The TV Box: Breaking Bad, S5E14: Ozymandias

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Spoilers ahead… if you are not current with Breaking Bad, by all means… avert thy eyes…

“I watched Jane die.”

For a show known for the slow boil approach to story telling, this season is plowing full speed ahead… unfortunately, it’s headed straight into a brick wall.  This episode, Ozymandias, is upsetting from beginning to end and doesn’t relent at any point.  From the cold open flashback, giving us a glimpse of Walt and Jesse’s first cook, knowing that we the audience are on pins and needles waiting to discover the fates of everyone involved in that shoot out between Hank and Gomez and the white supremacist, to that final scene of Walt driving off with Saul’s disappearing act… Breaking Bad is going out with one hell of a bang.

I’ve been trying to sort out the episode in my head for the last two days… so much happened, with so many far reaching implications, that I’m having a difficult time with it… or at the very least, where to begin.  Do we begin with Hank, who gave his life in the only way he could, as the upstanding lawman we always knew him to be, unable to crack under pressure as another cog in Walt’s manipulations and pleas?
Do we look into Walt’s motivations and how he has dealt with those two factors in all his decisions, money and family, and how those two pieces of his master plan came crashing headlong into one another?  Or perhaps we can look at the fate of Jesse… or of Skyler… or perhaps the incredible emotional arc that Marie went through over the course of this hour… there is simply so much happening, it’s an epic feat that the writers managed to squeeze so much into one episode, yet it all felt right… or at least, as right as something so very wrong can feel.

The end of Hank and Gomez

To see Walt pleading with Jack, offering up all his money, which we now know to be $80M, was to see a man trying to pay for his mistakes.  Willing to give up everything he worked for, everything he killed for, everything he destroyed so much for, in order to save the man who was intent on bringing him down… but that man was family.  And to see his decision, calling Jack and giving him the coordinates to his money, be the direct cause of Hank’s death was heart rending.  Not just for Walt, he certainly is to blame for all of this, so it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for the monster at this point (although, you know you still do), but for us the viewers.  Whether you wanted Walt to go down, or for Walt to outwit, outplay, and outlast (this is like Survivor: Meth Island), it has been difficult to see Hank go through so much over the course of the series… to see him shot in his leg again, all in his quest to bring down Heisenberg, was simply hard… and to see him facing down a gun, and know that his fate was sealed well before the smartest guy in the room, and to stay the course… devastating.

I knew Hank was going down… I believe I said as much last week… but it was still hard.  RIP Hank Schrader… and RIP Gomez

Let’s talk about Marie for a moment… she always pisses me off.  Something about Marie has driven me nuts from day one… and seeing her smugly going to the car wash, telling Skyler that Hank has Walt “dead to rights”, and insisting that she tell Walt Jr. everything pushed my buttons in ways that I can’t fully explain, other than to say, you don’t tell a parent, drug kingpin or not, what to do with their children… and her insistence on being so self-righteous and willing to shove her own sister’s face in the shit drives me mad.  Walt, for all of his faults, cares about his family (yes, this is a topic of much debate)… but Marie is willing to sell her family out… and I have a hard time with that.

Heartbreak incarnate

All of that said, it was rough to see her come crashing down with the news of Hank’s death… and to give Betsy Brandt all the credit she deserves, she acted the shit out of this episode.  To rise and fall so quickly, and so dramatically… and for us to feel that pain and horror… damn.

OK… I need to stop avoiding the elephant in the room… Walt.  From the pain of seeing Hank die after pleading for his life… to then having his fortune taken from him by the very men he set after Jesse… to then ratting Jesse out to Jack, which, considering that it was Jesse who was ratting Walt out in the first place (surprisingly easy to forget that little fact), isn’t really that shocking… to rushing home to pack… then finding out that Walt Jr. knows everything… to that fucking wrestling match between Walt, Skyler, and eventually Walt Jr., the blade glistening in the light feeling for all the world like a Chekov’s gun… to the abduction of Holly… to that phone call (more on this in a second)… to finding Walt waiting for Saul’s disappearance man… his arc in this single episode is greater than most series can extract in a season, much less an hour.  If this doesn’t earn him yet another Emmy… or maybe a Golden Globe… I don’t know what could.  An amazing performance in the midst of an amazing season.

Can you hear me now?

We see every side of Walter White in focused detail… but for me, most telling was that phone call to Skyler as the police listened in.  I don’t believe for one moment that he meant what he was saying.  I choose to believe that he knew the police were listening, and that what he was ultimately doing was making it easier for everyone when he simply vanishes.  If his family believes him to be a monster, they won’t care if he’s gone… they will come to feel that they won, as opposed to losing a husband and father.  From the moment Holly looks at him and asks over and over for her mama, Walt knows exactly what he is doing.  Prior to that, pure desperation… but like always, it’s family that grounds him.

Now… Jesse.  I was flabbergasted when Walt points him out… and felt abject horror when he gave the go ahead for his execution.  It was just two weeks ago that I was making the case that Walt was the only person who seemed to genuinely love and care for Jesse… and today, it seems that Walt has forsaken him completely.  Is it due to the apparent betrayal of Jesse against Walt?  Probably.  Was it justified?  Yes for both of them… I can see the justification for Jesse doing what he did, Walt is a murderous bastard… and I can see the justification for Walt feeling betrayed, because, well… he was.  But to hear Walt telling Jesse about Jane… that was like a dagger in my heart… and for him to acquiesce to Todd’s plan to torture first, kill later… damn, Walt.

How smart is Todd?  In the end, will it be Todd driving off with the money and Lydia into the sunset?

Last week I mentioned the theory that Walt’s flashforward would end up being him going off to rescue Jesse after he was made to cook meth… apparently, there may still be some validity to that theory.  Seeing Jesse tethered… then having the picture of Brock  and Andrea hanging there, a subtle threat that if he doesn’t comply, they’re dead.  Fucking Todd…

An all too familiar location

As we watch Walt waiting for the van and loading his barrel of $11M+, we know it’s not the end… not quite yet at least.  We know that he doesn’t stay “disappeared” for long… we know that he returns home… we know that he purchases a huge M60… we know that he collects the ricin.  We don’t know why yet… and all the theories over the last few weeks, ranging from him using it to kill himself (which I don’t buy), to using it on Skyler, seem to be missing the bigger picture now that it’s coming into focus… the ricin could be for Todd and the Uncle Jack gang.  Surely there is enough ricin to kill them all.  One last cook perhaps?  Laced with ricin?  I can’t envision a more worthy set of victims for Walt’s rage…

And it’s that rage I fully expect to see played out and in full force in the upcoming two weeks.  Breaking Bad continues to defy expectations… other than the expectation of being one of, if not the, greatest shows ever created.  Well played Vince Gilligan… well played.

My nephew respects you… also, I’ll be honest, you caught me in one hell of a good mood,
Cornelius J. Blahg


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