WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
I love Percy Bythe Shelley’s poem Ozymandias. Allegedly inspired by the bringing of Egyptian treasures to the British museum and the story of Ramesses II (according to Wikipedia, the Greek translation of his throne name was User-maat-re Setep-en-re), Shelley described the broken down remains of a once great civilization. Think of it as a morality play in just fourteen lines;
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Would that the GOP of today learn that lesson of the great and powerful King Ozymandias and remember that empires built on sand will return to sand sooner than they ever anticipate.
Walter White’s empire was definitely built in the sands of New Mexico. These final eight episodes have been nothing but poking at the cracks in those pillars to see how much it will take to make them fall to the ground. King Heisenberg has no choice but to survey the wreckage of his empire now.
When we left Walt, he was diving for cover in the back of Hank’s SUV as Todd’s Uncle Jack and his neo-Nazi club rained hellfire on the trap the unlikely duo of Hank and Jesse devised to finally take down Walt. The hunters became the prey, and the king must realize that building an empire is one thing, but sustaining it is no longer under his control.
Boiling water in a glass carafe greets us. Not portentous at all. We’re back in the good old days of the first cook in the RV. There’s something so bittersweet about Walt’s chemistry teacher persona after all these years. Jesse not taking Walt’s fastidiousness seriously. Maybe it’s because Walt is in his tighty whiteys and no student wants to see that.
Walt walks out in the desert rehearsing alibis to Skyler for why he’s going to be late coming home. Ah, the first lie. Skyler brags about selling the ugly clown faux-Lalique vase. I forgot how Skyler supplemented their income with her eBay selling. I guess it was too small potatoes to use as a venue to launder that $80 million lying in buried oil drums. Basically, this is all just an opportunity to see sweet little family small talk before everything went downhill and provides us with a glimpse of when the White family was intact.
Walt fades, then Jesse then the RV. We return to the shootout.
We look at Uncle Jack’s team looking at the shot up, battered remains of Hank’s and Walt’s cars. Gomie is dead. Hank is shot in the leg. Thank god they weren’t as the bad shots that the last episode initially indicated. Hank crawls to Gomie’s gun but Uncle Jack stops him. Todd doesn’t see Jesse in the car, so Jack sends his guys to look for him. Hank is identified as DEA and then there’s nothing for Jack to do but kill him. But that springs Walt into action. He begs for Hank’s life. He still wants to protect the family, but Uncle Jack thinks otherwise.
Jack still thinks Hank needs to go because Gomie is dead and the DEA will come after him, but Walt is desperately, insistently trying to save Hank. Jack is making a different calculus than Walt, telling him there’s no scenario where this guy lives.
That sound is my heart sinking.
Walt isn’t done negotiating. He says no, he has money here. $80 million dollars. Holy cow, is Walt giving up all his money for Hank? I hope Hank hears that: Jesse is wrong. The money isn’t where Walt lives. It’s family. Family has been his motivator from the beginning and even in the face of sociopathic evil, he still is trying to save his inner circle.
Jack mulls the deal, but Hank has too much pride and tells Uncle Jack to go f*@k himself. Walt begs him not to incite Jack, and Hank offers up his final words to Walt:
And we say good-bye to Hank. Jack puts a no nonsense bullet to his head.
Walt falls to the ground in grief. Todd is still expressionless at the carnage.
Uncle Jack figures the coordinates Walt gave him to come kill Jesse are too specific to not be where the money is. Since Walt offered it up and is now lost in his grief, he figures it’s time to collect his reward. His thugs come back, reporting no sign of Pinkman. He directs them to start digging and it’s not long before they hit paydirt, literally.
We see all eight barrels being lugged into the truck and Gomie’s body (and presumably, Hank’s body) being buried in their stead. Walk is still on the ground. Jack tells his thugs to leave one of the barrels in Walt’s car. His crew protests; after all, that’s 10-11 million dollars he’s giving back, but Jack tells them their greed is unattractive. Hmmm….don’t know that’s the word I would use but I guess it’s nice to see some benevolence from someone completely without a sense of right and wrong.
Todd helps Walt to his feet and uncuffs him. Jack tells him to drive out of here with his single barrel and no hard feelings. I’m not seeing it. Jack has violated everything that Walt stood for, so there’s got to be blowback.
But the blowback comes from somewhere I am completely not anticipating.
I’m confused by this. Walt’s already lost Hank, but he’s still gunning for Jesse? My only guess is that the grief and shock of Hank’s death—which Walt tried so desperately to prevent—has caused the Heisenberg sociopathy to take over completely. Jack says if you can find him we’ll kill him. And Walt has found him. Jesse is there under the car. Jack pulls him out, kicking and screaming. Jack places a deliberate gun to the back of his head and now Jack checks to make sure this is what Walt really wants. Wait, now he checks in? He hasn’t cared whether or not Walt wanted anything else. But the Heisenberg version of Walt indicates he’s good to go. He’s ready to lose Jesse today too. Todd stops him. He reminds Uncle Jack that Jesse was out there with the feds. He says they need to know what Jesse told them, and thinks he could get that info from Jesse, at home. I shudder to think why he needs to be home for this. Jesse implores Walt with his eyes. When death is inevitable, do you want to prolong the agony and pain. But Walt agrees with Todd’s plan. Any trace of his humanity is gone. They drag Jesse to his feet to put him in their car but Walt stops them for a moment.
He looks at Jesse. At this point, what could he want to say to Jesse? “I’m sorry?” “How could you?” No, mere mortal, those aren’t the words of an empire builder. Walt tells Jesse he watched Jane die. He described her overdose and death by asphyxiation. Talk about knowing where a person lives. Why, Walt? What kind of evil Heisenberg instinct was that?
They put Jesse in their car and drive off. Jesse takes one last, unforgiving look at Walt as they pull away.
Back from commercial, Walt is in his car, driving home. And of course, the car starts to knock and die. Who forgot to fill up his gas tank? My bad. One of the bullets clearly hit the tank and the resulting hole emptied it. I guess he’s lucky it didn’t blow up since Uncle Jack was smoking near it the whole time they were talking about Jesse.
So Walt rolls the barrel out through the desert, to the bouncy tune of “Times are Getting Hard, Boys”. We see an old adobe building with an old native man looking out the window as Walt approaches. He asks him if he can buy his truck. He says it’s not for sale. Walt pulls out stack of cash. As usual, money talks and Walt has a new car.
Marie is heading into the car wash as Skyler is leaving a message for Walter to find out when he’ll be back. Within five minutes both will be wishing they could go back to the innocence of that moment. Marie suggests they talk in Sky’s office. Sky tells Marie she has nothing to say. That’s okay because Marie has lots. Marie tells Sky that Hank arrested Walt three hours ago. Skyler’s eyes fill with tears, but she’s not saying anything yet. Marie promises to help Skyler –even though it will be a while before she can trust her again--but Sky has to promise to give Marie every copy of the DVD she and Walt made implicating Hank. She also insists that Sky tell Junior EVERYTHING. Marie thinks Junior should be filled with as much hate for Walt as Marie has been carrying for the last few weeks. Skyler says no strongly, but Marie insists saying that Sky doesn’t do it, she will.
We come back from the commercial break with Jesse hogtied in a dark cell and here comes Todd. Jesse’s face is pretty bloodied and swollen, and he scrambles to get away from Todd, saying he gave them everything they wanted. Good God, what did Todd do to him? I imagine neo-Nazis don’t subscribe to the friendly ally version of interrogations, preferring Cheney level torture. Todd (very gently, I might add, which seems jarring given the fear Jesse just exhibited) takes Jesse into the lab. He unchains his hands, but secures him to a tether that does not give him free reign to escape. Figures Todd would outfit his meth lab with torture tools like a tether. Jess walks the length of the lab to find a picture of Brock and his mom Andrea walking along the sidewalk. Todd re-enters in a lab suit: “Let’s cook.” I guess Todd knows that Walt won’t be back to do that one more cook and impressing Lydia is still on his agenda.
We see Junior saying that his mom and aunt are out of their minds. He’s understandably angry and in denial when confronted with the reality that his mild mannered dad is in fact a criminal drug manufacturer that has been taken down by his uncle. It’s a lot to take in. He demands Skyler explain how she could have lied to him and gone along with it. Skyler’s tearful response is the most truthful she’s been to him since she was co-opted into Walt’s empire:
Running the car wash seems like small potatoes now. Junior (who I assume will resume the name of Flynn now rather than be associated with Walter White, arrested drug maker) is upset, Skyler is upset. Marie is upset under her sense of righteousness. Marie tells Sky to get her children and go home. She’ll join them with Hank after he finishes booking Walt (oh Marie, if you only knew) and they’ll figure out what to do next.
Cut to the White home and lookie here, it’s Walt grabbing everyone’s clothes and throwing it in suitcases. That Walter brain will not accept defeat.
Skyler is driving home with Junior and Holly. Junior’s petulant lack of seatbelt is causing a warning chime to ring incessantly. When Sky suggests that Junior buckles up for his own safety, he can only scoff. Safety is not something he thinks his parents have considered much of late. They pull up to the house to find the native’s truck in the driveway and Walt putting suitcases in the truck.
Junior needs info but Walt insists that they go pack and not ask questions. Sky wants to know where Hank is, and Walt tries to set off a bunch a lies, but aborts it, just insisting that they not ask questions, just help him get them out of there now. Neither Sky nor Junior is going to do anything without knowing the truth.
He beseeches Skyler that he has 11 million dollars with him at this very moment. They can leave. They can have a fresh start.
Sky knows what this means. She says “You killed Hank.” In a heartbeat, everything that Sky thought was happening has turned upside on its ear. Junior is freaking out and Walt is still trying to be in control of things. That ship has sailed. As Walt pushes Junior to calm down and start packing, Sky walks into the kitchen and grabs a knife. She tells Walt to get out. Walt tries to salvage the situation—remember, family is paramount to him-- and Skyler flails with the knife, slashing Walt’s hand. They wrestle while Junior impotently yells stop. Walt gets on top of Skyler to overpower her and grab the knife. Junior pulls him off, as Walt protests, “We are a family!” Way to go, Junior. He calls the police on his cell phone. Walt panicks and leaves, but takes Holly with him. That wakes up the cowering Skyler, who follows him, screaming for him to stop. She chases after the speeding truck, but how far can she get? She sinks to the ground just like Walt did in the desert. Walt has hurt her where she lives: her kids.
Walt changes Holly’s diaper in what appears to be a filthy garage bathroom. Despite the grim surroundings, he is gentle and playful with his baby girl. As he holds her up to his smiling face, Holly asks for mama. And Walt’s face falls. The one person who didn’t think he was evil incarnate doesn’t want him either. He holds her tighter and we see the old Walter White, the one who can’t harm family, breaking through again.
In the White living room we hear a police officer giving out the pertinent info for an Amber Alert for Holly. The phone rings. It’s Walt. Skyler demands to know where’s Holly. Walt asks Skyler if she’s alone. She waits just a beat too long to respond for Walt to not know the police is there. And then what comes out of Walter’s mouth sounds like the most evil abusive monster imaginable: This is your fault. This is what comes from your disrespect. I took the baby because you need to learn. Has Walter lost it again and become Heisenberg permanently? No. This is Walter’s gift to his family: their freedom from his crumbling empire. He implicates himself fully and gives Skyler plausible deniability in terms of laundering the money. While Marie is destroyed by the admission that he killed Hank, Skyler sits on the phone stoically. I think she recognizes the gift for what it was. Nothing that came out of his mouth resembled the Walter White she had been a co-conspirator to, and for as monstrous as it sounded, there is a visible relaxing of Sky as he goes on and on. As much for appearance sake as the truth, she begs to have Holly back and Walt says I still have things to do. He takes the battery out of the phone and we see him leave Holly at the fire department.
We’re back at the location where Jesse was supposed to start a new life, courtesy of Saul’s vacuum cleaner guy. You know, that part of the highway that looks like huge headstones stacked on top of each other. Here comes that minivan again, but this time, Walt gets in, luggage and barrel included.
- God love him, Aaron Paul live tweeted the whole show. And if you are a die-hard fan, you can enter to win the chance to watch the final episode with Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston (with Paul picking you up at the airport). I really respect how much Paul has recognized how much of his success is due to the support of his fans and acted appreciative. It’s a refreshing change from most Hollywood stars.
- He hasn’t had much to do this season, but RJ Mitte was stellar tonight.
- I have no idea how old the actress(es?) who play Holly is/are, but even she was perfect with her tears and cries for Mama. I am particularly sensitive to children in danger and that little angel face had me in tears too.
- Color analysis: Marie was appropriately clad in black. Skyler still in beige.
- I’m curious now, given these occurrences, of the destruction of the White house in the flash forward at the beginning of the season. Could it be the rage of the disillusioned Junior/Flynn?
- The Emmys are next weekend. I fully expect Bryan Cranston to win again for best actor. Aaron Paul has stated that he hopes that Jonathan Banks gets it for his portrayal of Mike, but damn if I don’t think that Aaron Paul would be robbed if doesn’t win.
NEXT EPISODE: Granite State