“Breaking Bad” plays with anticipation and tension, like knowing when to throw napalm at your brain while your eyes follow the trail and wait for the impact. From ending episodes with grand moments of violence – Gale’s and Gus’ death, or Walt running over the dealers – this time the action cuts at the end of the episode right in the middle of apocalypse.
The maneuvering of the show toward this tense standoff has been deftly paced in terms of plot and conflict. Todd is nowhere as good as Walt at cooking and can’t stand up to the percentage of purity and the blue branding of the Heisenberg era. Parallel storytelling converges at the desert with all different parties there for differing motives, some lead there by revenge and others by desperation.
Hank and Jesse’s crackdown on Walt was impressive and well played. From duping Huell with a fake hit to Jesse bluffing about finding Walt’s money, this made for just and satisfying ploys to burn Walt.
In this episode Jesse finally got a taste of what it is like to be in control. In his tirade against Walt on the phone Jesse was able to do the manipulating for once, and the look on Jesse’s face when Walt made the slow walk toward them after being caught vulnerable in the desert was altogether bittersweet, vengeful and tragic. How it led to this, appropriately set where they first cooked together, in a flurry of violence makes survival seem impossible.
Jesse was right when he said that part of the reason Walt always comes out on top is because he’s lucky. This season began with a flash forward, making it easy to believe that Walt would somehow make it out of Hank’s clutches. Despite that, the defeat on Walt’s face, conveying how everything that he had to do for his family may have been for nothing, as well as his compliance brought humanity back to an otherwise morally compromised and evil character. Walt, reaping all coming suffering, must be dragged away by isolation and forced to lose his family or legacy. From what dust will Walt be able to scrap together his will to live on?
Walt could have ruthlessly ordered Todd’s crew to bring the onslaught, but Hank is family and that’s where the last straw lies. But of course, without having to ask, hell’s legion comes along, making for a tense and slowed down climax to the series. Walt screaming for Todd’s crew to stop was unsettling and claustrophobic because he was helpless to do anything from the inside of the SUV. Of course the show had to cut at that moment because everything after that cut will be the result of what will happen in the next few moments, which would have been too much advancement for the last few minutes of the episode.
It’s not enough to guess who will die and how, but instead to consider what these characters will end up doing should they remain alive. Perhaps we will be able to see the reason behind Walt needing a heavy machine gun and the ricin, or whether those will even be enough.