Well, well well. I lost that bet with myself after all about one big thing that occurred last week, so chalk up another one for Vince Gilligan pulling the rug out from under me. That said, given this season opened with Walter White in the near future having his yearly birthday breakfast (in a roadside diner this time) with no one we know around, the last few episodes are going to be quite interesting indeed. Still, I did predict that Walt and Skyler would be even more on the rocks this season, so that sort of evens things out. On the other hand (spoiler, unless you’ve been watching the show), I thought Mike would be around until the very end just to put an interesting cap to things (pun absolutely intended, more on that next year when the show is finally over).
As for this episode and in fact, this first arc that’s going to lead into the final eight shows? Well, as a drug kingpin… Walt is either really smart or really stupid… and I’m going for more of the latter based on some of his decisions this half-season…
Getting rid of Gus Fring at the end of last season may have been a big burden lifted for Walter, but it turns out that ol’ Gus’ business stretched (or was about to stretch) further than even Walt imagined. Thanks to the terminally shifty, nervous and shrewdly calculating Lydia (Laura Fraser), Walt’s meth business has now spread to the Czech Republic and in the three months since (yet another brilliant sequence), he’s made more money than even he could have dreamed of. I seriously thought Lydia was a goner a few too many times this half-season, but she’s a survivor after all and probably ready to throw Walt under the bus at any point should the feds come calling in the future. With piles of cash flowing in, Skyler (Anna Gunn) isn’t even bothering to count or launder the meth loot through the car wash any longer. Instead, she’s taken to simply stacking it in a rented storage unit, stopping by to spray it for silverfish (a nice tossed off line that made me laugh).
But that was it for the funny stuff. Walt’s new partners with their tattoos and prison connections are to me, far scarier than Gus ever was and even more so thanks to the multiple murder montage they simultaneously pulled off in three different prisons. This nicely disturbing (and surprisingly gory) extended sequence, where the last of Mike’s crew was eliminated (lots of stabbings and one poor guy roasted alive in his cell) was reminiscent of Michael Corleone using his long reach (and loyal muscle) to tie up loose ends in both Godfather films. I’d gather AMC was quite happy about this part of the episode, given their penchant for showing Coppola’s classics at the drop of a hat (or around the holidays, whichever comes first).
Later on, a gloomy Jesse (seeming cut out of the business entirely) gets a surprise visit from Walt, who reminisces with him about their days of meth cooking 101 in that beat up RV. Just as things are getting awkward, Walt leaves, and leaves Jesse with a surprise outside he wasn’t expecting to see… his share of the money he backed out on when he (finally?) quit cooking with Walt. I’m not quite sure where their relationship will go from this point, given that Jesse was expecting Walt to try and kill him and didn’t seem to be all that pleased at his sudden windfall. Then again, finding out Mike was killed by Walt from a third party would make me stay at home with all the lights off and disconnect my phones as well. I don’t think we’ll see Jesse in full-on mad money party mode like in Season 4, as there are a few more layers to peel away. I did think that he’d be dead by now, but that may still come to pass sometime in the last eight shows.
As for that finale? Nice move. Walt, Skyler and the kids are back together after Walt tells Skyler he’s “out” of the meth business (really?), Walt’s federal agent brother drops into the bathroom to drop a deuce and *ding!* surpriiiiiise! Holy Cats. I’d TOTALLY forgotten about that autographed book, so seeing it again after all this time made me laugh (nervously this time) as the look on Hank’s face made my spine creep a bit. SO, either the jig is up and Walt will have to bump off Hank (unless he can think or buy his way out of this new problem), Lydia may be a bigger problem (as predicted by Mike) that has to be dealt with and Walt’s new “pals” might want some of that stash cash if it’s ever discovered. Of course, I’m just shooting blanks here while I twiddle my thumbs until next summer or whenever, grrr.
Oh, yeah – Walt’s revealing himself as Heisenberg to people who could probably kill him once they found out his recipe and how to make it properly? It could be a big red herring, but I can’t see that not getting a look-see at some point. Even though he’s quit cooking (allegedly), there’s the matter of loose ends on everyone’s front concerning Mr. White and his lifestyle. Anyway, c’mon, Gilligan! Put down those coconuts and get the rest of the final season on the air sooner than later. Hell, the world might actually melt before we get to see those last eight episodes!