BREAKING BAD Recap: “Blood Money”

     August 11, 2013


Is there a word for what Breaking Bad fans feel at the close of an episode?  It’s involves a mixture of excitement, fear, heartbreak, adrenaline and anxiety in one explosive emotional cocktail.  “Glass case of emotion” might be a good place to start.  We have begun the final countdown to the end of the show, and with only a handful of episodes to go before that finale, “Blood Money” wasted no time in getting right to the point.  For those who had forgotten a few of the key moments from last year’s final two episodes, I’ll explain some of the background of what a few of the scenes were meant to evoke or harken back to below.  Hit the jump for more.

breaking-bad-season-5-part-2-posterEvery moment of Breaking Bad matters.  It’s one of the things that sets the show apart from others who fans feel have gone past their prime.  They may still be entertaining, but they have divergent plots that don’t matter to the overall story, or forgettable one-off episodes starring a famous actor friend of the showrunner.  It’s incredible to think that Breaking Bad is only finishing up its fifth season with so much that’s happened (and how far we come — or sunk — along with Walt and Jesse), especially given how truncated its initial season was.

This was really brought home, literally, in the cold open.  Breaking Bad has always encouraged its viewers to have an obsession with a mystery each season, so in addition to the character changes, we are meant to fester on those cryptic clues (the pink teddy bear being perhaps the most vivid).  Last year, seeing Walt alone and with hair at a Denny’s for his 52nd birthday was interesting and shocking in its own way, but nothing like what we saw in “Blood Money,” which was reminiscent of the shots of the White’s home after the plane crash and the advent of that teddy bear.

What was so affecting about that moment was how strongly viewers might feel towards that house.  Breaking Bad is one of the few shows where houses feel like homes.  The White’s abode has been so central to so much that has happened with Walt.  It’s a place of refuge as well as a place that grounds Walt, but also one that he uses to hide his immense lies (sometimes literally within the walls).  To see it as a boarded up and forgotten ramshackle was heartbreaking because that, more than anything, really signifies the end.

breaking-bad-season-5-episode-8-dean-norrisBut it does not lie still.  In addition to skateboarders out back, a homeless-looking Walt broke in to reclaim that infamous ricin cigarette, the harbinger of his final decent into evil (and his most masterful manipulation of Jesse to date).  The Heisenberg graffiti also proved that unlike the plane crash, the state the house is in this time is because Walt has been totally exposed.  It’s something fans have been anticipating since Hank put the pieces together last year in those final moments — W.W. really did mean Walter White — but it too felt like the end.

It’s a testament to Breaking Bad‘s taught storytelling that “Blood Money” did not drag out the confrontation between Hank and Walt into the series’ final scene.  The anticipation when Hank began to have his meltdown (and panic attack) of realization, coupled with the clues Walt himself picked up on to understand that Hank knew, was almost unbearable.  But then it was strangely anti-climactic, because as much as this has mattered for every moment since the show began, the actual conversation was not as explosive as one might have predicted (though it is just the beginning of a long road for the two).  Walt confronting Hank over the tracker was surprising, but Hank closing the garage door was the “oh shit!” moment.  Ultimately though (or as far as we saw in “Blood Money”), Walt took advantage of Hank’s disbelief at the fact that Walt was and is Heisenberg.  Walt threw everything at the wall: he first denied his wrongdoings, then owned up to them by pleading, and then threatening Hank in away that left Hank barely any time to react as the episode closed.  Walt, in “Blood Money” was still in control.  But how he falls and ends up where he does (in what we’ve been shown) is as big of a mystery as the show has ever had.

breaking-bad-aaron-paul-bryan-cranston-the-decisionEpisode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Obviously, there are 10000 other things to discuss.  Let’s start with Jesse.  Goddamn Aaron Paul, why do you rip my heart out like that?  Three key moments: 1) him trying to offload the money through Saul to Mike’s grandaughter Kaylee and the parents of Drew Sharp, who they killed in the desert. 2) his conversation with Walt about the money, where Walt tells Jesse for the millionth time to trust him as he lies to Jesse’s face.  Jesse’s look to the side and tearful (and fearful) gaze shows he’s wise to Walt’s machinations.  Surely his next thought must be: “so what else was a lie?” 3) Flinging the money out of his car to do anything to cleanse himself of it and his past.  Jesse is on his own Road to Damascus.

— So what is Walt going to use the ricin for?

— The scene when Lydia confronts Walt was interesting in that it reflected, in some ways, when Walt tried to engage Gus at Los Pollos Hermanos.  But here, Walt was the professional one, not wavering from his “clean” persona, whereas Lydia was the hysteric who needed answers.  Also, Skyler acted as Walt’s “Mike” (in the Gus analogy), handling Lydia as the enforcer.

bob-odenkirk-breaking-bad— “Barn door open!” – Saul’s masseuse. Saul’s advice to Jesse about the reasons why he shouldn’t give the money to the Sharps and Kaylee was actually fairly sound.

— Hank reassembling the file on Heisenberg was a great reminder of the significant deaths on the show, as was his recital of the litany of sins Walt had committed: “You drove me into traffic to get me away from that laundromat, you called me to say Marie was in the hospital to distract me from the fact you killed ten witnesses to protect your sorry ass.  You blew up a nursing home.”  Walt really is the worst.

— “You are the devil!” – a prescient Marie to Walt.

— Walt’s cancer is back, which most of us guessed last year.  But he is very much alive, though raggedy looking, in the flash-forwards, so his deathly prognosis to Hank (to give him a reason to hold off) may not hold up.

breaking-bad-gliding-all-over-bryan-cranston— Moment when I really lost my shit: Hank closes the garage door.

— Last year, Walt really seemed sincere about leaving the game.  But he waited too long and pushed his luck too far.  Here’s a great article about the moral logic of Breaking Bad (and how it is Old Testament).

— Marie Purple Count: 6 — purse, jacket, wall, candles, shirt, travel coffee mug

— Badger and Skinny Pete are so great.  I like how they have such powerful recall abilities about complex information regarding the various incarnations of Star Trek.  They are not stupid.  They just make stupid choices.  Their conversation in this episode was one of their best.