'Breaking Bad' Season 5, Episode 4 Recap - 'Fifty-One' and Walt's Unraveling
Walt's ego—and his delusion over his level of control in his situation, which is absolutely related to said ego—is reaching epic proportions. The opening to this week's episode was a play on the traditional midlife crisis, but with a dangerous backdrop: every ego-fueled decision that Walt makes from here on in brings him closer and closer to being either killed or arrested.
In the intro, we said goodbye to one of the show's oldest characters: the Aztek. Walt's ugly little SUV has served him well over the years, and got a proper sendoff with the mechanic going over the details of the car, and praising them... and that includes that awful shade of green. "People like to joke," he says, clearly breaking the fourth wall a bit and talking to us, "but I really, really love this car."
He gives it a thump and notes how durable it is, how it could last Walt another 200,000 miles, and in that he sets up the theme for this entire episode, and perhaps even the rest of the season/series: Walt is not so durable. Walt is running out of time, and that's only if he isn't undone before the cancer comes back.
Walt's Ego is the Danger
Fantastic editing on the opening, wasn't it? "Breaking Bad" is never afraid to play with different styles or take risks, especially with the opening (remember that music video about Heisenberg?), and the strange, souped-up music video style here was fun and different.
But for how long can Walt keep doing things like this without Hank starting to wonder? Hank already made a "car wash millionaire" quip or two during Walt's birthday dinner in this episode, so while we know he still isn't suspecting too much, it's definitely on his mind.
Walt's reactions surrounding his birthday in this episode are revealing of the man that he has become: a man whose ego is so inflated that, even at 51 years old, he gets pissy when there isn't a big birthday party for him when he comes home. Or was he always this way? This is the same man, after all, who refused to take money from Elliott back in season one.
There was a time not too long ago when Walt would have driven a brand-new sports car home and gotten an earful from Skylar, eventually having to bring it back (or, you know, do a bunch of donuts and then blow it up in a parking lot. To each his own). Now, though, Skylar simply walks by the two shiny new Chrysler/Dodge cars, sighs, and continues on into the house, sitting silently through dinner while Walt and Junior bond over their new toys.
Lest you think that Skylar has lost her backbone, though, fear not: she's just working things out. And it seems, by the time Walt's modest birthday celebration comes around, that she has a solution: make a scene and get Hank and Marie to take the kids. Skylar attempts to drown herself in the pool in front of Hank and Marie, and it works quite nicely.
But a fantastic and horrifying later scene shows that her plan won't quite work: Walt shoots down every idea she reveals to him as he practically chases her around the room, physically trapping her in corner after corner as he does so verbally. It's a gorgeous piece of television, absolutely gripping to watch despite it just being two actors talking in a room.
And it ends with a killer line: "Wait for what?" "For the cancer to come back." Yep. Skylar now wishes Walt was dead.
SuperHank's On the Case
Lydia makes another appearance here, and she's not in a good state. In fact, she even failed to put on matching shoes today. She picked the wrong day for it, too, as Hank et al show up at Madrigal and question her, eventually leading her to point out poor Ron, who works in the warehouse, who promptly gets arrested.
It's clear Lydia wants out, but Mike keeps her in it, even making her pull the barrels from the warehouse herself, with the help of Jesse. The two make a shocking discovery, though, when they find a gps tracker on the bottom of their barrel of mehtylamine. Jesse reports back that the cops must be tracking them, but Mike knows it's just Lydia trying to get out of the game.
She should, too: Hank is suspicious. Lest you think that he missed a detail, he reveals in a later scene that he noticed Lydia was wearing mismatched shoes. "How put-together can she be?" he muses. Shortly after that, Hank gets promoted, which means he'll be running the office... but will have to give up his work on the Heisenberg case. Something tells me he won't be doing that, though.
The Unraveling of Walt
I'm going to say this now: the selling of the Aztek was the beginning of the end. That sturdy vehicle represented something constant for Walt, and though it was used as a murder weapon at one point, it was still a piece of Walt's former life that he kept with him. That's gone, and from it he pulled the Heisenberg hat.
Should Walt really be wearing that thing in public, considering the police sketches at whatnot? Nope. But that's Walt's ego for you.
The really beautiful thing here is the one tiny thread that Walt sees while he's hearing Jesse and Mike argue over what to do with Lydia. That loose thread ties into the theme: Walt is coming undone. Even his Heisenberg hat is falling apart.
There's even more evidence that Walt is walking a dangerous path with the rather sweet gift he gets from Jesse. Where his family failed to give him a birthday celebration, good ol' Jesse was thoughtful enough to get Walt a new watch... he even included the receipt if he wanted to exchange it. Aww.
The final shot of the episode is the watch on Walt's bedstand, ticking away the seconds. You can't help but think of Mike's words from the pilot: "You're a time bomb, tick tick ticking... and I have no intention of being around for the boom."
- The "gunky buildup" on the Aztek. Shudder.
- The bacon 51, haphazardly thrown together by Skylar.
- The floss on Skylar's finger, making it look like she's being choked, or trapped.
- "I thought you were the danger." NICE BURN, SKYLAR!
- "The person who gave me this present wanted me dead, too, not long ago."
- Was there a 51 on Skylar's coffee mug?