Last fall’s Breaking Bad finale ended with a very literal bang — Walter White successfully eliminated what was then his biggest threat, Gus Fring, via a bomb that would never be traced back to him. It was a game-changer, and despite a personally tumultuous (half) season five, Walt has remained on top as “Heisenberg” in his work life ever since. Well, tonight, a different sort of bomb was dropped (sorry), and it’s one that definitely signals the beginning of the end for Walt. (Spoilers Ahead!)
On Thursday, Dean Norris basically told us that Hank would find out at some point, but we didn’t know it was going to be tonight — and in such a delicious fashion, reminiscent of his “since when do vegans eat fried chicken?” epiphany of yesteryear:
I love Norris’ “putting two and two together” face. He also told us that there was going to be a “holy s***” moment during tonight’s finale, but we were not taking him literally at the time.
Going into tonight’s finale, it did seem likely that Walt’s messy Mike murder — where his demeanor arguably slipped from Heisenberg back to Walter White for the first time all season — would lead to his downfall. He slipped up by killing a DEA target, and the fact that that DEA target had left behind nine potential witnesses who could hammer the nail in Walt’s coffin was just icing on the proverbial cake. Instead, Walt spent most of the episode on top — he recently told Jesse that he was in the “empire business,” and he certainly dealt with his Mike dilemma in a way that proved he was capable of handling such an empire. He hired Todd’s prison-connected uncle to brutally (but neatly) take out all nine witnesses (a gaggle of fathers, blue collar workers, and former small business owners, natch), successfully hid Mike’s death from Jesse, entered into the international drug trade with Lydia, and then (supposedly) left the business to mend fences with Skyler all before we hit the 50-minute mark.
Then, s*** very quietly hit the fan. At the beginning of the episode, when the camera briefly focused on Walt’s copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, it became clear that Whitman’s famous celebration of nature, humanity, and the senses would rear its ugly head before the end of the night, either directly or metaphorically. And, really, Hank’s toilet discovery could be seen as both — yes, he saw the deceased former Fring cook Gale Boetticher’s note inscribed on the first page, but Walt wouldn’t have had the balls to leave such a valuable clue in his hallway bathroom without the same pride Whitman writes about in the book’s most popular section, “Song of Myself.”
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself/ and what I shall assume you shall assume/ for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” Whitman writes. Walt had been celebrating himself a bit too much ever since he took out Fring, with his massive, arguably sociopathic ego rising until it eventually (tonight) found itself in a place where it no longer valued human life that wasn’t its own.
A few weeks ago, when Walt basically brushed aside the murder of an innocent child, it seemed as if he couldn’t possibly get any worse. Then, Mike happened. And tonight — sorry, Walt apologists — Walt finally proved his utter lack of humanity when he arranged for the murders of all of Gus’ former associates. Yes, they turned a blind eye to or helped facilitate the meth trade, which made them technically less innocent than a 14-year-old boy, but the fact that Walt had them massacred without a second thought was bone-chilling. A lot of these guys were family men, and Walt casually contemplated crappy hotel room artwork as a group of skinheads discussed how they were going to bash their brains in.
Nothing’s impossible I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up
Dust myself off
Start all over again.
This was the song that played as Todd’s uncle’s goons brutally took out Gus’ men, and until Hank sat down on Walt’s toilet and reached for some classic American poetry, its lyrics could have been seen as Walt’s reality as this chapter came to a close. (Aside: Same goes for Tommy James’s “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” which played during the show’s other memorable montage — the one that showed Walt’s sunny-sky reality as he staked his claim in the international meth trade.) Because with these men out of the picture, Hank no longer had much of a case, and Walt was free to make a bazillion dollars with Lydia. (Aside, again: Yay, we finally found out why Lydia was in so deep with Fring! The skittish Lydia never seemed like an ideal employee for Gus, but her international hook-ups would definitely be an impetus for him to ignore her shadiness and her grating personality.) His chin was on the ground with Jesse figuratively, and Mike literally, out of the picture, but when we flashed forward to a scene of the Whites and the Schraders peacefully reunited by that damned pool, it definitely seemed as if Walt had finally rid himself of all of that nasty Fring murder fallout. He’d made his money with Lydia, (seemingly) left the drug trade, reunited with his children, and peacefully tied up loose ends with Jesse. It was maddening, but as soon as Hank entered the White house solo, you knew what was coming.
I guess it was telling that Vince Gilligan chose to begin the episode with a close-up of a fly, as it was a fly in season three’s beloved claustrophobic bottle episode that signified the threat of chaos in Walt’s life. (Also, flies really love s***.) Walt royally freaked out Jesse when he refused to leave the lab until he’d killed the little bugger, who theoretically could have altered Walt’s almost-perfect meth — the only thing keeping him alive at the time. Walt wasn’t bothered by this new fly, but if we’re going super-metaphorical here, then Hank really has been one of the many flies buzzing around Walt this whole time. Hank and cancer, which — evidenced by Walt’s ambiguous CT Scan (the results weren’t shown, but he did look pretty resigned when he washed up in the hospital bathroom) — may be rearing its ugly head during next summer’s final (half) season.
So, now — where do we go from here? We know that Walt will be on the run by the time he reaches his 52nd, and he certainly didn’t seem to have anybody by his side. Norris says he thinks that Hank will go back to “basic training mode” when it’s time to confront Walt, but will he do it right away and ruin their little get-together? Will Marie completely side with Hank, or find a way to help save Skyler? Is Hank capable of tearing apart his family by killing Walt? Oh, and where does Jesse fit into ANY of this? Will he ever find out about Brock and/or Jane, or will the final arc focus more on the battle between Hank and Walt?
We have about a year to ponder all of these questions and more, but stay tuned for more thoughts from Norris and his on-screen wife Betsy Brandt, who shared her thoughts on Marie’s future with Hollywood.com. And before you enter a state of despair and start collecting minerals because Breaking Bad is gone for what seems like an eternity, start chanting the following words: “Walking Dead. American Horror Story. Justified. Mad Men. Game of Thrones.” All of those shows and more will have come and gone by the time you see Walter White again!
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[PHOTO CREDIT: AMC]