By: Paul Andreacchi and Daniel Reynolds
There is some logic in making each episode of Breaking Bad less than an hour. You know, 44 minutes – or whatever, minus commercials – seems in retrospect almost like an example of mercy. I mean, with an extra 15 minutes you could, say, crush a human soul. Or abjectly terrify a woman and her baby. Maybe stage an extremely awkward and creepy courtship. Or, sure, just straight up shoot an innocent person in the back of the head. Yeah, an extra 15 minutes (so what’s that, like, 13 with commercials?) of Breaking Bad can get up to all kinds of things. Things we’d rather not see.
Ah, but we did see them. We had to see them. And now with one episode left – less than an hour to go – like our old friends, the forgotten meth addicts, we could probably do with an ugly, painful extra 15 minutes; we need our fix. So, which indelible image shall we discuss first?
Let’s start with the dead eyed collateral damage of image number one. Marie, given short shift this episode, staring off into space, her world gone. Her sister, Skyler, in the process of cracking up, not doing too much better; she’s staring too but with a real mind saw soundtrack and an even more hopeless future. At least now the DEA is keeping an eye on her so she’ll be safe. Oh wait, no, there’s a gang of Nazis that may or may not try to kill her whole family. This brings us to memorable image number two.
We know Uncle Jack is scary (I think it’s the swastika tattoo on his neck that gives him away). But Todd, meanwhile, continues as our favourite secret psycho, responsible for an increasingly deranged body of work. Last night, we reached the pinnacle of Todd-ness watching him try to court Lydia, despite clearly having no understanding of normal social conduct. (Well, I mean, assuming we can call Lydia normal. She seems to get more excited by purity numbers than by actual human contact.) Did you see Todd try to touch her back as that scene ended? And I won’t even talk about the ice cream. It’s too upsetting in light of image number three.
Jesse has to watch Andrea die as punishment for his escape attempt. Then I seriously ask myself why I watch this show. Is it weird that it has me hopeful that Jesse will get to pull the trigger on the gun that kills Todd? Am I OK? Is that normal?
Finally, it was over. Did you realize that? The mastermind behind it all had given up. Walt’s phone call to Flynn was his last gasp. He was admitting defeat. Walt’s money was mostly stolen from him, he couldn’t get what he had to his family anyway. Hell, Walt was willing to pay a man just to spend time with him (personal note: if I ever go on the run from the law, I want Robert Forster as my protector). We’re looking at a man at the end of his rope, slowly dying for real. It was all there in that agonizing phone call as Walt tries for the smallest of amends he can make and it is totally fruitless, pointless. A different Walt would have raged and yelled “It can’t all be for nothing!” but this Walt just wheezes it and looks tired.
Now we get to my favourite image. The glowing red at the bar and the features of Walt grinding into that familiar grimace. He doesn’t cough mid threat this time. In fact he doesn’t make any verbal threat at all. He doesn’t have to. Like those aforementioned images we’d like to forget, Walt will always be able to recall his pride. This is a pride that burns brighter than a million wood burning stoves, hotter than a billion meth cooks; it is a pure chemistry. If Walt’s family won’t accept the tangible alleged reason for all his work, there is always that other reason: Walter White will be the one to dictate his final 15 minutes. You’ll say his name and know why forever.
The opening of Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode confirms that no one is spared of their comeuppance. Even the elusive Saul Goodman is not forgotten on the destructive path of Heisenberg. It is a chilling reminder that Saul is the man responsible for pushing Walt to new heights in the meth industry. Before his surprising visit to Walt’s classroom in Season 2, Walt was fed up, reeling from his terrible actions thus far. Then Saul presents himself as Tom Hagan to Walt’s Michael Corleone. No one would have thought that the analogy would be so succinct. Walt has lost his family and humanity after beginning our story as an honorable and respected man.
Meanwhile, Todd’s deep disturbances are only confirmed this week as his random acts of kindness continue with a special ice cream delivery. Of course, Todd ends the episode intimidating a distressed mother, holding an infant hostage, murdering an innocent woman and creating an orphan. It seems apparent that Todd as Breaking Bad’s newest villain, is also possibly its most vicious and disturbed. For all Walt’s faults and transgressions he was never as sadistic and outright creepy as Todd. Come on RICIN!
“How do you turn your back on more …”
Todd’s words to his uncle are steeped in tragedy and irony. He has learned nothing from Walt’s experiences and mighty fall. Todd’s insistence on the cook mirrors Walt’s insistence for revenge on Hank’s murderers and the thieves of his “life’s work”. More centrally, Breaking Bad has succeeded more than any other series to truly show how the struggle and obsession for wealth can never really end for the likes of Walt and Todd (and many others in our society today). It has to be an endless pursuit for these individuals because if it ever nears a conclusion, one’s demons are finally laid bare. Whatever is attained is never enough because if the chase for absolute pride, power, and wealth is gone, they are forced to look upon the horrors and moral depravity that paved their road to that very ‘success’. If nothing is being added to it, then the lies, deception, manipulation, abuse and murder are all that is left beside that pile of money .
The cook must never stop as Walt reminds Jesse early in the series. When the pursuit for his money, pride, and revenge is blocked by a gate on a snowy road for a few months, all that’s left is a broken man in a lonely cabin in the frozen wilderness paying a stranger ten thousand dollars for one hour of company to avoid the reminder of that barrel’s tragic history.