August 15, 2013 by Susan Miller
We’re back! As some of you know, Breaking Bad was the first TV show Steven and I started recapping together. We covered the first 8 episodes of season 5 on my old blog, but they’ve all been transferred to the mothership now. Thanks for joining us for round two. We have A LOT to talk about.
Susan: Burning question #1: Did Walt fake his own death? I think yes. He has a new name, he’s living in New Hampshire, he has new identification, and he seems to have no fear about coming back to his old, abandoned, ransacked home. Also, did you notice that he opened his door with his keys? Surely if he was on the run, they would’ve changed the locks, right? I think that he faked his own death, and that’s why nice neighbor Carol was so shocked to see him. Crazy theory #1: he’s the one who trashed the place. Everything in that house was destroyed, but the outlet in the bedroom hiding the ricin was pristine. Coincidence? I certainly hope not.
Steven: Well, Hannah McKay was able to return to her greenhouse after breaking out of federal prison for murder…so I’m not terribly surprised that Walt would waltz (see what I did there?) back into his old house while being on the run. I took his neighbor’s shock to be an indication that everyone knows he’s Heisenberg and that she’s terrified, not surprised, to see him.
Let me completely digress for a second, because I have a whopper of a theory. A Heisenburger, if you will. It will, however, require a little physics talk, so brace yourself.
Walt is a wave.
What do I mean by that? Werner Heisenberg, the physicist not the meth-genius, is best known for his uncertainty principle which plays a role in quantum mechanics. Is that the principle that states you will only know which grand slam you want to order the second your waitress returns? Nope. The uncertainty principle states–and I’m butchering physics here–that all matter is at its most fundamental state a wave. So, instead of an apple being just an apple, it’s actually apple+1 and apple-1 and/or anything between those two states at a given time. An apple is actually a range of states that can be best seen on a graph as a wave.
Now, how do we interact with the apple? Well, Heisenberg understood matter on the whole to act as a wave, but in particular moments the same apple would be observable in a single state (what he called an “eigenstate”). Depending on the specific eigenstate the same apple could be observed to be apple+1 or apple-1 or apple or anything within that range. If you go away and come back, you will most certainly encounter a different apple. Hence the uncertainty principle.
Okay. Now I’m going to say something weird. I believe that Walt has become Heisenberg in a GOOD way. This entire time we have been seeing Walt as a line, as a curve, as a thing with a single momentum from Mr. Chips to Scarface. Well, what IF Walt is not a line but a wave. What IF by becoming Heisenberg for real, he has embraced uncertainty. What IF Walt is returning not to continue his war but to wage a new one? What does a wave do? Does it continue on in one momentum or does it rebound?
In Matthew 10:34, Christ says, “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” What IF Walt has returned to his original state, to Mr. Chips plus machine gun, in order to right the wrongs he has thus far perpetrated? We’ve been so fixated on the gun and ricin as negatives that we haven’t even stopped to consider them as tools for good as well as evil.
Does this theory hold any weight for you? Also, is redemption even an option for Walt at this point?
Susan: First of all, Hannah was able to return because she changed her name, silly. Much like Walt changing his name. It’s all in the name, yo. Don’t you know? You’re probably right and she’s just terrified, but I think she could also know who he is, be terrified of him, AND surprised to see that he was alive and (somewhat) well. I’d prefer that twist, I think.
As for your Heisenburger, you lost me until the end, which is where I see your point, but still disagree. I do think that he returns to ABQ with revenge on his heart. My guess has always been that he comes back to either protect his family or Jesse, or to avenge their murders. I also think that he has caused their death in some way, most likely indirectly. However! Can we really say that poisoning someone or shooting someone is really something “good”? Death can’t be made good with more death. Walt cannot be the ultimate decider. From day one, he’s had terrible judgment, so no matter what he’s using his kill tools for, I don’t think we can call it Christ-like.
But as long as we’re on the subject of crazy theories, let’s get into the epic Star Trek conversation between Badger and Skinny Pete. Was that just nerdy stoner talk for nerdy stoner talk’s sake? I find it hard to believe that on a show this intricately structured, that scene was there just for kicks. I think it’s either a summary of everything that has happened so far or maybe – just maybe – it holds the key to how this all ends up. Of course, I’m not a Trekkie, so it’s really hard for me to parcel out what they’re saying and how to apply it but here’s what I have so far:
Chekov = Jesse
Spock = Walt
Kirk = Hank
Blueberry pies = blue meth
Coughing up blood = death by Cancer?
OR… it’s further proof that Walt will fake his own death.
Care to join me on this ledge?
Steven: “Crazy theories”? I stand firmly beside my “Walt is a wave” theory. Otherwise, he could’ve been any old scientist from history. I will, however, concede that he’s probably not supposed to be a Christ figure in the end. I just wanted to draw your attention–dramatically–to the fact that Walt still could have broken good between the present and the future scenes. It is only our assumption that he has continued to grow worse. (An assumption that the real Heisenberg would never make.)
As for the Trekkie conversation, I am not well versed in the original Star Trek myself. From what I’ve read on Wikipedia, Chekov was a young guy meant to attract a more teenage audience. So I agree with making him Jesse. I also think the story is told with these characters to reference the other Chekhov, who famously stated, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” If we’re thinking that Badger is some sort of oracle–and as many have suggested this is a Greek tragedy, I don’t think that’s too far-fetched–then this scene means to me that Kirk will be disabled/give up, Chekov will have his insides torn out either by the ricin or the gun, and Spock will be left standing.
I would like Walt to fake his own death, but I don’t see where that gets us. And if he was successful, then why return? I guess I really want my pet theory to be correct. I want to see Walt returning to do something good–even if only in his own mind. If he’s there to kill a bunch of people, I hope it’s for the right reasons??
If he has faked his own death, who was in on it? Hank and Skyler? Saul and Jesse? If we can figure out who he’s fleeing from, will that tell us for whom he has returned?
Susan: Okay, I think I’ve got it. The blueberry pies actually equal money. Scottie is Saul, Lady Uhura or whatever is Lydia or Skyler and um, well, I bet it will all become clear in the end. And Badger is definitely the Oracle of Albuquerque. Mind = Blown.
If Walt goes back to being good again, then I feel like that would be a cop-out for the show’s entire premise. Vince and company wanted to do what no other TV show has ever done – take your protagonist from good to evil. If they take him back to good, then it’s just like every other show on TV. For example, if Mad Men makes Don into a good person at the end, I will be a teensy bit pissed. That should not be a show about Don getting better and then everyone loving him for the right reasons. Likewise, Walt shouldn’t get to be good at the end. Tony Soprano didn’t get good at the end. Vic Mackey didn’t get good at the end. They’re trying to make Dexter good at the end and look how ridiculous that’s become. Walt should continue to be unpredictable, which I think he proved in every scene of this episode. Just look at the confrontation with Hank that closes the episode – first he goes to suss out what Hank knows, then he directly engages him in conversation, then he sort of states that he’s just a sick guy running a car wash and then he threatens him! But still, when you go back and analyze that conversation, everything he says has a double meaning.
Bottom line – if they try to martyr Walt, I won’t be happy.
I still think he fakes his death using Saul’s vacuum cleaner repairman that was mentioned in season 4. I’m guessing that Skyler, who doesn’t know about the cancer or Hank’s suspicions, lets something slip to either Marie or Hank and gets the family in trouble. Then Walt has to disappear them before they get sent to jail. Walt Jr. and Holly stay with Hank and Marie to stay safe. Lydia, fuming over her inferior product, sends her goons after Hank and Marie and kills them all plus the kiddos. Walt returns to kill Lydia, Todd, the cartel, Gus’ Chilean ancestors, all of the Czech Republic, and another couple jerks on bluetooth phones, just for good measure.
But then where does that leave Jesse and Saul? Perhaps it’s Jesse and Walt who run away together?
Steven: Okay–now I’m on board!
Susan: What do you think about the Lydia of it all? At first I assumed that Landry/Todd was the one responsible for the 68%, but on rewatch, Lydia asked if Walt could do a tutorial or something. Surely Landry/Todd would know all of Walt’s steps well enough to not need a tutorial, right? If so, does that mean Landry/Todd is about to send his goons after Walt to get back in the business?
Steven: I did think that Landry/Todd was pretty bright and a quick study. But then again he’s no chemist. If anything on that machinery become calibrated incorrectly, the batch would be severely affected. Especially if it happened in an early stage. Walt has continually said that the business can’t run without him, so I like the irony of this truth finally causing him some trouble instead of just offering him leverage.
That being said, I could see Lydia siccing Landry/Todd on Walt. I can’t see him acting on his own, though. That seems like too many moving parts to me. There’s so much ground to cover in these last 7 episodes that I can’t imagine there will be too many tangents left in the story.
When do you think we’re going to catch up with the future? Third-to-last episode? Penultimate? Or are we just going to get more and more clips of what is resolved in the final episode?
Susan: Ah, that’s true. We know that Landry/Todd was foolish enough to take notes (Stringer would be maaad), but we also know that he’s no chemist. I think it would be tidier to have it be Landry/Todd, though, so hopefully that’s the case. Do you think there’s any way Jesse steps in to help out?
I hope that we catch up to the future in the penultimate episode. I think it might be giving too much away to show us clips from the actual finale. Then again, he said the gun is never leaving town, so I’m not sure how much story there is after he assembles his final kill tools. I think there’s enough in motion now that we can stay in the present until we catch up to the teasers.
Another thought – what’s stopping Jesse from going to the cops and turning himself in? He knows that Walt’s out now, and he’s plagued by guilt and doesn’t want anything to do with the money. What if he goes to the cops and claims that he’s Heisenberg? Is there anything to prevent that from happening? That’s what Deb tried to do this season on Dexter, when she was all strung out and guilty-like. Will Walt step in and stab him in the throat with a needle too?
Steven: I like how in this blog post, I compared Walt to Jesus and you compared him to Dexter. Uncertainty, indeed!
I hope they don’t turn Jesse into Deb. I’d like to think the writers put a little more thought into what their character should do next.
Susan: Okay, last question. What do you make of all the Gus comparisons in this episode? We had the scene with him at the car wash talking to Lydia, and the bathroom scene where he put the towel under his knees when he was puking, just like Gus did in “Salud.” Is Walt the new Gus and Lydia the new Walt?
Steven: I also noticed the parallel in the car wash–though I missed the towel comparison (good catch). I think that it might be more of a foil situation. Like, Walt would like to be Gus. Deep down he wishes he was controlled and professional and in control. But the scene with Hank in the garage tells me he’s the same old manic-depressive Walt. Returning to my wave theory, I don’t think “Gus” is within Walt’s range of eigenstates.
Additional theories/thoughts/things keeping me up at night:
Color palette of Breaking Bad – The Whites are back in beige to start this season. Does that mean they’re back to flying under the radar, about to be poor and penniless again, or does it signify wealth, aka the beige birthday part at Gretchen and Elliot’s in season 1?
Does Walt take on the characteristics of the people he’s killed? There’s only two definitive signs in the show – cutting his crusts off his bread (picked up from Crazy-8) and taking his scotch with ice (picked up from Mike). He’s also now exhibiting characteristics of Gus, but the towel thing, for example, he never knew about. In the first future teaser, his new last name is Lambert (Skyler’s maiden name), and he makes the bacon into a 52. Does that mean he’s killed Skyler?
Internet theory of the week – What if Walt turns the screws on Hank and says he was involved the whole time? He could say that’s why it’s taken him so long to be captured. Walt’s drug money did pay for Hank’s treatment after all. And it would explain why he was there to kill Tuco, why the cousins were after him, his suspicions about Gus, etc. It might be the only way to keep Hank from turning in Walt.
Weird tangent – I love that Walt goes looking for his Leaves of Grass book. We get that perspective shot of him, kneeling over the toilet after chemo vomiting and he looks up to the top of the toilet and remembers that the book was there, and remembers the last person who left that bathroom and was sick. The very next scene, he’s searching frantically for the book. Then he goes outside because something is gnawing at him, he feels, implicitly, that something is wrong, and then finally goes to his car and finds the tracker and realizes it’s Hank. That scene proves to me that it’s not by coincidence or dumb luck that Hank found the book and uncovered Walt’s secret. Walt knew what was in the book and knew that it was a dangerous piece of evidence to leave out casually around his house. I think that scene proved that it’s Walt’s hubris that is his real downfall. Gus didn’t have that. Gus’ downfall was revenge and his vendetta against Tio Salamanca and the Mexican cartel for not taking him seriously and killing his beloved chicken partner. Does that mean that it will be his hubris that makes him come back for the gun and the ricin? Is that how he’ll end up confessing to Jesse all the terrible things he’s done? Will he guilt Jesse into killing him? Secondary crazy thought – is that how Mike got Walt to kill him?
Favorite podcast theory of the week – what if Walt is keeping the ricin for himself? The final shot could be Walt, in the backseat of a cartel/police car, and he takes the ricin out of his back pocket, swallows it whole and smiles. Yes? Or maybe it’s Walt, in a super lab in Mexico, forced to cook his product, and we see him wearily take out the ricin pill and swallow it. Death to the working man.
Final thought – “Chemistry is the study of growth, then decay, then transformation.” This is from one of the first scenes of the pilot episode. Are we to interpret that line to mean that Walt will die? Growth = first half of season 5, as he becomes the drug kingpin. Decay = second half of season 5 as the cancer comes back and he quits the business and all the sharks come after him. Transformation = death? Faking his own death and taking on the Mr. Lambert identity? Real death as Mr. Lambert via ricin, cancer, or bullet? Or has that particular cycle already taken place? Growth in the first season, decay in the third and transformation when he sold the Aztec last season and became Heisenberg? Is it the individual arc of every season? Can it happen simultaneously? Can I stop over analyzing this now? Is it Sunday yet?
If you’re as obsessed as I am, you might want to check out The Ones Who Knock podcast and Spencer Hall’s unique take on Breaking Bad recapping. They’re an excellent way to pass the time in between Sundays.
Next week – more trouble, followed by breathlessness, followed by desperation when the credits come too soon. Don’t you just love this ride? See you then.