[Editor’s note: Today, we welcome new contributor Michael Spike Steinbacher to the Bonus View blog. Spike will start off by providing some much-needed coverage of the final season of ‘Breaking Bad’, a show that we have unfortunately neglected to this point. Please give him a warm welcome. -JZ]
Flash forward: A bearded, hirsute Walt pulls up to his abandoned home, which has been gutted and vandalized. “HEISENBERG” is spray-painted across one of his walls by a not-so-talented graffitist. He’s on a mission and doesn’t have time to waste. He retrieves a vial of ricin from a wall outlet and is then on his way, offering a “Hello, Carol” to his dumbstruck neighbor, who responds, slackjawed, by dropping her bag of groceries.
Back to the present: A dinner party at Walt’s winds down. The show picks up right where it left off, with Hank on the crapper, dumbfounded and aghast at what he’s discovered there while thumbing through Walt’s copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’. After one of the most awkward farewells ever, Hank suffers a panic attack on the way home. Heisenberg – the seemingly unknowable villain he’s been chasing all this time – is his brother-in-law Walt.
Walt and Skyler are at work at the carwash. The mundane details, like rearranging the air freshener display, underscore the irony of the real purpose of the business, which is to launder the millions Walt has made manufacturing and distributing crystal meth. Not to mention the bloodbath that ensued after killing Mike. Walt’s desperate associate Lydia shows up trying to buy time and to get some patience from an impatient Walt for pending business transactions. To her frustration, neither Walt nor Skyler are helpful. Skyler kicks her off the lot and warns her never to come back.
Meanwhile, Hank has boxloads of his Heisenberg files delivered to his home. They’re gruesome reminders of his failings thus far in his efforts. He turns his garage into command central.
Over at Jesse’s, Badger and Skinny Mike provide comic relief, riffing on ‘Star Trek’ geekery while taking bong hits and snarfing pizza. Jesse, unamused, skulks away to lawyer Saul’s new downscale office with gigantic duffle bags stuffed with cash. Blood money. He wants no part of the money and tries to get Saul to give it away.
Saul reports this to Walt, who is having none of it. Walt takes the money back to Jesse. Jesse sits in the detritus of his house, surrounded by cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, bongs, fast food wrappers and cockroaches. He’s despondent. Walt tries to assure him that he didn’t kill Jesse’s friend and mentor Mike. He forcefully tries to convince Jesse that he NEEDS him to believe this. Jesse gives him an icy stare and says what Walt wants to hear, rather unconvincingly.
That night, Walt has dinner with Skyler and Walt Jr. at home. Sick from his latest round of chemotherapy (his cancer is back with a vengeance), he adjourns to the bathroom to vomit in his toilet – the same toilet where Hank had his dark epiphany. After puking, Walt notices his copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’ is gone. He searches in vain for it, growing more and more frustrated and suspicious. He finds a GPS tracker on his car; a GPS tracker exactly like the one he and Hank used to track the now-dead Gus. Uh-oh.
Jesse is asleep in his car when a homeless man approaches and wakes him up, panhandling for spare change. Jesse hands him two huge stacks of hundred dollar bills. He then proceeds to drive the streets late at night, tossing out stacks of cash like so many mardi gras beads. It’s the first time he’s felt good in a long time.
As the episode winds down, Walt pulls into Hank’s driveway. A disturbed Hank rapidly stows away his Heisenberg documents. Awkward small talk ensues as the two feel each other out. Walt asks about the GPS. Feeling cornered, Hank shuts the garage door and brutally punches Walt in the head, laying him out. He spells it out to Walt. He knows just about everything. Walt tries to deny it, but his efforts are wasted. He even tries to get sympathy by telling Hank his cancer is back and that he probably only has six months to live. Hank allows that he doesn’t even know who Walt is any longer. Ultimately, Walt ends the scene – and the episode – with an ominous threat: “If you don’t know who I am, maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.”
Last season bonus! ‘Talking Bad’ with Chris Hardwick. He does the same thing for ‘The Walking Dead’ (‘The Talking Dead’). The show is a bit rushed, but 30 minutes is about the right amount of time for a recap show. The first episode features creator Vince Gilligan and annoying fangirl Julie Bowen (‘Modern Family’). Hardwick keeps it light, funny and interesting. It’s not required viewing, but it’s a welcome addition if you’re a superfan of the show.
‘Breaking Bad’ is sadly in the homestretch now, and those of us who’ve been geeked for it for almost a year now are on the edge of our seats to see just how this is going to shake out. This episode, directed by Bryan Cranston, is, as expected, fantastic – full of tension and revelation that makes me joyful for the present, but sad for the future – a future with no more ‘Breaking Bad’.
AMC had a huge weekend with the return of ‘Breaking Bad’, the premiere of the superb ‘Low Winter Sun’ (SUPERB! I say) and the return of ‘Hell on Wheels’ (an underappreciated gem). AMC has the most consistently intelligent programming of any network or cable channel, period.