Breaking Bad Season 5
Hank's Eureka moment.
Photo by Ursula Coyote/AMC.
Back in the first week of this discussion, I said I was excited about the return of Breaking Bad and its oh shit moments. Vince Gilligan almost literally gave us one in this week’s final scene, when Hank, pants around his ankles, reached for some bathroom reading and found Gale Boetticher’s fond inscription to his “other favorite W.W.” in a copy of Leaves of Grass. At first, I was a bit annoyed that Hank’s breakthrough came while he was on the can (this isn’t Girls, after all), but I guess it’s appropriate that, like Archimedes’, his Eureka moment should come in the bathroom. Earlier in the episode, he told Walt that “tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters.” How perfect that his breakthrough should come when he was preparing to lay a log.
So now we know what will animate the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad: Hank’s attempt to bring Walt—whom he now knows is Heisenberg—to justice. Or will he? We’ve never seen any indication that Hank is corrupt, but he’ll surely be tempted to keep his discovery to himself. Will anyone believe that Hank didn’t know his brother-in-law was a drug lord? After all, the guy pays closed-door visits to his office. And Walt—who didn’t appear to have a legitimate source of income at the time (the gambling story wouldn’t hold up to investigation)—paid for Hank’s physical therapy, which means that Hank benefited from the proceeds of drug trafficking. Perhaps the neatest solution would be for Hank to kill Walt, removing Heisenberg from the drug scene and an evil presence from his own family. But unlike Walt, Hank isn’t a cold-blooded murderer, so I doubt that will happen.
I also suspect that the coming pursuit is what Walt really wants, deep down. He’s not suicidal—he has always fought to protect himself and his family—but we know how much he craves recognition. I’m sure there’s a part of Walter White that would like the world to know how pure his meth is, what an amazing international empire he built, and what an enormous pile of money his enterprise brought in. The thrill of cooking meth has obviously gone, and he has never seemed to get any real enjoyment from hanging out with the Schraders. (As acting challenges go, portraying a man who’s faking happiness is a real doozy, but Bryan Cranston pulls it off every week.) It’s time for another test of Walt’s genius.
I can’t resist a few predictions for the final eight episodes that we’ll get next summer. First, I think we really have seen Walt’s last cook. Sure, he told Skyler that he’s out—but I stopped believing Walt a long time ago. However, Gilligan finally deployed Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” a song he must’ve had cued up for seasons, in Todd and Walt’s epic meth-production montage. And then there’s the business of the fly that Walt fixated on while waiting for Todd to return from compacting Mike’s car. It’s a callback to Season 3’s “Fly,” the bottle episode I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Back then, Walt had lost interest in the business, but Jesse persuaded him to stay for the sake of their partnership. Now their connection is dead, and no one wants Walt to carry on cooking.
Lots of people in the comments—you guys with your fake disdain for us!—are using the scan scene as evidence that Walt’s cancer is definitely back. It’s certainly a possibility, but I don’t think the scan is any more conclusive than Walt’s cough in the flash-forward cold open of Episode 501. Still, one thing does make me think that Skyler’s wish has been granted and he’s had a reoccurrence: Once again, it’s the fly. It was in “Fly” that Jesse told Walt about his aunt, who heard a possum under her house even after the beast had been exterminated. Jesse thought the sound was the rattle of cancer in her brain. Can anyone else see the insect that’s driving Walt crazy?
My second prediction is that the Aryan gang will be back—well, at least part of it. The younger guy involved in choreographing the settlement of the legacy costs—that is, the murder of Mike’s guys—was played by Kevin Rankin. He’s not exactly a star, but he’s too big for a part that small without a repeat appearance. I reckon we’ll see his neck tattoos again next year.
Shall we deal with this other thing now?
View a chart of the bad behavior of Breaking Bad's Walter White in Season 5.
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.