Better than chasing monsters.
Before I get into the details of the story, I want to talk briefly about how amazing the cinematography of this episode was. Michelle MacLaren directed this episode wonderfully. She has directed 9 episodes so far (and is directing a couple Game of Thrones episodes in season 3!), including “Madrigal,” which was also fantastic. Even if you ignore all the other beautiful moments in the show, she should win a directing Emmy for the two montages alone. I haven’t seen a more well done murder montage since The Godfather.
And every transition in the 3 month spanning (uncharted territory for Breaking Bad) montage, set to the perfectly named “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells, is amazing. From more obvious ones of Saul pouring water that fades seamlessly into methylamine being poured by Todd to more subtle ones like the dolly shot of Lydia stitched seamlessly by a body in the foreground that turns into Walt in the office counting money. All of it was beautiful.
That combined with shots like the opening one of the fly with Walt absurdly out of focus behind it and racking to Walt’s face focusing on the smallest detail in the room, a fly.
I’ll go ahead and start analyzing the story at that first shot. The fly is a call back to my least favorite (by far) Breaking Bad episode, an opinion shared by others. The message in “Fly” is that even the smallest contaminate can ruin a product. In that episode it means literally for the cook as well as for Walt and Jesse’s relationship. It’s a bottle episode (basically), and I hated it. I thought the point could have been made in one 5 minute scene. But anyways, the call back was perfect for this episode. The smallest detail left undealt with is the one that will fuck up the whole thing. Namely, don’t leave the only piece of evidence that can link you to Gail Boetticher on the shitter that your DEA brother-in-law (the only person in the world who W.W. means anything to in this sense) could easily find it.
Walt’s hubris trips him up in the most unlikely of ways. He has been able to finally build himself to an international meth king and dispose of any problems in his way, but he can’t part with a nostalgic trophy.
So do you think that Walt really was out? I think that he was at least starting the process of leaving the meth world. Having been worn down by the work load (even remarking to Hank during the family cookout, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”) and not having a problem to solve, he doesn’t feel the same need anymore. It seemed quick that he could turn, but it did seem logical. He had no more battles to win, and he couldn’t do anything with any more money anyways. I thought that the shot of him in the MRI going from upside down to right side up was meant to represent him becoming grounded again.
He is back to reality. He realizes that Skyler is right when she asks, “I want my kids back. I want my life back. Tell me, how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?”
I think that Walt’s last moment of true ego-mania was when Hank tells him about his job marking trees. Hank puts it wonderfully, “Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters.” To which Walt coldly responds, “I used to love camping.” After the “Crystal Blue Persuasion” montage (Fun fact: Tommy James and the Shondells are the same band who put out the classic “Crimson and Clover.” It’s even on the same album. How did Breaking Bad manage to save this song so long?) we see Walt has lost his inertia. He has forgiven Jesse and gives him the money he deserves after what was the most tension filled nostalgia session ever. I really think that Walt was ready to walk away completely and try to regain his family. But now, Hank is going to be pulling that past right back on top of Walt.
What do you think Hank will do? Will he go straight to Walt about it, causing him to flee and end up in a Denny’s, buying a weapons cache? Will he follow Walt for a while? Will he go to his DEA family to betray his natural family? Is this Hank’s test of morality that all the main Breaking Bad characters have had to face? Will he have to decide what is ok to sweep under the rug as “shit happens?” This is a little more intense than a little shoplifting to get Marie out of. You can’t just get your drug king murdering brother-in-law off the hook. I am immensely curious and simultaneously upset about having to wait until next summer to know the finality of the whole thing.
It’s been great blogging this show with you Kathryn. Thankfully, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men will help us pass the time until the last 8 episodes.
DEXTER SEASON 6 SPOILER ALERT:
Also, there is Dexter, which I will be blogging with you soon this season, but I have low expectations for it’s quality. Simply comparing the difference between Breaking Bad and Dexter in how they revealed a family member discovering the ultimate secret of the show is the easiest way to distinguish them in quality.
DEXTER SPOILERS OVER.
Oh mother of god, I cannot believe we have to wait so long! I finished watching this episode on my Kindle sitting in a study lounge at the university where I teach and it was all I could do not to jump out of my seat. Like you, I loved the way the camera work set us up for what was to come: the lingering shot of the fly and then later, a lingering shot of Leaves of Grass as Walt hops in the shower, as if directing our eyes/brains to the weak link that would contaminate Walt’s crystal blue paradise.
I agree with you completely on the cinematography of this episode and the beauty of the two montage sequence. There was even a sense of joy and delight in the watch-me-build-an-empire-in-three-months montage, which was nicely contrasted by Walt looking increasingly like a middle-aged man who is working too hard. Stylistically, it worked perfectly. I am still not sure what I think of the huge jump in time and the speedy way in which we were asked to move from “I’m in the empire” business Walt to “I just want my family back” Walt. But the fact that we did not see Walt tie up any lose ends except his goodbye with Jesse (so beautifully played Aaron Paul! and so painful to realize that Jesse’s almost happiness is going to come crashing down with Walt’s) makes me wonder if he is indeed out. I agree with you that something changed. He seemed genuinely emotional when he confessed the end to Skyler and her stunt with the money in the storage unit seemed to have really worked. Something about all that hard, cold cash accumulating with no real purpose or end in sight seemed to call Walt up short from his delusions of power without a purpose. But can you really leave the international drug business without even breaking a sweat? Do you sell your formula to someone else? Don’t you at least have to have one meeting with your lawyer to set up a few go-bags around town just in case?
There are, I think, a few options: 1) Walt isn’t really out and we’ll see that early next season; 2) Walt is out and we’ll see via flashbacks of some kind how he got out and the inevitable loose ends that will emerge once the DEA/Hank is on his tail; 3) Walt’s cancer is back. OK, this option doesn’t necessitate either 1 or 2, but it might explain 2 a bit more. We also didn’t get any word about the MRI and it would make a lot of sense to me that, with Skyler’s death wish ringing in his ears, Walt realizes he wants to reconcile before she gets her wish. I also think I remember Walt coughing pretty bad in the cold open at Denny’s, though I might be making this up to support my theory and I’m not going to check (readers, help me out?).
And oh Hank. Hank of Hank. Emily Nussbaum wrote an amazing review of Breaking Bad in The New Yorker last week, in which she argues that perhaps before all is said and done Hank will emerge as the show’s true hero: a decent guy who restores some kind of moral balance to a universe wildly out of control by faithfully bringing down Heisenberg, even at great personal cost. I wonder if she won’t be proven right. I do think that Hank isn’t going to hold back. He may sit on his cards a while, bidding his time, but I think Walt’s prison murder spree turned him. Having all nine of his highly guarded prisoners murdered in sync revealed to Hank the depravity of the person he is chasing. Discovering that that person is his brother-in-law won’t erase the horror, I think it will only amplify it. Hank is a good guy and undoubtedly he’ll try to think about the bigger picture (the kids, Skyler), but I think we’ll see all the righteous anger of Hank and all his smarts turned against Walt in the biggest fight of his life.
I’m probably getting melodramatic here, but I’m just so eager to see what will come next. I will try to wait patiently and enjoy all the other great TV you are right to point out is headed our way. But all I really want to know is how to get to Denny’s.
I’ve loved blogging this season with you and look forward to doing it again next summer.