Aug 302013


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?


  15 Responses to “Breaking Bad Final 8 So Far: The White House Fades to Black”

  1. A minor aside: How come the Whites were always washing dishes in the kitchen sink, when we see an open dishwasher door in the Confessions opening scene.

    • I know it seems strange, Ruthie, but lots of folks still hand wash dishes even though they have a machine to do that. My folks still do it, most of what we hand wash can go into the dishwasher but they refuse to use it for anything other than actual dishes, cups and silverware. I had a friend who never ever used hers because her family never dirtied enough dishes at a time to justify running the thing, and she couldn’t stand knowing she was letting dirty dishes sit in a machine while she waited to fill it enough to run it.

      • It could be that it’s not a very powerful dishwasher. Mine is basically only good for sterilizing.

  2. The cast of Breaking Bad was at ComiCon and in a Q&A with the audience, someone asked Bryan Cranston a trick question along the lines of, did he feel Walt deserved to die and would that be the worst that could happen to him? Clearly, Cranston wasn’t going to bite but his response was intriguing, again, along the lines of what if Walt lost his family instead? Wouldn’t that be worse than losing his own life?

    It’s something many viewers of Breaking Bad may also be thinking could happen but my fantasy is not that Skyler, Walt Jr. and Holly die some horrible death of vengence (which for me is too painful to imagine though it could happen), but that Skyler manages (by threatening Saul?) to get new identities for them and they ‘disappear,’ out there living their lives somewhere out of the reach of Walt, who is tortured by losing them in this way every day of his life.

    Who has the money in the end (I personally think Huell and company put a GPS on Walt’s car and that they have cashed in – recall that Walt didn’t check the vehicle for a device), what happens to Hank, Marie and Jesse is anyone’s guess and how my fantasy squares with the machine gun and ricin is beyond me!

    • Its a nice theory, but in reality Walt didn’t even bury the cash exactly where the car was located. He buried it and then got exact coordinates for that location, not the location of the car. Huell and company would have to dig up a whole lot of desert in that area just to look for the barrels, which are buried pretty deep. Thus why Walt needed to know the exact coordinates-using just a plain old GPS tracker wouldn’t tell him the precise location, only a general area.

      Regardless, it was pretty clear that Huell and that other dude already pocketed some of Walt’s cash when they gathered it up for him. First they lay on top of it, then they rolled on it a little, then they agreed that there wasn’t much chance Walt would know the exact amount in the storage container. While on said it would be easy to take a little and no one would know, the other mentioned that Walt’s had a lot of people killed already and maybe they shouldn’t risk it. We didn’t see them take the money, but it was implied that they did. Then, when Walt takes the van he gives them some cash for their trouble, and they look a little sheepish because they’d already skimmed.

      Walter is a monster, and Saul’s guys don’t really want to cross him and take all his money. Highly unlikely.

      • It would be impossible for Walt to know if they’ve skimmed a tiny amount off the top. He doesn’t even know how much money is in there! They stopped counting it when the pile reached their mid-thighs.

        • But THEY don’t know if Walt knows how much is there. They DO know how ruthless Walt can be, so the question becomes do they risk it or not?

  3. Boy am I glad to finally see something about this show that’s not thrown into the Friday Basket of News post!!!! About damn time, yo.

    The way this show is rolling towards its conclusion is incredible. Such a build up over the years and its actually paying off in how intense these episodes are. The show had its highest ratings EVER for this year’s premiere, and it handily beat out True Blood’s final two episodes for this season in the ratings game. The second episode of BB this “season” had more viewers than the season finale of TB, which is a pretty big deal because TB finales usually set records of their own and MM has NEVER beaten TB in ratings. Go Gilligan and company! Show ’em all what REALLY good television looks like!

    I would love to see an analysis of how Skyler has changed so much over the show’s time frame. I think she is the one character that’s shown the most growth and change, not Walt or Hank, and that she has definitely gotten a bad rep from fans in the past, for no good reason. While it appears she fully supports Walt now, and indeed is willing to keep helping him hide his crimes, all that cooperation is predicated on her belief that he is fully out of the game. Should ANYTHING occur to force him back into “that” business, I see her cooperation going right out the window. Which in essence means that she isn’t really supporting Walt when she defends them both, but that she is ultimately protecting herself. I don’t think she would hesitate for a second to throw her dear hubby under the bus to save her and the kids if he gets re-involved with Lydia, et al. THAT may be how Walt ends up “losing” his family-not through death but by Skyler finally handing his identity over to authorities in some way, either by going into witness protection or by planning to get new identities from Saul’s dude.

    Are we going to be getting open threads for the last 5 episodes of the show? Or is that too much to wish for? I cannot even go to Sepinwall’s blog for BB discussion anymore, so I hope we at least keep getting recaps here.

    • We haven’t put up an OT on BB this year because we haven’t had someone to moderate it from the time it goes up until the time it concludes on the West Coast (5 PM to 10 PM Pacific, 8 PM to 1 AM Eastern). I can’t do it because I only have SD cable and don’t see the show until 9 PM Pacific time (midnight Eastern), so modding the thread before that would spoil the episode for me. But yes, I am planning to post recaps and other stuff from here ’til the end.

      As for Skyler, I think she might just be more afraid of Walt than she is of Hank, more than she’s actually on Walt’s side. That last episode she looked kind of sick about what Walt had done. But yes, she’s definitely a character who can’t win no matter what she does.

      • Thank you for doing the recaps, Meowser!

        • Rowan, I kinda like your theory that Skyler turns Walt’s identity over to the authorities in return for witness protection – better than her turning to Saul, which is what I thought. It’s makes for an ending with some justice, but what is Walt doing showing up at the house, in that case, back in Albuquerque. Sigh. Too much ruminating, we’ll just have to wait. I can’t stand it!

          • Tanta, I think that maybe she turns his name over to authorities, gives up his identity in a way that allows him the chance to get escape town. As long as he is no longer part of their lives and they get to start over, what does she care what happens to him or the White family name. This theory would explain why everybody knows who Heisenberg is and why he’s not in custody.

            As for his return to ABQ, I think it has to do with Jesse. Now that we’ve seen last night’s ep, I think even more that this is what happens-Lydia, Little Ricky Hitler and his crazy uncle end up taking Jesse away instead of killing him to force him to cook for them since they cannot get Walt to do it. Walt’s identity is revealed to the public in some way and he flees town until he can get back safely to try and rescue Jesse. A machine gun like he bought-at least I think that’s what it is-would be good for an open kind of attack like that out in the desert. The ricin would be for Walt’s own personal use so that he doesn’t die from wounds in a shoot out or so that he doesn’t die in prison, either.

            Obviously, the only way Walt ends up back at that house after he is known to all to be Heisenberg is because he was never caught when his secret got out. There’s only a couple of things that would then bring him back, either needing to save his family or Jesse somehow.

            Or, if that’s too specific, I’ll put my theory this way-that weapon Walter bought is not good for close quarters killing. That would be for a long-range sort of attack on somebody/something. The ricin is for close up killing, either of oneself or someone else you cannot get at with another weapon. We saw how Todd’s uncle and his buddies used heavy firepower to wipe out Lydia’s other “crew” out in the middle of nowhere, and so it fits that Walter would use a machine gun from a distance to pull a similar sort of attack on the same people. We know Lydia wants his help and that he refuses. Hank’s not going to do anything to help Jesse in any way, so if Jesse disappears and he still gets to “get” Walt, Hank won’t care. But Walt clearly still does, in some way. He ran gangbangers down with his car on a public street to save Jesse, I can totally see him waging a full on attack with that weapon to save him again. Especially if he’s ready to give up and die after he helps Jesse.

      • Yes, thanks so much for the recaps, Meowser. It’s great that you’re doing this.

        I agree with the opinion expressed here that Skyler is terrified of Walt. I rewatched the early episodes of Season 5, when Maria and Hank took the kids so Walt and Skyler coulf work things out. All of Walt’s bullying, manipulative ugliness towards Skyler came out in these episodes and it’s clear she’s trapped.

        But, having said this, I still don’t often understand her, how she could become part of this, in the way that she has. There’s an Insider Podcast on Breaking Bad that’s up every week and I’ve listened to Anna Gunn try to explain Skyler’s motives. It makes sense – that Skyler, too, relies on her intelligence, as Walt does, and thinks she can use it to control the situation. But it doesn’t work and then she’s just lost inside of it.

        I guess what shocks me is that her concern for her children’s safety surfaces most intensely after some major awfulness has happened – Gus’s death, for example – yet there’s a blindness to the fact that the children may be in danger every day. I find that oversight astounding. I know Walter doesn’t give her details but does she read the news? Her behavior mystifies me and tries my empathy at times.

        A funny thought I had a couple days ago – that Walt and Skyler are like a couple of co-dependent, crazy meth heads, totally out of control and in a fantasy world, engaging in more outlandish behavior that can only lead to destruction.

      • I’ve always enjoyed the live commenting here during BB & MM, but until recently I didn’t have access to the earlier East coast feed. Now I can watch with the fans back East, instead of 3 hours later at 9 PM (PT). It never made sense to participate with the live commenting, since I couldn’t see what everybody else was seeing, but I do like the re-caps. Thanks, Meowser!

  4. […] now we know the reason for the house being in the dire condition it was in during the flash forward in Blood Money: the bank has seized the property and, since Walt […]

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