'Breaking Bad' Season 5, Episode 8 Recap - 'Gliding Over All' and Revelations on the Pot
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Gliding o'er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul--not life alone,
Death, many deaths I'll sing.
- Walt Whitman
A gorgeous episode. Was it particularly suspenseful or stressful? Not really. Was it a bit predictable? Yeah, kinda. But stylistically this was a true "Breaking Bad" episode: quiet, well paced, well acted, wonderfully composed.
Screw chronological order: let's start with that ending.
Here I Sit, A-Broken Hearted...
Of course, of course Hank would make his revelation on the toilet while taking a dump. Of course.
It was a moment that was unfortunately a bit predictable: from the moment we saw Hank enter the bathroom, it was clear that he was going to find something, and that shot of Leaves of Grass sitting in the basket on the toilet earlier in the episode was very pronounced. It just screamed "THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER."
But it's such a testament to the intricate structure of this show that simple objects could become so important later. Who actually remembered that conversation between Walt and Hank, where Hank suggested that W.W. was Walter White? I certainly did not. Thank god for the flashback clip, which also provided the perfectly placed "ya got me." Yeah Walt. Now he does.
For that matter, we saw the return of the punched-in paper towel dispenser this episode. Objects quickly become artifacts in this show, parts of the mythology that represent so much more than they seem to be, and have the power to change lives in an instant or to serve as a terrible reminder. Todd has his bottled spider. Walt has his book of poems and teddy bear eye.
Oh, and he has that ricin.
A Calmer Lydia, a Scene from Oz
Our jittery resident logistics specialist made her meeting with Walt to bargain for her safety with the list of names, and noted (quite correctly) that Mike was no longer a factor. That meant she had to offer something of value, and she did: she offered to start shipping the meth overseas to the Czech Republic, where apparently there's a huge market. Walt agrees, and Lydia provides the names. And Walt had that ricin ready and everything. Shame.
What followed was a scene that put "Oz" to shame. So many shankings. It's possible that, even in this very violent show, this was the most violent sequence we've seen to date. Each murder of Mike's "guys" was brutal, especially the one with the fire. Ouch, man. Ouch.
"Breaking Bad" hit another home run with the music choice for that scene: the smooth, calming tones of "Pick Yourself Up." Not only is the music a disturbing juxtaposition to the bloody images, but there's irony in the lyrics: Walt isn't doing any work or picking himself back up. He isn't dirtying his hands at all. Once again, he's passing it off to someone else.
Heisenberg's Unabashedness Principle
On those sequences: Walt's boldness in wearing his Heisenberg getup in public used to baffle me (seems risky), but today it made sense.
Earlier this week I noted how often "Breaking Bad" has been invoking classic crime movies lately, and how Walt seems to fancy himself one of those master criminals that he's seen in films. That could not have been more clear here, as he walks into his meeting with Lydia in his Heisenberg hat and glasses, only to take them off and put his regular glasses back on as he sat down.
Did you see that? It's a costume for him. This is a game. He gets to play dress-up and play the big bad guy, but always distances himself from his wrongdoing. Any kill he makes is followed by a "it had to be done," or else it was never really his fault in the first place.
For just a brief moment this week, things got real: I absolutely loved the scene between Walt and Hank after the prison murders, where Hank reveals his old, very simple job of marking trees to be cut down. "Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters," he sighs. "I used to love camping," responds Walt, ever so smugly.
Skylar's Small Victory
It's tough to say exactly what affects Walt and makes him make the change: is it Hank essentially calling him a monster, and seeing how miserable he's making his brother in law? Is it the grind of the job, now that things are actually going smoothly for once? Is Walt only interested in the danger and the rush of breaking the law and fighting for his life?
Or does it finally sink in when he sees the pile of money that he's made? Skylar finally has a hand to play, a visual aid to help her convince Walt to stop what he's doing. She brings him to a storage facility and shows him a massive pile of money that he has made, that she could no longer launder. Heck, she couldn't even count it. When he asks her how much is there, she responds with an honest "I have no earthly idea."
"How much is enough?" she asks. "How big does the pile have to be?" Interesting how the lead-in to this scene was Walt sitting and staring into the swimming pool, which we established a few weeks back (thanks to your comments, you bright and loyal readers), that swimming pools are a pretty clear representation of the American Dream in this show, and of the danger that greed can bring.
So, Walt tells Skylar "I'm out. I'm out." And that is that. We cut to presumably weeks or months later, the family is back together, and everything seems fine (though the look between Walt and Skylar indicates that they're still not on great terms). And then Hank takes a dump, and suddenly everything is very much not fine.
Obviously this leaves tons of questions: how will Hank proceed with this pretty clear evidence? Presumably he'll follow the money first, which would probably lead him right to Skylar and the car wash... is Skylar going to be liable in all this?
Also, how did Walt simply drop out after striking a deal with Declan's gang? Presumably they won't be happy about not getting Walt's product anymore, but perhaps they were just happy to get it off the market.
It's also clear that Jesse is almost fully aware of what Walt is capable of. The scene between them was so wonderfully played yet again by Aaron Paul, who plays it cool even though he is fearing for his life the entire time. How long will it take before he finds out that Mike ended up dissolved in a barrel?
Poor Mike. I was really hoping he wouldn't end up like that.
And though Walt didn't use the ricin on Lydia like he was clearly planning, it's still very much available. The show was very clear in showing it being put away in its hiding place.
And what of Todd? We've seen what his uncle is capable of doing, is he a threat at this point?
- "Pretty cool the way they do that, how they turn a car into a cube." You can tell Jesse Plemons is really enjoying this role.
- The fly! A contaminant! We saw that in the wonderful bottle episode last season that had Walt and Jesse attempting to kill a fly in the superlab, and here's another one, right at a time where Walt has plenty of contaminants to deal with: his loose ends, his tarnished soul, his broken family... the list goes on.
- More on Walt playing the part of the bad guy: his commentary on the painting in the scene with Todd's uncle seemed like his attempt at being cryptic and cool while actual criminals coolly and professionally discussed their plans.
- Another great cooking montage this week, really great cut from Walt speaking to Hank to Walt in the hazmat suit. Also very cool with the flyover shot and the tented houses at the end of it.
- Walt times the shankings with Jesse's watch. Jesse has to kill him, right?
- The shanking scene ends with Hank taking a picture with the little league girls. Perfect.
That's all for the mid-season finale. Expect some more analysis on this episode and predictions for the second half of season 5 in the coming days, and as always leave your comments if you have thoughts, questions or answers!