Idiot Box: “Breaking Bad”
This is a warning! If you have not watched the entire fifth season of “Breaking Bad,” do not read this article. Spoilers to follow.
Once upon a time, AMC’s critically acclaimed “Breaking Bad” was hailed as a mesmerizing black comedy. After Sunday night’s season finale, it seems safe to say that any potential future laugh-out-loud moments within the show have likely come to a definitive end. At the conclusion of season four, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finally broke bad with the poisoning of a child. Now that the fifth season’s first half has aired, not much has improved for our hero-turned-villain as he fought his way to the top of the “Empire Business.” As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Walt spent over a year of his life juggling cancer, family, rival dealers, and conflicting interests with his partner and former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). All this while trying to escape the error he made years ago by buying his way out of a billion-dollar corporation he helped establish, Grey Matter. No one can really blame a man for feeling haunted by a mistake of the past, but to quote the great “Batman Begins,” “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” No matter what turns the cogs beneath Walter White’s now iconic bald cranium, his actions have left a stain on his name that can never be wiped clean.
Even so, that doesn’t mean he didn’t try hard as hell to do so. Disposing of Mike’s body after making the grave gaffe of offing him and hiring Todd’s uncle to orchestrate a brutal mass killing of Mike’s connections, Heisenberg made another appearance in the episode—if only for a brief moment. After the mess was sterilized, Walt returned to cooking in a classic meth-montage scene set to the aptly titled song “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Though this was one of the most rhythmic and lively montages in the entire series, it felt hollow for every character involved. There was no more kick in Walt’s step as he worked on the drug that made him a legend in the Southwest. Only a grim and tired shell of a man remained. Even when he returned to the hospital for a check-up, his bare expression made him look more like a cadaver ready to be dissected than a drug kingpin.
So when Skyler (Anna Gunn) realized that her children needed to return home, all it took was a trip with Walt down to a storage unit filled with stacks upon stacks of bills to convince him to leave the business behind. That’s it? After five full seasons of maddening ego driving the plot to a dark abyss from which many of the characters will likely never return, Walt was finally persuaded to put the chemical suit down. Some may claim that it doesn’t tie in with Walt’s behavior, but in the end it makes perfect sense. When you take away everyone who has either loved or hated Walt (Jesse, Mike, Gus, Skyler, Tio, Gale, the list goes on), then you’re left with just a lonely man and his meth. Walter finally came to the conclusion that enough was enough, and with nowhere else to climb, he fell back onto the step that started him in the business of blue: family.
In the world of “Breaking Bad,” there is nothing as rich and beautiful as the color blue. It all began with the creation of Heisenberg’s trademark blue meth, and it has now brought us to the moment we’ve been waiting for since the first time Hank started tracking the elusive cook: his unearthing of Walt’s secret. Throughout this season, shades of blue have drowned the faces of Skyler and Walt around their pool during the most intimate of moments. Yet even when they appear to be alone, there’s still a terror stalking them in the night from which they will never escape. Walt could have ended his dealings with the devil long ago, but now he’s well past the point of no return. The problem is no longer that he broke bad: it’s that his hubris kept him in the business so long that now it has finally come back to bite him. And once the final season starts up next summer, the most violent bite will come from Hank. Until then, Vince Gilligan has us all holding a collective breath, dying to see the moment when Walt and Hank come to an understanding and realize they both have come to terms with what we’ve known for far too long: Walt is a dead man.