Breaking Back: A season-by-season retrospective (Page 5 of 5)

Season 5 Review (Episodes 1-8)

Sure, AMC teased us a bit. They gave us the first 8 episodes to the final season a year ago. Personally, I call that two seasons, but either way, I’ll take it.

Walter White does not just function in chaos, he is chaos and he functions at his highest levels when chaos surrounds him.

“I am not in danger,” he tells his wife, Skyler, “I am the danger.”

The first half of season 5 is chaos. While most of the characters scramble to find order, Walter White schemes to maintain chaos.

In the days following the death of Gus Fring, Walt, Jesse, and Mike make concentrated efforts to cover their tracks; Hank follows the trail and closes in on the mysterious Heisenberg; and Walt takes on a new partner and looks to tie up his own loose ends.

Walt, Jesse and Mike decide to continue their operations in a three way partnership, but Mike has his reservations, and only eventually joins the venture with great reluctance, telling Walt, “You are trouble … you are a time bomb. Tick. Tick. Tick. And, I have no intention of being around for the boom.” As the season progresses, Mike probably should have listened to his own advice.

The new partner, Lydia, brings both trouble and opportunity. Lydia reveals that she was the catalyst to Gus Fring’s success. First, she comes to Mike with a list of names — eleven people who can connect her and Mike to Gus Fring’s illegal operations. Mike makes a deal with her as she will provide a key component for the meth.

Saul, the lawyer, takes a more active part in helping the creation of a new lab. The trio opts to go mobile. They start manufacturing their meth in houses being tented for pests such as termites. They cook, clean up and get out within a few days. One of the pest control crew, Todd (Jesse Plemons), quickly finds himself as a member of Walt’s team. He’s got a combination of eagerness and aggressiveness that runs its course through the season.

Walter White began as a man in desperation. He thought he was dying and wanted to provide for his family. He put himself in a world of evil and real-life horrors. He has gone from a person, once good, breaking down those walls and becoming bad, to more than bad, to evil and purely despicable.

Mike begins to realize the error of his ways in aiding Walter White, but he is too late, for not even he can stop the monster he has helped to create. Jesse continues to be the closest thing to a moral compass Walter White has in his life. Jesse, while often doing wrong, is often the voice championing what is right in his corrupt world.

It would be nice to say that Walter White has come full circle and returned to the man he was, but you can’t. Walter White is only a shell of who he was, becoming more Heisenberg than Walter White.

His rise in the world of crime coincides fully with his descent as a decent human being. Even in a world of crime, Walt seems to lack any sense of ethics beyond his own wants and needs. Success doesn’t even necessarily seem his motivation as much as just dominance.

In the season (or half season) finale, Walter White has a Micheal Corleone-type moment, clearing the way for total and complete dominance.

Walt forces Mike out of the picture and Jesse simply wants out. This sets the stage for his future operations with Todd as his cooking partner, a new distribution partner in the US, and Lydia prepared to set up operations overseas. And, of course, there’s Hank. He’s been promoted and continues to pursue the Fring investigation in search of the mysterious Heisenberg. And, Hank, finally makes a connection … possibly the grand connection, revealing the truth that is Walter White.

This could be the beginning of something big, but it feels like the beginning of an end.

Grade: A (so far)

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Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine