Breaking Bad 5.9 – Blood Money

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This week on Breaking Bad: Walt enjoys his retirement from the meth industry by spending more time with his children and volunteering at the local SPCA so he can help abandoned kittens. Hahahaha. Just kidding.

Ah Walt, we missed you so! The opening scene of our final season finds Walt back in the future, the one where he has a head full of hair and a trunk full of giant guns. He pulls up to his house, but it’s obviously been a while as the place has been fenced up by the DEA at some point, and now the only people who go inside are graffiti artists and skateboarders who make use of the emptied pool. Wait, the DEA has seized the house? Does this mean Hank’s won their epic battle? He may have won the battle, but as long as Walt is alive and on the run, Hank obviously hasn’t won the war.

Walt explores what’s left of his home, which has been emptied and torn apart by the agents, all his hiding places for guns, drugs, and money unearthed. What’s left of the place has been tagged and abused, and someone has left a giant “Heisenberg” spray painted on the living room wall. Whatever’s happened between then and now, Walt’s secret is out and the world knows his true identity, down to the local street kids. He’s famous, and that’s really not a good thing, now is it? He still has one secret left though, as he pries off a wall socket plate to find the agents have missed the vial of ricin he hid there long ago. Walt has a couple of tricks left up his sleeve – but with whom is he waging war? When he catches a glimpse of himself in a ruined mirror, he can’t quite believe the weary and ragged man who looks back at him. He goes back outside and runs into his next door neighbour, who looks at him as if he’s a cold-blooded killer or something. When he says “Hello, Carol”, she drops her bag of groceries in shock. What the hell is Walter White doing back in town?? It’s a damn good question.

Now we go back, baaaack in time, to Hank sitting in Walt and Skyler’s ensuite bathroom. He’s just discovered that Walt is Heisenberg through the book of poetry Gale gave Walt before Walt had Jesse rudely shoot Gale in the face. Hank staggers out of the bathroom, zombified by the revelation. He hides the book of poetry in Marie’s purse before he grr-arghs his way outside to the patio, where everything he thought he knew about his life has been torn to shreds and a horrifying truth has taken its place. He barely manages to stammer out an excuse about not feeling well before he drags Marie to the car to escape. While Marie is babbling (I think about Walt and Skyler moving to Europe?!) Hank devolves into a full-on panic attack, wherein he crashes the car into a random yard and forgets how to breath out. Marie screams at the home owner to call an ambulance. Pull yourself together, Hank! There’s a mastermind criminal to catch and Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t available until September!

Back home after a fruitless trip to Emergency, Hank scurries to his office, Marie’s worried bleatings trailing off behind him. He checks the handwriting in the poetry book to the official sample of Gale’s handwriting from his meth recipe notebook. Yup, it’s a match. Son of a bitch! Now what the heck is he supposed to do? He doesn’t know, and neither do we.

And what’s our monstrous villain doing, anyway? Why, he’s telling his customers to have an A-1 day at his totally innocuous car wash, that’s what. He and Skyler are perfectly normal business owners, right down to Walt getting under Skyler’s feet now that he’s retired from his other job and has nothing better to do with his time than plot air freshener marketing strategies. His day is going great until Lydia shows up to wash her rental car beg him to come back to retrain whoever took his place as head meth cooker, because they totally suck at it. He refuses, even if it means Lydia’s customers fire her by slitting her throat and leaving her body in the desert (for example). She leaves in a huff when Skyler appears, and when Skyler asks Walt about her, Walt actually tells Skyler the truth. No more lies between them, that’s the new rule. Skyler stalks outside and tells Lydia to fuck right off. Does Lydia really think that after everything Skyler’s been through, after all she’s endured and done to get her family to this point, she’s going to let some illicit drug industry flunky come flouncing in and threaten it? Yeah, no. Lydia tucks her tail between her legs and skeedaddles.

Meanwhile, Hank has taken the week off work due to his “stomach bug”/panic attack/unwanted life-changing revelation. He gets his minions from the office to bring every file from the Heisenberg case and sets up shop in the garage, sifting through every piece of evidence, looking at them with a Walt-coloured lens. The video of those morons carrying a barrel of stolen chemicals through the parking lot? Check. The drawing of Heisenberg the twins o’ doom were carrying when they attacked Hank? Check. Gale’s death? Gus Fring’s death? The enormity of Walt’s culpability is only beginning to dawn on Hank.

But where is our dear Jesse these days? He’s at home, stoned, listening to Skinny Pete and Badger discuss a potential Star Trek fanfic that involves transporting blueberry pie-laden poo into space (which is still a better plot than After Earth). In a daze, he gets up, retrieves the gym bags full of drug money Walt gave him, and leaves without a word. Which prompt Badger to inquire, “Hey man, where you going? You’re missing the best part.” Hee.

Jesse takes his ill-gotten loot to Saul’s office, where he waits in the dreaded purgatory of Saul’s reception area amongst a colourful array of mistfit toys clients who are kept in check by bodyguard Huell the lumpy space princess and Saul’s venomous receptionist who reads travel magazines and dreams of a life beyond her bulletproof-glass-enclosed counter. As Saul’s piped-in muzak says, glory glory hallelujah. Jesse gets moved to the front of the line after sullenly lighting up a big old joint, and Saul cuts short his massage (“Barn door open!”) to usher Jesse in. Jesse instructs him to give the five million dollars to Mike’s granddaughter and the parents of the kid they killed after the Great Train Heist. Saul, who actually seems to be a pretty good lawyer despite his hair, tries to talk him out of it by pointing out that the cops are going to be a little suspicious of where the money came from. Jesse doesn’t care, he doesn’t care and he wants it done and he wants it done now! Good day. I said good day, sir! Saul sighs and mentally counts down the days until he starts his spin-off show away from these idiots. Then he calls Walt.

Walt assures Saul he’ll take care of Jesse. Now you may think Walt’s problems begin and end with Lydia and Jesse blundering back into the picture, but you’d be wrong. As he finishes the phone call with Saul, we see what Walt really has to worry about: he’s getting a chemo treatment. As feared, his lung cancer is back and that certainly explains why he suddenly wanted out of the empire-building business and into the family-building business.

Jesse’s back home, contemplating his guilt-stained soul as seen through the Cheeto, cigarette butt, and cockroach inhabited glass coffee table he’s currently lying under. There’s a pounding at his door, and deja vu all over again, it’s Walt carrying two gym bags full of five million dollars cash. He wants an explanation for Jesse’s poor decision making, and our drugged up boy mumbles, “It’s like you said, it’s blood money.” Hence the title of this episode, children. You may recall that that’s what Walt told him when he was trying to convince Jesse to stay on as a partner, and now it’s come back to bite Walt in the ass. As always, Walt tries to talk his way out of this mess, saying he only said that because he was mad, not because he really believes it.

When that doesn’t work Walt tries a different tack. Unlike all the other conversations on the topic, Walt immediately says the name of the boy they killed, Drew Sharpe. Jesse dies a little inside at the mention of him, and then a little more when Walt squeezes Jesse’s shoulder and calls him “son”. Heck, I died a little bit inside and he wasn’t even talking to me. Walt’s theory is that if he takes Jesse’s pain seriously, Jesse will calm the hell down and shut the hell up and enjoy his life like Walt is – in other words, they practically owe it to all the people they killed to henceforth live “ordinary, decent lives”. Preferably in Europe, one supposes. Jesse is surprised when Walt tells him that Walt’s out of the game now too, but it only lasts a moment or two. What does it matter what Walt’s doing? It only matters what they’ve done.

Because Walt cares so deeply about what Jesse is going through (and by cares I mean wants to know what Jesse knows) he asks Jesse why he wanted to give the money to Mike’s granddaughter. It turns out Jesse isn’t as stupid as Walt hopes he is, and just like Lydia Jesse has deduced that if Walt killed Mike’s Gang of Nine, it means Mike is dead. By Walt’s hand, yo. Walt denies it, passionately, forcefully, repeatedly, hand to god, on Drew Sharpe’s his mother’s grave. “I need you to believe this,” Walt says, and boy is he sincere about that. How else can he ensure Jesse doesn’t screw things up by giving that money to Mike’s dumb family? Can you tell I’m still bitter over Mike’s murder? Poor, perfect Mike. ::cries softly into a tissue:: In my opinion Jesse doesn’t believe him for a second, but agrees with him anyway. Jesse knows Walt is so deluded about his mad kingpin skillz that Walt will naturally assume he succeeded in changing Jesse’s mind. To what end, only time will tell.

That night at the dinner table where much college talk is being bandied about by Walt Junior and Skyler, Walt isn’t doing so well. He’s sick to his stomach and has no appetite, in fact. Is he wracked with delayed self-blame for his grotesque crimes? Um, no. He’s wracked with side effects from the chemo. He rushes to the bathroom where he pulls out anti-nausea medication from where he’s hidden it. Oh-ho, apparently he hasn’t told Skyler the cancer is back. So it’s not ALL honesty and butterflies in the White marriage. He pukes into the toilet like he’s done many times before, and rests between heaves just long enough to notice that Gale’s book of poetry is…not there. He searches for it, even looking under the bed with a flashlight that night before going to sleep. He asks Skyler if she’s seen it, but of course she hasn’t. He crawls under the covers and thinks for a moment. Then he asks Skyler what exactly is wrong with Hank again? Mm-hmm, you think about that, Walt. You think good and hard what that might mean. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. In the middle of the night he gives up on sleeping and goes outside, he’s not sure why. He almost goes back inside, then has a gut feeling that leads him to check the underside of his car. Voila, he finds a tracking device. He’s stunned standing there is his robe and slippers. Just like that, the war has begun. Your move, Walter.

Across town Jesse’s woken up in his car by a homeless man asking for change. At first Jesse waves him off, but then Jesse realizes he may not have change, but he does have two gym bags full of five million dollars sitting next to him in the car because he doesn’t know what the frick to do with the money since he sure as heck doesn’t want it. He gives the dude a stack of bills (who takes it reluctantly, thinking it must be a trick that will surely end with him being tasered by the cops). That’s it – if he can’t give the money to anyone, he’ll give it to everyone. He drives down a random run-down street tossing money out the car window onto peoples’ lawns like he’s a paperboy. A grief-stricken, emotionally mangled paperboy. That’s the ticket!

Isn’t Hank surprised when Walt comes to pay his a visit the next day. He hurriedly gathers up all the photos and files on the Heisenberg case, dumps them in a box, and jams on a lid. Walt takes care to act normally as he sizes up Hank’s demeanor. Needless to say, Hank hasn’t had years of lying and deception to help him, so he’s sweatily nervous, nervously sweaty. Walt sees this plus all the boxes sent in from the DEA office. He understand what’s what. He almost leaves, but knows this is his last best chance to put out this fire, the latest in a long line of fires. He shows Hank the tracking device from Walt’s car and reminds him it’s just like the one they put on Gus’s car back in the day. Instead of explaining Hank closes the garage door. Walt still pretends everything is normal, but that falls apart when Hank punches him in the face. Down Walt goes. Now, Walt isn’t a fighter. He never tries to physically fight back if he can give his opponent a psychological punch instead. He plays to his strengths, goodness knows. As Hank snarls a laundry list of unthinkable crimes Walt committed, Walt gets in a few jabs of his own. These wild accusations are crazy, nobody would believe them! Also, if Hank tells anybody about this it would destroy the family! “I don’t give a shit about family!” Hank literally spits, and that makes Walt pause. Who doesn’t care about family? Even the mafia cares about family. There goes his most powerful cudgel. Next tactic: he tells Hank his cancer is back. This is the best news Hank has heard in years. But why tell on Walt when he’ll be dead anyway in six months? Why hurt so many people when Walt has no chance of seeing a jail cell? What’s the point? He earnestly swears up and down none of it is true anyway. He’s only Walter White, after all. Right? *blink blink*

Hank doesn’t want to hear anymore. He orders Walt to get Skyler to bring their kids over and then maybe they can talk. Walt’s expression changes in a heartbeat. “That is not going to happen,” he tells Hank with stark certainty. Hank stares into his eyes, searching for something, anything familiar. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who I’m even talking to,” Hank whispers. Walt softly replies, “If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.” And there it is. He shows Hank Heisenberg for the first time, and it’s terrifying. They both know exactly what Walt is threatening, what he’s capable of. There’s nothing left to say.

Gentlemen, take your positions.

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  • Charley

    It’s so good to see a new Breaking Bad recap! Oh my goddddd I am going to be living in a permanent state of breathless anticipation for the next 8 weeks (and a permanent state of directionless misery after that, but let’s not think about that…). If they hurt precious darling Jesse I will cry forever.