Hyphenated Review: Breaking Bad – “Live Free Or Die”

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I’m a sucker.

I say that because at the end of season 4’s “Face Off”, I truly believed Walter White had won. With Gus Fring dead thanks to a little help from Hector Salamanca, I didn’t see anything stopping Walt and Jesse Pinkman from resuming their lives in season 5 with little to no problem.

Until my friend pointed out that it was Walt who poisoned Brock Cantillo. I had been duped to think that Brock had magically ingested the same Lilly of the Valley flower that was in Walt’s backyard. I had been so sucked into Walt’s efforts to save everyone from Gus that I couldn’t believe Walter had went after a child. Especially after a child’s death was the reason Jesse spiraled back into drug use in season 3’s “Half Measures”.

But I was wrong. And if there ever a point where the Walter White we met in season 1 died, it would have to be the moment he poisoned Brock. And that’s exactly where season 5 picks up.

But not before a classic Breaking Bad cold opening. Walt is seen with a full head of hair getting a plate of food from Denny’s, on what appears to be his 52nd birthday. He shares a back and forth with a waitress that reveals that he is not only in California, but also carrying around a New Hampshire license that pegs him as a Mr. Lambert. Heading to the bathroom, Walt meets up with his old gun dealer Lawson with exchanges and assurances following. After poppingĀ  a pill and leaving a $100 tip, Walt picks up what he paid for: a M60 machine gun.

Opening credits.

Back in the present, we come back to Walt and Skyler’s conversation after Gus is killed in “Face Off” and then Walt speeds home to get rid of evidence. Walt Jr. comes home excited that Uncle Hank [Schrader] will be a hero while Skyler tells her husband she’s scared of him. It’s not until Walt takes another swig of his celebratory drink that he realizes he’s not clear yet.

They didn’t destroy the cameras in the superlab. And so much for a return to normalcy.

Walt has long passed the point of not caring as he easily manipulates a returning Mike [Ehrmantraut] into helping destroy evidence and scares Saul [Goodman] into keeping him on as a client. Jesse is following his lead as always and it looks like the White-Pinkman business is stronger than ever. This all hinges on when (not if) Jesse finds out about Brock and/or Jane [Margolis] and Walter’s roles in both of their undoings. Surely Mike will present this to him at some time considering how fond he is of him.

Jesse’s plan for the magnet was pretty brilliant and we see a little role reversal here. Where in earlier episodes, it was always Jesse finding ways to mess up, it was Walt who pushed the magnet to it’s peak and sent the truck flying into the police station wall. When questioned by Mike about his actions, Walt calmly says that he’s handled everything and doesn’t give it a second thought. He really believes he’s untouchable now.

My Skyler hate has subsided a little after this episode. I always felt like she had no right to question any of Walt’s motives after he came clean with her. Instead, she cheated with Ted. Walt repeatedly made efforts to reconcile their relationship despite the fantastic circumstances they now faced, but Skyler repeatedly shut him down. And when she gave Ted Walter’s money? I really thought he would choke the life out of her. He didn’t and the one thing that I think remains the same about Walter is that he does loves his family still. But Skyler (and the rest of the family) are all prisoners of Walter White now and it shows in the chilling last scene where he forgives Skyler for giving Ted his money. What she decides to do about it remains to be seen.

I didn’t realize that Walter was back to having no money though. With the car wash and with what was left from his crawl space money, I figured the Whites would still be okay. Walt’s borrowing of Jesse’s money for the magnet makes things look grim, however, and one can assume Walt will stop at nothing to replenish what he lost.

The logical thing for Walt to do would be to completely wash his hands of the meth business. He’s still in remission, he has his family, and Skyler even said he could stop cooking with the money coming in from the car wash. But the day Walter broke bad was the day that common sense also left his being. And the show would be a lot more boring.

With Gus’ hard drive wiped, Walter thinks he and Jesse are safe. The reveal of the Cayman Islands account will lead somewhere, though not directly to Walt as I thought he was always paid in cash. Next week’s episode hints at Walt, Jesse, and Mike getting the cooking business started up again, as Walt says, “The streets are paved with gold.” Let’s hope he’s learned from his previous street mistakes of season 2.

Characters who could factor into Walt and Jesse being outed:
Skyler, Ted, Saul (and associates), Mike, Hank, Gomez.

And don’t forget that Skyler told her lawyer about Walt in season 2. She would get disbarred but you never know who Walt has affected in some way he doesn’t know about yet.

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