(This review assumes you’ve already seen Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 1 and as such SPOILERS ahead!)
Welcome to my weekly reviews of Breaking Bad Season 5. It’s being called the final season, but considering it’s been split in half, with the second half airing next year, and since even the actors have referred to a ‘Season 6’, I’ll refer to this season as the penultimate one. When we left off last season, a lot of things were up in the air, but it had become pretty clear that Walt was now completely and utterly a bad guy. Where this coming season will take the character is a matter of pure speculation, but wherever he goes, it likely won’t be pretty.
With the first episode back, we jumped right back into the classic “SCIENCE IS FUN!” mode for the show. This week’s lesson: magnets. There may be some sort of thematic implications in using magnets, but I think we all know why it had to be magnets. They’re just so cool. I mean, really, did you see the scene where the laptop flew out of Jesse’s hands and smashed against the side of the truck? Pure gold. I was only watching it on TV, but for at least a few seconds I felt as giddy as a five year-old. But maybe we should leave the magnets alone for now and talk about the actual meat of the episode.
So what we’ve got now is a major shift in the character dynamics. First of all, Gus Fring is gone, which means that Walt is pretty much the big shot in ABQ at the moment. This is the first time that’s really been true, and I have to wonder how long it will last. Surely Walt will do something to screw it up. Meanwhile, Jesse has essentially come right around to Walt to the point where he’s protecting him from Mike and getting excited about things like magnets. Walt has so duped Jesse, that he now has a fully-functioning partner. Well, for now. Walt will probably find a way to screw this up, too.
Then there’s Mike. It’s still difficult to tell what we should make of him. Gus Fring is dead, and though Mike didn’t seem to have a special sense of loyalty towards him, he clearly has no interest in dealing with Walt at all. In fact, it seems the only thing keeping Mike around beyond the immediate threat of Gus’ laptop is his affection for Jesse. It’s like he recognizes the sad puppy quality in Jesse and genuinely wants to help him, which is far more than you can say for Walt at this point. It’ll be really interesting to see where this Mike/Walt/Jesse partnership goes, but for now it’s extremely volatile, and only made worse by Walt’s burgeoning ego, as seen in the car ride home after magnetizing the police station evidence room.
Then we get to the side characters. Skyler is in an interesting position. She’s now learned the full extent of what Walt is capable of and willing to do. It’s a scary thing being married to a guy like that, and she says it outright. The only thing is, she cares a lot about herself and the future of her family, and this will likely lead her to go along with Walt’s madness for a good while. We actually see her doing exactly that in her conversation with Ted Beneke. He’s apparently not dead, but he’s in awful shape. Skyler is horrified by what’s happened to him, but when he makes it clear that he won’t ever tell anybody what really happened, Skyler is genuinely relieved. The sense of power is sucking her in just as it did with Walt.
Finally, there’s Uncle Hank. He’s been proven right about Fring, which means he now has the full cooperation of DEA in investigating the meth ring. He almost caught Walt with the laptop, but then, well… magnets. Except that the magnets did something unexpected. A picture frame on Fring’s desk was broken in the evidence room mess, revealing some hidden evidence underneath the picture. The nature of the information isn’t clear at this point, but what’s obvious is that Hank is a lot closer now to discovering Walt, and it’s going to be much more difficult now to stop that from happening.
Which leads us to the beginning of the episode and that mysterious cold open. It’s set on Walt’s 52nd birthday, which means it takes place a little over a year ahead of the rest of the events in the episode. Walt’s got his hair, he’s grown a beard, he’s taken up a false identity, and he’s in the process of buying some pretty intense weaponry. I have no idea why any of this is the case, but it’s quite clear that between now and then, some things have gone very, very wrong for Walt. I can only imagine the craziness of this upcoming season that would lead to what we saw in the cold open, and I can’t wait to go on the ride.
“Yeah, bitch! Magnets!”