That Colossal Wreck: A Review of Breaking Bad; Season 5 Episode 14

Tirhakah Love (@catalytic92)

“Jesus what’s with all the greed here?” – Uncle Jack

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Episode 14 sees Walt struggle with his Heisenberg persona.

There are certain episodes in every great television show that either 1) mark the point in which you begin to obsess over the show—for instance, in The Sopranos that episode, for me, is “College” (though “Funhouse definitely reenergized my commitment to the show)—and 2) remind you why television is so brilliantly nestled between our own reality and the performed lives of fictional characters (using The Sopranos for continuity, most likely “Knight in White Satin Armor). Last night’s Breaking Bad episode marks the latter most succinctly. If there is any doubt, that Breaking Bad is walking in the path of The Sopranos, last night’s episode, “Ozymandias” should be compelling enough to persuade you of their similar complexities.

If last week’s episode emphasized the gathering of the character alliances in the BB world, then Ozymandias highlights the ways in which those alliances can break down almost immediately. Paramount in the deconstruction of these alliances is the way in which these groupings break down around Walt. Of course, it is already widely accepted that Walt’s leap into a dark abyss of criminality and greed is the result of his inability to control the plague that slowly infests his body. But more salient in this episode is Walt’s inability to control his own descent into darkness. A descent characterized by the breaking down of his family bonds, the death of Hank (by the way he went out the only way a badass could), and the perceived death of Jesse Pinkman.

This week we are presented, not with a question of morality, but with a fast-paced, frightening thriller that asks us to question just how far we believe Walt had fallen. For the viewer, it is relatively unclear what Walt is willing to do to get away with his crimes. We would like to believe that he places a great significance in family, so then why attempt to force the family to follow him to God knows where to get away from the authorities? We would like to believe that Walt places significance in his relationship with his wife and children, so then why abduct his own child for the sake of control and call his own wife a “bitch”?

The genius of Gilligan posing these questions to us is that we can visually observe Walt posing these questions to himself as well. This internal conflict is encapsulated perfectly first, as Walt enters his Chrysler—after experiencing the trauma of watching both Hank’s death and sending Jesse to his execution at the hands of Uncle Jack—to return home moving his rearview mirror to avoid his own gaze. The second moment (and quite possibly one of the more chilling moments of the season so far), is the last phone conversation between Walt and Skylar, as Walt, clumsily assuming his identity as Heisenberg with tears in his eyes as he threatens his family with more violence, claiming that in the event Skylar “crosses” him again, she’ll end up like Hank.

Needless to say we are revving up for a disturbing, revealing, and all-encompassing series finale, capping off what many are calling one of the best series that television has ever seen.

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3 comments

  1. I still think that there’s good in Walt and that the change isn’t complete. Vince has said that a lot of the change of characters mimics chemical changes. In this way the WAlt at the beginning had elements of Heisenberg all along but were nonreactive or nonpolar while the Heisenberg at the end still has elements of Walt but they are less reactive (I’m a chem novice if I got those reactions wrong). The phone call seemed like he was giving Skyler an alibi from her involvement and giving the family a villain to hate rather than just dealing with the loss of Walter. It seemed painful for Walt since he was crying the whole conversation, I’m not sure how much he meant those terrible things he said to Skyler, probably a little acting and little truth.

    • I’d like to believe there’s some good in Walt as well, hence all the tears. That’s the internal that he’s facing now. I think he’d like to believe there’s good in him too, but it’s becoming harder and harder for him to face the ethical dilemma that he’s given himself. We’ll see if there’s hope for the guy, but Gilligan doesn’t strike me as particularly optimistic.

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