Breaking Bad Episode 509 “Blood Money”

“I gotta say, I don’t like the way you’re looking at me right now.”

Oh. My. God. Breaking Bad is back!!!

509imagesAnd holy shit, in that flashforward teaser, the White house has seen some better days. I think it’s safe to say that this scene is supposed to follow directly after the flashforward we saw last summer, where Walt, coughing and taking meds and making a 52 with his bacon, buys an M60 in a Denny’s bathroom. Not exactly a sign that times are dandy for Walter White. Next stop is his trashed house to retrieve the ricin and drive off for whatever mission or “last stand” he’s about to make. But of course, Future Walt must of course first survey the damage done to his house and the yellow “Heisenberg” painted on the wall. And scare or shock the living crap out of his neighbor, Carol.

Such a great teaser. Gives us a little continuation, a little more story, but asks more questions than it answers. Why is the house in this state of disarray? Has it become public that Walter White is Heisenberg? Did the whole family leave in a hurry together? Are the others alive? Who’s the ricin (and the M60) for? Why is Carol so startled by Walt that she drops her grocery bag (which of course contains oranges)? Will Walt survive his mission?

I wonder if there will be anymore flashforwards (my guess is no) before we catch up to this point in the story, (I’m making an educated assumption) in episode 515. It’ll be awhile before all these questions are answered. Plenty of time to guess, theorize and speculate in the meantime.

Until then, back to the present with Hank on the pot.

One thing that struck me during this entire episode is that Walt and Skyler are at the happiest, most peaceful place we’ve ever seen them as a married couple. It’s not just a moment of temporary sweetness or calm either; it lasts through the episode. Color is important in Breaking Bad, and Walt is back to dressing like…Walt, as in the early Walt, beiges and whites. Skyler is also wearing a lot of white, a bit of beige. These colors are almost unheard of for her–she’s usually in blue or green, sometimes black–so that seems significant. I think her wearing his colors represents that she’s on his side now, on Team Walt, and that bears out through the episode.

Now that he’s out, and she feels the kids are safe, and he’s returning to a “normal, decent life,” their lives are sort of…happy. And as Skyler once said to Walt (when she saw his condo for the first time), “I guess crime really does pay.” Because they’re thinking of opening a second carwash, talking about taking a second honeymoon in Europe. All their conversations–about college with Jr at dinner, about Walt’s missing book in the bedroom, about rearranging the air fresheners at the carwash–are so easy and free of tension and animosity. After everything, maybe Walt got what he wanted–he’s made plenty of money AND he has his family in tact. For now.

When Lydia comes in (more on that later), Walt is honest with Skyler about who she is. No lies, no sugar-coating. No hedging and circular logic. Just the truth. And Skyler, when she tells Lydia, “Never come back here, do you understand me?” she’s protecting her family, not wanting any potential danger to come back in, but I also felt like she was standing up for Walt.

But of course, Walt’s still hiding something–his cancer. And yes, it’s back for real. It wasn’t just a ruse he told Hank. It’s back. And I kinda want to say “I told you so” to all the people who thought it wouldn’t surface again. Vince Gilligan has sometimes said this is a show about cancer, and story-wise, it had to come back. Prolonged remission would be too miraculous and medically improbable in a too optimistic way for this show.

There’s plenty of evidence for the cancer being back:
-Walt is getting chemo when Saul calls him.
-Walt has his puking incident in the bathroom, and has pills stashed in a drawer. If you look closely the medicine, prescribed of course to Walter White, is Dolasetron, which is used to treat nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy.
-In the dinner scene, Walt barely eats any food.
-After the shot of Walt getting a scan in 508 (which was the same angle shown in the pilot when Walt got his original diagnosis), we see the paper towel dispenser that he punched in 209 after being told by Dr. Delcavoli–his very prestigious oncologist–that he was in remission. This means that in 508, Walt is back in Dr. Delcavoli’s office, and if there’s any sense of realism in the show, he wouldn’t see Dr. D. for a routine scan; it just doesn’t work that way. He’d only see Dr. D. if there was some big news, like the cancer’s return.

So why is he hiding the cancer? Walt’s got it good right now (or did until he noticed a green hardcover book of Walt Whitman poetry was missing), he’s essentially living the dream. And I think he wants to hold onto that as long as possible. Things are so good (not good as in mind-blowingly amazing but in the everyday, contented sense of the word) with his marriage now. What if he told Sky his cancer was back and she, even if things are okay for the time being, still felt relieved and he could see it? It’d crush him and he must suspect that she still might react that way. It’s not like she forgot that he was responsible for a bomb in a nursing home, robbing a train, lots of meth cooking and other various crimes. What if, even worse, she reacted like Hank and said “good”? He’s a dying man and I believe he just wants to hold on to this sorta happy ending that he’s finally reached for as long as he can, live his last few months in that state.

But this is Breaking Bad. Not gonna happen.

First though, let’s talk about humor. With all the articles and interviews and statements suggesting this season would be a brutal sprint to the finish line, and that it would get even darker, I know I wasn’t the only one who was afraid there wouldn’t be enough humor. But there was some comic gold here. “Barn door open” is the first thing that comes to mind. And of course, Badger’s Star Trek script. I’ve never even seen one episode of Star Trek and still found it hilarious. Blueberries blasting out some dude’s ass during a pie-eating contest and shooting off into outer space? Awesome. Always love to see those two. Oh and Jesse smoking a joint in Saul’s most depressing waiting room in the world was funny, and sad. More on Jesse later.

It was sort of funny and ominous to have the sound come in, as Hank opens the door, to the outdoor party on Marie saying, “You’re the devil.”

I also want to talk about silence. My other fear once I heard all these different variations of different actors and writers and directors and Vince Gilligan saying the last eight episodes are an intense, violent ride to the end, was that all the episodes would focus on that sort of tension and suspense–the exploding heads on turtles and desert shootouts and box cutters to throats kind–and not the other kind of tension and suspense that Breaking Bad is so good at, the kind that takes place in quiet moments, in conversations or without words at all. If “Blood Money” is any indication, I have no need to worry. This episode was rife with brilliant, quieter moments. The pause outside the bathroom door before Hank comes out with the book. The quiet way he walks around the house and looks through the curtain at the family outside and Walt holding Holly. The roach crawling on Jesse before Walt knocks on his door. Walt looking around outside arguing with himself until he goes for it and looks for a tracking device. Really, really great silences in this episode.

509aimagesAnd great lighting. I was really struck with it while watching this episode. There’s almost a color theme going on for the episode as a whole. A lot of low light, not exactly orange but almost a low, muted, almost earth tone-y gold. A lot of yellow and white and beige. Everything, though not the same color, seems to come from the same palette, if that makes any sense. A lot of subdued color. Of course, the striking exception is Saul in his brilliant green (kinda loved that shirt on him, gotta say it).

I talked a lot last summer about how Walt’s addiction to the power and money in his empire wasn’t unlike a methhead’s to meth. That struck me again when Walt tells Jesse’s he’s been out a month, which is the first time Jesse really looks at Walt. It’s almost like Walt was saying he’s been sober for a month now, or something. It just had that feel.

Jesse, though. Oh boy. Jesse’s sorta like the White House in the flashforward–a mess, torn up, has seen better days. I have read a fair number of fan reactions that complain about Jesse’s current state, say he doesn’t have time to wallow now that we’re in that final push, that he needs to get his mojo back and so on. And I’m going to argue against that because I think Jesse’s state of mind is perfect.

I’m biased though. I was psyched to see in the episode descriptions that he’d be dealing with guilt. There’s something so raw and amazing in Aaron Paul’s performances of a suffering Jesse and I wanted to see that again, but a fresh take on it, not the same as say, post-Jane or after murdering Gale. And that’s what we got last night. He’s not throwing huge parties and inviting hobos over. He’s not crying in a crackhouse. This is somehow…emptier, and more bottomless. All-consuming. And again the performance is so good that Jesse’s pain is palpable.

But it’s not just my own sadistic love of seeing my most favoritest character consumed by crushing grief and sorrow. It’s also that it fits the story and the character best. It doesn’t make sense for Jesse to be strong and powerful at this moment. Jesse has been wracked with grief and guilt ever since Todd shot that young boy. And he’s been terrified of Walt ever since Walt killed those ten guys in prison. And he has his suspicions about Mike. What Walt said to him in 507, when he was trying to get Jesse to cook with him again (and what Jesse screamed at Walt when he was in the hospital back in 307) is true. Jesse has nothing. No one really, except Skinny Pete and Badger, but they can’t really relate to what he’s going through. They’re almost not even on the same planet. I thought about this even when Jesse meets briefly with his two friends in 503 “Hazard Pay,” there’s more distance between Jesse and the two others than there ever was before. The meth business, and all he and Walt did while in it, and some of Walt’s purposeful manipulations have isolated Jesse.

And he has a heart, a conscience, and of course he feels guilty. I think what adds to this is he doesn’t even have a job to go to, as he did after he shot Gale. There’s nothing, except some drugs, to occupy him and distract him from the sorrow. He’s wallowing and it feels very true to life and to his character. The place Jesse’s in, it’s like when someone realizes the person they’re in a relationship with is a total psycho, literally. He’s afraid to make a move. He’s the one who’s treading lightly. And there’s also betrayal. He trusted Walt. He looked up to him as Mr. White, his chemistry teacher, as a mentor, as a surrogate father figure. He has stood in front of guns for Walt, many times. He stood up to Gus for Walt. He killed an innocent (aside from meth-cooking of course), sweet man and lost part of his soul in the process for Walt. He loved Walt as a father figure and now he sees some of the truth of who Walt has become, this monster who killed ten witnesses to save his sorry ass, this man who he surmises killed Mike, Jesse’s other father figure. I think there is such a mix of guilt, fear, self-recrimination, betrayal, grief and another dollop of fear that are all coursing through Jesse.

I also think that Jesse might NEED to be in this emotional state in order for some of the upcoming drama to unfold. I don’t know exactly what’ll happen (I think the change will start in episode 511), but I feel this sorrow and guilt may be crucial to Jesse’s character arc this half-season; it might just be his fuel. Maybe he’ll make some big changes. He has to be at the bottom to look for a different way up.

52indexBut it does worry me, how heart-wrenching and vulnerable Jesse is right now. How opposite of Walt. He’s the loose cannon. And he definitely doesn’t believe Walt that Mike is alive. No way. Notice how he looks away from Walt as he says he does. He doesn’t believe him but he knows he needs to say it. Like I said, it’s like realizing your significant other is a literal psycho–you have to not cross that person sometimes, and that’s what he’s doing there, appeasing Walt to save his own ass.

For his part, I thought Walt did a pretty good job with the Mike lie. The part that made it almost believable is when he says that if Mike eventually comes back for vengeance (over Walt killing his guys), then it’s on him. And I think, in Walt’s own twisted mind, he cares about Jesse. I think that when he called Jesse “son” it was genuine. He wants to help Jesse, help him move on and start living a normal, decent life.

But these are two very different men who believe very different things about themselves. As much as Walt has relished being Heisenberg, he’s also always had that “I’m not a criminal” belief. He always thought this was something that he would leave, a blip in his morality, that he could walk away from one day and just live a normal, successful life from his family. It’s Walt’s ability to detach from what he’s done, and rationalize, that allows him to do this. I was so glad to see this turn for Walt because it fits his character so exactly.

But Jesse’s never, ever been like that. He thinks of himself as “the bad guy.” He thought that after Jane died, even though he wasn’t really responsible for that. He took more blame on himself than Walt did, when Walt had more culpability. He was a wreck after Gale for a really long time. This is a guy who has always struggled with guilt. As the story progresses, Walt becomes more immune to any thoughts of remorse, and Jesse becomes more susceptible. So Jesse can appease Walt but not his own inner turmoil.

So he tosses his money away. I think the money is a tangible reminder of the kid’s death that he doesn’t want to touch. He’s had a long time, without work, to wallow and think about when Walt called it “blood money.” And now I think he just wants to rid himself of this reminder. A kid got shot and accepting the five million dollars just feels wrong. It’s really too bad he couldn’t set some aside for Kaylee, maybe in a way that wouldn’t get delivered to her until much later on so as not to raise suspicion now, because Jesse’s right, someone should look out for her.

I really thought the title “Blood Money” would refer to the portion of Walt’s money going to Hank for all his physical therapy and treatment. But that has yet to come back. I’m sure it will, somehow.

Dean Norris was AMAZING in this episode. Hank, like Jesse, is battling a lot of different emotions, chief among them is betrayal. I expected Hank to leave the bathroom as if nothing had happened, play it cool, but it was great to see that Hank couldn’t. I think he played the utter shock of the situation so well. It was dramatic and overwhelming and unabating, and that seemed so accurate for Hank. That panic attack was spot on too, and fit so well with Hank’s PTSD history.

That montage was certainly different for this show, no cooking involved this time, but a quick, somewhat disorganized ride through all the past evidence leading to Walt. Makes you kind of nostalgic, especially seeing that old video of Walt and Jesse robbing Southwest Aniline for their first barrel of methylamine. The only part that seemed a bit of a stretch was that the DEA got that Heisenberg picture that The Cousins had left in that shrine in Mexico. How exactly would that have happened?

Seeing Gale just made me go, “Awwww.” He’s so weird and yet so lovable. I was glad they lingered just an extra second or two on that shot of the photo of him.

The crowning moment of the episode, of course, was the showdown between Hank and Walt, and it probably won’t be the last. WOW I was surprised they went that far with it in the first episode, to have Walt figure it out so quickly and then to have these two actually talk (growl?) about it. How on earth are the Schraders and the Whites going to have any sort of dinner out together two episodes from now? I can’t imagine it. In that photo though, from 511, Skyler is in beige, like Walt, again. A sign that they’re still on the same page.

Speaking of family, I’ve replayed it over and over but I can’t hear what Hank says about family. Does he say “You don’t give a shit about family” meaning Walt doesn’t, or “I don’t give a shit about family” meaning he himself doesn’t? Or as someone suggested, is it, “Like you give a shit about family”? I feel it could really change things depending on if he was talking about himself or Walt but it’s really hard to hear. I’ve had others say they were sure they heard all three of the different possibilities.

But man, that whole scene is one of the best in the series. Walt comes to suss Hank out and he can tell that Hank knows. So he confronts him with the tracking device. When Hank closes the garage door and Walt says, “I don’t like the way you’re looking at me,” the tension shot up. Both actors are just brilliant here. Hank is the perfect mixture of shock, hurt, betrayal, awe, anger, disgust, but it really is the betrayal that trumps all. And Walt doesn’t make it any better when he brings up how he and Hank put the tracker on Gus Fring back when it was, “just the two of us.”

Blood-MoneyHank lists three things that Walt did as Heisenberg: faked that phone call about Marie, drove into traffic to keep Hank from the laundry, killed ten witnesses in the prisons. I think these are the three that hit Hank the hardest of everything Walt has done. That Marie ruse was pretty bad, and driving into traffic further injured a still-recovering Hank. And the jail cell deaths really knocked his wind out. He was so deflated after that. Not screaming or throwing things, just quiet, almost giving up. It was actually that accusation that hit me as a viewer the hardest.

And Walt, he is impressive here. Calm in the face of these accusations. Practical. He won’t be around in six months, and it seems that’s even with the chemo. And if the conversation he and Hank had was recorded (I doubt that it was) in some way, he doesn’t say anything incriminating, at all. “I am a dying man who runs a carwash, right hand to God that’s all I am.” He also intimates how hard it would be for Hank to get anyone to believe him, and that must have to do with all the DEA politics, like what happened to Merkert over Fring, and also the fact that Hank himself might look guilty if he brings this forward, and also the fact that Walt’s out, that the worst thing Hank would see on that tracker is that he went to Jesse’s house, and possibly Saul’s office (we don’t know for sure where Walt picked up Jesse’s money). But no cook sites, no drug deals, nothing. It is going to be a hard case for Hank to make.

But as a little detour, is Walt really out for good? It’s so like Walt to leave the business with no exit strategy, without giving a rip what will happen to anyone else after his sudden departure. Lydia makes it sound like it’s bad, like she might have to take drastic measures. I have a feeling it will get Walt, or Jesse, back involved. And now Walt has to tread lightly a bit because he’s on Hank’s radar. And so, most likely is Jesse. This could be a quintessential Breaking Bad perfect storm.

And then in the most brilliant moment of the episode, Walt manages to threaten Hank in an almost subtle way. By implying more than saying. “If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.”

Hank is wearing red in this scene. Hank almost never wears red.

PREDICTIONS:-Lydia will stir up some trouble during the next episode, because she’s in a box, because there are a lot of moving pieces, because of the drop in purity, and will try to rope Walt or Jesse back into cooking. I also think we’ll see Todd.
-We may also see Ted. The episode description for next week says Skyler’s past catches up with her. The only other thing it could relate to is money laundering but that seems more like her present than her past, unless Hank does some deep digging. Still, it seems unlikely he would find much, since Saul made the gambling winnings look real and Skyler is so meticulous about how she launders through the carwash. Still thinking Ted.
-I’m not sure what to make of Walt saying, “Just find Jesse” in the teaser. It’s scary, and I know Walt will be covering his tracks here, but I like to think that he’s not trying to hurt Jesse. It seems too early for that. Maybe Lydia and others get ahold of him or something. Or Hank does. Who knows.
-I’m going to guess the ricin is actually for Walt himself. Some have noted that since Walt has hair in the flashforwards, the chemo must be done and maybe he’s in remission. I don’t think so. I think either it’s gotten to the point where chemo will no longer help, or he has to give up chemo when he goes on the run. Definitely think the cancer is still there (he’s coughing, taking pills in Denny’s) and that whatever he plans to do with the M60, if he gets out alive, he will dose himself with ricin because as horrible as a ricin death may be, it’s preferable to him than the longer, slower, more painful death of cancer. Plus it keeps him in control (which is exactly why I want the cancer to get Walt instead), gives him a choice.
-Walt may fake his own death. I think that’s one of the reasons Carol looks so shocked; she thought he was dead. It would also add to an element of surprise for whoever he’s planning to go after with his big gun.

Ahhhh, these next few days will be torture waiting for the next episode! But glorious torture that I’ll gladly endure.

~Emilia J

Next Episode: Buried

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12 thoughts on “Breaking Bad Episode 509 “Blood Money”

  1. Wow, what a great detailed review. I like your take on Jesse, that his deep funk isn’t the same emotional beats as when Jane died or when he killed Gale. I also think it’s true to his character and it’s part of his arc in the final episodes.

    One review I read, interestingly pointed out that Walt has become like Gus and folding the towel exactly the same way before kneeling on it. They way Lydia visited Walt was similar to when Walt first visited Gus at the Chicken Restaurant.

    I’m still trying to process what’s going through Skyler’s mind. She’s sharing a bed with a man she once despised and said she’s waiting for the cancer to return. Is she doing what’s best for her family, genuinely wants her husband back in her life or patiently waiting until he dies?

    • Hey Sidekick Reviews – great to see you! You bring up some great points. I was struck with the same thing about Walt using the towel like Gus. On the podcast, VG and co. were saying the motivation is slightly different, that Walt grabs the towel because he has “old man knees” whereas with Gus it was part of his meticulous nature. And once I heard that, and watched the episode again, it does seem like Walt is doing it kinda spur of the moment because his knees hurt.

      I know, it is a little difficult to pin down Skyler’s feelings and attitude in this episode. Is she making the best of things until his cancer comes back? She said last summer that she’s compromised (because of the money laundering) so maybe it just makes sense to stay with him for now? Maybe now that he’s out, she can relax and no longer worries that the family’s in danger (big mistake, I think)? Or is she sort of doing the same thing as Walt, treating his year and three or four months as a meth cook as a blip and believing that they can really go back to normal, decent lives now? Even watching it, I felt more in Walt’s corner than I did last year. He’s Walt again, mostly (Heisi at the end with Hank), and it was nice to see them on the same page during this episode. I also felt like, this is what their marriage could’ve been like more long-term if they both had either lived their dreams more or not been beaten down by life so much.

      Of course, the writers are probably setting it up to be so peaceful and positive right now so they can destroy it in subsequent episodes.

      ~EJ

  2. I just watched this episode…great analysis! Just what I needed to feed my BB hunger. The acting was brilliant. I guess I should pay more attention to colors…

    • Hi Natasha, thanks so much for reading :)

      I agree, the acting, which is always good on BrBa, was out of this world this time around. I think we may see some Emmy nominations for this final season. It also makes me even more excited for everything that’s coming up. Dean Norris was just stellar, along with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. They all portrayed really complex and conflicting emotions perfectly.

      The writers and costume (and set) designers pay a lot of attention to color on the show, so it’s fun to try to interpret what it all means.

      ~EJ

  3. Excellent insights here, Emilia. I was concentrating so hard on dialogue and plot, I forgot to notice the colors this time around, but I will from now on. They definitely reflect the characters’ situations at different times.
    As for that line Hank uses about family, you got me curious and and I went back several times to try to figure it out. I wonder if the sound person allowed it to be ambiguous on purpose. It almost doesn’t matter. They may be trying to show that this rivalry between Hank and Walt has NEVER really been about family. It’s mano a mano. A whole separate thing from their concerns about their family/families, and obviously a force of great importance to both men.

    • Thanks for reading Rockmama!

      Hey I’ve actually been meaning to ask you – would it be okay if I added your captions site to a post that focuses on fan-made BrBa art and media?

      Very interesting thought that it might not matter, that maybe it was obscured on purpose. I was thinking it might matter in that if he’s saying Walt doesn’t care, that’s an accusation but if he says he doesn’t care, that’s more of a threat. I would be sort of surprised to hear Hank actually say that he doesn’t give a shit about family. But then again, he’s feeling very, very betrayed. I think you’re onto something that it must be purposeful, because otherwise why would it be so hard to tell what he says there? Especially when there’s a lot of attention to sound in this episode.

      Great point!

      ~EJ

  4. Pingback: The science of Breaking Bad: Blood Money | weak interactions

  5. Wow. That is an awesome review of the first episode. Thanks for the perfect description and also the predictions. You rock!!!!

  6. Emilia…a very poignant, in depth, and as always, outstanding review on your part. You are amazing! Just a thought here…the scene with Badger and his description of his Star Trek fantasy plot, must have a purpose. Think of Chekhov’s Gun Theory, and the way V. Gilligan uses this literary device throughout the series. Every scene has a purpose and a reason. Was there something said or seen that will foreshadow future outcomes. Is it a coincidence that one of the Enterprises’ members is named Chekhov? Your thoughts and insights?

  7. Hi Emilia, great review as allways. I thought about , what might happen next. And the pictures of the coming episode might hint some thinks I thought about: “Find Jesse”
    Why is Walt searching for him. I think that Jesse knows that Walt killes Mike and I fear that the mistrust grows so strong that the friendship between Walt and Jesse is over. Hank might contact Jesse and offer him some kind of deal to get on to Walt. Hank might also find out about Mikes death , which would be Jesse’s last “straw” to turn against Walt. So Hank might tell Jesse about Mike and the assumption that walt was behind his demise.

    Kind regards

    Marcel

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