Walt tries to live his life as a car wash owner, despite Hank's Heisenberg revelation and Jesse's determination to give all his meth-earnings away
Well, here we go — the final eight episodes of one of the greatest series on television.
As a few punks skate around in the pool, a bearded and not-bald Walt pulls up outside of his family’s now fenced-off, vandalized home. He grabs a crowbar from his heavily armed trunk, slips through the chain links and opens his front door. He forgets to knock. Glancing at the run-down rooms, he sees Heisenberg scrawled across the wall in yellow. Someone does remember his name.
Pulling change from his pocket, Walt makes his way to his old bedroom, uses a coin to unscrew the electrical outlet, and retrieves what I thought was the ricin cigarette. Upon further review, however, seems to be something else. (UPDATE: After a third viewing, it’s the ricin vial.)
When Walt leaves the house, he encounters his neighbor. “Hello, Carol,” he says ominously. Carol just stares at him with a horrified look on her face. She drops the grocery bag she held in her hands. Oranges roll out onto the ground. And as we all know — oranges signal death. But Carol’s? Or Walt’s?
Although we can safely assume this flash-forward takes place after Walt’s 52nd birthday at the beginning of the fifth season, how much time has passed since remains to be seen. (We could compare hair-growth, but maybe on-the-run-meth-kingpins often take time out for grooming?) And why would Walt go back to Albuquerque? Clearly, people know who he is, and that he lived there. Why take the chance of being caught? Unless he wants to be.
The scene dissolves into the opening credits, and we’re back where we left off. Hank in the master bathroom, absolutely stunned at his discovery that his brother-in-law is the elusive Heisenberg. Hank stumbles out onto the patio, where he hears Marie playfully telling Walt: “You are the devil.” If she only knew.
Hank begs off the happy family reunion, dragging Marie with him. In a panic-attack state, Hanks ends up driving his car into a mailbox. When they’re back home after a three-hour ER visit, Hank refuses Marie’s attempts to get more medical care and heads straight for his garage. Pulling out Gale Boetticher’s file, he compares the handwriting in Gale’s journals to the handwriting in Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass. While I’m not sure if Hank’s DEA training included handwriting analysis, it’s clear to him — as it already was to us — Gale wrote the note in Walt’s book.
Why did Walt keep that key piece of evidence in a place where anyone could find it? Is it his hubris? Does he like keeping tokens of his victims? Will we find out later that he has a vial of Jane’s vomit stored in the freezer?
Meanwhile, Walt does his best impression of a guy who runs a car wash, discussing the placement of air-fresheners with his wife. (For the record, pine is their best-seller.) He impresses upon Skyler that their cover story is the most important thing. “What do successful car wash owners do? They buy more car washes,” he tells her. Skyler, making the most of her predicament, acknowledges that she likes the location of another car wash. Reluctant power looks good on her.
NEXT: A familiar face returns
Walt hustles inside, probably eager to rearrange the air-fresheners, as a new customer pulls up. Skyler takes her order, and looks curiously at the keys the woman hands her. We know what Mrs. White doesn’t — the woman is Lydia.
Lydia has a problem. The product has fallen to a 68 percent level of purity. She can’t work with that number and she needs Walt’s help. “I left a viable operation; the rest was up to you,” Walt says. “I’m only asking for a few days. A week at most. Call it a tutorial,” she counters. “Fix this. Get the ship back on course.” Walt refuses, dismissing her with “Have an A-1 day.” Skyler, though, figuring that something is amiss — “Who washes a rental?” — has her suspicions confirmed when Walt reveals who Lydia is. She follows Lydia and threatens her. “Never come back here again. Do you understand me?” I’m willing to bet, however, that despite Skyler’s warnings, Lydia will be back. Besides, we know Walt takes pride in his work. How long before he can’t stand that the Heisenberg product is less than perfect?
At Jesse’s house, Badger is regaling Skinny Pete with his idea for a Star Trek script. (It involves a blueberry pie eating contest and Chekov’s guts being blasted into space and definitely sounds more entertaining than the script for Star Trek Into Darkness.) But Jesse grows weary of his friends’ antics and heads to Saul’s office. “Woody Harrelson, live and in person. Pull up a bong and take a seat,” everyone’s favorite shady lawyer greets his client. (Thank goodness for Saul and the first bit of levity in the hour. Special recognition goes to his masseuse with the line “Barn door open.” Apparently, Saul likes his massages to have happy endings.)
Jesse tells Saul that he wants to give $2.5 million to Kaylee Ehrmantraut and $2.5 million to the parents of Drew Sharp. Saul doesn’t understand why, which means he has no idea that Mike is dead nor does he know that the great train/methlyamine robbery ended in the death of a kid. (Saul, like Jesse, doesn’t appreciate it when children die. Remember when he tried to quit after finding out that Walt had poisoned Brock?) Saul tries to talk the wayward Jesse out of it; Jesse just wants it done. Of course, once Jesse leaves, Saul calls Walt.
Cut to Jesse lying under his dirty, glass-topped coffee table. He hears a knock on the door. You can guess who it is. Walt — carrying the two bags of Jesse’s money — jokes that it’s just like the last time they saw each other. He drops the bags on the floor and tries to convince his young protege to keep the cash. Jesse doesn’t want to. “It’s like you said. It’s blood money,” Jesse throws his former partner’s words back in his face. Walt presses on: “All right, I said that. I did. But it was in the heat of the moment. I was trying to win an argument. And I was wrong. This is your money. Come on, you’ve earned it.”
He then addresses the dead kid in the room. “Drew Sharp. That is a terrible memory. No doubt about it. But son, you need to stop focusing on the darkness behind you. The past is the past. Nothing can change what we’ve done. But now that’s over. You’re out. And so am I.” Is Walt still preying on Jesse’s need for a father-figure? Or does Walt really want to preserve their relationship?
Walt, acting as innocent as he can, questions Jesse’s motives behind sending the money to Mike’s granddaughter. Jesse believes Mike is dead and he thinks Walt killed him — how else is he living his life after having pulled a hit on Mike’s men in prison? Walt keeps lying to Jesse, claiming that Mike is still alive; Jesse is too smart for that. Later on, Jesse ends up flinging out wads of cash onto the doorsteps of houses in a poor neighborhood. His face belies a growing depression, and perhaps an emerging breaking point. Will Jesse relapse? Or will he turn informant against Walt to ease his conscience? Aside from possibly Hank and definitely Saul, Jesse is the one we’re all rooting for — he is the drug dealer with the heart of gold, after all.
NEXT: A familiar disease returns
Back at the White family home, Walt excuses himself from dinner to take a few pills and vomit in the master bathroom. This scene moves the plot along in two ways — we find out that Walt’s cancer is back and Walt finds out that Leaves of Grass is missing. In bed that night with Skyler — she still sleeps next to him? — Walt figures out that Hank hasn’t been to work since their barbecue/his run-in with the mailbox. Now, Walt thinks he knows Hank knows.
Outside in those famous tighty-whities, Walt pulls a GPS tracker off of his car. Now Walt really knows Hanks knows.
The next morning at the Schrader residence, two DEA agents deliver more evidence to Hank’s garage. Walt pulls up, and Hank fumbles to hide photos of Gus Fring, the Cousin’s drawing of Heisenberg and whatever else Hank left carelessly on the table for all to see. At first, Walt and Hank attempt a civilized conversation. (Hank doesn’t yet know that Walt knows he knows.) Walt turns to leave, pauses for a moment, turns back around and asks about the GPS tracker. Hank closes the garage door. Game on.
“I’ve got to say, I don’t like the way you’re looking at me right now,” Walt says, and quickly receives a punch in the face from Hank. “It was you. All along it was you. You son of a bitch. You drove into traffic to keep me from that laundry.” Hank continues, “You killed 10 witnesses to save your sorry ass. You bombed a nursing home. Heisenberg. Heisenberg. You lying two-faced sack of shit.”
Walt appeals to Hank’s sense of familial duties. “These wild accusations could destroy our family,” Walt pleads. It doesn’t work, so Walt tries another tactic, telling Hank his cancer is back. “The truth is, in six months, you won’t have someone to prosecute. Even if somehow, you were able to convince anyone that I was capable of doing these things, you and I both know I would never see the inside of a jail cell. I’m a dying man who runs a car wash. My right hand to God, that is all that I am. What’s the point?”
Walt really does have Hank beat here, on four levels. One, he’s been running a meth empire under the nose of the DEA agent for a long time. Two, he paid for Hank’s rehab with those ill-gotten earnings. Three, with the return of Walt’s cancer, it’s likely Walt dies before he serves any time, especially with the slow pace of the American legal system. Four, Marie’s reaction — you know she’d never forgive Hank once Skyler’s involvement becomes evident. For the sake of justice, Hank will have to risk looking like an idiot, or people thinking he was in on it the whole time, and destroying his own family to bring a man down who will die before having to suffer the consequences.
Hank asks Walter to bring the kids over with Skyler and they will talk. “That’s not going to happen,” Walt says. “I don’t know you. I don’t know who I’m talking to,” Hank says. “If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly,” Walt threatens. The camera lingers on the two of them, each looking ready to pounce.
Hank’s words must drive Walt insane. His entire goal is for people to “know his name,” yet Hank confesses he doesn’t know who he is anymore. (Incidentally, the tagline for this season shares an origin with the musical Fame. And how do drug lords live forever? By being caught.)
How did you feel about the first Heisenberg/Hank showdown? Do you think Walt really wants to get caught? Are there really only seven episodes left?