'Breaking Bad' Season 5, Episode 1 Recap - 'Live Free or Die' and Breaking Bacon
I've never tried meth, but I don't really see how it, or anything else, can be as addictive as this show. It's back! Say it with me: "Yeah, bitch!"
The first shot of the fifth season of "Breaking Bad" is... a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's. Not terribly glamorous, but then again, when is it ever on this show? Before we even see our anti-hero, we can tell that it's him: he breaks up his bacon (I'm sensing a new novelty t-shirt... Breaking Bacon?) and arranges them into a "52" on the plate, just like Skylar did for him on his birthday back in season one.
When we do see Walt, a lot has changed: his hair has grown in, he has a rather unkempt beard, and he's eating breakfast at Denny's alone with a fake ID that says he's from New Hampshire. He doesn't look good, and the cough is still there. Walt is clearly still a man who is slowly wasting away and aiming to burn out before it happens.
We learn by the end of the intro that Walt is there to do a shady deal, which he has clearly gotten much better at: he passes money off to a man in the restroom, then goes outside (to his Volvo! Where's the Aztek?) and opens the trunk on a car to reveal a really big flippin' gun.
That, obviously, is all in the future. It seems that "Breaking Bad" is going back to the season-long tease format that was used earlier (or at least a tease over a few episodes). Expect some jumping back and forth in time as the season goes on.
When we get back to the present, we watch Walt cover his tracks after the events of last season's finale: he cleans up wires and chemical odds and ends from his kitchen, right before taking that lily of the valley out of his backyard as well. It's only later, after an uncomfortable confrontation with Skylar, that Walt stands up with an "Oh, shit."
Cut to Hank, encased in a hazmat suit (it's less flattering on him than it is on Walt and Jesse), searching through the remains of the burnt-down lab. It's easy to forget sometimes that Hank is very good at his job, and as such, he's the one to spot the mangled remains of the camera that Walt has screamed at/pleaded to so many times.
So, "oh shit" indeed: somewhere, on Gus' laptop, is footage of Walt and Jesse milling about the superlab, industriously cooking huge batches of meth. Oh, and there's one other person implicated in all of this: Mike.
Can we all pause for a moment and acknowledge how great it is to have Mike back? I know he was only gone for a few episodes really, but he was a force to be reckoned with this episode. He comes tearing out of Mexico, ready to pull his gun on Walt and shoot him, which he would have if not for Jesse's interference. He still has that fatherly edge, the tired, omniscient tone that once said "go home, Walter" and made Walt obey, in chastising the two for what they've done.
But ultimately, it's Walt that takes control of the situation, and that marks the major shift here: Walt is officially the new boss. His crazy plan to break into the evidence room and get the laptop doesn't impress Mike, but as it goes along, Mike starts to believe a little. When the deed is finally done and Mike questions why they should believe it even worked, Walt gives a simple, "Because I say so." And with that, he's crowned king.
But let's back up: the chemistry in the group is perfect, now that everyone's on the same side. The Dream Team is assembled, and now we have Walt's brains with Mike's know-how and Jesse's... well, ability to think outside the box I suppose. After all, it's Jesse's "or, what about magnets?" that gets the plan in motion. And, once again, Aaron Paul deserves a standing ovation, this time for his little magnet demonstration. Hilarious.
It's also good to know that, even though Walt has clearly gotten better at this sort of thing, there's still the opportunity to bungle one of their big criminal acts. This time, it was the tilt-a-truck as Walt turned up the magnet too high... hey, at least it wasn't Jesse's fault, for once. The whole thing brings back memories of the two awkwardly stealing a barrel of chemicals so long ago, though, which means some much-needed levity.
I say "much-needed" because Walt has very clearly taken a dark turn. There's the authoritative "because I say so" in the car to Mike, there's the "we're done when I say we're done" to Saul, and there's the ever-so-creepy "I forgive you" to Skylar at the end. He's gone past being a badass, or trying to. He's gone past feeding his ego. Walt has stepped into delusional territory.
Skylar, for her part, is starting to see the consequences of her actions, too. She was almost enjoying her newfound skill at lying last season, but only now has she learned what happened to Ted. And when she visits him... hoo boy. The costumes and makeup crew really went above and beyond to make Ted look like a damn mess. And his whimpering to Skylar that he won't say a word to anyone... well, Skylar should understand now how easy it is to be a monster.
It's clear from all this that Walt is no longer our protagonist. His fall is imminent: he'll either destroy himself this season, or become something so sinister that he might as well be dead anyway. It's going to be a dark and scary ride, folks. But hey, at least nobody got their throat slit today.
As for that bit of paper behind the photo of Gus... looked like numbers for a Swiss bank account on the Cayman Islands or some such thing. The short of it is that it's bad news. Expect Super-Hank to turn that into a pretty serious lead.
On the lighter side, here are Mike's best lines of the episode:
- "Wendell doesn't eat, nobody eats."
- "Keys, scumbag. It's the universal sign for keys"
- "You know how they say 'it's been a pleasure?' Well it hasn't."
- "I can see a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not one of them is Miller Time."
And Jesse's, which rivals "yeah science!":
- "YEAH BITCH! MAGNETS!"