Breaking Bad season 5 episode 14 review: Ozymandias

Review Paul Martinovic 17 Sep 2013 - 06:39

Breaking Bad's latest episode is visceral and deeply upsetting. Here's Paul's review of Ozymandias...

This review contains spoilers.

5.14 Ozymandias

Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Vince Gilligan has been building up Ozymandias on the Breaking Bad insider podcast for weeks, identifying it as his favourite episode of the whole series. Aaron Paul has been excitedly tweeting since at least the start of the year about how crazy things were going to get in the final few episodes, and there’s also Bryan Cranston’s “morass of ugliness” quote from the Den of Geek interview I alluded to last week. Then there’s that title, which alludes to a Shelley poem that famously and evocatively depicts the transient nature of power and how even the greatest of empires – especially the greatest of empires – will all inevitably be reduced to dust:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
 

Oh, and there’s the previous sixty episodes as well. They should probably have tipped us off. The world of Breaking Bad as imagined by Vince Gilligan has always been an intensely moral one, a world of fire and brimstone and Old Testament justice, where no bad deed, display of hubris or even lapse in concentration goes unpunished. Unless you’re Walt, of course, who, thanks to his intelligence and supernatural ability to lie to both himself and everyone around him, has up to this point managed to navigate his way through this hellish landscape relatively unscathed, the moral logic that has dictated the fates of his various enemies apparently not applying to him. But Walt emerging from the chaos relatively unscathed was always going to be out of the question, dramatically speaking, and I’m sure most of us have long suspected that Walt has only been deferring his comeuppance, in the process building up a sizeable karmic debt that was always going to have to be repaid.

Did you honestly think it would ever get this bad, though?

Early reports say that Ozymandias was the most watched live episode of Breaking Bad ever in the US – presumably, this mainly encompasses those who have caught up with the previous episodes of the show through DVD boxsets and Netflix, but there are also probably more than a few people who dropped in for the first time out of curiosity. You have to wonder what they would have made of Ozymandias – as visceral and upsetting an episode of television as I have ever seen – and whether they would consider returning for another hour of soul-crushing misery next week.

It clung to its theme of decline and collapse with the same kind of intensity that it has lent the tense games of cat and mouse between Walt and his nemeses in previous series; the difference here being that instead of going after your nerves this went for straight your heart and your stomach. It was – again – physically punishing, with a surreally nightmarish quality that recalled something like the last ten minutes of Requiem For A Dream or, closer to home, the last scene of series four’s Crawl Space, which until this episode was probably the series’ highpoint in terms of evoking queasy horror. Only the scene in Crawl Space lasted just a couple of minutes; in Ozymandias we were in the hole for the full fifty minutes.

The tone of the episode was set when Hank and Gomez were killed before the opening credits even had a chance to roll. The loveably loyal Gomie didn’t even get killed onscreen, but Hank at least got to go out – like Mike before him – with one of Breaking Bad’s rare F-bombs, deployed for maximum effect against the loathsome Uncle Jack. Hank’s death is a tough one to frame as truly noble – he dies in a drug money ditch in the desert, after all – but at least he demonstrates in his dying moments that he understands Walt’s world better than he does: it is populated by men that you can’t reason with, and sometimes you just have to quit whining, shut up and take your punishment like a man. So goodbye Hank, and goodbye Dean Norris: this was, by any measure, a remarkable evolution both in terms of character and performance. He’s responsible for many of the series’ greatest moments – the parking lot showdown with the Twins, the Danny Trejo/Tortuga incident, Walt Whitman on the toilet, Schraderbrau – and if he never works again he will still have created a character that will stay in people’s memories for years and years to come.

The show has little time to hang around mourning Hank before moving on to the next terrible, terrible thing that happens, though, so neither do we. After Hank’s death, Walt goes into full-on retaliation mode, pointing out a cowering Jesse to the neo-Nazis and demanding his murder presumably out of spite. This is classic Walt reasoning – laying Hank’s death at Jesse’s door due to his informing, rather than shouldering the burden himself. Luckily for Jesse, however, Todd has a change of heart about the execution at the last second,and asks for his uncle to save his life. As a result, the unluckiest character in television is spared and only has to contend with being brutally tortured and coerced into meth-lab slavery. Wait, what?

Prior to that, Walt kicked poor, poor Jesse while he was down by finally revealing that he was present at his ex-girlfriend Jane’s overdose death and opted not to save her. This plot thread, left dangling since late in series two, was nearly resolved in Fly (also directed by Rian Johnson, who directed this episode alongside the films Brick and of course Looper) when a hepped-up Walt almost spilled the beans to Jesse, but finally came to a head here, in a way that was unexpected but nevertheless totally logical. Any possibility that Walt and Jesse might team up to take on the vile Uncle Jack and his family must be severely weakened by this revelation of another of Walt’s unforgivable transgressions against Jesse.

In the midst of all this, Walt lost the majority of his fortune to the neo-Nazis, the money that he has spent these final episodes fighting so hard to protect. The last episode foreshadowed Jack’s realisation that the great Heisenberg is actually a bit of a dweeb, and his new manner towards Walt here is classic bullying stuff, demonstrating the balls to act magnanimous while simultaneously giving him a derisory pay-off mere minutes after icing his brother-in-law. Walt still gladly took the barrel of money, however: it’s probably a coincidence, but in a show that consistently lays on the heavy insect symbolism Walt looked for all the world like a dung beetle in the desert as he rolled his tainted cargo home towards his family.

As crushing as the fates of Hank, Gomez and Jesse were, however, the real genius of Ozymandias is the way that it brought the family dynamic that is at the heart of the show back toto the fore – in recent seasons while we’ve been tied up in the excitement of the elaborate games of criminal chess Walt has been engaged in and their violent consequences, it’s been easy to ignore the suffocating impact Walt’s actions have had on his family. One of this season’s greatest successes has been to make Skyler arguably the most interesting character on the show: morally compromised, yes, and desperate to look after her family, but far from the cartoonish Lady Macbeth figure that she could potentially be.

Here, after Marie tells her that Walt has been arrested by Hank, she breaks down, only for Marie to offer her an olive branch, effectively telling her that she is still willing to believe Walt manipulated her into co-operating with him: which, of course, he did, again something that is easy to overlook among the carnage of recent episodes. Marie then persuades Skyler to tell Walt Jr everything – a revelation that takes place off screen, a creative decision that some might find surprising but one that I felt made sense in the same way that we weren’t shown a close-up of Hank being shot in the face: some things are so raw you ultimately just have to look away from them.

Marie’s talk and Walt Jr’s terrified reaction clearly has an effect on Skyler, and it undoubtedly informs her reaction to Walt’s impassioned pleas to flee once the family all return to the house. When he evades her questioning about Hank (which echoes the legendary “Where’s Wallace?” scene from The Wire) she rebels almost instantly: director Rian Johnson frames his shot so that both the phone and the block of kitchen knives are given equal prominence, and invites us to guess which one Skyler will go for.

Now that she suspects that Walt killed a family member, it turns out she’s not taking any chances, and protects Walt Jr with wild slashing with the knife: the ensuing brawl between the three is difficult to watch, the seasons-long simmering emotional undercurrent of familial dysfuction finally manifest as ugly domestic violence. In one of the series blackest moments of humour, Walt wrests himself free and yells “We’re family!” at the pair while brandishing a blood-stained knife; but then we’re brought back down to earth with a bump with a harrowing, unforgettable POV shot: a petrified Skyler and Walt Jnr cowering on the floor in front of an monster who is newly unrecognisable to them.

Make no mistake – Walt may have lost his meth fortune earlier in the episode, but this is what really represents his empire crumbling: the very people he entered into the criminal world in order to cater for and protect, now living in genuine fear that he is going to be the one who murders them. He is the one who knocks, indeed: this shot is truly the mighty Walt gazing upon his works and despairing.

It still doesn’t quite sink in at this point, though – Walt’s still in unthinking retaliation mode, and snatches baby Holly from a hysterical Skyler. Upon hearing his daughter plaintively ask for ‘Mama’, he seems to realise the gravity of his actions, and calls home to Skyler, while the alerted police listen in.

What follows is one of, if not the best-written and most powerfully-acted scenes in the history of the show. It is a masterpiece of nuance and complexity that I really believe you could watch over and over again and come to a different conclusion about Walt and Skyler’s motivations each time. On first viewing, I was absolutely convinced that Walt, knowing that the police were listening in on the call, was deliberately implicating himself as the sole architect of their meth business while also characterising himself as an abusive husband in the eyes of the police, thus absolving Skyler of any responsibility. On a second and third viewing I still think this is the case, and I think it’s also clear that Skyler is well aware that this is what Walt’s game is too; but I also picked up what was clearly a genuine frustration from Walt towards Skyler, and that he perhaps nevertheless used the call as an opportunity to vent some real spleen towards her. There’s definitely a very real sense that he feels hurt and betrayed by her in the same way that he was betrayed by Jesse, and perhaps even some regret and confusion as to why she couldn’t be more grateful towards him for everything he’s done for her.

There has already been some speculation online that Walt’s furious monologue is effectively a middle-finger to many Breaking Bad fans who actively hate Skyler, reframing a lot of their misogyny-tinged complaints (she whines too much, why can’t she let Walt get on with it, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about etc) by having them said by a desperate man affecting (or perhaps there’s no affectation after all) the tone of an abusive husband. This is a very interesting reading, and it may well be the case, but personally I don’t think this scene needs this layer of self-reflexivity in order to make it work: it works perfectly well as a demonstration of Walt’s scattered, damaged psyche as it is, namely that it’s one corrupted with rage and delusion even while he’s in the middle of what is, I believe, an ultimately noble gesture, giving up as he does baby Holly shortly afterwards.

The touching opening scene shows Walt calling Skyler during his first cook with Jesse in the RV, and crafting some cockamamie story to explain his absence from dinner. It’s one of his first lies to her regarding his criminal life, and the phone call at the end of Ozymandias could possibly be his last. But in both scenes, he’s lying in order to protect her from a grim reality: in the first, it’s that he’s in the meth business, in the second, it’s that she was in the meth business. It’s only in the final phone call that Skyler is aware of how Walt is using his lies as a weapon, and perhaps in light of all that’s happened she possibly begins to understand his motivations for the first time. That’s the grim irony of Walt’s call – his final act of patriarchal protection, and his final gift to the family, is one more huge lie for them all to participate in possibly for the rest of their lives.

Now, the one remaining thing he can do for them without causing them more pain and suffering completed, nothing remains for Walt but to leave everything behind: his life, his family, his life’s work, and both Heisenberg and Walter White, as he leaves Albuquerque lost and broken, in search of something new in lone and level sands that stretch far away.

Read Paul's review of the previous episode, To'hajiilee, here.

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One word to sum it all up... MELTDOWN!

WOW!
That's the kind of show that stays with you for a long long time.
I wonder at what point in that episode every other US show on television realised that they have absolutely no chance at the Emmys next year?

In honor of nearing the end of this truly awesome show I have Heisenberg'ed my avatar for the next two weeks.

Kinda had trouble sleeping last night after watching Breaking Bad.
Played with my mind alot. The darkest and nastiest episode of the entire show, but also one of the best.
Also, its currently a rare 10 out of 10 on IMDB.
My only issue - Jack and Todd etc are not the shows strongest villains to wrap the show up on.
Other than that, in two weeks time, unless the pull a Lost, its officially the greatest show of all time in my books.
Also - did anybody notice the desert scenes where so intense, the opening credits didnt start until 15 minutes in?

Great review of one of the best hours of telly I have ever seen, I too had difficulty sleeping afterwards. Did any one notice Walt's reflection putting his head over the bullet hole on the Chrysler? I don't think he's left Heisenberg behind though I think Heisenberg is all that's left and he has unfinished business…

Bravo on another superb review on what i think may of been the most emotional 45 minutes of tv i have ever seen. That phone call just wow

Absolutely no coincidence about the dung beetle, I thought exactly the same thing. In a show full of terror, it was a rare moment of absurdity, enough to, dare I say, lighten the mood? I thought it was an excellent scene that stood up even despite what came before and after. Certainly the greatest episode of TV drama ever screened; arguably the best piece of drama ever created. We're very fortunate to be around to see this as it unfolds for the first time. Works of such colossal magnitute don't come around too often.

Well, that was pretty full on, made myself a cup of tea before I started watching, end of the ep comes, tea cold and untouched. Also, was I imagining things or did Walt pass his trousers from the very first episode whilst he was pushing his barrel through the desert?

u missed to mention the cameo by Walter's pants from season 1!
such detailed symmetry is what makes this show one of its kind!!

That episode was pretty much the greatest thing I've ever seen on television.

I only started watching Breaking Bad three weeks ago, and marathoned through all 5 seasons to the point where I've now caught up and I'm able to watch the episodes weekly. The wait is *torture*. I think that was the most intense 45 minutes of television I've ever seen. Fantastic stuff. The last two episodes are gonna be insane.

Awesome review for an awesome episode!

Excellent review again Paul its very refreshing to read a decent dissertation on the episode after the garbage I read yesterday on other sites.
Team Walt 4 eva! Bring on the M60 and the pain!

Did you do this whilst in full time employment? If so, I'm impressed.

Haha, not exactly. I had 10 days off work.

I wish you people would stop calling them pants and start calling them trousers. In the UK pants are enormous Y-fronts. Trousers are what you call pants. So no, he didn't pass a pair of pants. He passed a pair of trousers.

Did anyone notice that in the fire station when they were playing chess the WHITE king was cornered but not checkmated.

While the english part of me agrees with you strictly speaking this is a american show therefore making them pants

What an overwhelming, harrowing episode of television. I'm going to have a weird cognitive dissonance when Breaking Bad finishes - on the one hand, I will feel absolutely bereft that this genius-level series is no more, but on the other hand I think my nerves and my heart will be pretty relieved.

Bring on Future Walt with Attached Hair and Beard and Accompanying Fake Driver's Licence and M60 Accessories!

Fantastic review as well Paul, as always. Your BB rundowns, along with those on the AV Club, are the best on the Internet as far as I'm concerned.

The word pants is derrived from a 14th century French word 'pantaloons' which were much closer to trousers than underwear. Just because it is misused en masse in Britain does nt make it correct.

Great review for a great show. I had to pause the show after Walt took Holly as I felt so tense I needed to take a breath, without doubt not only the greatest tv show of all time but the greatest drama ever put on film. I thought for a while the m60 was going to be used on Todd and co to save Jesse but now it looks like it will be to get revenge. Only question left is whether the ricin is for Skyler, Jesse or Walt himself. Even after all this I am still hoping he gets away with it all.

EXCELLENT spot.

i bet you he left a note for skylar in holly's diaper.......

What a strange idea.

Looking good

Walt's going back for Uncle Jack and the crew. Jesse spills all about Hank's house... Todd says "we're on it." Walt on the floor mirrors Gus on the floor by the pool.... this ain't over yet.

Simply outstanding episode.....great review and top comments too...but, does anyone else also think Holly is one of the greatest child actors!? She's looked genuinely terrified during previous high emotion scenes and her shrinking back into the seat to hide from the fireman just took my breath away....poor mite!!

Breaking Bad made me shat my pantaloons yesterday!

I don't think you can really argue with an Englishman when he corrects you on the use of English........

She did im not sure how they managed it but holly was one of the best actors in the episode from the saying mummy to hiding from the fireman she was terrific

Great review, as always. And if you're wondering about Dean Norris working again, I'll remind you that he's part of the cast of Under The Dome.

That phone call scene wasn't just the best scene in Breaking Bad history. I can't think of any other scene in *TV* history that comes close to it. If someone could tell me a show that has a scene as powerful as that (without spoilers!) I'd definitely want to watch it. Granted, I haven't seen Breaking Bad's main contenders, like The Wire, Sopranos, Mad Men, but how can they match what we've had in season 5? How could they match Ozymandias?

I definitely agree with your interpretation of the phone call. I think the only one who doesn't believe that Walt was trying to absolve Skyler is Dean Norris (he REALLY hates Walt, as you can see in the most recent Talking Bad episode)! The line between Walt and Heisenberg was so brilliantly ambiguous, and impossible to figure out. It's important to remember that Walt DID threaten Skyler, as he said he did, and also probably about a year ago given that we know Walt is nearing with 52nd birthday, in 'Fifty-One'. Clearly the treatening wasn't as frequent as Walt suggested, but it still existed. And I fully believe that Walt believed a lot of what he was saying. Personally, I interpret that scene as Walt finally accepting the man he was and what he had become. As he spoke to Skyler, he realised what he was saying was how so many people viewed him, and how it wasn't so far off from the truth. He realised what a monster he had become, and hated himself for it. Utterly exceptional scene. We'll be lucky to ever see anything that matches that in TV again.

As for the rest of the episode, in an other season, these would be episode-ending plot development, or maybe even season finales. Killing off a major character 10 or 15 minutes into an episode is just unheard of, is it not? And yet Breaking Bad did it, and so, so well. I can't have been the only one to notice a lingering bit of affection and gratitude in Hank when Walt was desperately trying to save his life. I think Hank, for the first time since he discovered his secret, saw Walt as a human again. It's nice that they parted on at least a semblance of good terms. Hank's death was horrible, but was just so brilliantly done. And, although I hate to say it, it was necessary. If Hank and/or Gomey came out alive after the cliffhanger from last week, that would have been a massive mistake.

Then, as soon as we think maybe Walt isn't so horrible after all, he goes and happily accepts the torture and murder of Jesse, and tells him about Jane. Yet another incredible scene, and probably the most evil think Walt has done after just a few minutes earlier being at his most human for quite a while. It near perfectly demonstrated the Walt/Heisenberg duality. I say near perfectly because the phone call scene was somehow even better, and you can't get better than perfect. By any other standard, I'd call that scene perfect.

One of the few truly heartwarming parts of the episode was Marie supporting Skyler, even after everything she and Walt had done. I loved Marie after that scene. But it says a lot about Ozymandias that one of the most heartwarming, relieving moments took place in a scene where a mother was being forced to destroy her son's entire world. I was just desperately trying to find some semblance of kindness in this episode and, hell, I took it when I could. But then we get the devastating scene with Walter Jr. Thanks, Vince.

And then, we get the scene in the house. I've got nothing to add to what was said in the article above, so I'll just echo those thoughts.

I truly believe this is the best hour of TV ever. And whilst many will disagree with me, it will take a lot to make me change my mind. I suppose I'm going to have to start watching The Wire and The Sopranos now that Breaking Bad is almost over.

I'm English, but this show is American. There are always going to be regional differences between languages. Hell, even in Britain you can find markedly different vocabularies. We do not have a monopoly on the English language just because we happen to be English or British. Language is dynamic and constantly changing, and we speak nothing like we did a few hundred years ago. So who are we, or anyone else, to correct someone else on their use of the English language if that's perfectly acceptable where they live? Especially when this is an American show and the person uses American vocabulary?

Calm down

I wasn't angry at all in that comment.

I think I have post traumatic stress disorder after watching that episode.

Brilliant episode... brilliant title. I hope this doesn't sound patronising, but the way I see it the Ozymandias title is as much directed at Hank, Marie, Skylar, Jesse and even Walt Jr. I studied the poem as an English graduate student and started thinking it would be another stuffy old poem but grew to love it and see Shelly as a genius... the association with this series is perfect. Not forgetting the possible reference to the Watchmen as well. I can't wait for the last episode, and I am still routing for Walt all the way.

WOW, well spotted :D

The Wire & Deadwood still beat everything ever made... and it may sound lame, but the episode in Buffy where her mother dies has to be one of the most profound one off moments in TV history. If you haven't seen it you might think I'm a fool, but if you have seen it you'll know what I mean. But yeah the phone call was stunning.

That episode is called 'The Body' and yes, I have seen it (along with the rest of Buffy), but I don't think it's as good as quite a few Breaking Bad episodes and definitely not Ozymandias. It is a brilliant episode, though, and among the pinnacle of television. Very powerful. It towers above every other Buffy episode IMO, which for the most part is frankly a little average (I know that's a very unpopular opinion). I guess I'll have to add Deadwood to things I should watch at some point, though. Next on my list is Game of Thrones, as that's all the rage now.

At first I hated Skylar, but I've been slowly starting to support her as Walt becomes an ego maniac. After this season (mostly this episode), I realized that Walt isn't the good guy at all. Skylar, the one who I thought was the antagonist of the whole show, is actually the good.

That shout is almost as good as the episode itself. Fantastic spot, good sir!

From one Brit to another: you seem to have forgotted that "pants" is actually short for "underpants".

"Trousers" is imported from the Gaelic "triubhas" (pronounced quite like "trews").

Fantastic eyes my friend. I've already decided to watch it again tonight so I'll look out for that.

Makes you wonder how many other times there have been things like that we've missed?

Why do people still suggest that Walt is bad and wrong and hasnt been trying to do the right thing from the very start. Its everyone else who keeps getting in the way of Walts ultimate and orignal plan of everyone involved to be safe and ok. For me that is what the whole show represents. I didnt like the reviewers criticsm of Walt and his suggestion that he has turned into a monster. Pretty much every harsh thing Walt has had to do was as a result of others obstructing and preventing his well meaning plans - and been an absolute last resort. Hardly anything he has done has been down to personal and selfish reactions - even though it would be understandble to react in this way due to the crap that has come down on him. I say all this because my wife seems to think he's not a nice person either. Drives me mad!!!

We'll start calling them trousers when you guys straighten out that whole slang word for cigarettes thing you have going on over there...

I was reading that the 'mommy' bathroom scene came about almost by accident. The girls real Mum was stood out of shot, over Bryan Cranston's shoulder, and she started calling to her. Mr. Cranston just went with it and it turned out much better than what they had planned.

I would imagine there is so much more subtle things that have flashed right past loads of eyes. The creators of this show really are amazing, this is the golden age of TV and to be the best like Breaking Bad is such an accolade

I wouldn't bother with Game of Thrones, I only watch it because I watched it from the start.

I have to say though, much though I now love Breaking Bad it was very very patchy and damn right dull at times. It really took until part the way through season three for me to get really into it. And I will never watch it over and over like I do The Wire and Deadwood. My brother and sister in law have been trying to catch up with it on Netflix and have got bored during season two and I said to them I found it slow going to start with. Maybe in retrospect the pace makes sense and it's just me.

So you're saying 'the ends justify the means' with regards to Walt's actions?

That has been the case a lot of the time, but Walt has had every opportunity to get out of the game. In fact, he could have avoided it all entirely if he'd just put his pride aside and let Elliot pay for the chemotherapy. What it comes down to is that he's killed people, and committed plenty more heinous acts in his quest to support his loved ones when he dies. Would you really listen to his story if you were reading it in the paper?

Walter isn't completely lost, but to forgive all his actions because he cites family as an excuse to what he has done is completely ridiculous.

I've no doubt that after the final episode I'll sit down and watch it all again from the beginning. My eyes will be peeled!

From the very start and throughout, Walt has tried to do things with minimal fuss and attention and without the involvement of others and wthout harming others. The whole point of the show for me has been his inability to achieve what he wants without other factors coming into play that force actions upon him - actions that he mostly only made to try to fix the previous one and so on. And he usually tries to fix it without harming others - how many times has he tried to help Jesse? Jesse seems to get better press but he has acted terribly on many occasions, and often without proper provocation - whereas Walt only as a last resort has he gone to the extremes - usually as self defence. Him or them. But I dont see many instances when he has simply acted callously without provacation. HIs intentions are mostly always good. His initial 'crime' was the production and sale of meth - everything else has stemmed from this and is obviously what the show is about - the unknown, unseen and unpreventable occurances that have come from it. He has commited crimes - but not in the way that say- Uncle Jack has chosen a life of violence and crime with no thought of others. Does this make Walt the same? Of course not. Surely the intentions of a person have some bearing when judging someone. I suppose that is why there is a difference between a murder and man slaughter. The intent. Anyway....I'm rambling now. Gotta go...

I think it was the point when Hank died...**** got real for me after that!

Not true. In the first series, an ex-business partner offered him a well-paid job with generous benefits and health insurance. Walt's ego was hurt, and he turned his friend down. He had the chance to do something different- but he chose to be a criminal.

Great review, again.

One shot from the episode stays with me: the shot when Walt is left alone in the desert, with the dust settling around him. It's a stunning moment; & it makes the title of the episode painfully ironic. There he is, in the desert, just like the broken, colossal statue- but he's not Ozymandias. He's a tiny little figure in the centre of the frame. Not the criminal mastermind, but the pathetic, blind chemistry teacher out of his depth. Not Heisenberg, but Walter White.

Uncle Jack thinks about his family: that's why he spares Walt- for Todd's sake. They're far more similar than you think.

Buffy! now we,re talking!

Re: Jack & Todd not being strong villains

In a way - I think that's kind of the point.

Gus Fring, who had built his criminal empire for 20 years, was taken down by a nerdy high-school chemistry teacher. Walt, who stepped up and took his place through a combination of intellect and, frankly, pure luck, has been brought low by a bunch of short-sightedly thuggish, psychotic racists.

The point is, the world Walt has immersed himself in has its own inertia. It doesn't ultimately respect talent, passion or creativity. It doesn't care how good you are at your best - it catches you at your low ebb, and if you let your guard down for a second, it can be all over without any need for some grand nemesis.

Personally, I respect the artistry in the fact that there's no great matching of egos at the end. It wasn't Hank who brought Walt down - it was his own actions which opened him up to being robbed blind and seeing Hank killed in front of him, by people who explicitly aren't his intellectual equals, but are willing to play the game as hard as it needs to be played - "full measures", if you will.

What a fantastic review! I'll be sad to see Breaking Bad end but it's been a rollercoaster ride and I probably couldn't take much more! I'm just glad it's been a part of my life.

If you want a suggestion for a scene with the same kind of power, albeit with a very different tone, my first thought is one from season 3 of The Wire.

I'll describe the importance of it as best I can without any severe spoilers.

Basically, there's a discussion, and ultimately a kind of confrontation, between Omar, a stick-up artist who plays an anti-heroic role within the series, and Bunk, a homicide detective.

The main theme of The Wire is the limitations that our roles within institutions - civic, professional, criminal - place upon us as individuals. The two start the scene resigned to their roles - Omar has a code of honour but within that code is happy to kill anyone who crosses him with no remorse, while Bunk upholds the law but at the same time takes it as read that his pursuit of justice is compromised, and puts on a cynical front.

As they talk, Bunk becomes genuinely emotional about what is happening to the communities in Baltimore, how things have changed, and you can see both characters shift out of their everyday personas and start to feel how deeply wrong a lot of what they put up with (and do) day-to-day is. In some ways, not a lot happens, but it's beautifully executed and still has an effect on me a few years (and multiple viewings) later.

The more I hear about The Wire the more I want to watch it. I'm just wondering now what my next series will be: Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos or Mad Men?

Personally I'd disagree with you there. I was captivated by Breaking Bad right from the start. I've already watched it over, twice I think. It's definitely slow at point, but I got invested enough in the characters pretty early on to be able to enjoy the slower pace of it all. I can see why people would get a little disinterested, though.

As an aside, the amount of times I've dedicated to talking about Breaking Bad in these past few weeks is pretty ridiculous. I've probably written tens of thousands of words altogether. I'm addicted!

You won't go far wrong with The Wire or The Sopranos - can't comment on the other two. 30 Rock is also fantastic if you fancy something a bit lighter.

Well spent! Breaking Bad leave.

Totally agree. The fact that the Neo-Nazis are just rough chancers (cf the way they totally lucked out on finding $80 million!) is just another brutal truth. A bit like *WIRE SPOILER* Omar getting shot by a little kid.

Plus, I find Todd really frightening - he's so polite. He'll murder your family and then apologise for getting blood on your shoes.

This episode? This episode's actually redemption of sorts for Walter. Season 5a is where he truly goes bad.
Which part of this episode shows Walter as an "ego maniac" above the many other scenes where he actually snaps at Skylar for real in Season 4. Doesn't the crying and the lying about Hank's death and Skylar's role in the past season give the phone call away?

Stunningly good. Just when you thought it couldn't get darker it hit you in the face like a brick. Almost everyone is completely broken and the scene were Todd chains Jesse up in the new lab sent shivers down my spine. Scary, horrific and nasty but really brilliant..

Outstanding, simply outstanding piece of television. Great review and some interesting comments made by people. For me, I still think somehow Walt is going to do the right thing, a kind of Darth Vader tossing the Emperor down the hole if you will. A moment of realisation where he dispels of Heisenberg and back to Walter White.

Surely the episode when Walter gives his speech about "being in the empire building business " shows Walt's true ambition?

I saw the trousers too! Loved that!

awesome scene... the follow up where Omar discusses what Bunk said with Butch only adds to it

Having watched all of those I'd put The Wire at the top of the list by a country mile. In general I never watch anything twice... I'm on my 12 re watching of the whole thing... when I get to the end I start again. IMHO it's not simply the best police and crime series, or even the best TV series, but one of the greatest pieces of literature from any time frame... it's observations of how people really are, and how they speak etc and it's humour in the face of urban decay and institutional corruption and ineffectiveness etc are unparalleled.

Okay, you've convinced me. I'll watch The Wire next.

Finally watched the episode on Netflix... :-O. I was gob-smacked through out. I knew in the last episode that they will kill off Hank, he did do that sappy "goodbye" phone call to his wife after all. I'm a little pissed that there are only two episodes left. But for Walter, in the words of Jack Burton "Son of a bitch must pay".

Cool :)

I need to watch the episode again, but I felt like Walt's aggression towards Skylar on the phone was real.
He has a love/disrespect relationship with Skylar- similar to the relationship he created with Jesse..He always blamed Jesse for everything that went wrong, despite Jesse coming up with some great ideas occasionally and being otherwise useful. So despite their ups and downs, Jesse protected Walt's interests, so Walt (in his own mind) protected Jesse.
Over the course of the series, in Walt's twisted mind, he elevated Jesse to 'family' status.
I think the same is true of Skylar- they had major ups and downs- but overall she protected his interests- and came up with ideas that helped him-with the money laundering and keeping the family together.
So I think Skylar bore the brunt for a lot of Walt's anger stemming from his need for absolute control and expectation of unbending loyalty from Skylar AND Jesse.
In the last couple of episodes Jesse denied Walt the opportunity to converse with him-those conversations were always more about Walt than about Jesse- as Jesse himself stated- but I think Jesse not meeting with Walt in the square was when Walt would have tried to regain 'control' of Jesse. Because he was denied that opportunity the control freak in him obviously has a lot of pent up anger.
Walt never takes the blame for everything and projects all of his anger for things not going his way at the people he cares about. Once Jesse was out of the picture- his only other outlet was Skylar.
So I think he was genuinely pissed at her, and because he has SO lost the plot he might have believed that the cops actually werent there.

I didnt feel like Walt was deliberately implicating himself- that implies some self control and forward thinking. I dont think he regained his faculties until the scene with Holly.
But yeah I might change my mind after re-watching tonight :)

I'm kinda hoping Jesse messes with the meth and blows up the entire operation, with himself and Todd inside, as much as I dont want Jesse to die, I guess its inevitable- and I would rather he blew the whole rig than was tortured anymore

Great spot there "Hoggers", like a boss.

Lydia will choose Jesse over Todd. She'll be his downfall.

True.

Intriguing...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA fair comment

"Conscience do cost"

(That's the conversation you mean, right?)

You are an idiot.

I second The Wire recommendation. Haven't seen the Sopranos - but I will. Mad Men is also stark raving fantastic, IMO.

I was watching on Netflix and decided to check how many minutes left as it felt like a roller coaster that I had been on for 10 mins, to my dismay there were 12mins left of viewing and I felt like I had just sat down. That is one episode that I will watch again, the complexities of a TV series episode was just sheer brilliance. Great review by the way,

Remember Walt killing Mike when the latter shamed him? Remember Walt getting fed up with Jesse - who wasn't bowing to the king anymore - and telling him he got 'NOTHING!'? Hell, at least old Uncle Jack left Walt a seventh of his meth money. Walt blames Jesse for Hank's death (he's a dirty rat, after all), and the fact that he'd actually called the Nazis to come and - ? - oh yeah: KILL JESSE had nothing to do with anything. After all, Jesse was burning Walt's money at a rate of 10K a minute, so he was completely asking for it.

Walt has been full of ego and without honour - to deadly effect - on many occasions. He would say he HAD to poison Brock to get Jesse to help him kill Gus (and please replay that little speech he gives Jesse ... 'Who would hurt a child?'). Oh, but Gus threatened Walt's infant daughter. So check out that scene again (and compare it with other Gus-related stand-offs, too: as Walt himself has demonstrated at times, this is showbiz). Gus takes Walt hooded into the desert to make an impression on him. And instead of giving back the message Gus must hear, Walt mocks him for not being able to square Jesse with Walt's elimination, like a fool. Gus has stated his preference for loyalty over fear as a method of persuasion, and demonstrated the same - he is pragmatic enough to at least behave as if he were compassionate (e.g. giving Jesse the week off when he's distraught about Brock - whom Walt and not Gus has poisoned), and pardoning Walt's lies when he discovers that Hank has been shot. Gus and Mike look after their own in return for loyalty, turning their menace against those who thwart them, but both are quite capable of relenting, even then. Lydia and Walt prefer to eliminate variables en masse, regardless of right or wrong.

Am I thoroughly anti-Walt? Not at all. The last half of season 5 set me up to empathise with him more than ever, even as it demonstrated the impossibility and wrongness of a Walter Triumph. And when he pleaded for Hank, offering all his money? Gut-wrenching. The moment where Walt seemed to understand that there are things more valuable than financial security. But does he accept his responsibility? Not, until he does the right thing by Holly, who needs her mama, and paints himself as a worse monster than he is - or digs deep to find that monster in himself and give it full rein - in order to protect Skyler.

In my view, Walt is a proper tragic hero. We feel for him, flaws and all. But he's going down, and rightly so. At least he appears to finally be getting what he said he wanted most in the beginning: choices about how he faces his end.

That's the one :)

Me too, except I have marathoned through up to date in 3 weeks :-)

Me too :-)

I always 'knew' Omar was going to go out that way. It fitted the life style and character. Likewise the death of Bodie... that was the one death I really 'felt'. Each time I watch The Wire through again I choke up when Bodie gets shot. I know he killed Wallace etc, but there is something about his character which in many ways is so critical to the whole vibe of The Wire. He's nobody, but he's such a product of the whole situation. Sorry I could blah on about The Wire for years.

Do the sopranos. I love BB but sopranos as a chemestry that BB hasn't... Don't know how can I explain that but go watch it and maybe you'll figure this out. But Sopranos is not the same kind as BB, it's more like 50€ drame 50% Humour

I really think it is a mistaken view of the show to look at Walt as the only originator of evil and wrongdoing. I think the series also shows how easy other become co-perpetrators, they know they are doing wrong and then they are doing it without real second thoughts. Thats why the question of Walter Jr. was important? How does it make you any better? It was her clear choice. Not everyone would cooperate with a criminal husband, or maybe we just think so, because we are not having this kind of choice. So what do we know, the sinking in always happens very slowly. So Skyler got corrupted the same way as Walt, look she floated the idea of killing Jesse, just by herself and Walt was going incredulous about it! Not the other way round! This should not be missed.
Then Hank, he put Gomez selfishly into danger, he was acting exactly the same as Walt. Gomez's death is chiefly on Hank.

you realy need to go out get drunk and get some vagina

your mum don't like it when I turn up drunk

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