Breaking Bad recap: Ozymandias

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September 21, 2013 by Susan Miller

"Nothing beside remains: round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away." -- Ozymandias

“Nothing beside remains: round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” — Ozymandias

Steven: How far behind the writers did you feel during this week’s episode?

Susan: I don’t think I felt behind the writers this week as much as stuck in the dreadful certainty of the cause and effect of this story.  Of course Gomez would die in that shoot-out.  Of course Hank would be wounded and unarmed.  Of course Walt would do everything he could to save Hank, but Uncle Jack would kill him anyway.  Like Hank said, he made up his mind 10 minutes ago.  The only pardon that I felt was a teensy bit convenient was Jesse’s, but I think it goes back to what Walt said about living too long.  If Jesse had died in that moment, he would’ve never found out about Jane, would’ve never been forced to be a meth slave, would’ve died in the desert where it began and would’ve finally been free.  I think that was Jesse’s moment, and it was cruelly taken away by Todd, the man Walt brought in to their lives because of his egomania.

What surprised me the most was the whole business with Skyler and Holly.  I didn’t expect Skyler to finally defend herself with the knife.  I didn’t expect Walt to get angry enough to fight her.  And I definitely didn’t expect him to take Holly and run.  I was seriously behind on that bit.

What about you?

Steven: I felt a footstep behind (at least) the entire episode.  I did know that Hank was dead.  I knew it the moment he hung up the phone with Marie last episode.  I certainly didn’t know how all of the moving parts were going to work out, but I too felt that inescapable certainty, though for me it was the product of that foreshadowing–an almost teary-eyed Hank telling his wife that he loved her.

That being said, I can’t really predict what will happen from episode to episode–which is absolutely the way it should be.  I knew that Hank was a goner when he called Marie, and he clearly knew he was finished when the Nazi guy took his gun, but I still had this gnawing hope the entire scene.  To actually watch him get shot–it was almost too much.  And then when Walt pointed out Jesse, I truly wanted nothing but terrible things to happen to Walt for the rest of his life.  I thought Jesse was gone-gone when he looked up into the sky in that universal sign of turning to God one final time, and that moment was definitely too much for me.

And the Skyler knife scene was sheer torture to watch.  I was certain someone was going to get killed–and it wasn’t going to be Walt.  I think that Talking Bad‘s Chris Hardwick was right when he said he’s going to need therapy after the series is over.  Could you book me an appointment as well, Chris?

What was Walt’s plan at the end of the episode?  He was expressing so many different emotions and taking such drastically contradictory actions that I’m curious to know if you have any theories.

Susan: I had to go back and watch it again.  Initially I felt like the speech was an attack against the Skyler haters out there.  Here, Skyler haters, this is what you wanted, right?  Doesn’t seem so nice now, does it?  Then I thought it was an attack against the I love Walt club.  Then I thought Skyler was acting like a victim and I was confused again.  Then Don Cheadle said on Talking Bad that Walt was talking like an action movie villain in that phone call and that he was probably doing all that to save Skyler.  Then my head really started spinning so I took to the internet, where at least 500 people had 500 different opinions.

So I watched it again.

Here’s what I think is actually going on in that scene.  1. Bryan Cranston is winning every Emmy, past, present and future.  2. He calls the land line instead of Skyler’s cell phone because he knows the cops will be there and he wants them to hear what he has to say. 3. He is both protecting Skyler and venting in that phone call.  He says several times that he acted alone, he built it all himself, he had no help.  He says that he’s been telling her to keep her mouth shut for a year.  He says that she tried to talk him out of it.  He says that he warned her if she talked, he would take her children.  He sets everything up for her and yet, at the same time, there’s a sliver of truth in all of the venom he’s spewing.  She has gotten in the way and inserted herself into his business and told his children about him.  He is upset about that.  But he’s enough of a good person, even then, to be able to protect her.  This speech, I think, is the first time that we really see Walter White pretending to be Heisenberg.  All the other times, he wanted to be Heisenberg and gave into it.  This time, he had to be that character to save his family.

It’s pretty messed up.  What sticks with me, and worries me, is his final statement of “There’s still some things I need to do.”  What could he possibly still need to do?!?!?

Steven: I’d have to agree with you.  There’s venom there, but then again he can barely get through those last few lines he’s so on the verge of tears.  I would have to place his transformation from Heisenberg to acting like Heisenberg at that changing table, where Holly kept saying “Not momma” over and over again.  I think that’s when Walt realized he could not start over.  He would never have his family again, not even the least of them, his baby daughter.  That’s when he decided to throw himself under the bus and at least save his wife.

This brings me to your question.  My deepest hope is that the things he has to do is more throwing of himself under the bus.  Now that he has all his precious money and is all alone in that disappearing van, he is primed to make the realization that the only thing that matters are the people in his life–or rather the people who WERE in his life.  For me, the pieces have all fallen into place.  My theory is that the reason Walt returns to ABQ–besides to clinch those Emmys past, present, and future–is to rescue Jesse and kill Todd and the other Neo-Nazis.  Instead of a Scarface who fights to the bitter end for himself, I predict that Walt will be a Scarface who sacrifices himself for the lives of the people he cares about, even if he’s the reason they need saving.

Who do you think will be left standing after the dust settles?

Susan: I’d really like for that to be the case, but Walt would have to do a lot of changing between then and now to get there.  In their last meeting he gave up Jesse’s location, was willing to watch while they killed him, let him be taken off with torturer Todd AND told him about Jane.  That’s some cold-blooded love right there.  I think he desperately needs to blame Jesse for Hank’s death, and I don’t know how he’ll get over that enough to come back and save him.  Maybe if Walt Jr. dies and he needs to fill the void with his surrogate son?  I have my doubts that those two will ever act as partners again.  Although, Jesse turned rat and Walt turned Jesse in. I suppose in a sense, they’re even now.  Still… I think Jesse’s salvation might be too much to hope for.

As far as who’s left standing, I have some serious doubts about the long-term health of Walt’s family.  There are still a lot of questions about the flash forward that haven’t been answered.  What happened to the house?  Where is the family?  How will Heisenberg be outed?  New darkest theory of all: what if Jesse is the one who has to take out the remaining Whites?  He’s been tortured and knows that Andrea and Brock are at risk.  What if his soul is now as dark as Walt’s, and he takes them out?  That would lead to Walt coming back to take care of Jesse AND the Aryan brotherhood.

Steven: That’s true.  I guess I’m still searching for the reason for Walt’s return.  It can’t be for the money, so I’m drawing on possibilities.  Ones that don’t involve Jesse killing off a bunch of innocent Whites as way of revenge or Walt coming back to kill Jesse.  It’s a long plank for Walt to inch back off of though.  He certainly seems closer to the Aryan brotherhood than anyone else at this point.

Oh, I know, what if Walt is returning to protect Todd’s uncle from Holly?  What if Holly takes her “Not momma” on the road and goes after Todd with that kitchen knife?  After she dispensed with Todd she would certainly turn on the other Aryans, and if she’s anything like her momma, she would be relentless.  Perhaps Walt is actually picking up the ricin to mix into her formula…  I bet THAT wasn’t one of the 500 theories you read!

Speaking of theories, what was your favorite out in the blogosphere?  Which one was the craziest?

Susan: Oh geez.  Murderous Holly would actually be too lighthearted for this show.  Have you noticed how subtle the scary people are?  We don’t even see Todd torture Jesse, or ever hear him say a menacing word, but we see Jesse in a concrete hole in the ground with his face all bashed in, hooked up to a dog run so that Todd can make his meth blue for lady love Lydia.  Or Uncle Jack, who is really an Aryan with a heart of gold.  Who else would leave Walt alive in the desert AND give him an 11 million dollar barrel?  I like how they also get him out of the handcuffs and load the barrel up for him in his car.  They’re so… polite.  And conscientious!  Even when Walt tells them not to come, they come anyway, just to make sure he’s alright.

But here’s another barrier to Walt saving Jesse: Walt thinks that Jesse is already dead.  He’s already ordered the hit and Jack and Todd have promised him that they’ll finish the job once they get all his information.  To Walt’s mind, that means he’s already gone, right?  Will he find out that Jesse’s alive before he comes back, or encounter him while shooting the Aryans?  Will Jesse shoot the Aryans in the final episode as a way to save Walt?  I’m starting to think that when we saw Walt in that Denny’s on his 52nd birthday, he has no idea that Jesse is still alive.  And I think he’ll still be alive in the final episode based on that shot of the stray dog running across the street at the end of the episode.  Jesse has always been referred to as a dog (Problem Dog, Rabid dog, etc).  The stray dog running across the street represents the loose end that Walt is leaving behind.

As for theories, everyone is a little burnt out after this week’s episode, and I can’t say I blame them.  I got what I wanted this week with Walt telling Jesse about Jane and it was the hardest moment of the episode for me to watch.  I instantly regretted it, much like I have with every other wish of mine that has been fulfilled this season.  So I’m almost afraid to predict what’s coming next, unless it’s murderous baby Holly.  I did see this one though, which I liked:


It assumes, from this shot, that they’re foreshadowing Walt’s death by a bullet to the brain.  Eh?  Maybe?

Steven: Oh, I really like that shot.  They’re so good visually.  Is this an example of mise-en-scène?  Maybe one of our more film literate readers will help us out with that particular theory?

We have two episodes to go: “Granite State,” which is New Hampshire’s state nickname, and “Felina,” which is Spanish for a female cat.  To me this latter title is especially evocative.  I immediately think, “Curiosity killed the cat,” and start to wonder if there are any female characters it would be especially tragic to lose.  Perhaps, Skyler goes snooping around the Aryans and gets herself killed.  That would certainly be a reason for Walt to leave the Granite State and return to ABQ.  What do you think?

Susan: The latter title is very interesting and I’ve seen a lot of theories about it.  For one, it’s also an anagram of “finale”.  Another, it could be Fe Li Na which equals Blood, Meth, Tears.  But I really do feel like Skyler is a goner.  If Walt really doesn’t know that Jesse’s alive, the only possible reason  I could see him coming back is to save/avenge Skyler’s death.  Even in this last episode, when he is at his most monstrous, he makes that call to try and save Skyler.  I think his love for Skyler is the last shred of humanity he has left.  It would make sense to me that her death would finally bring him out of hiding and complete the Scarface circle.  As he said in an earlier episode while watching Scarface, “Man, everybody dies in this movie, don’t they?”  Ominous.

Steven: Is there lithium in meth?  I had no idea!  I wonder if that could also refer to the fates of our three main characters–Jesse, Walt, and Skyler.  One will die (Fe-iron/blood), one with lose his/her sanity (Li-lithium/insanity), and one will be sad forever (Na-sodium/tears).  I could definitely see Skyler surviving and wishing she hadn’t and Jesse surviving but not being aware that he did… Oh I do hope I’m not right, though.

The Scarface parallel is SO strong throughout the show that I feel like Vince won’t use it as a basis for the finale.  That would be too literal for him and I feel like he would feel that he was disappointing his audience by doing what’s expected.  All my Hamlet talk aside, I think he’s going to hit us in the gut in a different way.

I’m going to make a prediction: only one more main character (as in from the first season) will die.  Perhaps this is me just be contrary, perhaps I’m just being overly hopefully…we’ll see.

Susan: Ooh, or maybe it refers to how they’ll die?  Blood = death by machine gun.  Meth = death by ricin.  Tears = the one who kills cries, aka Walt?  Eh, I think I might have talked myself out of that.

So if only one of the main characters will die, who will it be?  And more importantly, Badger is on the schedule for Talking Bad next week.  Does that mean that Badger will be in next week’s episode?  Would Vince be so cruel as to kill off Badger?  I REALLY don’t think I could take that.  I’m still getting over Combo’s death and we barely knew him.

Steven: Today I think (and I hope I’m wrong) that Skyler will die, Jesse will lose his mind to meth or general insanity, and Walt will end up crying in a prison cell, completely alone and somehow miraculously healed of his cancer.  That would be worse than a bullet to the head, right?  To spend the next forty years behind bars, alone with the thoughts of everything he’s done.  Okay, I’m starting to really bum myself out.

Who can still have a happy ending?  (And I’m not referring to Saul here.)

Susan: Oh man, that is crazy dark.  I like it, and I think it makes sense, but yowza.  That would be intense.  I think the only people who can have a happy ending are the cartels.  They can finally get back into the business if the blue stuff is forever eradicated.  Also, maybe Andrea and Brock.  I think (hope) they’re safe.  It would be nice to see Skinny Pete finally pursue his piano playing gifts.  That could be happy.  As for everyone in the main cast, I think they’re pretty much doomed.

Steven: I would sadly have to agree with you…


Additional Thoughts:

I’ve read a lot of different theories about Jesse and Walt and the end times for both characters, but I think Jessica Winter at Slate presents the best option for Jesse: “I want Jesse and Brock riding Go-Karts through a field of flowers, Andrea behind them astride a unicorn, heading home beneath a rainbow to an Xbox in every room, a Georgia O’Keefe door on every surface, and a counselor trained in prolonged-exposure therapy available on every alternating weekday. But I don’t want it to come at the behest of Walter White. Because then it’s a poisoned gift—the show has already told us that we can only despair of his works.”  Full article here.

Spoiler alert!  The description of Sunday’s episode is “A conclusion closes in from events set in motion long ago.”  What possible long ago event could it be?  The flash forward long ago event?  The Czech Republic?  Gus’ connections in Chile?  Badger and his job as a human sign?  Beneke?  Vamonos Pest?  Marie’s kleptomania?  Walt’s cancer?  Walt’s initial decision to cook meth? IT COULD BE ANYTHING.

To reward us for our non-stop internet speculating and Twitter busting, AMC has expanded the last two episodes of Breaking Bad by an extra 15 minutes.  I hope they use that time for humor.  I need 15 more minutes of Huell and Kuby and Saul and Badger and Skinny Pete and Trent the waiter, not 15 extra minutes of Jesse being tortured or Skyler and Walt in a knife fight or more people just staring into the camera with blank, desolate stares of unfathomable sadness.  Heaven help us.

Next week: a whole new ballgame.  How much time does Walt have left?  Is Saul the only one who knows where he is?  What will happen to Skyler, Junior, Marie and Holly?  Will they ever find Gomez and Hank?  What about poor Jesse?  So many questions.  So many terrible tragedies yet to come.

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