Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 8 Deconstructed

by: Michael Shields

Hank knows…….

“Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters……”

“Here I sit, A-Broken Hearted”

I took some time recently to delve into the connection between Breaking Bad and Walt Whitman (which you can find right here).  Thus it surprised me little when I was informed that the title of episode 8, the mid-season cliff-hanger of Breaking Bad’s conclusive season, was christened….’Gliding Over All’…which is a Whitman poem1:

“Gliding o’er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul–not life alone,
Death, many deaths I’ll sing.”

The “Death, many deaths I sing” line is a haunting allusion to the many deaths we indeed witnessed2 as blood was generously splattered over prison floors, walls, and jumpsuits3 before finally resting on Walt’s hands as he did, once again, what needed to be done.

Everything matters in Breaking Bad.  Attention to detail is one of the most appealing aspects of the show.  So, when Todd mentions in what appears to be a passing act of desperation — in the episode entitled ‘Buyout’ — that his uncle has connections in jail (and Mike confirmed it was true) that is relevant.  You are assured that will come into play.  That is how Breaking Bad works; it’s a scientific process.  And that connection allowed Walt to do some housekeeping, make a decision, as he is the only vote left.  Because of this detail orientated precision we know when we later see Walt put the ricin he had with him during his meeting with Lydia back in the electrical socket for another day we can all be assured that that day will eventually come.

Walt appeared, from the very onset of the episode4, to be contemplative.  Maybe the murder of Mike, and the fact that he realized it was unnecessary, did something to him, and thus we see him sitting in thought before Mike ends up on the wrong side of the barrel.  He later calmly considers the painting in the Hotel Hacienda during the planning for the prison murders, a painting we have seen before during a therapy session after Walt’s “fugue state”5.  We then see him pool-side in a deep meditative state6 prior to Skyler cunningly giving him even more to chew on.

Objects breathe in Breaking Bad.  They are essentially characters that become part of the story.  The paper towel dispenser Walt bullied in ‘Four Days Out’ returned in this episode reminding both Walt and us of earlier times, and further gave him perspective7. And just as a shot of a plant meant so very much to the end of Season 4, now the mere cover of a book has become Breaking Bad legend8. The inscription within it damning to Gale’s “other favorite W.W”.

To my other Favorite

W.W.

It’s an honor working with you

Fondly,

G.B.

It appears that Walt is in a much better place with both Jesse and Skyler, for now.  Jesse’s fear of Walt –9 as he knows what Walt has just done – lead to their most pleasant interchange of the season10, reminiscing over the early days cooking in the crystal ship11.  I was almost as relieved as Jesse when Walt finally did the right thing and paid him12.  Skyler’s visual appeal to Walt’s sensibility appeared to not fall upon deaf ears.  It seems as if she finally found a way to get through to him.  We even saw a glimpse into what could be as “normality” showed it’s elusive face in the White household as the episode waned…but the truth is this momentary group hug won’t last long as Hank will return to that patio a changed man.

I find myself in awe of this show, time and time again.  As Hank returns from work to Walt’s strategically-timed presence they have a conversation I won’t soon forget.  Hank speaks of a Forestry job he once had, and how he wished he savored it more as times we’re so much simpler then (He just wanted to make money to buy beer).  It was a telling, heartbreaking scene as Hank was a shattered man at that point.  After he unwittingly calls Walt a monster to his face Walt responds by coyly mentioning “I used to love to go camping”.  Levity is then gloriously lifted as we cut smoothly to Walt zipping-up his lab yellow’s and walking into an indoor tent to do what he does best.  Just incredible.  And what’s more insane is that Vince and the gang found a way to powerfully conclude an episode with something so subtle as a man picking up an inscribed book (One that was foreshadowed for YEARS!!).  This is nothing short of sorcery.

Some of this week’s most memorable lines:

“There is no WE Jesse” – Heisenberg

“We’re going to make a lot of money together” – Lydia

“Whacking Bin Laden wasn’t this complicated” – Todd’s Uncle

“I certainly can’t launder it, not with 100 car washes”  / “How much is enough, how big does the pile have to be?” – Skyler

“I’m out” -Walt

Business was booming13.  Lydia, and her incredible knack for self preservation and general awkwardness, even found a way for Walt to get his product to the Czech Republic’s 500,000 meth-heads eager for a better high.  Walt’s empire, the business he claimed to be in, was now fully formed.  He had accomplished all he set out to do, even growing to a point that Gus had yet to – international markets.

Season death count (thus far): 12

The game has changed, completely.  When we return to Breaking Bad next summer for the final 8 episodes of this already legendary series we are returning to a very different world……a world where both Walt and Jesse want out of the game 14, where Mike is no longer, and where – most importantly – Hank knows that the man he has broken bread with and shared countless drinks with is the monster he is looking for.  Hanks knows that Walt is Heisenberg.

Walt has spent all season solidifying his position, building his team and empire, and harvesting power.  His continued sloppiness, a direct result of his arrogance, has caused a transfer of power he undoubtedly did not see coming.  And a turn of the page has put the the ball in Hank’s court now….

Morality and the forces that challenge it are going to be put back in the forefront during the rest of our journey as one man’s duty to society (his life work – his obsession) is pitted against his very own family.  Walt is not only Hank’s brother-in-law but also one of his best friends.  Skyler, who is neck deep in this and will certainly be held accountable if this all hits the fan, is his wife’s sister whom he cares for very much.  And his niece and nephew, who he too loves, will surely suffer with Heisenberg’s demise.  Hank has a very heavy cross to bear, and many decisions to make 15.  We are merely half-way through the season and we are perfectly set up for a wild ride next summer.  Walt was right when he jokingly told Hank “You got me”16.  Now what does Hank do with this information? This is what it all comes down to……

On multiple occasions I have compared Walter White to Vader in asking the question: Is there still good left in him?  In ‘Gliding Over All’ it is implied that the answer may actually be yes.  If this is the case we will be entering a fascinating final chapter to this saga.  Walter White has always been at his best when the wrong he is doing is for a right (for those he loves).  If the vile acts he is committing, acts such as purchasing automatic weapons in a diner, are done for reasons other than vanity then maybe, just maybe, we can once again root for him17.

It would be remiss to not discuss this half of a season as a whole.  I was initially taken back by the aggressive nature of the story lines throughout the season as they seemed so bold.  The magnets and the train heist were a lot to accept.  But in hindsight I am way off on that as both were handled with care and were thrilling.  The truth is the entire concept is outrageous as a whole but it is written, shot, and acted so impressively that it materializes as a realistic storyline  — turning a simple chemistry teacher into a murdering kingpin.  But it has always been about spectacle, and this season thus far is no different.  In a recent Rolling Stone interview Vince Gilligan spoke on this saying: “We’re obsessed with coming up with moments that people won’t soon forget….and sometimes they border on the operatic or perhaps on the hyper-real, if not surreal. It’s all about showmanship.”  Breaking Bad has given us countless moments, visuals, we will never forget….Krazy 8 with a bike lock around his neck, Tortuga’s head on a tortoise, Gus fixing his tie with half a face, etc., etc., etc.. Showmanship indeed, and after Sunday night’s finale we can add a prison murder montage, a stack of money, and a book to Breaking Bad’s rich lore of “moments that people won’t soon forget”.

In closing I think it is important to look ahead and we do this by looking back.  In episode 1 of this season (‘Live Free or Die’) we see Walt in a Denny’s, alone and looking rugged.  It’s his birthday.  He continues the family tradition of writing his age on his breakfast plate in bacon, something Skyler used to do for him.  His age is 52.  Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ Part 52 is well known……and in it’s words may lie some clue of what is yet to come…….

Song of Myself, Part 52

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

 

To be continued….

  1. Part of ‘Leaves of the Grass’ []
  2. In a montage set to Nat King Cole’s ‘Pick Yourself Up’ []
  3. 10 men across 3 prisons in 2 minutes []
  4. With a early nod to the ‘Fly’ episode, one of the most undervalued and telling episodes of Breaking Bad whose significance is so profound that it requires an article onto its very own []
  5. One of his first great lies, in the episode ‘Bit by a Live Bee’ []
  6. Walt’s pool, to many, represents the American Dream []
  7. I will just go ahead and say it….I believe the cancer is back.  Not only does the shot of the dispenser make me think this but also the change of heart that followed []
  8. Which we see early in the episode as well while Walt showers []
  9. Possibly Aaron Paul’s greatest singular scene of acting, ‘Problem Dog’ not withstanding []
  10. For the viewer, Jesse was not in a good place []
  11. “We had money. Why’d we keep it?  Why’d we have to have the world’s shittiest RV?” []
  12. Walt’s power was highlighted once again as the words “I left something for you” rattled with the resonance of a kiss of death []
  13. The second great montage of the episode – set to Tommy James and the Shondells’ apt ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’ []
  14. I wonder what Declan thinks of this change of heart – an intriguing story line is bound to develop here []
  15. How bad will he look at work if the rest of the DEA finds out the truth []
  16. First seen in the episode entitled ‘Bullet Points’, and then again last night []
  17. I do realize I am speaking of a man who just had 10 people viciously killed – but Breaking Bad will do that to you []

21 Comments

  • Really great analysis – as thought provoking and original as the show itself….re: Hank finding out…let’s not forget that Walt’s “drug money” paid for Hank’s physical therapy (something Hank still doesn’t know right?)…so Hank’s already compromised – he might not even be able to go after Walt because it might expose him to criminal prosecution (to say nothing of the unmitigated disaster it’ll be for his nephew etc…) Like everything about this amazing show – there’s no easy choice here for Hank. Just because Hank knows – that doesn’t mean he’ll turn Walter in…if Walter’s really quit (or shifted the business overseas) then Hank’s office won’t be pushing the investigation…who knows he might even tell Walter to cut him and Marie in on the action? While that’s unlikely…when hank mentioned the new car, the new watch, etc…I thought I saw Hank jealous of Walter for maybe the first time….and this is a real long shot but is it at all possible that Hank could become the new Mike? Probably not – but with a show this good – and for such a long period of time – you never know….

    • Or perhaps Hank is Walt’s protection from Declan? Although, I don’t think Hank will easily give in to the Monster when he remembers all the death and destruction he has caused. I don’t think Hank will appreciate Walt’s master plan as much as we have after realizing he’s been played the fool.

  • Jeff – Great analysis on your part as well. I have previously discussed the long shot you speak of and I do not think it is entirely out of the question…..that Hank breaks bad himself. Who knows?!!

    I imagine that in a heated conversation between Walt and Hank that Walt will be real clear about who paid for his physical therapy……and how!!

  • Hank breaking bad is not as long a shot as it seems. If he turns in Walt, he’s turning in Skyler too, his wife’s sister. And the first thing Walt will do is make Hank aware that his rehab back from paralysis was paid for with the blood that was spilled. Walt has squirmed out of many a precarious position and he’s got a few bullets with this one.

    • Bert, I think you’re absolutely correct on Hanks big dilenma. There’s no way Hank is going turn anybody in, not Walt, not Skyler, nobody; and its not because they’re his family. Hank won;t even make it an issue with anyone at the DEA or even his section office and I don’t think it’s because he’s afraid they’ll include him for complicity. He not going to let this ‘Epithany get out of his family circle, that’s after he does a little thinking and investigating on his own, BY HIMSELF! You have to remember, Episode 8 more or less told us that Hank’s hip to what Walt’s been doing, but he’s still not 100% certain and he needs to be before he unloads what he knows on Walt and the rest of his family. In the next few episodes, I think we’rfe going to see Hank alone, by himself and lost in thought as he deconstructs everything in all the previous seasons, revisiting things that were said, comments that were made and at the time were simply laughed off as being ridiculous; ie. the scene where Hanks tries helping Walt with his duffal bag from his car.Walt is adamant that he has it, but Hank grabs it from the car an almost drops it because of the weight. Hank,matter of fact like, asks what’s he got in it? Too which Walt immediatly blurts out $647,000. In this scene, Hank just looks kind of in shock hearing this but right away he begins laughing, i\I believe it’s all these little “one liners”, for lack of a better word, throughout the entire eight season, Hanks is going to begin recalling all of these weird little comments, etc as he tries to determine if the ‘epithany he had at the conclusion of episode 8 is actually viable
      or not bbefore he tells the whole family!He’s not going to get the agency involved at all and not because he’s afraid of legal reprecusions on himself, but because this would simply put more fuel on his fire of feeling no longer a competent agent (El Paso really shook up his confidence about his job; he’s feeling much better with his latest promotion, managing the operation from inside, no longer religated to the field at his age. Finally, I am hoping that Breaking Bad ends just as it began, no body is arrested, Walt is no longer cooking meth, as he said to ‘sskyler at the end of episode 8, the kids aren’t told anything about what was going on and the exterminators have been told IT’S ALL OVER! Life will begin to go back to normal for both familes, Hank and Walt, until after a few months Walt goes in for a follow-up scan and surprise, his remission has ended and his cancer has matasticized further than it was before. Walt is dying of lung cancer, again and his family has plenty of money to get them through when he’s gone.

  • Bert,

    I hear that. Remember Hank’s boss got fired for incompetence that doesn’t come close to level of stupidity of having a drug kingpin right under your nose for some time. Going straight to the DEA with this information not only ruins his family (If he follows the money it goes straight to the car wash and Skyler) but he has egg all over his face on this one. It will ruin his career and make him the laughing stock. He got to the position he is in now on the merit of the Fring case and that would be corrupted by this new information.

  • I avoided making too many predictions in the above piece and stuck to mostly discussing the implications of what we have seen thus far. We have plenty of time as the next season approaches to discuss, in depth, what’s next. But just for fun I will share a couple predictions I have for the remainder:

    1. As I discussed in one side not above I believe the cancer is back. Walt’s apparent change of heart has a lot to do with my assumption, as well as the shot of the damaged paper towel dispenser.

    2. Todd does something INCREDIBLY stupid. I know this is not a reach but in the final episode he seemed to be working out all too well. He seems overeager to me and a full on creep (why was he staring at the spider in the glass in his car? Why?).

    3. Lydia, too, has worked out all too well. When the gang needed Methylamine she was there with an “ocean” of it. When Walt was planning to dispose of her….BOOM – she opens up a profitable overseas market. Too easy. I guess that wasn’t a prediction – but she has been such an asset that I believe there is more up Gilligan’s sleeve on this one.

    4. Declan is not okay with Walt’s decision. Walt should know that in this game it isn’t easy to just walk away. Often it’s impossible (ask Mike). He has begun to really on Walt as his cook and his customers are now used to a level of quality from him. You just cant claim to be out and so it is.

    5. Hank and Marie decide to help in the cover up.

    Just a couple thoughts……like I said much more on all this as the time as the final 8 nears….which cannot come soon enough.

  • Hank will not break bad. Hank will be increasing filled with rage as he sits on that toilet. He won’t move for 10 minutes. It will be a complete unraveling of imagination for him. He’ll think back to bringing Walt to that meth bust from 101. He’ll think back to getting shot and paralyzed. Not to mention the trail of bodies, and the trail of bodies before that, and the trail of bodies before that. Obviously, if Hank doesn’t have a fucking heart attack before leaving the bathroom he will atleast be very afraid of Walter. He’ll probably leave the house that day in silent shock. Do you think he has a gun on him while he’s at the White’s?

    You brought up a good point that Hank would be the laughing stock for this. But I’m sure Hank will do his job and construct an operation to get Walter, with his pants down. Maybe Walt has protection. Maybe he doesn’t though if Declan’s mad for him leaving the meth game.
    Hank will probably give Walter a bro-to-bro heads up.
    Don’t forget Hank’s lame attempt to try to get Flynn to watch the movie ‘Heat’ with him in 505.

    Seems like Jesse is the one ‘Mr. Lambert’ came all the way from New Hampshire to protect. Whitman’s Part 52 can be applied all over the 52nd birthday scene now. It explains why he looks like a drifter. It explains why gave that waitress $100 without eating of the food. I bet he didn’t eat any of it because his cancer medication ruined his appetite. It’s also not making his hair fallout apparently. But there was a goodness in him earlier in 504 where he sold his car for $50. Something has happened, that none of us will imagine except Vince. I can’t wait to experience the satisfaction of seeing what Hank accomplishes before Walt gets to Saul’s office.

    • No Lindsey, I don’t think Hank is going to become livid while he’s sitting on the bowl; I don’t even think his rage will begin building up while he sits; I don’t think he;ll be doing any of that thinking you’re talking about until we get into the upcoming episodes. He’s definiately going to go over all the weird things that he can remember going on over the past year and all the little inundoes that he and Walt exchanged as he learns that what he thought didn’tmean anything really meant a lot. He’s gonna spend some time looking back in retrospect as he convinces himself that it is Walt whose been doing it all right under his nose-in plain sight. ‘However knowing this now is not going to get him turning people in or even making any arrests. He’s going to know why Walt chose to manufacture the illegal drug, and he;s going to learn thatWalt has already told Skyler that he;s out of it now. the entire ‘blue meth’ investigation is going to close cold and nobody outside of his familhy are going to know anything.
      Finnally, Walt’s going to go out just like he was going to at the start of the series; his cancer returns and he still dies of lung cancer’

  • Lindsay,
    As always I love your comments. I would like a camera on Hank for the rest of the night after he figured it out. So intriguing. You make solid points about all that has occurred. I wonder if he will realize those two tear-filled conversations were bs?

    Next Summer is too damn far away….

  • This show is amazing….when it first began I thought we were going to learn the story of a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher gone awry. We did! But then I learned all about the lost junkie looking for the tools to put his life back together. And then I learned about the cocksure DEA agent who fell so far only to rise back up again. And then I learned about the stay-at-home wife with a fascination for the color purple and white lies falling. And then I learned about the emotionally tormented wife struggling to hold her life/family together and understand a husband she no longer knew. And then I learned about the former cop/head of security for a fried chicken fast food chain trying to make a better life for his granddaughter. And then I learned about The Salamanca family, and Gus, and Gale Boetticher and Ted Beneke and Brock, etc, etc, etc….never have I seen a show with such emphasis on character development. Every season I’m pulling for a new character….this final season its Hank (I think I’ve always secretly been rooting for him).

  • I kept thinking the same about Lydia, it can’t be this easy, not with her. Things just don’t go that well, ever. As for Walt, he’s not leaving the game. Like the athlete who just can’t step away, or the soldier that can’t shake PTSD, he needs the game. Sure his money is long, but he’s now playing on a level where the money is just a way to keep score.

  • So let me get this straight… the Jeopardy question about a famous poet’s yawp that Walt Jr and Walt were watching is a reference to the same poem Hank flips to on page 30-31 of Leaves of Grass, which includes ‘Part 52’ in the title, which links to the season 5 opening scene? Unbelievable!

  • Hank will surely realize those conversations were BS, if not figure out that he was bugging the room.

    Another thing I wanted to point out is that amidst Hank’s revelation, he’ll probably think about Jesse, and that will be a whole separate unraveling. I hope we get to see more of Jesse and more of Saul next season. This season was pretty much all about Mike.

    I love how ‘4 Days Out’ was referenced in this episode. Bryan Cranston has hinted multiple times in interviews that that was his favorite episode of the series. I’m sure it was the fond memories that led Walt to Jesse’s door to deliver the money. But how much does Jesse know? Do you think he knows that he killed Mike?

    My prediction is that there will a final unexpected showdown between Walt and Jesse in the final episode, probably right after they get the sub-machine gun set up. Walt’s redemption completely rests on confessing to his involvement in Jane’s death, Brock’s poisoning, and Mike’s death.

  • The moment that Jesse told Walt that Saul told him what he did I couldn’t help but asking myself if that includes Mike. My first instinct was no as Jesse might have been more angry…..but maybe that just made him that much more scared.

  • I’m with nick in that Walt ain’t leaving the game. How about this.. Hank can’t take down Walt bc of the aforementioned implications, so Walt gives him Declan and continues to prosper in the overseas market. Like Lydia said, 6000 miles between he and his product is a good look. Everyone wins?

  • I love the analysis, but one thing: in Walter’s copy of “Leaves of Grass” the word “honor” is spelled with the British “u,” Honour. Why, pray tell, do you suppose the writers had Gail do that? Gail’s nod to Whitman’s use of the language? I’m curious.

    • Brian,

      Sorry about the delay. The only difference, literally, between honor and honour is where it is used – honor being the spelling within the United States and honour outside of the United States. I believe, and your guess is as good as mine, that this is a result of Gale’s nerdiness (a self-proclaimed nerd – specifically after reciting a Whitman poem). I would not put it past Gale for one second to prefer the use of Old English when speaking of literature.

  • Hank will figure out that Walter killed Gus for him. I can’t imagine anything else relieving Hank’s sure tenacity for taking down Walter when he leaves that bathroom.

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