Breaking Bad 5.14 – Ozymandias


In case you were wondering, the title of the Episode, Ozymandias, refers to a poem of the same name about an ancient, long-forgotten king who had the hubris to think he and his empire were invincible. Oh God. ::dons helmet and other protective gear:: Let’s watch this, bitch!

We start the episode in a flashback to the first cook Walt and Jesse ever did, in the old RV (aww) when they were still silly and bickering, Jesse grossed out at Walt’s middle-aged semi-nudity, Walt seeing Jesse as nothing more than a drugged up idiot. Ah, those were the days. Walt walks a distance into the wilds for some privacy so he can call Skyler. They’re both happy and loving, chatting about what they’ll name their unborn baby and what’s for supper even as Walt tells her the first of a thousand lies to come, which he’s practiced before he says it out loud so it sounds authentic. It’s a sentimental journey, and our hearts can’t help but be tugged (on their way to be torn out and eaten), as first Walt, then Jesse, then the RV disappear into non-existence as we come back to present day.

The shoot-out is over. Hank’s hiding behind his vehicle assessing his odds. He’s been shot in the thigh, gushing blood, out of bullets. Gomez is dead on the ground, his rifle beside him. In other words, Hank’s odds are now officially baaad. Nevertheless, he begins to crawl toward the rifle because he’s not the kind of guy to quit (Unfortunately. If he were a quitter he’d be at home with Marie right now, placidly accepting that Gale was Heisenberg.). Evil Uncle Jack, Todd, and the other henchmen toddle on over to see how they did. Jack steps on the rifle just as Hank touches it, thereby squashing Hank’s last tendril of hope.

Jack sends a couple of his men to find Jesse, who’s disappeared. Meanwhile, it’s confirmed that Hank and Gomez are DEA, and that’s all Jack needs to hear before he cocks his gun (or whatever it’s called; I’m Canadian). Walt flies out of the car in a panic, tearfully begging Jack to spare Hank’s life. See, Walt’s been in several jams as bad or worse than this, and he’s always been able to talk his way out before. But that’s because he’s dealt with reasonable men like Gus and Mike, who both mortally underestimated the danger he posed. Uncle Jack doesn’t give a shit about Walt, or Heisenberg, or any of his past exploits. In Jack’s eyes, Walt is just a sad sack of a science teacher who is too chicken to do his own dirty work. And as these cycles go, Walt has underestimated Jack and his capacity for both banal cruelty and Slytherin cunning. Not so Hank, who stops Walt mid-blubber to say, “You’re the smartest guy I ever met…and you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind ten minutes ago.” No one but Walt is surprised when Jack shoots Hank in the chest, killing him, the sound ricocheting throughout the flats. We might have wanted Walt to beat Hank, but nobody ever wanted this. It’s a hard scene to watch, made both worse and better because he and Marie had a chance to say their loving good-byes just minutes ago.

Walt is devastated to the point of being incapacitated, falling over to the ground in agony. He always looked at this as a game between him and Hank, Sherlock vs Moriarty, Darth Vader vs Obi-Wan (take your pick who was who in these scenarios). He never considered that an outside force could come in willy-nilly and tear the game apart. And Jack’s just getting started. Walt didn’t have time to consider what he was really telling Jack when he gave the coordinates to his location, and now that Jack’s taken care of Hank he wastes no time in getting his guys to dig up the money barrels to which Walt has so helpfully led them.

Because nobody on this show is either fully good or fully evil, Jack leaves a barrel of the money behind for Walt. Todd, a bewildered dog following his repugnant master, uncuffs Walt and says, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Good lord. Jack makes it clear the only reason Walt is alive is because Todd respects him. Even so, Jack makes it clear that they have to shake on it so he knows they’re square, no hard feelings, before he’ll let him go. Walt shakes on it, the final indignity. But he’s not looking at Jack; his thoughts are elsewhere. We find out where when he betrays Jesse in kind and reveals that Jesse has been hiding under the car the whole time. Jesse: the reason Hank is dead, the rat, the ex-son. Oh God. Jesse.

They drag Jesse as he cries, “No! No!” in the most heart-rending way, and with Walt’s silent, heartless blessing Jack prepares to shoot him in the head. Jesse looks at the beautiful blue sky above him and steels himself for the end. Little do we know this is going to be the BEST case scenario for poor dear Jesse. At the last second Todd interjects to propose that he take Jesse home to find out exactly what Jesse told the DEA about them and THEN kill him. Works for Jack. Does it work for Walt? It so does. Though even the thought of Jesse getting tortured isn’t enough of a punishment in Walt’s eyes. Walt stops Jesse long enough to tell him that he watched Jane die. “I could have saved her…but I didn’t.” Jesse’s soul withers before our eyes at this news, which satisfies Heisenberg enough that he walks away without looking back. Honestly, I can’t call him Walt at this point. He’s dead, too. They’re all dead now, and OMG why am I watching this show while sober again?

They drive off, leaving Walt alone, so very alone. He gets in his car with his barrel o’cash and drives for two minutes until he runs out of gas due to a bullet hole through the tank. Yup, it’s just one of those days. He rolls the barrel to the nearest farm, where he buys some dude’s truck with very crisp new hundred dollar bills.

Back at the car wash, Skyler is anxiously leaving messages for Walt when Marie drops by for a visit. She informs Skyler that Walt’s been arrested and she fully plans on supporting Skyler through what’s going to happen next – but only because Skyler had been so upset and freaked out for all those months, proving some part of her didn’t want to go along with what Walt was doing. Skyler shrinks into nothingness at the news, regret and defeat and relief flashing over her face. Poor Marie, who is too nice to gloat and still believes she and Hank have the upper hand, demands that Skyler gives her all the copies of Walt’s “confession” CD, and that Skyler tells Walt Jr the truth, right here and now. Needless to say, Skyler doesn’t want to but Marie gives her the old “if you won’t, I will” ultimatum.

I’ll bet you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Jesse, right? Wrong. Dearest Jesse, the heart and conscience of the show, wakes in an underground room as Todd opens the hatch at the top to get in. Jesse has been badly beaten yet again, his face nothing more than hamburger. He sobs and begs Todd to leave him alone since he’s told him everything Todd wanted to know. But guess what? We didn’t give Todd enough credit, either. He has other plans for Jesse than mercifully shooting him in the back of the head. He leads Jesse to his meth lab, where he’s set up a harness so Jesse can’t escape but can still walk around. Todd has also taped up a photo of Brock and Andrea as a warning as to what will happen if he does try to get away. Unlike Gus who figuratively kept Jesse and Walt in slavery, Todd has turned Jesse into an actual slave who will work until the day he dies. “Let’s cook,” Todd says without a trace of malice or empathy. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Walt Jr. takes the news about his dad pretty much as you’d expect, with shouting and denial and angry tears. He walks out, unable to bear what Marie and Skyler are telling him. “Try to breathe. Try to breathe? Really??” Skyler breaks down and sobs into her hands, and may I just say if it isn’t clear what a fantastic every actor in the show has done in this most difficult episode. Emmys all around! Marie tells her to take the kids home and regroup.

After unwisely telling Walt Jr. to do up his seat belt because it’s unsafe to not wear it (“You’re shitting me, right?”), they come home to find Walt frantically packing everyone’s clothes to abscond. Trying to sew together the tatters of his plan to save his family, he orders them to get what they need so they can leave, so he can save them. But Skyler’s already put two and two together, that the only way Walt isn’t in custody is if Hank is dead. Walt refuses to admit that, trying to tell them everything is fine, but there isn’t a lie big enough to fix this. He tells Skyler about the money outside, how they can leave and start new lives. All they have to do is go.

Skyler knows exactly what he’s saying, and accuses him of killing Hank. No! He tried to SAVE Hank. This admission of the cold truth sets Jr. off into a spiral of anguish. Unable to deal with it, Walt rushes down the hall to pack for them. Jr. follows him, bleating for answers, and Skyler does what any mother would do as she realizes the enormity of the lies she was telling herself to go along to get along: she gets a big knife from the kitchen and orders Walt to leave. He can’t believe it, most especially when she cuts his hand open instead of giving him the knife. He attacks her and they fall to the ground, struggling for the knife as Holly cries and Jr. shouts at them to stop. I was honestly afraid he was going to kill her, and maybe he would have, but Jr. drags him off her and cowers over her to protect her from his dad. Gah!

“What the hell is wrong with you? We’re a family!” Walt shouts at them. They stare silently back at him. As he belatedly recognizes the fear and hatred in their eyes, Walt finally has to face the truth once and for all: the decisions he’s made, the actions he’s taken, has destroyed his family, not saved it. He. Him. His choices, his fault. When Jr. calls 911, he bolts, but not before grabbing sweet little Holly, perhaps scheming to start a new family, a better family, where he won’t make the same mistakes again. A fresh start, him and his girl. When Skyler realizes what he’s done, she chases after him into the street, screaming and begging him to stop. It’s a gut-wrenching scene for any parent (or human being) to watch.

At some point Walt stops to change Holly’s diaper in a bathroom, cooing to her and being extra nice. She’s not buying it either, and starts to fuss as she says, I believe, “NOT THE MAMA.” Walt’s face falls as he realizes what he’s done. Being fully evil is harder than it looks. He tenderly kisses her head and closes his eyes, knowing what he has to do.

Back at home, the cops are crawling all over the White residence, issuing an Amber Alert and gathering information. Skyler, Jr., and Marie huddle in the living room as Marie tries to give herself hope that Hank isn’t dead because how could Walt overpower Hank when Walt was in handcuffs?

Everyone’s heart stops when the phone rings. The cops listen in as Skyler answers. When she demands to know where Holly is, his rough and angry answers are shocking. It only takes Skyler moments to realize what he’s doing: he’s leaving evidence that everything was his idea and she was just his hapless victim. He may be a monster, but he’s not all Heisenberg. Until the end, he’s trying to save his family with his lies. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and they both cry as they both know this is good-bye. He bows his head as he says, “Toe the line or you’ll end up like Hank,” thus sealing his fate. When she asks what happened to Hank, he tells her they’re not going to see Hank ever again. As she reacts to this news, Marie reacts to her. Hank is truly gone. Skyler begs him to bring Holly and come home, to which he replies, “I’ve still got things to do.” He hangs up and cries his heart out. Then he takes Holly out of the car and leaves her at a fire station to be found by a firefighter, in good health but crying with such profound sadness that she deserves an Emmy, too.

Now Walt is utterly alone, an island. He and his barrel o’money wait just as Jesse did for Saul’s guy to come and help him disappear. But this time there is no revelation, no change of heart to make him change his mind. He gets in the car when the guy arrives, and they drive off, leaving Heisenberg behind him although it’s cost him everything to do so. Which begs the question in a big way – why then does he come back?