Breaking Bad – Season 5, Episode 1 Deconstructed

by: Michael Shields

Every week, for the next 8 weeks, we will be breaking down the waning episodes of one of the finest shows of television, Breaking Bad.  Let’s get into it…

“Yeah Bitch, Magnets!”

There was a time when the notion of Walt being around for his 52nd birthday1 was nothing short of a pipe dream.  There was also a time where we couldn’t ever imagine Walt buying a M60 machine gun2 at a Denny’s3 looking like the perfect blend between Phil Jackson (early 90’s title runs) and the Unabomber.  We will have to wait, have to earn it, but I cannot wait to see who will be at the wrong end of the machine gun.

Episode 1 (‘Live Free or Die’ – New Hampshire’s official motto and the state Walt claims he is from at the beginning of the episode) is all about tying up loose ends, an imperative act.  We could not move forward without cleaning up the pieces strewn about following the nursing home explosion.  First up on the to-do list is Gus’s laptop where he vigilantly watched over Walt and Jesse in the lab.  It’s now in the hands of the authorities and the only way to deal with it is…….magnets???  I am not sure what Jesse knows about magnets and the plan is a touch far-fetched for me….but it’s also just good fun. The trilogy of Walt, Mike4, and Jesse working together opens the door for an interesting brand of comedy and a crew to be reckoned with, each bringing unique and varied talents to the table.  The fantastical magnet plot-line not only helped clear up a crucial problem but also gave us the opportunity to revisit the junkyard and it’s keeper Old Joe.  And, If loving Old Joe5 is wrong I don’t ever want to be right.  I am glad he is part of the team6.

It had to start aggressive.  How could we ever expect them to lay in wait?  This is the final season and to tell the remainder of the story we must deal with the past.  But the truth of the matter is the past isn’t erased by 21 batteries and an elephantine magnet alone.  In fact, Gus’s empire was so vast and complex it would be impossible to lay waste to all evidence.  And now a damaged portrait of Gus and Max has revealed to the police a note containing information about a Swiss bank account in the Caymans.  Look’s like their gonna need a bigger magnet.

We will be seeing a whole lot of Mike as this season kicks off. No complaints here.  Mike being forced to work with Walt, the thorn in his side for some time now , defines the word ‘begrudgingly’.  This obligated alliance provided for some of the most memorable lines we have yet to hear from Mike (the episodes MVP), witticisms that give Saul a run for his money:

“Keys scumbag…..it’s the universal symbol for keys.”

“You know how they say it’s been a pleasure – it hasn’t.”

“What are you going to do?  Put on your leotard and go dangling on a clothesline?”

“Why don’t you tell me….answer man.”

I have yet to mention Hank, and really no need at this point.  He is still obsessed with learning all he can about Gus and Heisenberg and sparing Gomez the ‘I told you so’ he has coming – not much more to say than that.  We will be hearing much more from Hank, and his wife Marie, in episodes to come – I have been assured this is the case and assure you in turn.

Walt’s transformation is complete.  His assertion that it is so because he says it is so to Jesse and Mike paired with his confrontation of the cowering “2-bit bench bus lawyer” that is Saul demonstrates this mightily.  I can not help but wonder if Walt has any good left in him at all7, I can’t see it.  His claim that he is doing this for his family is laughable at this point, and the lie he feeds himself and his wife to mask the awful truth that he is simply doing this for the thrill of it is becoming ever so transparent.  He is good at being bad and the power he now possesses gets him off.  This is about Walt and about his ego, it isn’t about family as it once legitimately was.

This episode lets us know without any doubt that Skyler believes that Walt is the danger, that he is the one who knocks.  As the episode comes to a close Walt arrogantly, and in a manipulative way, puts his arms around a recoiled Skyler and utters in a chilling tone “I forgive you”, placing himself in the position to forgive or not to – and understood and implied with that statement is that there is no need for Walt to apologize or be forgiven in any way, shape, or form.  After all he was doing it for the good of his family remember.

Worrying about Walt is on you right now.  Defending his behavior, that’s something I don’t have time for.  I know what he is.  You know.  We have been tricked in fantastic fashion into rooting for a man we assuredly shouldn’t, but that’s where we are; rooting and watching Walt reign as savior/kingpin of a pack of career criminals.  Stakes are high.  Gus is gone.  Walt is the villain now – and a fitting one at that.  I look forward to watching his empire grow.

All Hail….

  1. If my math is correct this opening scene puts us about one year into the future. []
  2. From Lawson who sold Walt a gun in the episode ’38 Snub’. []
  3. Walt’s last name on his presumably fake New Hampshire license is Lambert – Skyler’s maiden name []
  4. I wish we knew a little more about Mike’s past.  Such an interesting character.  I would love to know more about him, and about what motivates him to do what he does – besides money []
  5. Last seen in Season 3’s ‘Sunset’. []
  6. You may remember old Joe as the man chosen to play Kramer in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Pilot’!, and if you don’t remember I recommend revisiting! []
  7. Vader did []

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