Breaking Bad recap: To’hajiilee

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September 11, 2013 by Susan Miller

Gotcha.

Gotcha.

Susan: First things first: Who’s dead and who’s alive?  Second things second: that’s got to be the worst group of shooters in the history of television, no?

Steven: The worstest!  It’s like they all lost the sights to their guns.  They might as well have started throwing their bullets for all the good their guns did.

I’m truly conflicted, and it all goes back to Shakespeare again.  If this is a true to life tragedy, then this is where everything should probably start getting heated up.  Someone should absolutely die here.  In Act Five of Hamlet, there are only two scenes.  In the first, Hamlet, Horatio, and Laertes visit Ophelia’s grave.  In the second scene, everybody–well almost everybody–dies.  So, to take this breakdown literally, we can expect many deaths to happen here.

Just to be contrary, I am going to say this: the only person who dies in this scene is Walt.

As fans of the 1986 film The Hitcher will recall, death is often not the end of the story.  In that cult classic, a young man picks up a hitch hiker.  The driver has just fallen asleep at the wheel and nearly collided with a semi, and so he thinks the extra company will help him make the drive to California.  Long story short: there’s a lot of symbolism throughout that tells us the story we’re watching might not be all there is to the story.

My crazy theory of the week is that in the flash forward Walt has returned to Albuquerque to kill Heisenberg, that is, to kill the evil part of himself so that he can transition to the afterworld.

How about you: who’s dead, who’s alive, and why?

Susan: Oh my gosh, throwing bullets.  That image is perfect and wonderful and I hope they have a deleted scene on the epic series box set with that in it.  It’s too good.

If your crazy theory of the week is correct, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (Lost creators) will become the show’s #1 fans.  I can’t even fathom how mad everyone would be if they pulled a Lost and went all sideways world on them.  Count me as one of the apoplectic army.

I think that Hank and Gomez are dead and gone.  I also think that all of the members of the Aryan crew that we don’t know (those not recognizable as Landry/Todd, Herc and Uncle Jack) are also dead.  Jesse will somehow escape to the cow house in the distance and Walt, poor Walt, will become Uncle Jack’s new indentured servant.  I also think that the Heisenberg video will be leaked upon Hank’s death and he’ll die in disgrace.  Crazy theory of the week: that moment in the car wash before he gets the text message pic of the barrel of money is the last time Walt sees Skyler and Junior until his 52nd birthday.

That leaves the destroyed Walt home, Marie, Skyler and Junior  What will they do?  Will Marie fight back to save Hank’s name?  Will she and Skyler reunite under the assumption that both of their husbands are dead?

Steven: But is Walt going to get to keep his money, or will the Aryan’s figure out why Walt came to these particular coordinates and start digging around after the DEA is DEAd?  I could definitely see Hank dying in disgrace, especially since Gomez was the only one in the Agency who knew what was actually going on.  It’s also kind of sweet that they would die together–a fitting end to their bromance.

It also seems spot on that Marie and Skyler would reunite.  However, I don’t think Junior would be on board.  He’s so stubborn when it comes to his Dad.  If there’s anyone who wouldn’t believe that Walt was dead, it would be Junior  I could see him definitely causing some trouble.  That is, if there’s time for any trouble causing.

With just three episodes left, are you getting excited, nervous, reflective?  What loose ends do you foresee not getting tied up?  Right now what is your four toed statue?

Susan: That’s the big question, isn’t it?  How smart are the Aryans?  How fast can Walt think on his feet?  How much has the power shifted to their favor?  I have no idea how an unarmed, handcuffed, guilt-stricken Walt will react to them.  I don’t really think that they’re smart enough to realize that there are millions of dollars beneath their feet.  But does Walt really have the presence of mind to fool them?  Never underestimate the terrible luck that surrounds Walt.  Every time it looks like the end for him, something terrible happens and he escapes.  It’s this luck that has kept him in the game for so long and this luck that has destroyed everyone around him.

Another thought on the money – does Skyler know where it’s buried?  Walt pulled the lottery ticket out of his wallet to give the coordinates to Uncle Jack.  Does that mean that there’s no longer a copy on the refrigerator?  Even if the Aryans don’t know about it, will Skyler be able to get to it if she never speaks to Walt again?  Will the final shot of the show be a picture of it, rotting in the desert, useless to everyone?

As for Junior, I think it will come down to his true feelings about Hank and Walt.  Remember way back in the pilot when Junior seemed more interested and proud of his Uncle Hank than his Dad?  I think that was one of the motivating factors for Walt to break out and cook meth and get one over on his brother-in-law.  So I could see Junior feeling conflicted, but ultimately siding with Hank.  Perhaps he’s the one who sets out to expose his Dad as the real mastermind to clear his Uncle Hank’s name?  I could see the three of them teaming up to try to uncover the truth.

I’m excited, nervous, reflective, anxious, sad, pained, afraid, etc.  I am all the emotions.  I’m so happy with this show and I’m sad that it’s ending, but I also really appreciate how efficiently they’ve told this story.  After reading that article last week about the plots not taken, I really feel like they’ve done everything they could to just tell this one story, in this very specific world, and tried not to take weird side roads for filler.  I’m really confident that the story will be complete and satisfying and logical and surprising and perfect.  I’m not nervous about them sticking the landing.  I’m just nervous for these fictional people’s lives.  Like Huell!  When is poor Huell going to get out of that hotel room?

As for the four toed statue, I really want Jesse to find out about Jane.  I don’t know how or why it would happen, but I feel like he needs to know.  What about you?

Seeing Jesse smile made my heart soar and then smash into the dirt.  There's still so much pain to come.

Seeing Jesse smile made my heart soar and then smash into the dirt. There’s still so much pain to come.

Steven: Is it better to know or not to know?  I actually have no idea any more.  The answer to a slightly different question–Is it better to be right or happy?–I think is “to be happy.”  I know that I would rather be happy than right 100% of the time.  In that scenario it’s an either/or proposition.  Will Jesse be happier about Jane to find out that it was Walt’s fault, that Walt could’ve saved her life but didn’t?  I don’t know.  Maybe he will feel less guilt, but he will definitely feel more anger toward Walt and that might cause him to do any number of stupid and evil things.  If he is to find out, let him find out after Walt is dead or as Walt’s last words, something along those lines.  I hate to think how Jesse would react to the news–either by using or worse.  And in the end, I’m still pulling for Jesse’s happy ever after: the manicured lawn, a kind wife, a few kids, and then we see him picking up a ten year sobriety chip and telling a room full of people, “I shouldn’t be alive. Like, you have no idea.”  For me a moral tale needs some level of redemption, and Jesse is ripe for that kind of turn.
I am interested to see how all of the characters end up, which is probably why I want that cheesy, overdone leap into the future.  We don’t have to get a sentence about each one displayed over a still shot from the show, but I would like to get a snippet of what they become.  It’s like that last scene in The Time Traveler’s Wife where the time traveler shows up one last time, just like he promised.  I need to see that the conclusion to this story is actually its conclusion.  This is not a time for ambiguity.  At least not for this viewer.

How do you feel about the tone of the conclusion?  Will you happy with something open-ended or realistic or anything less than complete and total convergence of rising actions and plot lines?

Susan: Okay, this is going to sound odd because I just said that I cared about the characters, but I think what I really want out of the ending is something clever.  I don’t want to see it coming.  I don’t want it to be forced.  I want it to naturally fit, in a way that only the creator of the show and its writers, having spent years of their lives thinking about this thing, could do.  If it’s clever, I’m happy, regardless of what happens to the characters.  I think.  The trouble is that the show keeps giving us things we say we want (Jesse working with Hank, Hank putting the cuffs on Walt, Uncle Jack and the big boom, etc.) and when they do, it’s a punch to the gut.  You see it happening, but at the same time your instinct is pulling you in a different way.  You respect Walt in the desert when he calls off Uncle Jack because he realizes Hank is there and he won’t put him in danger.  You respect it, but at the same time, you don’t want Walt to get caught.  You want Uncle Jack to come in and bust things up because then the story lives on.  In the end, I’m rebelling against the endgame, I think.  I’m not ready to let go.

Of the smaller moments in this episode, which one was your favorite?  Todd’s creepy flirtation with Lydia?  Junior’s starstruck smile at Saul?  The triumphant return of Andrea and Brock?

Steven: Absolutely Junior’s reaction to Saul.  No question about it.  I loved that whole scene because it had the same dramatically ironic tension that the Skyler-Walt-Jesse dinner scene had back in episode 5.6, “Buyout,” but it draws up short of the discomfort we felt when Landry/Todd superinvaded Lydia’s personal space.  Having Andrea and Brock back was both nice and terrifying.  I kept thinking, “Oh no!  They’re dead!  Walt is going to finally transform himself into the devil proper…”  As I write this I’m still quite nervous for the two of them.  I blame Hitchcock.  Specifically Sabotage, after which all things have been possible.

How about you?

Susan: I loved Junior’s reaction to Saul.  If that’s the last we see of Junior, I’d be fine.  It’s a great note for him to end on, though I suppose we have to see him fall back to Earth, just like the rest of his poor, doomed family.  Seeing Brock again is always a treat, and I appreciated that the show was kind enough to us to spare them their lives.  Then again, it made me even more fearful of what’s to come.  Any time the writers go out of their way to give you this nice gift of safety, it usually means that there’s something more evil just around the corner.  As for Landry/Todd, I’m finally beginning to get the hint of creepy from him and I so appreciate what Jesse Plemons is doing with that character.  If he could be on every show ever, that would be a-ok with me.  Any way there’s room for him on the Saul spin-off show?

I think we need to talk about the flash forward controversy, because the internet is abuzz with talk about it.  Some people are very down on the flash forward because they think it removes tension from the action unfolding in real time (i.e., Walt is not in any danger in the desert because we know he survives until his 52nd birthday).  For me, that just ratchets up the tragedy.  Case in point: movies about historical tragedies like Titanic or Lincoln or the newly released Fruitvale Station.  I found the scene in the desert unbearably tense because of what we know from the flash forward and what we know about Walt’s aborted phone call to Uncle Jack.  We know they’re coming, so every smile from Jesse and Hank and Gomez is a knife in the heart.  To me, it’s dramatic irony at its peak, and I don’t think it would feel the same if we were surprised by Uncle Jack showing up in the desert at the end of the episode.  I feel like this is a way to get us to focus and feel more for the supporting character’s lives (Jesse, Gomez, Hank, etc) because we already know Walt’s part of the story.  It’s a way to give them their proper due before we catch up with Walt in the flash forward and turn our attention back to him.

Plus, how can it be a cheat when it’s a concept they used from the opening scene in the pilot?  This is a show that has always relied on flash forwards to highlight the tragic inevitability of these immoral choices.  I have no beef with it, but I know there are lots of people who do.  Your thoughts?

Steven: I like it.  It’s a throwback to tragedy again, although this time skipping right over the Elizabethans and arriving in ancient Greece.  In the opening of Euripides’ play Hippolytus he has Aphrodite give a typical prologue, which includes some heavy foreshadowing: “Three times may Theseus pray to the [sea] god and have his prayer fulfilled. But Phaedra, noble though she is, shall nonetheless die.”

And then she DOES die!  Euripides just comes out and tells us what’s going to happen.  The tension, though, is not from wondering whether or not Phaedra is indeed going to die.  Rather it comes–as with all Greek tragedies–in watching how each character’s actions, well meaning though they are, lead inevitably to this tragic end that was foretold in the very beginning.

Those are my thoughts anyway.  Not cheating.  Arting.

Susan: It’s just so brilliant.  Why?  Because we KNOW that Walt won’t die.  It’s impossible.  You don’t have a story told from Walt’s point of view for 5 seasons just to have him die in the middle of the final act.  So by showing us the flash forward, it removes that ridiculous conversation from the mix and allows you to focus on the structure and plot that gets you from point A to point B.  They’re doing everything in their power to get you to focus on the story, and yet, like stubborn ingrates, we’re mad that we know what we already knew, that Walt doesn’t die.  We do not deserve nice things.  Or Dave Chappelle.

Steven: Someday will we deserve Dave Chappelle again?  That would be nice.

Additional Thoughts:

Are we headed for the most polarizing time jump in the history of television?

Are we headed for the most polarizing time jump in the history of television?

Theory of the week: A theory that was floated on The Ones Who Knock podcast is the possibility that Vince and company would cut right to the flash forward in the next episode, further torturing us with the outcome of the shoot-out in the desert.  It would be cruel and unusual, but also brilliant.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we opened the next episode with Mr. Lambert instead of Mr. White.

Podcast of the week: The folks over at Film School Rejects had a wonderful roundtable discussion about their crackpot theories for the end of the show.  Steven and I prefer the Kobayashi theory, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide.  Breaking Bad talk starts around the 18 minute mark.

Last but not least, I have to give a shout-out to Michelle MacLaren, who directed this and many, many other fine episodes of Breaking Bad.  This is the last episode of Breaking Bad she directed and I think she went out at the top of her game.  If you have a few minutes to listen to this interview with her, she talks about how she got into directing, why she’s drawn to the dark, and what she’s up to next.  I might finally get around to watching Game of Thrones now that I know she’s involved.

Next week: Ozymandias is finally here.  What could it all mean?  Unfortunately, this week’s preview gives you no hint whatsoever.

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