Tonight “Breaking Bad” returned for the first of its final eight episodes which will bring the highly acclaimed series to its conclusion. Though the show has been on hiatus since last September, if you’re like me, you’ve spent the last couple of weeks re-immersing yourself in the show, revisiting the previous five seasons, watching extended Q&A’s with the cast and creator Vince Gilligan, reading Internet theories (Walt won’t survive the finale? Walt is wearing a wire? etc.) and think pieces (see: Matt Zoller Seitz‘s excellent essays for Vulture), puzzling through the upcoming episode titles for clues and wondering just how it will all wrap up on September 29th. Despite a torrent of hype surrounding the return of the show, the stellar premiere episode “Blood Money” (directed by star Bryan Cranston) does not disappoint. Rewatching last September’s mid-season finale “Gliding Over All” just beforehand proved to be a wise decision as many of the cliffhangers from the finale are resolved in the premiere.
When we last saw Walt, he had just ordered the hit on nine prisoners who might be able to testify against him, amassed a storage locker full of cash and finally become the kingpin he’d been inching towards since Season 1. But without anyone to push back against (Mike, Gus and the DEA were all out of the picture now), he grew bored and decided that it was time to get out of the meth business. But since his retirement didn’t happen on screen you couldn’t help but wonder if it would really be so easy for him to walk away from an empire, not to mention Lydia and her Madrigal associates or had Walt just told Skylar what she wanted to hear? (The premiere reveals that yes, he was telling the truth but no, it wouldn’t be so easy to walk away.) But beyond just a kingpin’s lonely throne, Walt’s check-up at the doctors’ office (whose results were similarly left vague) seemed to prompt a change of heart which also led him to make amends with Jesse. But just when it seemed like Walt had gotten away with it all, one careless mistake came back to haunt him. In the final unforgettable moments of the episode Hank realizes that his brother-in-law is indeed, Heisenberg, the same monster he’s been hunting over the last year.
So, let’s get this out of the way: the season premiere is a terrific hour of television and should reassure fans that the show is as good as it’s ever been. Though there are no shocking twists, the episode still manages to surprise not for what happens but when. Though everyone knew a Hank/Walt confrontation was inevitable, I’m not sure anyone would’ve suspected that they would lay their cards on the table in the very first episode. So now that Hank knows, Walt knows that Hank knows, Hank knows that Walt knows that he knows, where the hell do you go from here? If Walt suspects that Hank is going to try to bring him down (and how could he not?) how can he continue to let Hank live? If it comes down to himself or Hank, he would certainly pick himself, right? While lesser shows would’ve probably put off this confrontation for closer to the finale, drawing out the suspense as Hank collects evidence and waits to decide exactly how to approach the situation, leave it to “Breaking Bad” and the most daring writers on television to have this showdown take place right away. As for how this will play out over the next seven episodes, God only knows.
But the big revelation in the premiere occurs in the opening tag when the show lets us know quite subtly that Walt will be uncovered publicly. When Walt 52 returns to his home to retrieve the Ricin, the word “Heisenberg” is scrawled in graffiti inside the house and Carol reacts with utter astonishment when greeted by her former neighbor. His house is abandoned, his alter ego is infamous and from this we can surmise that most likely big shit goes down there at some point and that Walt is most definitely revealed to be Heisenberg. It’s probably all over the news, neighborhood skater kids know about him, Carol knows, and that’s why Walt 52 is on the run, using an alias and picking up firepower. As for who he’s planning on using it for (or the Ricin for that matter), all options are still on the table. Though if you want a really good theory on who might not be in play click here—but be warned, it makes a lot of sense and you may wish you hadn’t read it. As we suspected, Walt is in chemo which means his cancer has returned. Though he claims that he’s “fighting like hell” to beat it, something tells us that his hair grown back in the flash-forwards (and the armory in his trunk) means that he knows the end is near for him.
‘Bad’ has been called most moral show on TV and it’s certainly true that Gilligan and his writers have set up a universe where evil deeds must be punished. When looking towards the end of the show, it’s not any specific answers that we’re looking for but rather just the characters who have transgressed to pay for their sins. (This doesn’t necessarily mean Walt has to die, it just means that he has to get what’s coming to him, whatever that may be.) “I’d like to believe that there’s a point to all this,” Gilligan recently told Filmlinc. “I’m not a Buddhist but I love the idea of karma. So many times in real life the good suffer and the bad get away with it forever. It’s all so chaotic and random but I’d like to believe there’s a point to it all. Sometimes the act of writing and creating the universe of the show is a groping attempt to impose order onto chaos,” Gilligan said.
And with this in mind you can’t help but feel like there are certain dangling threads that are just too large not to be addressed before the curtains close. The most glaring examples both involve Walt’s deceptions towards Jesse (his inaction during Jane’s death and his very deliberate poisoning of young Brock). For this writer it’s less important to find out exactly how Walt poisoned Brock and more important simply to see Jesse process this information. But since Walt is the only witness to either incident, the only way for it to come up would literally have to be Walt confessing these sins to Jesse, which we suspect will happen at some point during these final episodes. If we had to guess, we’d say it’ll probably be in a moment of cruelty and hubris rather than an absolving admission. The ending of the premiere, which shows Jesse trying to unload his guilt by recklessly hurling
stacks of “blood money” into a poor neighborhood, shows that a confrontation with Walt will also likely be coming sooner than we think.
What Lies Ahead
– If you were concerned that Walt’s adversaries were all in the past (and in the ground), think again. Gilligan told EW, “There will be antagonistic relationships aplenty. Walt’s got plenty of fight left in him. And he’s got plenty of forces to fight. You met some of them. Others you haven’t. As the movie title goes, there will be blood. You need to really settle down on the couch and pay close attention because it’s going to come at you fast and furious in the final eight episodes.”
– Charlie Rose recently let slip that he’ll be appearing on the penultimate episode presumably as himself possibly interviewing Walt? Or Walt’s family?
– “Looper” director Rian Johnson (who had previously helmed the episodes “Fly” and “Fifty-One“) will return to direct the third to last episode titled “Ozymandias” which almost certainly has to do with this just released teaser. Gilligan praised Johnson, calling him “the next Spielberg or next Michael Mann” and said his upcoming episode might be the best in the entire series. “It may be the best one we’ve ever done…. unfortunately there’s two more [episodes] after that.”
This Is The End
– Though most people assume that the series has to conclude with Walt’s demise, Cranston suggested during the TimesTalks event that it might not be the only possibility left. “What if the thing he wanted the most, which was the togetherness of his family—what if he lived and they didn’t? Wouldn’t that be a worse hell to be in… or maybe he should die? I vacillate on this.”
– Adding even more confusing layers onto either of these theories is Gilligan, who told Vulture, “In my mind, the ending is a victory for Walt. You might see the episode and say, “What the fuck was he talking about?” But it’s a somewhat happy ending, in my estimation.” He also elaborated to EW, “We worked long and hard to ensure that these final eight—and, in fact, the very last episode—would satisfy an audience. I am guardedly optimistic that we have achieved just that. And furthermore, trying to be as coy as possible, trying to give away as little as possible, I feel like this ending represents on some level, however small, something of a victory for Walter White. Read into that what you will. And try to be as open-minded as possible when you watch this episode, because it may not indeed feel like a victory. Or maybe it will. … I feel good about where it all ended up, and I can’t wait for people to see it.”
– One last bit of hype to fuel the fire is DP Michael Slovis who spoke to RogerEbert.com about the end of the show. “All I can tell you is…two things: A) You will not be disappointed, I promise. I promise, I promise, I promise. B) Every single storyline will be buttoned up, and there will be no loose ends. It’s going to redefine last seasons of television. It’s going to redefine series finales, which are almost inevitably disappointing. This one will not disappoint. I’ve seen all eight episodes. I’ve seen it through to the end, and I sat in front of my screen crying, myself, alone, during the last couple of episodes, and I’m telling you…well, call me afterwards. Call me in September, let me know what you think.”
What did you think of the Season Premiere? What loose threads do you hope the show untangles before the finale? And what do you think will be Walt’s fate when all is said and done? Sound off below in the comments.