards, largely because Todd was fired for starting a fire -- he was the last prodigy of Heisenberg, and the new crew isn't using his methods anymore. When they refuse to take Todd back, she signals for the entire operation to be killed by mercs. In one of the most character-appropriate visuals since her introduction, Lydia is led by Todd through a minefield of corpses while she covers her eyes.
The hour winds down with the first hints of what I suspect might be Hank's undoing: even with the diary, the boxes of evidence and the wealth of potential witnesses, he refuses to put his case against Walt on the books until he has absolute proof. Honestly, this seems like the biggest leap of faith the show has asked in quite some time: I understand that Hank's in a delicate situation career-wise here, but surely catching Walt should trump any personal embarrassment he might feel. The longer he holds off on this, the less I'll be willing to buy it.
That said, at the rate we're going, this whole season might wind up taking place within a week. Hank does wind up returning to the office the next day, and though there's no indication that he's going public yet, he does take interest in the fact that a silent, despondent Jesse Pinkman was picked up for tossing millions of dollars around all over the suburbs in the dead of night.
Though the odds aren't entirely in favor of it, Hank could conceivably build a case around Jesse. The episode's final moments linger on Hank just outside the interrogation room -- here's hoping next week begins with that door opening too.
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(Image courtesy of AMC)