How does a show deliver after a tense, expertly crafted finale that included the explosive death of one of TV’s best villains? Well, you start off with a bizzare teaser that sends viewers into a whirlwind of questions. Then you proceed to pick up the pieces from where you left off because–though Walt the King fails to understand this–nothing significant happens without repercussions (no matter how brilliant you are). Welcome to season 5 of Breaking Bad.
The Mysterious Flash-Forward
The first shot of the season starts with a breakfast plate (which seems to be a common image in Breaking Bad), revealed to be Walt’s 52nd birthday meal at a Denny’s somewhere midway between New Hampshire and California. Here’s what else you need to know: Walt’s alive (though possibly still sick, judging by his cough and pills), his hair has grown back and he’s here on “business” to collect a heavy-duty gun and a bounty of ammunition for a mysterious purpose.
Walt Can’t Get His Due
Then it’s back to present day, right after the events of season 4. After declaring “I won” in a quietly frightening way to Skyler, Walt attempts to have a drink to celebrate his crucial victory over Gustavo Fring. But then his family comes home and he encounters Walt Jr., who can’t contain the news of the Pollos Hermanos honcho’s death and Hank’s implication as a hero in the whole matter. Seeking to avoid his son’s ignorance, Walt tries to talk to his wife, who is more informed of Walt’s hand (albeit vaguely) in the whole fiasco. But Skyler can’t even look Walt in the eye out of fear of her husband. So Walt is left alone to toast to himself in the mirror–until he realizes he left one stone unturned.
As soon as Mike (recovering in Mexico) hears news of his boss’ death, we cut to him driving furiously in the desert towards Jesse and Walt’s approaching vehicle. As soon as he’s out, his gun’s pointed at Walt and Jesse is forced to diffuse the situation. In one of the episode’s telling lines, Mike eventually relents, saying, “What is it with you guys?” alluding to the undeniable (yet unstable) bond between Mr. White and his former student/now partner. With “bigger fish to fry,” the three are forced to group together to find a way to deal with Gus’ laptop with footage of their complicity, now locked up in APD evidence.
The brainstorming session at Jesse’s home highlights the interesting new dynamic with Mike’s added presence. The hitman brings a new skill set and area of expertise to the group, but still clearly distrusts Walt, who’s used to being the brains of the operation. And while Mike has some allegiance to Jesse, like Walt, he doesn’t really treat the “kid” as an equal either. When Jesse finally gets the two to hear his clever solution (“magnets, ohhh!!”) amidst their bickering, their shared expressions creates a priceless moment.
The Magnet Operation
The three men then spend time testing out their plan in a junkyard before executing it in entertaining heist-like fashion. Mike does his part in getting them into the police station surroundings and then Walt and Jesse drive the truck (carrying the magnets) outside the side of the building containing the evidence. Jesse is predictably unsure of himself and at the same time giddy when they manage to escape despite leaving the truck behind. But when Walt ends their questionable accomplishment with a definitive “because I said so,” it’s clear Walt’s attitude has shifted and even Jesse is caught giving him a concerned look.
Dealing with Saul and Skyler
Thankfully Saul is still around, and he tells Skyler the bad news of her troublesome former boss/lover Ted Beneke being hospitalized with serious injuries (an unfortunate result of her request). We see her visit poor Ted, who’s so frightenened and physically impaired, it’s not difficult to see Skyler is following in her husband’s destructive path. Walt goes to deal with Saul on the whole Skyler-Ted Beneke-no money issue and, again, we see a more emboldened, menacing side to Walt when he growls, “We’re done when I say we’re done.”
The New Walt
Even in this first episode, we see subtle hints of Walt’s truer, darker side come to surface. But Walt is too blinded by his own love of power to see that his once selfless motivation for this divergent path has been utterly replaced, leaving behind an estranged family and a loss of clarity. Though Walt thinks he has everything under his control, Gus continues to one-up him (even from the grave) with a bit of exposed evidence in the wake of their magnet operation.
Next week, we continue to build on the three-way partnership including the reluctant Mike and a new lady arrives questioning the identity of Gus’ killer.
(Image courtesy of AMC)