We’re a family: This is what it looks like when Breaking Bad goes for the throat
Holy shit, where do you start?
It all seemed so simple in the cold open. Walter and Jesse were cooking some meth, “Mr. White” was practicing the first of what we would be many, many lies, and the plan was in place to make some money before he died. Now? A short burst of gunfire and two DEA agents are dead. Jesse is being held captive, chained to the ceiling with a picture of Brock and his mother to motivate him to cook in order to keep them safe, and Walter’s family is finally torn apart in brutal, violent fashion.
Walter Jr. finally knows what his father has been up to, and thankfully is given more agency than just being the kid at the breakfast table. His reactions, and his ability to protect his mother and do the right thing, are welcome for a character who has been such a nothing on the show for so long. He doesn’t stand by his father, he doesn’t second guess his options, he tackles the man who is wrestling with his mother, puts his body between hers and the man with the knife, and calls the police.
You want a hero? Walter Jr. is the man right now. He acted simply, decisively, and bravely. What a great kid.
Then Walt takes Holly.
This was a great moment in an episode absolutely filled with them. From Hank refusing to ask for his life, to the Nazi thugs figuring out why Walter had those coordinates mapped out so precisely, to Jesse looking up and seeing two birds in the sky in what might have been his last moment of peace. It's a stunning hour of television, from front to back.
Walter taking Holly completes his fall, and this was the moment Walter White landed with a sick thud. The man who was supposed to be the hero of the story is finally cast out of his house, of his family, and becomes the villain he’s never been able to admit to being. He’s done, and the audience is done with him. We’re ready for him to be gunned down in the streets.
That was my reaction at least. Using a baby as a bargaining chip is just about the lowest act of desperation one could imagine, a more dramatic form of kicking the dog that still has teeth. He wasn’t worried about his daughter, or keeping his family together at that point. He just wanted a little leverage.
“You’ll never see Hank again,” Walter says. “He crossed me. You think about that. Family or no. You let that sink in.” This wasn’t the way it went down, of course. But this is what he tells his wife. This is the image he needs to keep up. This is the moment that Anakin becomes Darth Vader. “I’ve still got things left to do,” he says, before removing the battery from the phone.
Or not. The image of Holly, scared and alone in that fire truck, is heartbreaking. But it also shows that Walter may not be completely damned, although there’s very little he can do to atone for the long list of people he’s killed, or had killed, or the lives he’s ruined. That’s just thinking of the violence he’s funded or had a direct hand in, as his product has surely led to the destruction of countless people as well. This is a character that has flooded the world with poison, in every sense of the word, but at least he knows to return the child before going onto finishing his work.
There are no happy endings here, and the entire hour-long episode made me feel sick and dirty. Hank is dead, although he died in a way that reflected how he lived. Jesse is stuck cooking more meth after being tortured, and he doesn’t do his job people he cares about will be hurt. If nothing else, this is one of the more honest relationships of the young man’s life. Walt Jr. finally sees his father for who he is, and Skyler is done putting her own morals aside for the “good of the family.”
The only character, outside of Walter Jr., who comes out looking good is Marie. She's dealing with “winning,” and she reaches out to her sister to try to bring the family back together. She's always cared about their children, and supported Hank through the entirety of the series. She's making hard decisions, swallowing her pride, and trying to do the right thing. We already know the truth at this point, that Hank is dead, and that makes her trying to rise above the situation even harder to take.
There are good people on this show, and when things happen sometimes they try to do the right thing. This is a bleak episode, so every bit of good news you can wring from it is welcome.