One of the most interesting things about the character of Walter White is his cowardice. At times, his alter ego Heisenberg has been the most badass character on TV. But even as he was kicking ass, taking names and getting lucky, he never really had it in him to face the consequences of his actions. This week, Walt's cowardice reaches its zenith, as he escapes to New Hampshire to waste away as a lonely mountain man. His loved ones, however, face a far more direct and brutal punishment.
We finally meet Saul's infamous vacuum repairman, as Saul himself is planning a hasty relocation. Since Walt's own relocation is particularly complicated, they're stuck rooming together while the process is prepared. Walt is determined to rope Saul into some elaborate revenge plan against Jack, but Saul's having none of it -- Walt tries to intimidate him, but he has no leverage anymore. It doesn't matter whether he says it's over or not, it is.
Walt's new setup is an isolated cabin in the New Hampshire mountains with no phone, internet connectivity or TV reception. The vacuum repairman schedules regular checkups to help Walt restock supplies, as Walter's high profile status prevents him from making any contact with anyone. The deal is that he can't go to town at all or he'll be on his own, and after a few months, it begins to wear on him -- he's reduced to paying the repairman an extra $10,000 for an hour of cold company. He wastes away, literally and figuratively.
But even as Walt is left alone and dying, the worst punishment is reserved for the people he left behind. In a particularly startling and effective scene, Todd and a crew of thugs break into Skyler's home and threaten her never to tell anyone about Lydia. Uncle Jack has kind of fallen into the final boss-villain by default, but Todd is very quickly making a case for himself as the scariest guy in Albuquerque. His fascination with Lydia continues, and actor Jesse Plemons is doing a great job mixing simple charm with creepiness and psychopathy.
Poor Jesse gets the worst of it this week, though. After he gets caught escaping from his holding cell, the only reward he receives for his ingenuity is to see Todd shoot Andrea execution-style. It's absolutely brutal, perhaps even excessively so -- while the finale will answer a lot of questions, I'm not quite sure at this point why Jesse is being subjected to such horror. It's widely known that Jesse was originally planned to be killed off in the first season, and that's starting to look like a far more merciful storyline. I guess I'll just have to see what happens next week.
At the end of the episode, Walt makes a risky trip into town to call Flynn's school, trying to send money. As he fumbles to explain himself, he falls on the hollow excuse that he was always motivated by love for his family. As he heads over to the bar, however, his true motivations become clear: what finally brings him back to the real world is a TV interview in which Gretchen and Elliot disparage his contribution to Gray Matter. Walter White wants credit, he wants notoriety. He doesn't want to be forgotten.
I'm glad we get to spend some time with the vacuum man this week -- he's always been a bit of an off-screen deus ex machina, and seeing the actual day to day workings of his operation goes a long way toward making the high concept plot device real.
I'm also really glad that these final two episodes are being given extended run times. With the drastic, snowy change of scenery, the new characters and radical shift in circumstances, this episode feels almost like a movie spin-off of Breaking Bad -- and that's saying something for a show that's always reveled in the cinematic.
Being the penultimate episode, however, this hour's primary concern it to get people amped for the finale. As David Porter's extended theme song kicks in stirringly in the final scene, it succeeds wildly.
The Breaking Bad
series finale airs Sunday, September 29 at 9pm on AMC. Want to add Breaking Bad to your very own watch-list? Download BuddyTV Guide for free for your phone.
(Image courtesy of AMC)