Meowser’s note: Due to scheduling difficulties, I was unable to post recaps for episodes 509, 510, and 511. So this will be a summmary/impressions post where we can catch up on the season. My apologies for the delay.
Walt’s house is dead.
Those were the words that began echoing through my mind at the very start of the Breaking Bad season 5A premiere, Blood Money (509), and they’ve only gotten louder through the next two, Buried (510) and Confessions (511). I mean, it’s really, really, really dead. In every sense.
The flash-forward to Walt’s 52nd birthday, a continuation of the scene that began Live Free or Die (501), now takes him to where he used to live, which is a bombed-out shell of what it once was. A padlocked chain-link fence surrounds it, the pool has been drained and skateboarder kids use it as an illegal skate park. The inside has been stripped of all decor and appliances — no carpet, no fridge, no anything — and looks charred. HEISENBERG has been sprayed on one wall with yellow spray paint. All traces of any life whatsoever are gone.
This is a house with which Walt has always had a love-hate relationship. We saw its beginnings in Walt’s life in Full Measure (313), which flashed back to when Skyler was pregnant with Walter Jr./Flynn (what’s he calling himself now, anyway?) and Walt was a chemist for Sandia Labs who thought this humble little ranch home was beneath someone of his stature, but was talked into buying it as a starter home by Skyler. He lost that stature and became a high school chemistry teacher making so little money he had to moonlight at a car wash and never did get to move on up, but clearly his initial motive in wanting to cook meth was to allow Skyler to keep that house and raise their children in quiet, normal suburban comfort. Of course, that motive went into the crapper when he saw that he could become the silverback gorilla that he thought he should have been all along, never mind how much danger he put his family in while doing so.
But still, the house was what his children called home, where countless poolside dinners were had with Hank and Marie, where he could feign some semblance of quiet normalcy for as long as he could keep the wool over everyone’s eyes. Remember those scenes in Phoenix (212) when Holly was first born, with Skyler serenely shushing her baby to sleep while Walt was forging his alliance with Gus, Jesse was becoming a heroin addict, and Jane was trying to blackmail him? That house seemed like the ultimate oasis of calm then. But that’s all gone. Walt’s “advice” to Jesse in Blood Money that both of them just relax and enjoy the money they’ve made and forget where it came from now seems like the cruelest of jokes, but at that point, Walt was probably still thinking that if he could just die on his own terms, his family, at least, could enjoy the money, the calm, the fruits of all his death-defying labor.
Now, through the first three episodes, we’ve gone from a nice, tranquil-seeming pool party at Chez White which no one knew at the time would be the very last one ever, to all-out war between the Whites and the Schraders, which was touched off by Hank discovering the truth in Walt’s bathroom. That scene where Walt returns to his condemned home with a full head of hair to retrieve the ricin capsule (which survived whatever else happened to the house), is what, about seven months out in show time? Confessions ends with a livid Jesse breaking in and pouring gasoline on Walt’s carpets, having just realized what he has long suspected, that Walt has been gaslighting him all along. The first three episodes, in fact, have shown a staggering breakdown of nearly all previous relationships on the show past the point of repair. Jesse will never trust Walt or Saul again. Marie will never forgive Skyler, and Hank now cares so little about Walt that he has no sympathy when Walt tells him he has six months to live. And now Walt has gone nuclear and made a truly diabolical fake “confession” video that says Hank is the real Heisenberg, a video believable enough that you know it’s only a matter of time before Hank has no desk to return to, anywhere, ever, and even his nephew who worships him will soon come to believe that Hank was the one who ruined all their lives. Scorched earth, scorched house. We don’t see Jesse light the match, but someone will soon, whether literally or figuratively.
So going back to that flash-forward: Is everyone dead by then except Walt? Or have some of them only faked it? When Walt sees his neighbor, Carol, she goes into a state of shock, and he seems to enjoy the fact that he’s freaking her out. This would seem to indicate that, in fact, Walt has not faked his own death; if he had, he would probably be a lot more nervous about being seen. But she probably did think (or hope?) that he was dead, so he has probably done something so frightening that seeing him standing there feels like a bad acid trip. So why is he using the name Lambert (the maiden name of both Skyler and Marie) on a fake ID, which has his actual birth date on it? Isn’t Marie the enemy as of these last three episodes? And if Walt wanted a brand-new existence, why would he use a name so closely associated with his past? In fact, when he goes into the house, he doesn’t seem especially upset over what he sees — not the spray-painted name on the wall, not the skateboarding kids, not the skin-crawling emptiness and bleakness of it all. You can almost hear him thinking, I never wanted to live in this dump in the first place, and now I never have to again. Fuck quiet normalcy. I never wanted to be normal, not for one second of my life.
Maybe what he looks like he’s thinking and what he’s actually thinking are two very different things, but he has that ricin capsule and that machine gun for something. That house and Walt’s old life may be dead, and he may soon be joining them, but there must be someone whose life he wants to save before he breathes his last, someone who he thinks has a shot at the useful, peaceful — but never dull — life he’ll never get to have. Who could it possibly be?