Walt has been playing gangster for the better part of a year now. He talks a great game. He’s killed a kingpin and put an innocent child’s life in danger and even shot a man in the head at close range to save Jesse. He thinks his shit doesn’t stink and that he has all the answers. Even up until the tail end of tonight’s episode, when the operation needed to be shut down earlier than expected, Walt’s ego had the gang power through Mike’s orders of wrapping up and they completed the caper unscathed.
But we couldn’t even enjoy the unadulterated and trademark “yeah, bitch!” celebration from Jesse and the rare smile from Walt before the tone takes a complete 180 degree shift just before the closing credits — an unrelenting gut punch to the viewer and a reminder that if Walt wants to keep playing this game of his, God help who gets in the way.
The cold opening involving the kid on the dirt bike innocently collecting a tarantella from the desert had nothing to do with the plot so far, so naturally we expected it to play a big factor later on. But that final image of the celebration slowly stopping followed by Todd calmly waiving back and without a moments hesitation putting a bullet through the kid’s chest was a ruthless ending that few people could have envisioned.
Not to say that the dark turn was out of character for Breaking Bad. With this being the fifth of an eight episode half-season, we all knew a shocking turning point was coming eventually. At first, we weren’t sure if we could trust Todd. He seemed to be asking too many questions, getting too friendly with Walt and Jesse. But as it turns out, trust is the last thing we need to worry about with this guy, as he took Mike’s advice of “no half measures” to the absolute extreme. All business, no questions asked, this was the only option in his mind. Could they have let the kid go? Who knows, but Todd isn’t ready to gamble with a question like that.
It’s a scene taken straight out of the Wild West, and it’s far from a coincidence. Mike infamously told Walt a few weeks back, “Just because you kill Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” This week Jesse makes another offhanded reference to the classic American outlaw, and to top things off, the gang pulls a good old fashion rip-and-run from a train in the desert. The Western motif is appropriate for Walt and company — independents, rogues, thieves, ramblers. But there’s a less glamourous and more terrifying side to the story, and even the lives of innocent people won’t stop them from getting what they want.
We didn’t know this kid, but the unpredictable nature of his death makes it hit just as hard as when Gus Fring fell in the Season 4 finale. Some people will do whatever it takes, and when their mind is made up, there’s no stopping them. It falls right in line with Skyler’s fear that the kids will always be in danger with Walt around, and if Walt didn’t understand it before, he sure as shit better believe it now.
– Walt continues to show that he is willing to stoop lower and lower when he fake cries in front of Hank in order to bug his computer and his office. We all knew that Bryan Cranston was an amazing actor, but who would have thought Walt could pull it off so well? According to Mike, “Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep when there’s a gun to their head.”
– Turns out Mike was wrong about Lydia and she didn’t plant the bug on the barrel, but it was one of Hank’s inept co-workers who did the shoddy job. Maybe the fact that she put a hit out on his life has clouded his otherwise precise judgement. Lydia proves to be useful (for now, at least), tipping the guys on the train coming through town with the methylamine. She also, as Walt so terrifyingly states, has no leverage with the gang, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team dynamic grows with her involved.
– Similarly, Todd is now fully entrenched as a member of the gang after the stunt he pulled. I love the mystery behind the character with the whole yes sir, no sir attitude mixed with a cold-hearted and apparently trained past. Jesse Plemons brings a great aw-shucks mentality to the guy, and I cannot wait to see how he handles himself in the aftermath.
– Hank tries to persuade Walt Jr./Flynn/Emo McGee to watch Heat with him. First Scarface, now Heat? Foreshadowing much?
– Mike’s words of wisdom prove to be taken literally: “There are two types of heists: those who get away with it, and those who leave witnesses.” Also, Todd’s mention to Walt and Jesse, “You guys thought of everything.“
– Few shows are able to pull off the caper episode as well as Breaking Bad. The build up with a bit muddled (how were they going to rob the train without anyone knowing? What were they doing hiding the large barrels in the ground?), but all questions were answered once the mission was on. Beautiful camera work mixed with masterfully choreographed precision from all members made for an incredibly tense and satisfying sequence.
– My stomach dropped when I saw Walt’s face go from celebratory to horrified in spotting the kid.
– While Walt and Mike continue to be at each other’s throats, Jesse proves once again that he’s very much their equal with another brilliant plan.
– Jesse’s instinct to trust humanity paid off in Lydia’s case, but he never got a chance to reason with Todd in the case of the kid on the dirt bike. His “Nooo!” echoing throughout the desert just before the trigger was pulled will haunt my dreams for the foreseeable future.