By Radhika Menon, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 5, 2012
The front end of season five of “Breaking Bad” made one thing very clear: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is no longer Mr. Nice Guy. Killing innocent people no longer weighs down his conscience, and he certainly feels no shame in throwing others under the bus. Heisenberg is no longer just his alter ego — it’s his entire identity.
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The midseason finale ended differently than we’re used to. There were no final gunshots, no bombs attached to wheelchairs — instead, we were left with Hank (Dean Norris) finding the answer that we always knew he would find. Though it may not have been as cathartic as past finales, it still managed to leave us wanting more.
It was only a matter of time before one of White’s carefully laid plans would go awry. But Hank didn’t find the ricin behind the electrical socket, nor did he happen across an extra cell phone in the toilet behind him or the piles of money that Skyler (Anna Gunn) admitted she was unable to launder.
No, Walt’s downfall will come in the form of an etched note in a long-forgotten Walt Whitman book, gifted to Heisenberg by none other than the late Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), a former cook in Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) operation who met the barrel of Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) gun at the end of season three.
As the first half of the final season of “Breaking Bad” wraps, the pieces begin to slide into place. All of the men that Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) was protecting with his imposed “legacy costs” were killed in penitentiaries around Albuquerque in an eerily upbeat montage of prison stabbings and arson, literally ensuring that none of them would speak of Walt’s involvement in the Fring era.
Lydia’s (Laura Fraser) inside information about these men essentially saves her life, as Walt pockets the vial of ricin after a meeting at a café, saving the poison for the next time she acts out of order. With Mike out of the picture, Walt has implemented a foolproof way of ensuring loyalty: Obey or Die.
In Lydia, Walt finds a new partner of sorts. She convinces him that the Czech Republic is swarming with drug addicts, and the international market is a viable option for their regime.
And so Walt continues cooking. In a beautiful montage set perfectly to Tommy James and the Shondells’s “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” houses around Albuquerque begin sporting the yellow and green tents of “Vamanos Pest Control,” while inside, Walt and his new apprentice Todd (Jesse Plemons) churn out ounce after ounce of the pure blue candy.
It takes Skyler showing him the storage garage filled with enough money to “last them ten lifetimes” for him to realize that it’s time to step away from the game. And just like that, the White children return home and the entire extended family seems to be well. But Marie (Betsy Brandt) is talking over Skyler who’s talking over Walt who’s talking over Hank — it’s an unsettling feeling of calm chaos and anticipation that eventually leads to Hank’s discovery.
If there was one imperfect aspect to the otherwise superb sequence of events, it’s that Hank’s own intellect and expertise were not what brought him the answer. Rather, it was sheer luck that he found the book stowed away beneath other reading materials in the White’s bathroom.
So what does Hank’s find mean for the newly free Walter White? Surely his past will come back to haunt him, but the form of poetic justice won’t be revealed until “Breaking Bad” returns next summer.
“You got me,” Hank remembers Walt saying. Though he didn’t then, surely he does now.