**SPOILER ALERT**: This post is about Episode 9 of Breaking Bad’s final season, entitled ‘Blood Money’ (aka the one that just came out this week). We’ll be going into quite some detail so if you haven’t caught up to this point, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER. We won’t be treading lightly.
At the beginning of Season Five, we saw a very different Walter White. Taking place almost a year into his future, Walt was filthy, bearded and driving in a car with a loaded machine gun in the boot. This is a far cry from the towering man at the end of Episode 8, the drug kingpin who walked away from his business with a mountain of cash and his family back on his side.
The opening teaser of Blood Money finds us returning to future Walt, who goes back to his family’s home on his 52nd birthday. The house we have seen in every episode over the past 5 years has been ransacked and boarded up. The name ‘Heisenberg’ is writ large in graffiti over the living room wall. He catches the eye of his neighbour Carol, who becomes paralysed by fear. If he ever wanted people to remember his name, it seems that Walt’s wish has come true in the worst way possible.
On the flip-side, in the most exciting way possible, this season will be all about Walt’s rapid downfall. To use his own metaphor, Heisenberg’s Empire is about to crumble.
Anyway… at the end of last year’s season, a defecating Hank discovered a copy of Leaves of Grass in Walt’s toilet, complete with an incriminating inscription from Gale. Naturally, it doesn’t take much for Agent Schrader to join the dots and realise that the W.W. from Gale’s lab notes is actually his brother-in-law.
Sent reeling by this realisation, Hank excuses himself from the family barbecue and goes straight into another one of his PTSD attacks, crashing his car into some poor guy’s front garden and sending poor Marie into a fit of worry.
He has all the Heisenberg evidence sent over to his house while he’s on sick leave and he combs through everything he knows about the Albuquerque kingpin. He knows that Walt is the man he’s looking for but he doesn’t have enough evidence to prove it. Knowing what he knows, Hank must realise that his options are really poor at this point.
From where we stand, here are all of Hank’s choices:
1) Go to the DEA and tell his colleagues his brother-in-law is the city’s most dangerous criminal. In the absolute best case scenario, Hank loses his job for unwittingly helping a criminal, accepting his money for rehab and letting him into the DEA office (remember how his old boss got fired just for knowing Gus Fring?). On top of that, Skylar would be implicated in the drug trade, destroying Hank’s relationship with Marie, Walter Jr and baby Holly. In effect: this would end his professional and personal lives.
2) Confront Walt and convince him to turn himself in. However, he knows that Walt has killed Gale, Fring and ten men in prison just to cover his ass – what would compel him to give in now?
3) Kill Walt. This is the least likely option. This is Hank we’re talking about, after all.
3) Nothing. While Hank is the most morally upstanding character on this show, this is pretty much the only thing he can do that won’t shatter his life completely. But will he be able to live with this? Plus, what kind of final season will this be if Hank just keeps quiet.
However, before Hank even has the time to fully consider any of these options, Walt strolls into his garage and forces his hand (literally).
In a total master-stroke of plotting, creator Vince Gilligan and his writers have subverted most viewers’ expectations that the next few episodes would find Hank and Walt heading towards a confrontation. Instead, they come to blows in the very same hour.
With a simple flick of a switch, Hank’s garage door slides closed and he finds himself facing the man he’s been chasing for the past 3 seasons. Walt steps in and begins to do what he does best: work the angles.
He first tries to appeal to Hank’s sense of family.
“I don’t care about family,” Hank spits back. Walt switches tactics and tries to reason with him. He tells him the cancer’s back (true) and that he would never survive past a court case (maybe true). “We both know that I’ll never see the inside of a cell,” Walt gently assures him.
When Hank tries to bring Skylar and the kids into it, Heisenberg comes out and finally pushes the right button: intimidation.
Hank can barely speak: “I don’t even know who I’m talking to.”
Walt takes a breath and whispers a chilling threat: “If that’s true… if you don’t know who I am… then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.”
It’s unbearably exciting.
Walt is always at his most engaged when he has an enemy to fight, be it Tuco, Gus or the DEA. After months of pretending to be a simple local business owner, he’s almost relieved to be drawn back into this world.
Early on in the show’s run, ‘Heisenberg’ was merely a persona Walt created so he would look a bit tougher
But now it seem that “Walter White: Carwash Owner and Family Man” is not a real man any more. It’s merely a mask that Heisenberg finds increasingly hard to wear.
It’s almost impossible to guess what’s going to happen over the next 7 episodes but if there’s thing we know, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Random notes, observations and theories:
- When Walt throws up in his toilet, he kneels down on a folded towel just like Gus Fring did when he was throwing up the poison in Mexico back in Season 4. When Lydia to beg Walt for help at the car wash, he maintains his façade as a local business owner just like Gus did when Mr White first met him at Los Pollos Hermanos. Is Walt becoming Gus? Can we expect a similarly explosive end for him? More on this theory here.
- Speaking of Lydia: I imagine we haven’t seen the last of her. Who is running her crew now? We’re thinking that Todd and the prison Nazis might be paying Walt a visit pretty soon.
- With all this Hank action, we haven’t spoken at all about Jesse Pinkman. While Walt’s seems capable of ignoring the dark things he’s done, Jesse can’t shake the thought of Mike, Gale and the kid on the motorbike that Todd shot. He tries to ditch his cut of the ‘blood money’ but once again, Walt won’t even allow him that. From his exchange with Mr White, it’s obvious he’s now immune to the man’s lies: he knows full well that Mike is dead.
- If you want to see an animated version of Badger’s Star Trek pitch, someone’s already made one!
- The characterisation of Hank has come on an awful long way since the boorish cop of the first season. In the final garage scene, Dean Norris more than holds up his own opposite Bryan Cranston. To see his anger turn to fear as he watches Walt transform into Heisenberg is nothing short of chilling.
Every new episode of Breaking Bad will now be available on blinkbox less than 48 hours after the US broadcast. Check in with us every Tuesday to see how one of the greatest TV dramas of all time comes to a close.