Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

Will Breaking Bad Have Mercy on Its Viewers?
Talking television.
Sept. 23 2013 10:57 AM

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Part 2

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Will this show have mercy on us?

Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 15
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)

Photo courtesy Ursula Coyote/AMC

I’m going to have nightmares. There was so much unrelieved misery in that last hour. Every character we care about was in a state of pure wretchedness, from Marie’s mask of grief, to Skyler and Jesse’s terror, to Flynn’s raging death wish for his father, and of course to Walt, slack-jawed in his long underwear as his wedding ring rolls off his cancer-whittled finger.

Emily Bazelon Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

This is the unhappy world Walt has wrought. “It can’t all be for nothing,” he cries to Flynn on the phone. But in this penultimate moment, it’s for less than nothing. It’s for ruin.

Saul called this one right: Walt always told himself he could keep his family safe. Now the only way to do that is to turn himself in. But Walt can’t give up his megalomania or his revenge fantasy. Saul skips out with his blue luggage set (he has to get away so he can go make his very own pilot). Walt’s disappearance to New Hampshire leaves Skyler alone to face her three masked visitors. So far, they just prowl around Holly’s bed, reinforcing Todd’s gentle-sounding warning not to identify Lydia. But will Todd really leave Skyler alone because “she seems like a nice lady looking out for her kids”? Even if he does, she’s a marked and wanted criminal with a baby-faced public defender, working dispatch for a taxi service to get by while she watches her house go up for auction.

If Walt feels any lingering denial about the destruction of his family, Flynn’s fury should stomp it out. Walt’s son won’t take his money (what kind of harebrained scheme to send it was that, anyway?). He is so filled with anger and disappointment that his last words to his father may well be, “Just die.” Walt may deserve every syllable, but Flynn doesn’t. No matter what, that’s not how you want your relationship with your father to end. It’s no kind of closure.

For Jesse, the circle of hell is three rungs down. He is literally trapped in a torture pit. My heart was pounding during his 30 seconds of escape. I wanted him to get out of that meth wasteland, however farfetched that would be. I just want Jesse salvaged from the wreckage of his show. Instead, Vince Gilligan and his unsparing writers gave us the execution of Andrea. Like Walt last week during the shootout that killed Hank, Jesse was left to moan and scream impotently from behind a truck window. Why oh why did Andrea open her door? Well, for one thing, because Walt paid a similar call on her recently. And, of course, because she cares about Jesse. That was her doom. His apparently will be to cook blue meth, 96 percent pure, for Lydia’s pleasure, to save Brock from his mother’s fate. Can I lodge a protest? Even for this bleak and merciless show, leaving Jesse in purgatory would be going too far. Like Jessica Winter, I say he has suffered enough. I know that by its moral code he has to pay. But forever?

As for Walt: It’s hard to be menacing when you’re coughing up a lung and hard to be Heisenberg when your parka has a fur-trimmed hood. But now that Walt has seen his smug ex-business partners on TV, giving $28 million in charity (for drug treatment no less) to exorcise him, he has summoned the will to leave his drink and the feds behind and head out for one more hour of revenge. “The sweet, kind, brilliant man we once knew—he’s gone,” says the female face of Gray Matter  Technologies. By saying it, she reminds Walt that it is so.

How is he going to give Heisenberg one last go? Will Breaking Bad have mercy on us, its wounded viewers, and take the show out on a note that leaves us with some shred of the possibility of healing? Maybe this week took us to a low point of suffering so that any ending will come as a relief. I’m half awed by the amazingly skilled execution of this show and half-desperate to be out of its clutches.

I’ll need more Stevia please,

Emily

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