Breaking Bad #509: "Blood Money"

Some friends told me they finished watching Breaking Bad (for the first time) on Saturday night, cramming in the last two episodes so they'd be caught up for last night's premiere. I was jealous: they only had to wait a day to find out what would happen when Hank got up off that toilet. The rest of us have been turning that question over in our heads for a year. After the jump, let's get to discussing what we learned...

First, another flash-forward, telling us more about where Walt will be in a year. And as usual with this show's glimpses of the future, I still can't imagine what could happen to get us from here to there. In a year, we know now, Walt's house will be ransacked, condemned, his pool drained and taken over by scofflaw skaters (see, I told you nothing good ever comes of swimming pools on Breaking Bad). Where's his family? And who's going to get that ricin?

Back in the "present," Hank is falling to pieces over his discovery, and Walt is more serene than ever. Skyler, too. She seems to have found her calling as a businesswoman; she actually likes running that car wash. Did you notice that the Whites were both dressed completely in shades of off-white and tan in the car-wash scene? It reminded me, as I assume it was supposed to, of the first-season episode when Walt and Skyler went to the birthday party at the luxurious home of Elliott, Walt's old Gray Matter colleague. Then, all the other guests were dressed in off-whites and light browns, and the Whites stood out in their comparatively garish getups. (Skyler's mid-pregnancy choice of a bright blue dress with ruffles was really just objectively garish.) Then, they were out of their element; now they're feeling in control, like they've finally come into their own.

It shouldn't take Lydia to tell Walt that his leave-it-all-behind scheme has a few flaws. But then, the cancer has come back, which helps explain why Walt thought he could step out of the criminal empire he'd built. He's a marked man anyway. He can die, apparently the same decent, ordinary man he was to begin with, and his son will never know what happened during that period of remission. And yet Walt is pursing treatment. And not telling his family about it. A lot of competing motives to sort through.

Jesse is smarter than Walt expected, having pieced together the truth about Mike. He's not smart enough, though, to play dumb -- or, more likely, he's too depressed to bother. At the end of the last season it looked like Jesse was out of danger. Walt didn't try to kill him; instead he gave him millions of dollars. He could have walked away. But his conscience won't let him, and now the question is who will get to him first, Walt or Hank?

I was surprised that Hank confronted Walt so early in the season -- I thought they'd get more mileage out of How much does Hank know? and Does Walt know Hank knows? and Does Hank know Walt knows Hank knows? and so forth. But this show has always moved fast. And we do have a lot more ground to cover! When Hank did confront Walt, he rattled off just a few of Heisenberg's most heinous acts and deceptions: the call saying Marie was in the hospital, designed to throw Hank off the trail for just a few moments, which prompted Hank to beat Jesse to a pulp (an act Hank now realizes was an error of fact as well as of judgment). The bomb in Tio's nursing home. The cold-blooded prison killings. And Hank just scratched the surface: What about the explosion at the laundry; the assassination of poor Gale Boetticher; and of course Hank's own hospitalization? Walt stands exposed; his doing-it-all-for-family justification is an ugly lie.

So: now what? Reflections, predictions? Anything surprise you?


Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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