BREAKING BAD Recap: “To’hajiilee”

     September 8, 2013


Breaking Bad has really revived the art of the cliffhanger, hasn’t it?  The show has always been extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing, and has often ended on explosive notes (sometimes literally).  But every episode this year has stopped right in the middle of a scene where viewers must be on the edge of their seats.  It just stops.

For those who criticize the show’s reliance (or over-reliance) on turning plot points, one of the things that the show has has done so well this season — especially in “To’hajiilee” in specific — has been to sneak in those character moments in some of the smallest of ways, because we’ve had five years of build up to it.  This episode was full of everything.  And then it just stopped.  Hit the jump for more.

breaking-bad-season-5-episode-13-bob-odenkirk-bryan-cranston“To’hajiilee” was a chess match, and its ending was like someone walking in and knocking every piece off of the board.  Though Walt had called off Todd’s neo-nazi uncle and his crew for the hit, they showed up anyway and rained fire down on Walt, Jesse, Hank and Steve.  It was a nice example about how not everything is under Walt’s control, and there are things he puts into motion that he cannot stop.  Or at least, that he cannot control regarding their outcome.

Despite the brilliant machinations from both sides — Hank working Huell for the info, Walt using Brock and Andrea to “flush out” Jesse — ultimately things look to be decided by some violent lunatics.  It’s part of the chaos of Breaking Bad, and also a way for the show to give Walt an out even in the toughest of times.  There’s never been just one Deus Ex Machina coming down to free Walt, but an unending supply.

Maybe it’s this aspect — despite the show’s creator Vince Gilligan saying that Walt is a bad man going to hell to pay the price — that keeps viewers coming back to Walt’s corner.  He might be a horrible person, but the series keeps giving him outs, and we look to an explanation why.  Is there some purpose to it beyond coincidence?  Is Walt being given second chances because there’s still a chance for him to turn back and made a good and right decision?  How is this man so goddamn lucky, and is it really just dumb luck in a chaotic universe?

The latter idea is a damning one for viewers, but regardless, what really ties things together is one can’t help but think there is still more to this emotional story.  Walt called off Todd’s uncle and his cohorts for a personal reason.  He never wanted to kill Jesse, but he ordered the hit.  He never wanted to destroy his brother-in-law, but he made a tape that would end his career and possibly jail him for life to save his own skin.  Yet when faced with the reality of their deaths by his call, he backs away.  Does Walt still see redemption in himself?  Did he, in that moment, willfully turn away from the monster he recognized that he has been?


“To’hajiilee” left us with more questions than answers, but the days of reckoning have truly begun.  Where that leads, and how it ends up, is anyone’s guess.  As a friend mentioned to me tonight, “there is a certain poetry to Walt getting away with it all with such a high cost.”  Beautifully put.  The fight over the money this week showed once again that that is all Walt cares about.  He doesn’t want this all to be for nothing.  And yet … Walt has consistently made choices that have lead him here, and while the show has always given him an out — that he might live — at what ultimate cost regarding that fortune?  And what does it all mean if that fortune is gone?

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— The Walt/Jesse stuff is what kills me the most on this show, and Walt’s rant in the car about how everything he did was because he needed Jesse and for Jesse’s own good actually brought me back on Walt’s side for a bit.  What the hell?  The way this show makes us feel about Walt and our fluctuating feelings about him is its great legacy.

— The silent looks exchanged between Walt and Jesse before the shoot out … the word “coward” and the spitting … too much to bear!

— Gomez looks to be a goner, but was Hank calling Marie to tell her everything was ok him sealing his fate?  Was her looking at the brains just as he called an omen?

— I thought Walt was going to say something accidentally in his rage about Jane’s death in this episode, the last great secret, and then I would have vomited from the stress.

— Todd did something interesting in this episode as he somewhat made a play for Lydia in the slightest of ways.  Admitting he burned the batch and could get better was nice, and the fact that the price for Jesse’s head was Walt teaching Todd one last time was a nice way to show that you can never truly get out of the game.

— “Got my picture, bitch?” – Jesse

— breaking-bad-season-5-part-2-posterBeautiful scenery in this episode, and a nice few shots of Walt’s reckless driving.

— As calculated as Walt tries to be, there are moments when he is human again.  His “pump malfunction” story was pure Walt, not Heisenberg.  Same was true when he stepped out from behind that rock, and also when he called off the goons regarding the shootout.  You could actually see Good Walt v Bad Walt wrestling it out internally as he sat there behind the rock.  Masterful.

— Getting Huell to give up the money thing was great, but how did Jesse know that he knew?  Just an assumption?  I thought he was going to kidnap Skyler.

— I think those guys deployed about 5,000 bullets and didn’t hit anyone (Except maybe Gomez).

— Great small moment: Walt walking in with the baby, seeing Saul, and scooting out the door again.

— Purple count: 8+ — carpet, pillows, bannister, vase, wall, seat cushions, teapot, kitchen accessories

— Three episodes left!