Slight spoilers ahead…
At this point, it would be easy to say that this and last week’s episode of Breaking Bad have been slightly uneventful, considering that we are down to the last batch. But, this is all just the calm before the storm. We are all aware that something big is coming, and the creators of the show are brilliantly letting the tension ratchet up before hitting us with whatever they have in store for our favorite characters.
What we need to do is pay attention to all of the great, smaller moments that they are feeding us. After all, if it was just shock after shock after shock, we wouldn’t be sitting on the edge of our seats the way that we are. As it stands, I think they are moving forward in a way that allows us to fully be on board for the ride of our lives.
Consider, first, the cold open involving Todd and his uncle headed off to New Mexico. Relatively new characters, we don’t yet know what their endgame is, but it has been made abundantly clear that they will play a large part in whatever fate awaits Walt. Consider the amazingly painful dinner scene between Walt, Skyler, Hank, and Marie (including Marie’s plea to Walt to “just kill yourself.”) Consider the incredibly emotional scene between Walt and Jesse in the desert in which Walt makes another stab at ‘playing’ father to a ‘tired of being played’ Jesse.
Besides these great smaller bits, there are actually a couple of game-changing moments in this week’s episode. The first of which is the confession video that Walt makes and gives to Hank. With this, he has clearly shown Hank which way he plans to play this cat and mouse game between the two (for a moment, you could be forgiven in thinking that he may do the honorable thing, but eventually you’ll remember to know better). Once again, this season’s all star so far, Dean Norris, is fantastic without saying a word as he watches Walt spill the beans via dvd. The look on his face says it all.
The second, and perhaps even bigger (if that’s possible) revelation is Jesse discovering some truths about Walt and his past actions that certainly ensure they will never see eye to eye again. Beginning with the aforementioned scene in the desert and leading to a physical confrontation with Saul, Jesse continues to be one of the most complex characters the show has to offer. The show ends by setting up a possible act of revenge, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see how far it goes.
With the final run of the show encompassing only eight episodes, it’s probably safe to assume that most people were expecting each episode to be more shocking than the last. Instead, the creators have gone down the much riskier route of slowing things down a bit (but, let’s be honest – not much) in order for the impact of the actions to really sink in. By giving us more time with the characters, it not only magnifies our connections with them, but it also ensures that we spend the entirety of each episode not knowing who, what, when, where, why, or how whatever it is is coming. But, make no mistake – it IS coming…
Jason’s Final Thoughts:
As a footnote, I realize that over my reviews for the last three episodes, I have been lax in mentioning the acting of Bryan Cranston as Walt. Please understand, his performance is as strong as ever (stronger perhaps). At this point, he IS Walt and gives what could quite possibly be the greatest performance in the history of television (I don’t consider that to be hyperbole). It’s just that these last few episodes have given a lot of weight to some of the more ancillary characters and they have all responded beautifully with their performances. Much in the way that the first half of Season 5 allowed Jonathan Banks’ Mike to finally get the recognition he deserves, I felt it was time to ensure that the entire ensemble gets their dues as well.
Episode 11 Grade: A
Cast:- Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Matt Jones, Charles Baker
Review by Jason Howard. Special to Influx Magazine