I feel like Stanley at the end of the pretzel day episode (“Initiation”) of The Office. 313 days until the next episode of Breaking Bad, assuming they start at the same time next year that they did this year. Three hundred and thirteen days. A lot can happen in that time.
I am planning on going back, starting with the pilot and posting about all the previous episodes, doing one each Sunday until it’s back on. 44 Sundays and 46 episodes, so there will have to be a tiny bit of doubling up, but I want to keep the BrBa love alive and really dig into the series while waiting for it to come back next year.
So, this week’s episode. Holy shit. HANK KNOWS. And it happened through Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. How freaking cool is that? It’s cool that a book of poetry was Walt’s undoing. It’s also poetry that is just so different than Walt’s Heisenberg persona. I haven’t read all of Leaves of Grass, but “Song of Myself,” which takes up a large part of LoG is just so, so flowy, free associative, full of fragments and so freakin’ right-brained it’s not even funny. I liked that Gale got a little bit of revenge from beyond the grave.
So, I think the first order of business is to clarify that whole situation because I know not everyone watches this show as obsessively as I do, and I’ve been reading that some are a little confused about how Hank connected the dots.
When Walt first starts working with Gale in Gus’s superlab back in Season 3–I believe in episode 306, “Sunset”–Gale talks about the magic of the lab. He goes on to recite his favorite poem, Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” to which Walt replies that he will have to check out Whitman. This was a wild moment for me, because that poem has woven itself in and out of my life in strange ways and I may have to say more about that when I get to 306 during the year.
The next episode shows Walt reading Leaves of Grass. We never see Gale give Walt the book (in fact I thought Walt had gone out and bought it) but seeing as how eager Gale was to please Walt–remember that the second day they work together, Gale shows up dressed like Walt–I could totally see Gale giving him the book. Gale had a major mancrush chemistry idolization of Walt.
As a side note for how Walt Whitman plays into Breaking Bad, in “Half-Measure” when Walt is watching Jeopardy! before finding out about the rival drug dealers murdering Tomas and going out to rescue Jesse and murder the rival drug dealers himself, the question on Jeopardy! is about Whitman.
So then, Jesse shoots Gale on Walt’s orders, and while investigating the murder scene, the police come across Gale’s “Lab Notes,” which APD officer Tim gives to Hank to look over when Hank is all depressed and injured. In episode 404, “Bullet Points,” Hank asks Walt to look at Gale’s “Lab Notes.” He wants Walt’s chemistry expertise to confirm that what Gale has in there (along with random lists and recipes for vegan s’mores) is in fact lab design and organic syntheses for methamphetamine. Walt says that it is.
While looking at the “Lab Notes,” Hank remarks about the inscription, “To W.W., my star, my perfect silence.” Hank asks Walt who that might be–Woodrow Wilson, Willy Wonka, Walter White? Walt does that little laugh and says “You got me,” and puts his hands up. After that, Walt finds “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” in Gale’s notebook, pointing out that the W.W. Gale’s lab book was dedicated to must be Walt Whitman.
So when Hank is looking for some reading material while taking a crap, he sees the inscription in Leaves of Grass, “To my other favorite W.W, it’s an honour working with you. Fondly, G.B.” So he flashes back on that scene where he discussed “Lab Notes” with Walt and he knows that G.B. is Gale Boetticher, and that they were working together, that the real Heisenberg is Walt.
HANK KNOWS! He knows because of a book of poetry. He knows because he had to take a shit. Love it.
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT? DO WE REALLY NEED TO WAIT A WHOLE 313 DAYS?!
But back to earlier in the episode. Walt seems a bit changed now that he has killed Mike. Or maybe it’s losing Jesse that has ruined his mojo. In the teaser, when Todd comes in, it takes Walt so long to respond. He looks tired, maybe even a little depressed. He asks all the questions to make sure the car got taken of correctly by Old Joe the Junkyard Guy. An “RV Job.” But he just seems sluggish and almost disinterested. Something’s off with Walt already.
Interesting that when they open the trunk and Walt tells Todd he doesn’t want to talk about it, he then says, “it had to be done,” because at the end of 507 he clearly realizes that it really didn’t need to be done. I get the feeling he’s saying it to reassure himself because that’s the one death that’s a little different on his conscience from the rest.
Then Jesse comes in and Walt says, “We? Who’s we? There is no we.” It reminded me of that scene back in Season 2 when Jane’s father comes over and Jesse is all hoping she introduces him to her dad and she doesn’t and they get in a big argument and she says, “Who’s you and me?”
And then Walt shuts the door in Jesse’s face.
Jesse asked if Mike got away. “He’s gone,” Walt says. LOL.
Walt goes to meet Lydia at the diner, and she suspects that Walt will kill her as soon as she gives him the names of the nine guys. By Walt’s evasive, distracting reply, saying things along the lines of, “You think I’ll kill you what? Right here, in public in front of all these people, immediately,” you realize he must indeed plan to kill her. She is another loose end. But she’s also resourceful, pitching the whole Czech Republic idea, an idea that Gus was planning to implement, which will make them a lot of money together, which Tuco said to Walt way back when. Walt’s in.
The reveal of the ricin was pretty epic. He did in fact intend to kill her right there and then in public, it’s just that the symptoms wouldn’t start until later. Yet again, the ricin comes into play only to not be used against anyone. It goes back behind the wall socket in Walt’s bedroom. Will we see it again? I bet if we do, it’ll somehow be in a way that we’d NEVER suspect. It almost has to be, because now more than ever, people are going to be expecting the ricin to get used in any number of ways. So the writers will have to come up with something really unexpected to make it truly effective. OR it may never get used effectively.
Walt seems distracted in the scene with Todd’s uncle and company, too. Authoritative and Heisenbergy still, but distracted, asking about the painting, taking his time before saying anything. Still he commands these guys who are apparently prison gang leaders of some sort to get the job done just the way he wants it done.
Someone over at the AMC BrBa boards suggested that Walt takes on something of everyone he’s killed. This is an interesting thought, and I think was mostly inspired by the fact that Walt said to Lydia, “Learn to take yes for an answer,” which Mike previously said to him. And in this episode, in some ways, Walt seems more stoic and more sensible, like Mike. So it’s an interesting theory, and definitely not the first time we’ve seen it (trying to be Gus after he kills Gus, cutting the crusts off his sandwiches after killing Krazy 8). Is he really “absorbing” something? Is it a subconscious thing? Some weird way of remembering the fallen or showing that he is in some way affected?
And he kept Leaves of Grass after Gale’s death. In “Hazard Pay,” when Walt moves back into the house so brazenly, he pauses to look at the book when he’s unpacking. I always thought it was a bit wistful but a bis disdainful, like he’s thinking how different he is from Gale, or even from who he was when he worked with Gale. Kind of interesting that it ends up by the toilet. Seems to have the same mix of wistfulness and disdain. It’s a bit odd for bathroom reading. I mean, “Song of Myself” alone is like fifty pages long.
At the prisons, everything goes as planned. A lovely little brutal bloodbath for the half-season finale. The lawyer goes first. Dennis gets burned to death. Shanking and blood everywhere. No more loose ends who might talk to the DEA for Walt to worry about. No more trails for Hank to follow (until later). And what an interesting song to juxtapose with all that killing. Lyrics are all about “famous men who had to fall,” and rising up, starting all over again.
I loved the way the scene played out between Walt and Hank at Hank’s house as Hank talks about the tree-tagging job. There are so many silences, so much disconnection. Hank is despondent, wishing for a simpler time, and Walt replies that he misses camping. Again, Walt seems kinda disconnected and lost.
This whole episode has a lot of silence, a lot of letting the pauses play out, which is something I always enjoy. The scene with Walt and Hank is where it’s the most pronounced. You almost start to wonder if Hank knows something, or is going to ask Walt a pointed question but he doesn’t. There’s also a lot of silence early on between Walt and Todd, and Walt and Jesse.
Once “it’s done,” Walt starts all over again. He and Todd tent some houses, cook the shit out of some meth. Lydia ships to the Czech Republic and gives Walt bags of money, Skyler tries to launder it, Saul takes his cut, Walt and Todd split up stacks and stacks of money and cook some more meth. All the while, a song called “Crystal Blue Persuasion” plays for the montage. I read somewhere that this song, though it may sound almost as if it was written for Breaking Bad and its infamous Blue Sky, was actually written about a religious experience while listening to Billy Graham. If that’s true, that just makes it even better to use with that montage.
And all throughout this montage, Walt is getting, finally, what he always wanted. He’s the emperor. There’s no one above him. The people who get cuts of the profit are working for him, doing as he asks. He is raking in the dough. He’s truly The King now. But he doesn’t seem happy at all. He’s rubbing his forehead, looking tired and unhappy.
It could be any number of things. It could be that now that he’s reached the pinnacle of what he wanted, there’s nothing left to conquer or achieve, and cooking meth becomes like any other nine to five job. He is, after all, doing the same thing day after day, week after week. Maybe he gets a little bored with that. Maybe having no one to fight against leaves him a little listless. Maybe he misses Jesse, misses his kids or happier times with Skyler. Maybe success here is a little empty. Maybe everything’s going so smoothly that there’s just not enough excitement. Or maybe he’s just tired.
Jesse doesn’t seem to be doing great either. Falling asleep with a lit cigarette is NEVER a good thing. He doesn’t seem like he’s got a whole lot going on. He’s definitely smoking some pot again (and sheepishly hiding the bong when Walt comes in). I hope this doesn’t mean he’s back to the meth though. There just seems to be a certain emptiness to both Walt and Jesse.
But Jesse knows that Walt killed the guys in prison. And he may or may not suspect what happened to Mike. So when he sees it’s Walt out his window, he disappears from the screen for a second and comes back with a gun tucked into his waistband. He’s afraid of Walt. But Walt just reminisces and leaves him bags of money, presumably the five million that he never gave Jesse in the last episode.
It’ll be interesting to see where Jesse goes in the next half of season 5. He says he’s still out, which is good, but I just get the sense things aren’t right with him. And it worries me that Walt pointed him out to Declan (and of course Lydia knows who he is) as a master meth chef. There could be trouble ahead.
And Walt says he’s out too. Skyler doesn’t believe it at first, but after he says it again, she starts to hope. Earlier, she showed him the storage locker full of cash and asked Walt what many of us were thinking, how much is enough? Whether or not they’ll get to keep it remains to be seen. But for now, Walt is out.
Some people don’t believe him but I do. Or at least, I think Walt believes he’s out. He could be lying to himself, sure, but I think he thinks he’s out. He didn’t seem too happy being in. He probably wants some of his old life back too, his kids back in the house, and he already has more money than he can spend in ten lifetimes, so it makes sense. He seems a little disillusioned anyway. Maybe “the have is not as good as the want” or something.
And then there’s the cancer possibility. Is it back? It could go either way. It wouldn’t be the first time that he’s shown at the cancer clinic for a scan–he did that in season 4 and was still fine. But I tend to think it is indeed back. Of course that could be confirmation bias in play. I’ve always wanted it to come back.
Here’s my thought process. That paper towel dispenser that Walt punched in at the end of 209 “4 Days Out” is at the office of his oncologist, Dr. Delcavoli (sp?). So when he sees it again after the scan in this episode, it must mean he’s in the oncologist’s office again. I would think that his scan appointment wouldn’t involve Dr. D unless something showed up. If it was just a routine scan with no adverse results, he’d probably mostly be interacting with techs, not seeing his oncologist.
Plus there’s that teaser from 501, that flashforward where he’s coughing and taking a pill. I wouldn’t put it past the writers to totally f with us and make us think the cancer’s back when it’s not. But I still think that it is.
And then, back at the poolside, it almost felt like a Season 1 moment, the whole family around the table, talking about mostly insignificant things like Skyler’s stiff hair and Marie taking prenatal vitamins for her hair because she wants a halo, Walt telling Hank that his interest in making Schraderbrau has some chemistry in it. You’re waiting for another airplane crash or some sniper to start shooting, but no, none of that. Just Hank needing to take a shit.
Some argue that Walt leaving the book there is too careless for his character, but I think that as much as Walt has considered himself a careful man, he never really has been. Look, he left the bomb-making equipment out in his kitchen when he went to kill Gus. It’s not until after that he puts that away, throws out the lily of the valley plant or even thinks about Gus’s laptop. His plans are complicated and elaborate, often diabolical and sometimes scientific, but not careful. It’s usually more of a fly by the seat of your pants and save yourself sort of thinking. The book shows up in the bathroom early in the episode, back when Walt and Skyler were living there without the kids and there was little chance of someone visiting. It’s been there for months.
And it’s exactly the type of thing Walt would get careless about, because it’s something that feeds his ego. Gale was a good chemist, made some decent meth and excellent coffee, who clearly admired Walt’s superior chemistry skills. This is evident in the inscription, and even in the fact of Gale giving him the book. Pride and ego have always been Walt’s fatal flaws. Just remember how he got drunk and spilled the beans to Hank that Gale wasn’t the master chemist. Leaving the book there pales in comparison to that admission.
And what’d Hank say a few episodes back? Even the pros make mistakes. And Walt is a genius but not a pro. Or rather, he’s a pro at some things—the maestro—but he’s not a professional criminal like Mike or Gus. And he made a mistake.
Hank’s face is freakin’ priceless.
This episode does something that is almost never done on Breaking Bad, which is include a significant time jump. About two months passed by during that “Crystal Blue Persuasion” montage. How do we know? Afterward, Marie says that she and Hank have had the kids for three months. They took the kids on Walt’s 51st birthday, and we’ve had a few episodes since then, probably about a month (or a little less) of time in the Breaking Bad world. So about nine months (and eight episodes) to go until Walt turns 52 and buys an M60 in a Denny’s bathroom.
Time to start making predictions! Any ideas?
I think Hank will put the book back, put the magazines over it, go out like nothing happened. All kinds of realizations are going to be exploding in his head but he’s going to have to keep it cool for now. My guess is he’ll try to trap Walt somehow. That’s what he wants, to be the one to bust Heisenberg. But he’s going to face a lot of problems.
Walt’s out, so there’s no blue on the streets at the moment, so I don’t see SAC Ramey authorizing more investigation into the case. He’s already told Hank to back off a few times. And look what happened to Merkert when the truth came in about Gus. He got fired for basically being too close to the guy and not figuring it out. That pales in comparison to Hank’s situation. And with it being a family member and how Hank’s worked this case, it could look a lot worse than negligence. It could look more like collusion. So Hank is going to have to play his cards right, but I think he can do that, and even enjoy it. He knows something. Walt doesn’t know he knows. Cat and mouse and Hank is the cat. Should be some good drama.
Who will survive the next eight episodes? Will Hank take down Walt? How will he do it? Will the ricin ever be employed, and if so, how and on whom? What is he buying that M60 for? What’s going to happen to Skyler, the kids, Marie, Jesse, Lydia, Todd? And what are you going to do with yourself in the meantime?
It’s going to be a long year.
More About “Gliding Over All”
- Weak Interactions: The Science of Breaking Bad
- Sidekick Reviews
- Tim Goodman Q&A
- TV.com – System of a Frown
Breaking Bad Articles
- Walter White’s Moral Demise and the People Jesse Pinkman Loves
- Awesomely Creative Fan-Made BrBa Media
- That “Leaked” Season 5 Premiere Script
- How Walter White Poisoned Brock and What Happened to the Ricin Cigarette
- 507 “Say My Name”
- 506 “Buyout”
- 505 “Dead Freight”
- 504 “Fifty-One”
- 503 “Hazard Pay”
- 502 “Madrigal”
- 501 “Live Free or Die”