Breaking Bad 5.08 – Gliding Over All

“How much is enough?”

Now that Walt has murdered Mike, his most dangerous frenemy (after Gus Fring, of course), he’s the undisputed master of his domain. I’m not sure how that makes him feel, but this week we find him sitting in the Vamonos Pest office by himself, not in the boss’s chair behind the desk but rather the chair in front of it, keeping his eye on a fly that’s buzzing around. It seems no matter how hard he tries, Walt is never going to be able to fully eradicate the particular contaminant that’s driving him mad.

Todd comes in to tell him he’s had Mike’s car squished – now it’s time to dispose of, you know, the other half of that bloody equation. Mike’s body is in Walt’s trunk, and Walt warns Todd he doesn’t want to talk about what happened: “It had to be done.” Walt should probably just break down and get that printed on business cards so he can hand them out as the need arises. Todd’s cool with the murder; Heisenberg is his boss, and nobody else.

They’re getting the dreaded barrel o’ corpse acid going when Jesse very unexpectedly drops by for a visit. Todd hastily closes the car trunk and leaves the two exes to talk it out. Jesse understandably wants to know if Mike made it out safely. “He’s gone,” Walt promises, and who can argue with that? Jesse is visibly relieved, but still wants to know what they’re going to do about the nine songbirds that are almost certainly going to start singing about five minutes after they realize the hazard pay spigot has dried up for good. “We?” sneers Walt. “There is no we. I’m the only vote left, and I’ll handle it.” Having been soundly spanked, Jesse walks out of the garage, only to have Walt close the garage door, putting not just a symbolic but real wall between them. Any affiliation or affection they felt for each other is gone baby, gone.

We see Walt taking a shower through the shower head cam, a copy of Walt Whitman’s poems revealed as his bathroom reading. Who is he getting gussied up for?

Hank is so very happy. For the first time, he has the upper hand while dealing with the blue meth case. He has nine guys willing to deal, and if he doesn’t like what one of them has to say, he’s pleased as punch to go to the guy in the next cell to see what HE’S willing to give up. Ah, it’s a good day in DEAville.

Walt goes to meet Lydia at her favourite hook-up joint, a coffee shop. He wants a list of those nine potential turncoats, but wait just a second. Lyida is way too anal and uptight to just give it to him. He makes fun of her: what, does she think he’s just going to kill her right in the cafe in front of everyone? Regardless, she wants to give him a reason to need her, so pitches to her temporarily captive audience the idea of taking the blue meth global – with her specialized help, of course. Walt’s not so sure, but like she says, it’s no problem if you’re magical. Okay, she actually said “Madrigal”, but that’s what I heard at first, and may I say I’d heartily approve if they added some wands and spells to this show. Anyway, Lydia is very smart, maybe even as smart as Walt, and it took her two seconds to grok that if Walt is looking to kill of the nine guys who work for Mike…that means Mike’s dead. In her haste to not end up in the back of Walt’s car, she oversells herself but the outcome is the same. Walt agrees to test drive the junkie Czechs, and advises her to learn to take yes for an answer. As Lydia writes down the list of nine names from memory for him, Walt looks at her with admiration of the carnal variety. How refreshing it must be to be in the company of a woman who understands what it is you do, encourages you to do it more, and has a very kissable mouth, too. I think he enjoys her handshake to seal the deal more than is entirely proper. After she leaves, he pick up his hat off the table, only to reveal the ricin he had hiding under it. He was totally going to kill her right there in the cafe if he had to. The man has balls of adamantium!

Now that he has the names, Walt just needs someone with the prison contacts to whack them all. As Jesse would say, just like the mafia. Who better than Todd’s uncle? They meet in a seedy motel that coincidentally (are there any coincidences on this show?) has the same painting that was in the doctor’s office the day Walt was diagnosed with cancer. Todd’s uncle thinks Walt is one sandwich short of a picnic to expect all nine men in three different prisons to die within two minutes of each other. Walt sets him straight, icily ordering him to figure out the logistics, because that’s what Walt’s paying him for. The uncle cracks up, because I bet he’s seen crazy mo-fos just like Walt before – and they’re always the guy in charge of shit.

The next morning bright and early, Walt’s fancy ticking time bomb watch count down the two minutes he’s allocated for the killings, and we get to watch as all nine men are methodically dispatched in a flurry of horrifying shiv action. The job is done…and doesn’t it just ruin Hank’s day completely.

Walt goes to a supervised visitation of Holly at Marie’s Purple Emporium (she even has Holly in purple pants!). I’m sure his timing had absolutely nothing to do with finding out Hank’s next move after the body blow Walt delivered that morning to his investigation. When he gets home from work Hank offers him a drink, and doesn’t wait for a toast before downing the first and pouring the second. He tells Walt about a summer job he once had tagging trees to be cut down – a nice parallel to the nine men who were also marked to be killed off. Hank’s lost every bit of his humour and good natured-ness when he tells Hank that that job is way better than chasing monsters. You know, maybe Walt isn’t there to find out Hank’s plans after all. Maybe he’s there to gloat. What does he have to say to the fact that Hank considers him subhuman, the dregs of all humanity? “I used to love to go camping.” He’s got a teflon heart now. He leans down to put his drink on the coffee table – and sits up in his hazmat suit ready to cook. Very cool shot!

Cue to a montage played over the old, perfectly fitting ’60s song, Crystal Blue Persuasion, in which we see Walt’s drug empire grow by leaps and bounds, every cog working perfectly together as Walt and Todd cook the meth, distribute it through Lydia and Declan, and launder the resulting cash through Skyler at the car wash. Easy peasy. So what if he stops sleeping? Only mere mortals need to sleep, and Walt is more an unfeeling machine these days. Or is he?

When next we touch down, three months have passed, and things are settling down nicely. Just as promised, nobody’s tried to kill Walt and his family, and Walt hasn’t killed anybody else. All Walt pretty much does is cook, actually, and Skyler finds out that being morally bankrupt doesn’t really affect a person’s day-to-day life. She runs the car wash and counts money, Walter leaves her alone for the most part, and you know…life is okay. Marie tells her as much when Skyler is over visiting the kids. She points out that Skyler seems much better and maybe now the best way to heal the family would be to, um, heal the family. What a temptation that must be for Skyler. She’s given up so much – doesn’t she deserve to reap some of the rewards for the risks she’s taken? Lord knows she isn’t about to spend any of those ill-gotten gains at the mall.

When Skyler goes home later, she finds Walt by their fateful pool, staring into it like he’s a witch in Macbeth, trying to see the future. He doesn’t look happy, he looks very alone. That decides it. Skyler drives him to a storage locker she’s rented, where she shows him what she’s been hiding there: a pile of cash the size of a Smart Car. As she tells him, it’s more than they can spend in ten lifetimes. She steps toward him and tells him that she wants her kids and her life back. She asks, almost begs him, “How much is enough?” I think Walt’s been asking himself the same question. He’s made his empire, earned the respect of his industry peers, and all he has to show for it is a pile of rectangular papers that need to be sprayed for silverfish. He’s lost everyone he cares for who ever cared for him. How much is enough, indeed.

If that wasn’t enough of a push, Walt goes in for his regular MRI, to remind him that he’s got cancer. You want alone? Dying of cancer without any friends or family beside you, that’s alone. When he washes up in the hospital bathroom after he’s done, Walt is shocked to see the paper towel dispenser he beat up the day he first found out he was in remission. The day he realized that his breaking bad was not going to be a short-term solution before checking out permanently. With all these nods back to his cancer, you have to wonder if Walt hasn’t found out something he hasn’t told us yet.

Jesse isn’t doing so great these days. He’s not working, back drinking and drugging; I believe it’s safe to say he’s given up the ghost. This is how Walt finds him when he comes over to pay him a visit. Jesse gets something off-camera before he opens the door, but he does answer. At long last, Walt isn’t there for any reason other than to see how Jesse is doing. No lies, no manipulations, just a semi-awkward how’s-it-going conversation. Walt allows himself a small, sad smile when he sees his cruel prediction about going back to being a junkie has come true. Jesse knows about the nine guys being killed, and when Walt hands him a business card tells him it had to be done, they’re both sick of hearing it. Jesse tells Walt he’s NOT coming back, but that’s not what Walt is there for. Instead of talking about today, where everything good is in burning tatters around them, he reminisces about the old days, when they were first starting out in the broken down RV, and they were doing crazy things that didn’t include killing innocent people. Jesse joins in and for a moment at least, they’re partners again. Why didn’t they get rid of the RV? Inertia, they both agree. Maybe nobody changes until something or someone makes them change. But then the moment’s over – Walt earned Jesse’s hate, and nothing he can say now is going to change that. They make their excuses and Walt leaves, telling Jesse he’s left something for him outside. Jesse’s eyes widen, because he knows exactly what that means.

Jesse goes outside as Walt’s car drives off, where there’s a gym bag full of cash waiting for him. Walt finally honoured his part of their deal. Jesse drags it inside, shaking and gasping for air as he slides to the floor. He takes the gun he had in his back pocket and slides it across the floor. He was fully ready to kill Walt if he’d given Jesse any reason at all to do so, but Walt just might have saved his life instead. Can Walt be regaining his humanity? Can he really step away from everything he’s done, a changed and perhaps better man?

Next stop: Skyler, who’s washing her hundreds of dirty wine glasses in the kitchen. He turns off the water and she looks at him, coldly, but perhaps not as coldly as three months ago. “I’m out,” he says softly. Her expression turns to one of fragile hope. She doesn’t say anything and neither does he. He has no expectations of her, no demands. He just wanted her to know. He walks away, because that’s enough.

And so Walter White has vanquished the evil Heisenberg, reached the precipice of power and found it’s not all cracked up to be. I’m not sure if I accept his complete transformation with no more reason than that the challenge was gone or he proved himself in his own eyes or whatever (unless the cancer really is back), but okay. He got away with everything he did, earned the money that he needed (he insisted for five seasons) to take care of his family, and came out smelling like a rose, or perhaps more so like Lily of the Valley. Heh. Walter White, lord god emperor of the universe!

The last scene is an idyllic one, in which the kids are back home and Hank and Marie are over for a barbeque just like the old days. They’re talking and laughing and life is so very sweet. You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, and all that rot. Hank goes to the bathroom to have a satisfying post-supper poop. He feels around for something to read, and, rejecting the girly magazines, comes upon…Walt’s copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves and Grass. He opens it up, only to find Gale’s inscription inside the front cover: “To W.W., my OTHER favorite W.W. It’s an honor working with you. G.B.” Hank’s mouth goes slack as he recalls reading Gale’s notes to Walt a lifetime ago, when he jokingly accused Walt of being the W.W. Gale referred to. At that time Walt had put up his hands and said weakly, “You got me.” And suddenly the darkness is made light.

But did he still poop, that's what I want to know.

Walt, who meticulously planned out a meth production empire, who orchestrated the machinations and manipulations of everyone who crossed his path, who outsmarted Gus Fring and murdered him and anyone else who got in his way…Walt is brought down in the end by a careless mistake even an amateur would be embarrassed to make. Now Hank knows, and everything is going to go straight to hell. Worst dinner party ever Y/Y?

Let the war begin. I can’t imagine two more worthy adversaries than Hank and Walt, so this is going to be spectacular.

But not until next year, when the last half of the season will air. See you then, and thanks for reading!