The apocalyptic hour of “Blood Money,” the final season premiere of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” moves faster than entire seasons of this brilliant and diabolical series. The closing scene of the episode is the one fans have been waiting for for years, and one that would otherwise take this show another eight or 12 episodes to accomplish. (Neilsen reports that the final-season premiere averaged 5.9 million viewers on Sunday, almost double last year’s premiere slot. More details here.)
Here’s what we did learn from the season premiere: Hank (Dean Norris) will be working to take down Walt, whose cancer is back, and Jesse (Aaron Paul) knows that Walt killed Gus’ (RIP) former henchman Mike but has no proof. This two-pronged setup will most certainly be the fulcrum of the final season, as both Hank and Jesse pursue any possible redemption for themselves. And in the case of Jesse, it means getting out from under Walt’s thumb.
Though the bulk of this episode is all ominous portent — including “former business associate” Lydia’s unexpected appearance at the A1A car wash — and slow zooms (Hank’s stunned-senseless emergence from the bathroom), the fulcrum here is the final scene face-off between Walt and Hank. When Hank socks Walt behind the closed door of his garage, grabs him by the collar and spews, “It was you all along,” we can’t help but feel a potent spark of satisfaction as the whole bedrock of the show — a once-ordinary guy engineers a massive drug operation right under the nose of his DEA-agent brother-in-law — erupts. But then Walt says, “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly,” and that moral blood-thirst curdles to dread.
Here’s a roundup of what some critics are saying about “Blood Money.”
That ending was powerful… Walter’s Achilles heel, we’re reminded again, is his pride. His masculine inferiority complex in relation to the fireplug-macho Hank is part of the reason he ended up in this horrendous psychic place, the good man subservient to his dark alter ego. Dean Norris and Bryan Cranston have been waiting over five years to play this moment. They finally got their chance, and the result was as powerful as anyone could have expected.
Just when you think there’s a lot that needs to happen before the next huge development, the show bypasses all the details and cuts right to the chase, leaving you goggle-eyed and scrambling to retrieve the pieces of your brain in its wake.
Granted, the jaw-dropping throwdown between Hank and Walt was precipitated by Walt’s figuring out that Hank was on to him. But you can see–after his literally sickened response to first learning–that the discovery has awakened a fury in him. There’s no regret in his turning on his brother-in-law, no apparent fear or hesitation, but rather, great relief… It’s an astonishing scene.
Cranston directed Sunday’s episode, and while none of its content will be revealed here, you’ll find his work behind the camera as great as his Emmy-winning performance as Walter White. The pace of the episode is measured, controlled, constantly building suspense. It is magnificently and appropriately excruciating.