Breaking Bad recap: Ozymandias
Is anyone breathing yet?
To summarize “Ozymandias,” the third to last episode of Breaking Bad, quickly: Hank is dead. Gomez is dead, too. Todd’s uncle Jack and his guys take most of Walt’s money. Walt Jr. knows the truth. Jesse is being held captive by the white power Nazis and forced to cook meth with Todd. (A dog on a leash, Aaron Paul tweeted.) Skyler slashes Walt’s hand with a knife. Junior calls the police on his dad. Walt kidnaps Holly, then leaves her at a fire station with her address pinned to her baby clothes. In the final moments of what may be the most intense episode to date, we see Walt sitting by the side of the road, with his one barrel of money and suitcases. The vacuum cleaner man pulls up in his red van, Walt gets in, presumably to start his new life — possibly in Alaska, but probably not — since we know he’ll be back in Albuquerque. A stray dog walks across the screen. End credits.
“Ozymandias” is a poem written by Percy Shelley about the downfall of kings — how all people in power will eventually lose that power.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Shelley might as well have been writing about Walt. And Walt — who built a meth empire worth upwards of $80 million — has certainly lost almost everything.
Not just the money, of course. (Although he is down about $69 million.) He’s lost his family, his sole motivation for every meth cook, every dead body, every bad deed.
First, Walt loses Hank. In the aftermath of last week’s shootout, Gomez lies dead on the desert ground. Hank is wounded, but still reaches for Gomez’s gun. Jack walks up to him and points his gun at Hank’s head. Walt gets out of Hank’s car and begs Jack to reconsider — even offering him $80 million for his brother-in-law’s life. Jack asks Hank if he should take that deal. Hank acts defiantly.
“What do you think, fed? Would you take that deal?” Jack asks Hank.
“It’s Hank. His name is Hank.” Walt interrupts.
“How ’bout it Hank? Should I let you go?” Jack questions.
“My name is ASAC Schrader. And you can go f**k yourself.” Hank gets Mike-level points for great (almost) last words.
“Hank, listen to me. You’ve got to tell him, you’ve got to tell him now we’ll work this out,” Walt pleads.
“What? You want me to beg? You’re the smartest guy I ever met and you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago,” Hank tells Walt.
Hank turns to Jack, “Do what you’re going to…” and the shot rings out before he finishes his sentence. Rest in peace, Hank. You died an honorable and noble death. We’ll see you under the dome.
Second, Walt loses Walt Jr. and Skyler. Marie, not knowing Hank is dead, pulls up to the car wash to tell her sister the news — that Hank has Walt “dead to rights.” Marie forces Skyler to tell Walt Jr., who doesn’t believe his mom and his aunt. Skyler drives her kids home, to find Walt frantically packing.
“All we have to do is go,” Walt tells his family. Skyler asks where Hank is. She realizes he’s dead, and accuses Walt of killing him. He tells her that’s not true. She grabs a knife from the kitchen, and tells Walt to get out of the house. He tries to calm her down. She waves the knife at him, cutting his hand. He lunges at her, and they fall to the ground. Walt Jr. goes after his father, shielding his mother. Junior calls the police. Walt leaves the house, taking Holly with him. Skyler runs after her husband. She’s too late. Walt drives away, with a bloody Skyler screaming after him in the street.
NEXT: The semi-return of HeisenbergWalt makes one last attempt to right things at the end. On the phone with Skyler, after he kidnapped Holly, Walt angrily reprimands his wife for telling Junior. At first, Skyler is furious with her husband. He took their child, she thinks he killed Hank. But as Walt does his best Heisenberg impression, it’s clear to her — and to us — that he’s trying to protect her, because he knows the police are listening.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Why can’t you do one thing I say? This is your fault. This is what comes of your disrespect. I told you, Skyler. I warned you for a solid year — you cross me and there will be consequences. What part of that didn’t you understand?” he says.
“You took my child,” she cries.
“Because you need to learn,” Walt admonishes.
“You bring her back,” she shouts.
“Maybe now you’ll listen. Maybe now you’ll use your damn head. You know you never believed in me. You were never grateful for anything I ever did for this family. ‘Walt, Walt you have to stop. You have to stop this. It’s immoral. It’s illegal. Someone might get hurt.’ You were always whining and complaining about how I make my money, while I do everything. And now, now you tell my son what I do, after I told you and told you to keep your damn mouth shut. You stupid bitch. How dare you,” he screams into the phone.
We see, however, that he’s doing it with tears in his eyes. Yes, he sounds like Heisenberg, but he’s still Mr. White, the cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who just wants to provide for his family.
“I’m sorry,” Skyler replies, playing along and realizing the gift her husband is giving her.
“You have no right to discuss anything about what I do. What the hell do you know about it anyway? Nothing. I built this. Me. Me alone. Nobody else,” Walt continues. It’s partly hubris, here, too. He’s still obsessed with everyone bowing down to the once great Heisenberg.
He then indirectly takes credit for Hank’s death — perhaps to throw everyone off the scent of Jack, Todd and the others. Walt finishes his conversation when Skyler implores him to come home: “I’ve still got things left to do.”
He does still have things left to do — but what exactly? Will he take revenge on Jack and the Nazis? Will he save or kill Jesse? Will he call Saul? (Yes to that last one, if the previews for next week are to be believed.)
There are more questions, though. What happens to Jesse, Skyler, Marie, Holly and Junior? And most importantly, how will Vince Gilligan and the rest of the Bad team top this episode?
Other things of note:
The cold open of “Ozymandias” brings us back to Walt and Jesse’s first cook at To’hajiilee. Practicing a speech to give to Skyler, Walt calls his home to explain his absence. Bogdan, his boss at the car wash, wants him to stay late to fix the receipts. She believes him, asking him only to bring a pizza back for dinner. “Ozymandias” ends with Walt giving another speech full of lies (or half-truths at best) over the phone to his wife.
The fadeaway from the cold open back to the present is eerie.
Walt, devastated by Hank’s death, still wants Jesse dead. Jack almost shoots Jesse, but is stopped by Todd, who convinces his uncle to keep Jesse around for a little bit to find out what he told the DEA. Before they take Jesse away, though, Walt stops them, and metaphorically spits in his face. “I watched Jane die. I was there. And I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her. But I didn’t,” Walt says. Ouch.
The costume department juxtaposed Marie’s black outfit with Skyler’s white clothes, which is weird because inherently, Marie is the “good” sister and Skyler the “evil” one.
Walt Jr. is the most heroic main character on the show. (Gomez doesn’t count.) When he learns of his father’s other life, he’s rightly angry at his mother for keeping the secret, and says that she is just as bad as him. Yet he still attacks his father, when Walt and Skyler fight over the knife. He even calls the police on Walt immediately. No one else did that. (Also of note — Junior says “sh*t” a lot.)
After “Rabid Dog,” I wrote: “If Gale was the ‘problem dog’ and Jesse is the ‘rabid dog,’ what kind of dog is Walt?” At the end of “Ozymandias” as the vacuum cleaner drives Walt away, that stray dog appears. So Walt is the stray dog. Now with no family and no home.
Except for what Walt does with the ricin, who the giant gun he bought from the Supernatural guy is for, and the ending of the entire series, there are no more big revelations to make. Walt Jr. is aware that his father is a drug lord; Jesse knows about Jane’s death.
Are Jack and Todd the beginning of a new empire? Because when one empire falls, another one inevitably takes its place.
The IMDB page for “Ozymandias” credits the actors who played Jane, Krazy-8, Mike, Tuco, and Gale. Yet they did not show up in the episode. Will they be back in one of the final two hours? Or is IMDB wrong?
Apropos of nothing: The photo will be replaced with a shot from the current episode later. UPDATE: New photo is in!
Breaking Bad is just like the kings Shelley writes about in “Ozymandias.” Bad is one of the greatest shows on TV, but its reign is almost over.
In just two more episodes.
Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.