Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 11 Deconstructed

by: Michael Shields

In this week’s Breaking Bad episode entitled “Confessions”, the truth is out and the ultimate fuse has been lit. Jesse knows….

Walter White has poured his heart out on camera before1. At one time vulnerable and desperate, clad in nothing more than tighty-whitey’s and a green button down shirt, he retrieved a video camera and passionately peered into it and began by identifying himself. “My name is Walter Hartwell White,” he said with panic straining his vocal chords. “I live at 308 Negro Arroyo Lane in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” he went on, declaring to all law enforcement agencies that this was not an admission of guilt. “I am speaking to my family,” he continued. Walter White, the relatable Chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer, was saying goodbye to his family, stating honestly and with steadfast conviction, that he did what he did as “I only had you in my heart.”

This past Sunday Walter White, with the help of his wife and co-conspirator Skyler, shot a different type of confession. One that not only implicates Hank as the man responsible for all the atrocious acts he was in fact behind, but that also displayed – in direct contrast to the sincere and deeply heartwarming selfie bidding his family farewell – how devious, calculated, and purely evil Walt has truly become2 . This was his opus, his “Symphony #5”, and the culmination of his diabolical capabilities. The differences between the two videos highlight all that Walt has gained, and what he has lost. Gone is the genuine love and care for his family, the fear and humiliation, replaced with the egotism, and the Machiavellian ways of the man we all have come to know as Heisenberg.

Confessions”, written by Gennifer Hutchison3 and directed by the immensely talented Michael Slovis, presents a myriad of variants on the title, opening with Todd’s recount of the great train heist from “Dead Freight”. Todd of course left out one very damning piece of information from his story, a glimpse of the of the type of confessions we would be witnessing all night long. The type that are poignant not so much for what they reveal, but because of what they keep hidden.

The cold opening with Todd and his uncle certainly matters, as they are on the way back to New Mexico with a boatload of methylamine and plans for a burgeoning empire of their own4 – but it was also the ultimate fake out. A misleading intro as we wouldn’t be seeing hide nor hair of those menacing outlaws the remainder of the episode. There were bigger fish to fry at this point, starting with a highly anticipated reunion between Hank and his old pal, Jesse Pinkman.

Hank and Jesse’s meeting went pretty much as expected. Jesse kept his mouth shut and Hank bled of desperation, even to the point where he tried to reason with Jesse, citing the embarrassing and painful situations their mutual tormentor has put him through. But, we do dig deeper into Jesse’s mitigated state. Hank remarks, “He really did a number on you, didn’t he?” That he did, yet Jesse is not alone in this camp. What Walt has done to everyone in his life is becoming increasingly tough to watch. By episode’s end we see Skyler and Hank echoing Jesse’s blank stare5 – unconditionally baffled with the situation they find themselves in, unscrewed entirely by a man they thought they knew.

In what I tend to regard at this point as the most affecting scene of the season thus far, we are whisked, with Saul of course, to the inevitable isolated meeting between Walt and Jesse to discuss Jesse’s recent actions. Walt begins to do what he does best, beguile Jesse with faux concern and act as if his suggestions are about his care for Jesse rather than his own self-interests. He offers Jesse the way out that Walt so desired in “Crawl Space”6, and suggests, “in five years this might all feel like nothing more than a bad dream.” Jesse snaps. “Stop working me…Just ask me for a favor. Just tell me you don’t give a shit about me and that it’s either this or you’ll kill me the same way you killed Mike.7 In a creepy, chilling allude to the way in which Walt had previously handled his biological son8, Walt heartlessly embraces his tormented former partner. Jesse weeps in Walt’s uncaring, manipulative arms, and once again does what he requires of him.

The question looming ominously over this season is would Jesse ever find out. Would he ever become fully aware of the way in which Walt has been playing him like a fiddle? Would he ever know about Jane? About Brock? It had to happen. It just had to. And Walt’s dastardly plan to lure Jesse from Gus’s arms into his own became clear to Jesse when Saul and Huell went to the well one two many times with the ole switcheroo trick. Jesse – safe to say – decides while standing in front of a striking field of stone edifice’s9 to go ahead and and take a pass on that permanent vacation planned for him. With that, the ultimate fuse has been lit.

For a minute there it seemed as if Heisenberg was going to have his way. It felt as if he was in control of the situation. He was, once again, moving his chess pieces about the board with tactful precision and devilish gall. He turned the most uncomfortable double date of all time10 into an opportunity to play the ultimate chip. Jesse was mere moments away from being out of Walt’s life forever. But nonetheless, Walt, as Hank growled earlier in the episode, doesn’t get off that easy.

This final home stretch of Breaking Bad is like nothing we have seen before. We are plummeting at break neck speeds, hardly given a chance to catch our breath as the entire show unravels before our eyes. All that has been so carefully constructed these past five seasons is now being torn apart, piece by piece. It’s an exhilarating, yet terrifying ride. And much of that journey is still in front of us. As of right now, Saul’s nose looks like a mutilated tomato and Hank has been backed into a corner, one he will assuredly emerge from swinging. Marie has gone so far as suggesting Walt kill himself – and let the whole thing die with him – while Walt is armed with a loaded, albeit chilly, gun. And, the White household has been drenched in gasoline by Jesse, hell bent on revenge with absolutely nothing to lose. It is going the fuck down. Only five more episodes to go. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s in store….

  1. In the “Pilot” episode, within minutes of the show’s commencement. []
  2. The devil himself delivering every crucial detail to implicate Hank in his wrong doings. Hanksenberg. Unbelievable. []
  3. Cornered, Salud, Buyout. []
  4. Walt is so busy tying up loose ends that he may be missing one! []
  5. Both while sitting at a desk in the dark – beautiful! []
  6. “I need a new dust filter for my Hoover Max Extract Pressure Pro Muscle 60.” []
  7. This moment of clarity reminded me of Jesse’s brilliant backlash at Walt in the hospital in “One Minute” recovering from the beating from Hank. []
  8. Walt using the news of his cancer to keep Walt Jr. from Marie was gut-wrenching. []
  9. John B. Roberts Dam. []
  10. At Gardunos! – a dinner so awkward you cannot help but think of Jesse dining with the White’s in “Buyout.” []

2 Comments

  • For this final run, this is the first episode that has dug deeper. There are lots to things to figure out with repeated viewings.

    In the cold opening, we linger with Todd and Co. for a long time. It had the grit of a Coen Brother’s scene. I assume this isn’t just story filler. Their crew is central to the future, the same future that’s ending in 5 episodes. Now remains is to whether Todd was saying all that out of pride to honor Heisenberg or he’s getting his crew up to speed on their next target. Are they planning to whack Heisenberg? They’re too deadly not to be considered a sudden threat to anyone. One thing we do know is that Todd is leaving Walt messages on his cell phone…The same cell phone Walt ripped up in Saul’s office last week?

  • For Jesse Pinkmen, the season began with a seriously glazed over look. The extent to how much of his life is ruined has overwhelmed him into an idle and crazy state. They joke about his rain making this week. As far as the glazed look, that now belongs to Skyler. She has cracked. She is a zombie at the cash register in tonight’s last scene. It’s incredibly sad. Best case scenario: coming home to a living room drenched in gasoline is basically just another Tuesday to Skyler now. I think Skyler will be the next person to rage out on Walt, and it makes sense admit would be a delicious curveball from the Skysenberg we’ve seen in the first two episodes. Also aboard the crazy train: Hank. If Hank can’t get a break or Jesse on his team he’ll start pulling the minerals back out. Now, my new wish is for Marie and Jesse to take turns with talking pillows.

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