Television is meant as a form of escapism. We watch it to get away from the reality of our lives. Some shows (Friday Night Lights) tug at your heart strings in amazing fashion. Others, like countless great comedies, take you to an almost absurd world and keep you laughing the whole way through. It’s all entertainment and we love it. Breaking Bad doesn’t fit the traditional mold. It kicks you in the stomach and lets you toil in the street. And we come back for more every week. That’s entertainment.
In the annals of recent television there isn’t a kick to the stomach stronger than “Ozymandias”. Moira Walley-Beckett’s script and Rian Johnson’s (Looper, the Breaking Bad episode titled “Fly”) direction beat up us, the audience, emotionally from start to finish.
The opening flashback to Walt and Jesse’s first cook, and Walt’s first lie to Skyler, was a beautiful reflection of how far these two have come in little more than a year. Then the RV dissolves and Uncle Jack and his crew appear, reminding us of the dire situation at hand. As we guessed last week, Gomey is dead and Hank is about to follow. Walt foolishly tries to negotiate with the Nazis, offering his $80 million for sparing Hank’s life. Hank tells Walt that Jack made up his mind long ago, and gets in one last dignity-saving line before Jack pulls the trigger. Hank Schrader, the show’s protagonist for the last season or so, is gone. On the list of gut punching moments in this episode that ranks a solid third. And that’s saying a lot.
After quickly coming to grips with Hank’s death Walt locates Jesse, who has been hiding under a car during the shootout. Walt gives the OK for Jesse’s execution, coldly nodding slowly at Jack’s request. Todd’s quick thinking (getting information from Jesse) spares his life for the time being, but not before Walt can kill any semblance of a spirit he had left. As Todd is taking Jesse away Walt stops them to make the revel everyone has been waiting for, that he watched Jane die. At first it sounds like he’s going to apologize, but he’s turned full Heisenberg and explains that he could have saved her yet watched choke on her own vomit instead. The information had to come out at some point but no one expected it to be delivered like that. Jesse’s now facing a fate worse than death — being chained up and forced to cook by Todd, showing the psychopath Walt’s method.
The most disturbing and unsettling scene — likely of the whole series — was Walt returning home and being confronted by Skyler and Walt Jr. His son, in disbelief over the news his mother and aunt had just delivered, and wife won’t follow his orders to pack immediately and leave the house. They want answers. Walt is never one to give answers, at least not true ones. Skyler figures out Hank is dead and demands Walt leave, which leads to one of the most tense sequences of television you’ll ever see…a husband and wife KNIGHT FIGHT. Walt grabs baby Holly as he flees, hoping to use her as leverage, but later comes to his senses, realizing he can’t corrupt this innocent child. The last good deed he likely ever does for their family is the phone call to Skyler. He puts on his Heisenberg hat and, with the police listening, admits doing everything without her involvement, letting her off the hook in the eyes of the law.
In Walter White’s mind nothing that has happened over the past year is his fault. He can explain away anything, as long as it keeps him off the hook. To Walt, Hank is dead because Jesse didn’t listen to his urging to leave town. His family would be just fine and on their way to a safe new life instead of a crying, screaming mess if they had just followed his orders to pack. He’s the victim in all this, and it’s everyone else’s fault. We know the truth. He’s a monster beyond the point of salvation. Everything he’s touched has burned to the ground.
Let’s take a look at the loose ends we discussed last week:
My bet is it’s still for Lydia.
Even more likely now that it’s for the Nazis. But, why?
Jesse’s confession tape
Jesse talks about it as Todd is taking him out of his dungeon, telling him that only Hank and Gomey knew about it. Marie knows about it. I’m guessing she presents that tape to the authorities since there is surely a manhunt going on for Walt. It’s that tape that exposes Heisenberg to the world, which is how the inside of the White’s house gets tagged with “HEISENBERG”.
Walt’s confession phone call
Likely in the Schrader house somewhere, along with Jesse’s tape. Now that Hank is dead the DEA should be watching the house, making it hard for the Nazi’s to get it back.