Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

Walter White Has Given Everyone He Knows PTSD
Talking television.
Aug. 11 2013 9:50 PM

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2


Has Walt given everyone he knows PTSD?

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad_Season 5, Episode 1_"Live Free or Die"
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Photo courtesy of Ursula Coyote/AMC


June Thomas June Thomas

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

There’s so much to talk about, but let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the genius of that cold open. As in the opening scene of Episode 501, we flash forward to the time around Walt’s 52nd birthday: He has chunky Williamsburg spectacles, a mountain-man mien, and a very large weapon in the trunk of his car. He’s back at the White family home, but the place looks totally different: The pool that once contained plane-crash debris has been drained, the seating area whose landscaping included a lily of the valley plant is now the lip of an improvised skateboard ramp, and the bathroom where he first shaved his head has been trashed. As Walt strides around the house retrieving his precious vial of ricin, we learn beyond a shadow of a doubt that his criminality has been exposed to the world. The living room has been defaced with the word HEISENBERG, and when he calls a cheery “Hello, Carol” to his former neighbor, it’s not just his scraggly beard and sweat-stained shirt that make her drop her shopping bag, terrified.

At first, I thought the oranges that we saw rolling out of Carol’s shopping bag were a tad too on the nose. After all, they’re The Godfather’s go-to portent of death. But after seeing the rest of this grim, gripping episode, I’m pretty sure they’re Vince Gilligan’s citrus-scented signal that we have moved into the era of consequences.


Walter White may be a scientist, but like a devotee of The Secret, he seems to believe that saying something makes it so. He doesn’t tell Skyler that his cancer is back—apparently he thinks that would affect his ability to fight it—and he only admits that Lydia is a “former business associate” after Skyler points out that normal people don’t pay to have rental cars pressure-washed. A little later, he struggles to convince Jesse that Mike Ehrmantraut is alive and well and doing crossword puzzles in an undisclosed location. Jesse knows he’s lying, but he’s too traumatized and worn down to argue. Jesse knows that for Walt, “the story comes first,” so he just parrots the version of events he knows Walt wants to hear and hopes that will shut him up.

Unlike Jesse, though, Hank won’t let Walt get away with murder. No matter how convincingly Walt swears, “right hand to God,” that he’s just a dying man who runs a car wash, Hank knows that his brother-in-law is a “lying, two-faced sack of shit.” He knows that Walt betrayed him over and over—and that he’s personally responsible for more than a dozen deaths.

Walt’s friends and family all seem to be suffering from PTSD. Skyler doesn’t contradict Walt’s fantasy narrative of escaping the drug business because her kids’ lives will be ruined if he’s found out. Jesse is dissociative, bordering on catatonic, because he can’t get those dead kids out of his head. I wasn’t sure that Hank’s heart would survive the realization that he’d barbequed with Heisenberg, but his time with the file boxes seems to have restored his strength. If I were Hank, I don’t think I’d let Walt make it out of that garage alive, but there are seven episodes to go, and we’ve seen Walt retrieve his ricin, so we know that he does get to exit. But how? I guess we’ll find out next week.

Have an A-1 day,




Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.