Breaking Bad Roundtable 5.8 Gliding Over All

Like last week, I don’t know where else to start but the end. What are your initial thoughts? How believable was Hank’s discovery?

Dave: I kept waiting for something big to happen at the end, because you knew they had to go out with a bang. Hank discovering that Walt is the mastermind really helps set up the tension for the second half of the season. I know I’ve spent a lot of time bitching about the pacing but I thought the payoff was worth it. In terms of believability I guess it was a long shot but it does seem fitting that Walt will have only himself for the fall.

Chas: Well, I was a little disappointed by the end because I was hoping we’d get a Hank Schrader version of this:

Instead of amazing foley diahreea sounds we were treated to the moment we all knew was coming. Hank is the best character on this show. He’s the most moral, he’s the smartest, he’s who I would want my son to be when he grows up. I’m looking forward to Hank bringing Walt down.

Plus, we still have eight episodes to go so I can keep hoping we’ll get Hank back into a bathroom to give Jeff Daniels a run for his money.

Burner: Well it’s hard to disagree with Dave that this sets up all the tension for the second half, so let’s speculate about it. He’ll need to build a case against Walt so that’ll take time and if Walt is truly out then that could be pretty difficult. Also, an interesting thing here is whether Hank decides to try to cover his own ass in some way. Being a DEA agent who’s brother in law turned him self into the meth king of the ABQ isn’t going to exactly help his career, not that he seems happy with that anyway.

Ben: As the flashback showed up, W.W. weren’t exactly rare initials, and there were good reasons why Walt knew Gus, so he could play dumb for a while and Hank will start checking out Walt. Right now there isn’t really much evidence that Hank could use to prove it actually is Walt, so I assume the corporate chick, child murderer (probably my best guess) or Jesse is going to have to turn on Walt to give Hank the proof he’ll need to take him down.

Kevin: Certainly more believable than robbing a train. But I think in the world they’ve created, where Hank has Sherlock Holmes level detective skills, it’s conceivable he’d remember W.W. and his talk with Walt and make the connection. And really he doesn’t need much more than a reason to believe that Walt can be the guy they’re looking for since everything else fits into the story – the chemistry knowledge, the “gambling” problem, the problems with Skylar, etc.

In an episode of call backs (The Fly, Walt showering, the ricin in the wall, etc…) what was your favorite?

Dave: I thought all the callbacks worked well to remind us how we got to where we were. I think my favorite was Walt and Jesse discussing their time in the RV. In another tension filled scene the fact that they were looking back on the RV as the “good old days” was pretty entertaining. I’m sure Crazy 8 might disagree with the general sentiment. Although it does seem like a lifetime ago. Jesse was a goofy kid, we hadn’t met Gus yet and Walt was a likable character.

That picture looks familiar…

Chas: Dave nailed it on the head. This could be the best “setup episode” I’ve ever seen. It gives us the perfect quantity of reminders. It hits on some of the show’s biggest moments, sometimes almost at a meta-level like with Fly. But it also sets the stage for the rapidly approaching Armageddon.

Burner: I think I’d give it to Walt having Leaves of Grass on the shitter, for the way it leads to Hank’s discovery. Funny that after all that it won’t be hubris that brings Walt down, but the careless decision to keep a souvenir from a man he had killed.

Ben: As Dave said, I liked the RV flashback as it highlighted their original connection, though I though the part where Jesse pulls out and safety’s the gun after Walt leaves is more telling of what everything thinks of Walt and how far he has fallen. Pretty much only Walt’s son actually thinks he a decent guy, the list of people who know him as irrational and untrustworthy keeps growing: Hank, Skylar, Jesse, and a mile long list of corpses.

Kevin: I liked the broken up paper towel dispenser in the bathroom. But I agree with Dave that they all worked well in this episode.

What was your favorite scene from the episode?

Dave: It should be deathly obvious that I’m a sucker for any well shot scene that includes a cool song. The lengthy cook scene accompanied by “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & The Shondells was my favorite.

Chas: I knew Dave would liked the “Everything is great but Walt’s a bit lonely” montage although I felt it ran a bit long. I don’t really need to watch an entire music video in the middle of an episode, even if it’s shot beautifully. I have to believe there’s a good chance that film classes will study this scene as a tour de force in kick ass scene transitions. But for me, it was the hilarious prison murder montage! One thing Breaking Bad rarely does is show the vicious brutality inherent to the drug business at any broader scale. Sure we see arch-villain 1 take down arch-villain 2 or Wacky Walt put a bullet in an old man’s side but by showing just the sheer quantity of murder Walt triggers in the prisons. Also, there’s a reason the Joker uses a knife instead of a gun. With the prison deaths, the brutality of the shiv kills really should make your stomach churn. Walt made all of that happen with no show of remorse. I was kind of hoping Skyler would walk up to him after the montage and ask him if he wanted pancakes.

I bet the Joker enjoys a good short stack from time to time.

Burner: You guys have me wondering now if maybe this episode was a little montage heavy, even if I did enjoy both of those scenes. The dinner by the pool was also a standout scene. On surface everything seems back to status quo, everyone is smiling, Altman-esque over lapping chatter fills the air as Jr pushed the now slightly older Holly around, but there’s a tension there. It is the calm before the storm, something bad is on the way. And then Hank puts it all together in a flash of inspiration. Of course that’s really a good thing, as demonstrated by the brutality of the prison montage.

Ben: As I mentioned above, the scene with Jesse after Walt leaves really shows how unhinged Walt has become.

Kevin:  Yeah I agree with Burner. The family scene was great because it was all too perfect and there was this sense of impending doom throughout. I was expecting a bunch of cartel goons to start shooting up the place in response to Walt quitting.

What were your overall thoughts on this episode?

Dave: This was a great episode from top to bottom. It was incredibly well shot even for Breaking Bad standards, and there was enough going on that I was interested the entire time. I also feel like the show’s in a great spot now for the second half next summer.

Chas: This episode is what we needed. It was the prescription to remedy all of our pacing complaints and character confusion. Hell, this episode was not only a good showing for Skyler but we even had a completely tolerable Marie and Skyler exchange. The White-Schrader families were getting along better than ever and then Hank had to eat too many sandwiches. Come on Hank, you don’t take dumps at your inlaws place unless you’re desperate. Get it together.

Burner: Great setup episode. I’m really interested to know the line that connects Hank’s discovery of Heisenberg’s true identity and Walt need an M-60.

Walt’s time on top didn’t last long

Ben: I’m still trying to figure out who the show is really centered on; Jesse and his path from Meth Cook to redemption, Hank and his journey to catch the most notorious meth ring in US history, or Walt going from a high school science teacher to insanity. In the end I think it will really be about Jesse and/or Hank and Walt is just there to push them to a hopefully intense resolution.

Kevin: This was a fine episode but there were a lot of parts I didn’t care for and I felt like this suffered from more pacing problems than any other episode this season. For example, the jail murders were on a train robbery level of ridiculousness. Not that it couldn’t be done that way, but that the neo-Nazi gang members would kill inmates in broad daylight, adding additional murder charges to their jail time. Gang bonds are strong, but are they that strong? Either way another “sloppy” solution created by the writers.

And Walt suddenly hanging it up. He’s had about 1,000 opportunities to do that at this point, but now that he’s made it to the top he’s what? Bored? Tired? They made it obvious that his cancer is back and he probably wants to spend the time he has left with his kids, but I dunno, that whole angle was thrown together in a half an episode. We’ve had 7 episodes, and more in the past, making it seem like Walt would never just hang it up. And suddenly he did.

Also, the complete lack of “business wrap-up” was kind of annoying. They might very well come back to that next year, but it seems doubtful that 3 months into the future Walt hasn’t gotten any calls from the cartel about his sudden decision to quit. Or maybe they’re not pissed because Todd is still cooking, but that’s not very conceivable either given Walt’s prior refusal to give up “his” product. The complete lack of explanation probably added to the feeling that it was all rushed just to make Hank’s discovery more shocking.

What are your overall thoughts on the first half of Season 5? What was your favorite episode

Dave: At times it struggled with pacing, but overall it was great. The worst Breaking Bad episode is still 10 times better than most shows out there. I think the episodes I’ll remember most will be the final two and the two caper episodes (the magnets and the train robbery). My favorite was probably the train robbery episode.

Chas: Besides a few valleys where we spent an inordinate amount of time with Sad Sack Skyler I thought this half-season was fantastic. Agree with Dave that the train robbery was the standout episode. Yet another Breaking Bad episode you could release as a future film and you’d win the weekend box office.

Burner: I would the train robbery was the best episode for two reasons. One it was kickass, loads of fun, and had a shocker ending. Two unanimous accent on this point will irritate Kevin.

Ben: I’ll go along with the Train episode; it was just a massive emotional swing. I thought the season itself was pretty good. Unlike previous seasons there was no true antagonist, so really it was the rise of criminal Walt and the fall of a good man trying to provide for his family. How many people did Walt directly kill or order killed in this half season compared to the whole rest of the show?

Kevin: Fantastic first half of the season. But yes, still irritated by the ludicrous train robbery episode. Next year I fully expect Walt to murder the President while taking out 500 secret service agents because he heard a rumor that the President knows too much.

What is your prediction for how it all ends?

Dave: I’m usually terrible at this but here’s my best guess. I think the Scarface line they highlighted during Mob Week will end up foreshadowing the ending. Everyone dies.

Chas: Jesse is our wild card. He’s seemingly on the sidelines now but I think he may end up saving Hank’s life by killing Walt. I think bringing the entire Schrader-Pinkman relationship together at the end to bring down Wacky Walt! would be an amazing way to wrap the series.

Burner: I’m beginning to feel like Scarface and the M-60 might be red herrings. This show loves its unexpected directions (see: Walt being brought down by toilet reading) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Walt end up in jail, Hank in semi-retirement raising Holly, with Sklyer as the wild card, does she flip? Does she get killed? I don’t buy all that peacefulness at the pool side dinner.

How will it all end?

Ben: Walt is going to die, not sure if by violence or the cancer comes back and offs him before he gets truly caught by Hank. I could also see Jesse and Skylar going down with him. I think it ends with them all dead and with Saul finding a key to random storage locker, he opens it and the scene cuts to him sipping a Mai Tai on a white sand beach.

Kevin: I think the cartel gets pissed off that Walt quit and takes out part of the family. At the same time Hank is working the case against Walt and remembers Jesse. At some point Jesse will have to make a decision to remove the threat of Hank to save Walt (and himself) or he’ll have to rat Walt out. I think he takes Hank out and then leaves town and Walt has to live out the remainder of his life with Marie in a purple covered house. Chas’ idea makes the most sense, but I just don’t see how Jesse could kill Walt at this point. Much like Walt deciding to hang it up, that would go against just about everything the show has set up. Jesse’s had a bunch of opportunities and reasons to kill Walt, but he hasn’t yet. He’d have to be really pushed into a corner but I just don’t see how they can create a plausible way to do that.

Where is your excitement level for next summer?

Dave: I’d say strong to quite strong. 10/10. It’s going to be amazing.

Chas: 12 out of 10

Burner: It’s long from now…

Ben: I’m pumped and sad, the end of a great show. Thankfully we’ll be getting a new season of Arrested Development next winter/spring and that should tide me over nicely.

Kevin: Very excited but sad we only have 8 episodes left.

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