Say hello to the bad guy: PAR Breaks Bad for the show’s last season
We're going to be watching the final season of Breaking Bad with you, and every Monday we'll have some thoughts on that week's episode. PAR assumes that you've watched the episode in its entirety, and have seen everything that comes before.
We all live with secrets, of varying sizes, and there is some question of what we would do if those secrets were revealed. You can track the character of a person by how they deal with their mistakes once these compulsions or mistakes come to light, and how those around that person react.
The number of people who know Walter White as both a devoted family man and drug kingpin increased by one this week, and the revelation gives Hank what appears to be something like a panic attack. He gets into a car accident with Marie. He promises it won’t happen again. He gets back to work on the case. He’s angry, confused, and probably a little scared. He has not only found the Loch Ness monster, but he found that it had been living in the swimming pool behind his house. That’s going to rattle anyone.
Walter White, on the other hand, has a different kind of reaction. He’s relieved.
White noticed that the book was missing, thought about Hank’s recent behavior, and then the erstwhile Heisbenberg goes outside to remove the tracking device that was on his car. He knows how these situations play out, and he’s not defenseless against family members, law enforcement, or someone who can play both roles at once.
Hell, this could even be fun for Walter. He has ideas about where to move the high-margin air fresheners, and he’s thinking about buying another car wash. Why not? There is a huge pile of cash that needs to be laundered, and two businesses will allow them to do so twice as fast.
The cancer seems to have returned, and White knows he’s on borrowed time, but he can’t help but optimize his environment. This is the closest he has come to returning to the man he was at the beginning of the show, although he’s reached all of his goals. He has the cash. His family has nothing to worry about financially. He’s climbed to the top of the criminal empire and murdered just about every rung he stepped on to get there. The game is over, and White won. He’s even back in his house, his wife no longer in the dark about his activities.
Still, he’s not happy. The freedom and power of being Heisenberg remains too attractive, and Hank provides the perfect excuse to try out the hat one more time. The final scene of the episode, where Hank closes the garage door and traps them both inside a limited, private space, is riveting. Watch White’s face once the door shuts completely; he can see the exact moment that Walter White goes away and Heisenberg steps into the scene.
Hank may understand investigations and how to handle himself under pressure, but he’s new to that world infecting his family. He’s off-balance, violent, and erratic. White, on the other hand, has done this before. He uses every trick he knows to deal with Hank: He takes the punch, he brings up his cancer and limited life expectancy, he talks about his family and, finally, the open threat. White is calm. He gets to do what he loves to do.
The superhero who thought he was hanging up the tights has one more super villain to slay, even though in any objective reality outside of White’s head would show that Hank is the good guy, and White is the villain. Still, this is much more exciting and interesting than finding the optimal display for the pine air freshener.
Which we all know is the top seller.
The audience has reached the point of the show where all the problems in White’s life are there because of his inflated sense of self and his need to take the path of most resistance. He’s won, but he could have won much earlier in the show’s arc; White could have simply kept his head down, quietly cooked meth, and cashed his monstrous paychecks from Gus Fring.
White could have thrown away the book that Hank finds instead of keeping it in the bathroom as evidence of his mastery of the life of crime, but that’s not fun. That’s not what the master of his domain would have done. White will never accept the act of disappearing into the night, he’s always going to bring the tracking device back to all the Hanks in his life so he can try to come out on top. He doesn’t put the hat back on, but he knows he’s wearing it one more time in that final scene.
A color copy
He’s desperately trying to give his money to the people he’s wronged, he’s haunted by the things they’ve had to do to get to this point, and he’s not interested in listening to Star Trek fan fiction from his meth-addled buddies.
White is going to die one way or the other: The cancer is going to get him, he’s going to be dragged under by his inability to take yes for an answer… it doesn’t matter how. Karma is going to swing back onto his head and it’s going to be a bitch. The question is whether Pinkman has any chance for redemption, any way to find peace and something that could be called a happy ending.
White damned Jesse when they first met, and Jesse has been trying to escape the world of Heisenberg for a long time now. In a show filled with people who know what they’re doing, Pinkman is the one person who often tries to do the right thing. Or at least the thing that’s a little less evil. He’s not a good person, but he tries to be. That’s more than you can say for just about anyone else on the show.
Which leaves us in an interesting place. Walter White is interesting, but he’s a monster. Hank is in law enforcement, and knows the risks that come with that job. Skyler is complicit with laundering the money, and she knows some of what was done to get it. Pinkman is trying to get away and to rid himself of the “blood money.”
Pinkman has had good things in his life before, but they're always taken away by White. Again and again. While the kid we met in the first episode wasn't exactly a model citizen, he wasn't on a path towards picking up a gun and killing someone in cold blood, or covering up the murder of children. Pinkman may not be innocent, but in many ways he's often the least guilty.
There is very little possibility for collateral damage at this point, anyone who gets hit by the final blast deserves it one way or the other, or at least was aware that it was coming. The show rarely seems interested in using the White children for dramatic purposes, and even Walt Jr. is basically just a person holding down a chair at family meals. There are only devils in this dance, and we’re all standing around waiting to see in which order they’ll burn.