Breaking Bad recap: The one where (almost) everybody dies?
Who is dead?
That’s the burning question I was left with after watching Sunday’s blockbuster Breaking Bad episode, "Tohajiilee," which ended with a shootout into which DEA agent Hank Schrader looked to be on a losing end of a lead hailstorm.
The moment was a brutal conclusion to a rarity on Breaking Bad: A moment when teacher-turned manipulative meth dealer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) gets outfoxed – tricked into revealing the plot of desert where his fortune is hidden by onetime partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
Convinced that Jesse had already unearthed his fortune and was burning it, Walt raced to the desert, calling in his brutal semi-partners in the meth business before realizing his former partner was accompanied by Schrader and his long-suffering DEA partner Steve Gomez. (As a gunfight erupted between the DEA guys and Walt’s pals, who pulled up brandishing a raft of rifles, I kept wondering why Schrader and Gomez didn’t pull out their badges, as the criminals kept demanding. They were going to get shot at anyway; might as well try to bluff their way out of it.)
The worst elements of this scene for Breaking Bad fans wasn’t the violent gun battle but the irrevocable severing of the relationship between Walt and Jesse, who may have had the most twisted father-son relationship on any television show ever.
There is little doubt Walt cares for Jesse in a manner usually reserved for members of his own family – in too many ways, his former student-turned-methmaking partner knows him in ways Walt’s own son does not and could not. So his decision to have his semi-partners take out Jesse in a painless way – all the while insisting his former partner wasn’t squealing to the cops – already felt like a bit of filicide.
But Jesse’s use of a ruse to deliver Walt to his mortal enemy and brother-in-law was a betrayal which could not have been more stark – a sure sign that whatever was broken between the two of them will never be manipulated or maneuvered back into place.
To pick a few nits, there was an uncharacteristic amount of clumsy foreshadowing in Sunday’s episode. Saul Goodman reminding Walt that Jesse is “not as dumb as you (Walt) think he is” even as his old partner was setting him up. Hank calling his wife to celebrate handcuffing Walt even as we, the viewers, know his heavily-armed buddies are probably on the way.
And there’s the flash forward scenes from earlier in the series. We know Walt survives his cancer long enough to grow his hair back. We know he’s not in jail in the near future. We know his Heisenberg alias becomes public enough that it’s spray painted on the walls of his to-be-abandoned home.
And so we know Walt survives the punishing shoot out which closed Sunday’s episode.
But we don’t know if anyone else did.
Killing Hank Sunday would also feel a bit clumsy to me. Even though we know nothing short of death would stop the agent from bagging Walt, there’s little in this last run of episodes which has been so predictable or contrived.
And Jesse better not be dead. There’s way too much still left to be said between him and Walt.
Best of all, Sunday’s episode ended before the gun battle did, giving us all a week’s time to contemplate exactly who might not be joining us next week.
I guess these guys really do know how to tell a TV story.
With three episodes left, who do you think bought the farm on Sunday?