My faith in ‘Breaking Bad’ has never truly wavered, although certain leaps of faith required thus far into the final eight episode arc have been a little frustrating for me. Happily, any trepidation I might have had went out the window in this week’s explosive, searing, brilliant episode, called ‘To’hajiilee’ (the Indian name for the location Walt and Jesse first cooked and where the stunning climax takes place). This is ‘Breaking Bad’ jacked up on steroids, hell-bent on exploding your brain!
The show begins with Todd, Lydia, Uncle Jack and the Aryan meth posse gathered together to scrutinize Chef Todd’s latest cook. It’s much improved, but it doesn’t compare with Walt’s legendary blue meth, and Lydia wants it bluer and purer. Creepy Todd suggests that Jack can smooth things over with their buyers, but Lydia declines. Todd gets a call from Walt (the same call that ended last week’s episode), who says he has another job for his uncle. “Just one target… Jesse Pinkman.”
Jesse suggests to Hank and Gomez that if they want to get to Walt, they should find his money. Hank devises a brilliant plan. He stages a scene with Jesse lying on the floor with his brains blown out, snaps a picture of it, and takes it to Huell, who they have detained. Hank says they have Walt’s phone tapped and that Huell is a target on his hit list after being sold out by his boss, Saul. He shows the faked photo of Jesse, and Huell freaks out, singing like the proverbial bird. He tells them about the seven barrels of cash they took to Walt in a van. This is Hank’s Holy Grail.
Walt, Todd and Jack discuss the planned hit on Jesse. Jack declines Walt’s money, telling him that he’ll only do it if Walt trains Todd on his meth cooking technique… which is potentially much more lucrative to them than a paid hit. Walt agrees to a single collaborative cook in exchange for the hit.
In an effort to flush Jesse out, Walt goes to Andrea and Brock’s house. He concocts another elaborate lie, telling her that he believes Jesse is back on meth and that he won’t return Walt’s calls. Andrea calls Jesse for him and leaves a voicemail message telling him that Walt is there and to please call her.
Hank still has Jesse’s Hello Kitty phone and intercepts the call. Echoing the words and sentiment of Jesse in an earlier episode, Hank mutters, “Nice try, asshole.” Hank is in fine, even brilliant form. He correctly surmises that Walt has hidden the money in the desert. His plan is a masterpiece and it’s about to unfold.
Jesse sends a staged photo of a barrel of cash to Walt’s phone, then calls him. He tells Walt that he has all his money and is going to destroy it. He tells Walt to meet him at the cash burial location, and that he’ll burn $10,000 every minute while he waits. Walt is enraged and races to the spot. He tries everything to convince Jesse not to do it, even breaking out the old I’m-dying-of-cancer bait. Of course, Jesse’s not biting. While on the phone, Walt carelessly speaks of many crimes he’s committed, including the killings of Gus, Emilio and Crazy 8.
Walt arrives at To’hajiilee. Nobody’s there, and it slowly dawns on him that he’s been duped – thoroughly played. As Hank’s SUV approaches after locating Walt by using his cell phone signal, Walt calls Jack for help, giving him the coordinates. He immediately changes his mind, though, and he calls off the hit. Defeated and resigned, Walt stares into the distance as a tear rolls down his cheek and Hank demands that he show himself.
An impotent Walt comes out, drops his gun, and lifts his arms in the air. He approaches Hank as instructed and gets handcuffed. He exchanges a meaningful look with Jesse and is reminded that this location was where it all began for them – and where it seemingly might well end. Hank reads Walt his Miranda rights. Walt angrily calls Jesse a coward. In turn, Jesse approaches and spits in his face.
With Walt in Hank’s SUV and Jesse in Walt’s car, Hank calls Marie to let her know that he finally nailed him. Marie weeps in relief.
All of a sudden, Todd, Uncle Jack,and the Aryan contingent appear and drive up on the scene. They’ve ignored Walt’s instructions to call of the hit. They all draw guns and have Hank and Gomez ridiculously, massively outgunned with much heavier artillery than their handguns. Walt tries repeatedly to call them off, and everyone fears the worst.
These fears turn out to be well-founded. The Aryans open fire in a massive spray of bullets, pummeling everything as Walt, Jesse, Hank and Gomez all run for cover and explosive hell rains down over everything.
There have been some truly great episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ over the years. I won’t go so far as to declare this one the best ever, but if it’s not, it’s right up there among them. It has unexpected twists and turns, and the forces conspiring against Walt have escalated to apocalyptic levels. I daresay this is what we’ve all been waiting for!
Hank has never been more on his game. His plan worked brilliantly and he almost had Walt in checkmate until the horrific end. The tension is visceral and gets ratcheted up so high that I was quite literally breathless. I think my heart was even beating in time with the rhythm of the action.
The gunfight is one of the finest examples of televised or filmic shootouts I’ve ever seen. Set in the stunning, desolate desert of New Mexico among the buttes and mesas, it feels like a modern day Western and unfolds like one as well. The sudden, infuriating ending left me desperate for more. A truly great cliffhanger!
Even the less-epic moments are great: Todd lasciviously and disturbingly fingering the lipstick left on the coffee cup by Lydia, Walt outrageously visiting little Brock (whom he poisoned earlier) and Andrea’s home, Walt growing more and more helpless as the episode progresses until he’s left cowering helpless and destroyed by the end. Drama doesn’t get any more gripping than this.
Three episodes left! If this is any indication of what we can expect, we’re in for a hell of a ride.