Breaking Bad Season 5

Is Hank onto Mike and Walt?
Talking television.
Aug. 20 2012 6:45 AM

Breaking Bad Season 5

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Are Hank and Gomez onto Mike and company?

Breaking Bad still.
Breaking Bad

Photo courtesy of AMC.

I sometimes wish Breaking Bad spent more time with the addicts who destroy their lives and their families with Heisenberg’s blue meth. But this week revealed the saddest, most desperate addict of them all: Walter White. As you say, Matt, Mike’s exit strategy makes sense, but addicts never take the sensible route. Apparently, Walt’s desire to be the Cecil Rhodes of the ABQ drugs scene has fried his brain

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

I understand why Walt would still be hung up on the mistake he made back in the Gray Matter days—that $2.16 billion market cap would haunt anyone. But the guy whose cover story is that he’s a high-stakes poker player should listen to the wisdom of Kenny Rogers: “Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’/ Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.” Walt misplayed his Gray Matter aces, but for his own sanity and everyone else’s safety he needs to walk away from the table. Unless he has a very good plan—and I’m skeptical—Walt’s pride and his desire to replay his big hand are robbing everyone of a chance to get out of a very dangerous game.

I did love the business with the wires, though. I always enjoy it when Walt demonstrates the power of science. And it’s yet another reminder of what a bummer it was to leave Gray Matter. (Didn’t the “personal reasons” Walt told Jesse about involve Gretchen, his former lab partner who is now Gray Matter CEO Elliott Schwartz’s wife?) Walt is clearly a brilliant and imaginative chemist; remember back in Season 4 when Elliott told the guests at his birthday party that it was Walt’s insights into crystallography that made the company’s patents possible? And it’s tragic that he’s using his knowledge to such despicable ends. Walt’s MacGyvering of the wiring also reminded me of Herr Schuler’s suicide by defibrillator in Episode 2.

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I have to admit that for all of Declan’s financial smarts—“I’m not just buying this for the supply, I’m buying it for the demand”—I felt bad for the drug users of the southwestern United States that his real motivation is to get the superior blue meth off the market. That means Walt and Jesse would play Betamax to Declan’s VHS.

Perhaps it’s that I just read a book about World War II deception efforts, but I’m starting to wonder if Hank and Gomez know that Mike and co. are listening to their conversations and are feeding them misinformation. Of course, we’ve seen no evidence for that, but the tidbits of information the partners pick up in their eavesdropping always seem to be just what they want to hear. That’s suspiciously convenient.

To answer your questions, Emily, Todd creeps me out. His cradling of the tarantula jar, the veiled threat about his uncle in jail, the way he knew to stroke Walt’s ego by calling him “Mr. White”—all of this made me think he could mess up the merry threesome. The rationalization he offered for killing the kid—“I saw a threat, and I took care of it the only way I could”—could also justify the partners killing him. I felt bad that they voted to keep him on the payroll.

And I found that scene between Skyler and Marie absolutely heart-breaking. Skyler is clearly being driven crazy—and into a lot of bad habits—by the secrets that she knows she can’t share. Her realization that Walt told Marie about her affair with Ted was so devastating because it reminded her that no one in this family can keep anything to themselves. That destroys any possibility that she could unburden herself to her closest confidante—especially given Hank’s profession.

Play it as cool as you like, Fonzie,
June