Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad - "Ozymandias" - TV Review


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.' 
- Percy Shelley

This may be the most devastating episode yet in an already brilliant series.


There are only two episodes to go after this, and while we've always known there won't be a happy ending, this episode played on audience expectations and side-stepped them and had scene after scene of high-tension moments.

When we ended last episode, it looked like Hank and Gomez were goners, outnumbered in a shootout with the Aryan family. But this episode started at the beginning, showing a scene that would've taken place around the pilot, with Walt and Jesse happily cooking meth in the desert. Such warm and fuzzy memories.

Fast-forward to present (which isn't really present since we know Walt grows his hair out and fetches some ricin, but I'm getting ahead of myself) where Hank is injured and Gomez is dead. They didn't hit any of the Aryans, and Hank's time has come. A handcuffed Walt pleads for Hank's life. All he's done, he keeps telling himself, he did for his family, and now his brother-in-law is about to die.  Walt gives away his $80 million to try to save Hank but to no avail. Great acting job by the trio of Walt, Hank, and gun-holding Jack.

Hank takes a bullet to the head, and Jack and family take $70 of the $80 million. They let Walt keep $10 million to show there are "no hard feelings."  But there's one last item of business. The whole reason Walt had called the Aryans was to kill Jesse Pinkman, and Walt sees Jesse hiding under the car.  Walt gives Jesse a stare harder than Michael gave Fredo in Godfather II. Right before Jesse gets killed, Todd suggests they question him first to see how much he told Hank.  And right before Walt lets Jesse be dragged away for torture and execution, he lets Jesse know that he watched Jane die. Jesse is devastated in every way possible, and Walt's transformation to pure evil is complete.

And yet, one of the great things about BB is how Walt keeps telling himself that he's doing it for the right reasons (his family) and that basically he's still a good person (he knows he's not but it's all for his family!)  Walt is ready to take his $10 million, grab Skyler, Walt Jr., and Holly, and disappear.

Ah, but Hank had called Marie, and Marie confronts Skyler that Hank has arrested Walt.  She makes Skyler tell Walt Jr. now.  Watching Walt Jr.'s world crumble is one of the saddest events yet on this show.  Walt Jr.'s been the innocent here, and now he knows the truth and he goes through the five stages of grief in heartbreaking ways.

Ah, but when they get back to the house, they see Walt. And if Walt is there, that means Hank is dead. Then in one of the tensest moments in TV history, we get a couple glimpses of the knife rack by the phone.  Knives. Phone.  Knives. Phone. Skyler makes her choice. She grabs a knife and tells Walt to go away.  When they scuffle, the audience knows Walt won't die but it doesn't mean he won't accidentally kill Skyler, and then when Walt Jr. intervenes, there's that horrible moment of "please don't accidentally kill Walt Jr.!" Ultimately Walt Jr. protects his mom and calls the cops on his dad. Walt was already betrayed to the cops by his surrogate son Jesse; now his real son has done the same thing.

Walt grabs Holly when he leaves, another horrific moment with Skyler chasing her baby (Emmys for everyone, and this has been Anna Gunn's best season yet!). Walt's call to Skyler to help absolve her (of course he knew the cops were listening) was his last noble gesture, and it ends him riding off into the sunset with Saul's anonymous friend.

One more tidbit though: Jesse is still alive, and Todd (who's the scariest kind of psycho, calm and polite) takes him down to a meth lab, keeping him on a chain but needing him to cook.

Two episodes to go.  Are the Aryans out of it?  Will Lydia's Czech clients come to the US to get some answers?  Are Skyler, the kids, and Marie still in great danger? Who is Walt's intended target with that Ricin?

My guess is Lydia is the ricin's intended victim.  If Walt was going after Jack or Todd, he'd want a quicker method of death.  I don't see how Jesse stays alive to the series finale, but I can almost see Walt rescuing Jesse and letting him go or killing him himself.

What do you think will happen?

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