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Recap: Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 11 ‘Confessions’

Recap: Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 11 'Confessions'

“My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104. This is my confession.” These are words no one would have thought they’d ever hear come out of the words of the mouth of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), but it sets up one of the most astonishing plot turns of the final eight episodes yet. Each week we’re consistently thwarted by any expectations of where the writers of “Breaking Bad” will take the show, but the key twist of “Confessions” is a true jaw dropper. So this week, instead of going through the turn-by-turn of what happened across the episode, we’re going to deviate slightly because there are a few observations that need to be made along the way.

Last week’s “Buried” saw Hank (Dean Norris) walk into the holding cell where an emotionally shattered Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was being questioned for tossing millions of dollars out the window of his car. And as things opened up last night, Hank comes looking to bury Heisenberg instead. He circles Jesse, and tries to reason and encourage him to roll on Walt, not only so he can avoid charges for his own crimes, but free himself from what is a very apparent heavy conscience. Having been beaten severely by Hank in the past (in season three’s “One Minute“), it’s no surprise that Jesse calmly tells him, “Eat me.” And as Hank persists, Jesse goads him, asking if he’d rather beat the answer out of him. But Hank doesn’t have much time to continue his line of questioning as Saul (Bob Odenkirk) finally arrives on the scene, having heard of Jesse’s arrest on television. And while he’s rightfully pissed, Walt orders Saul to bail him out of jail.

Meanwhile, Walt has his own problems to deal with. Hank, and now Marie (Betsy Brandt), are like two dogs with a bone, and when Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte) is randomly invited over to their house under the pretext of helping Marie with computer problems, a plan of action is set in motion. First, Walt tells his son that his cancer is back, this time in his lung, but that he’s undergoing chemo and everything will be fine. Of course, this news endears Walt Jr. to his Dad, and he’s not going anywhere. But with Marie trying to take off with Holly last week, and now this, an understanding has to be reached. So a meeting is put together between both couples at a taqueria. And it’s a crackling sequence.

The first thing to notice is that Marie’s usual purple attire has been swapped out for a plain black dress. The costume design on “Breaking Bad” has always keyed into the mood of characters, and this is certainly a dynamic shift for Marie, but understandable given that she’s reeling from the news she’s learned about her sister. Hank, of course, is seething, Skyler (Anna Gunn) remains loyal to Walt but enigmatic, while Marie wants the full force of the DEA to deal with this, now. But as Walt once again puts forth, there is no evidence, and he wants his children left out of whatever plans Hank might be cooking up to try and bring him to justice. And moreover, it’s over. There is no more drug empire, there is no Heisenberg. He’s a ghost. But it’s not enough. Marie coldly states that if Walt truly wants to help his family, he should commit suicide. After all, if his thesis is that he’ll either die of cancer or in jail anyway, why not just end it now so everyone can move on? Meanwhile, Hank demands a full confession. And well, he gets it.

Once again confirming Walt as a frighteningly quick study on human motivation, he already knows it’s what Hank would ask for, and he’s prepared for it. He gets up to leave the taqueria with Skyler, but gives Hank a DVD before he goes. And indeed it’s a confession … and a warning. On the disc is Walt’s most diabolical piece of manipulation yet. Contained within is an Oscar calibre performance, with Walt stating that if anyone is watching it, he’s already dead, and Hank did it. And from there he paints a surprisingly plausible scenario that pins Hank as Heisenberg and Walt as the chemist, coerced into cooking for him. In a pretty amazing piece of spin doctoring, and almost every little evidentiary thread is turned around by Walt and pinned on Hank, with the capper being the $177,000 of “gambling winnings” that Marie took to help pay for her husband’s physical rehabilitation. It’s a swift piece of blackmail with Walt essentially warning Hank that if he comes after him, Walt is fully prepared to try and take him down. It’s an extreme measure, but one taken by Walt to secure the stability of his family. But would Skyler really cut the cord with her sister with such finality?

“… it’s not necessarily that Skyler has strong feelings of love for Walt. What Skyler wants is for her family to be OK,” writer Gennifer Hutchison told Vulture. “Walt has this cancer diagnosis and, for me, Skyler’s clinging to the thought that if she can just make it until he dies of the cancer, everything will be OK. The kids never have to find out what they’ve done.” And it makes sense. While “Buried” made it seem like Skyler might be going full Lady Macbeth, it appears that she’s now fortifying her own position; sticking to Walt but also planning for the inevitability that the day will come when he’s not around, and all she has left is her children.

With that one problem out of the way for now, Walt moves on to his next task—Jesse. “It’s always the desert,” Saul quips as he waits with Jesse out in the middle of nowhere to meet with Walt. And when he arrives, all he wants to know at first is what Jesse found out from Hank. And his former accomplice confirms his own suspicions, that Hank hasn’t taken his theories up the chain of command yet, and probably doesn’t have any hard evidence to go with. And turning on a dime, Walt goes from concerned criminal, to parental figure, advising Jesse that maybe now is the time to split town and start his life over. Walt claims he doesn’t like to see Jesse suffer, but his partner isn’t having any of it. He breaks down, pleading with Walt to be honest with him for once, that he doesn’t care about his emotional fate, but what he represents—a potential threat to Walt’s security and freedom. But Walt simply hugs the crying Jesse, a gesture that’s self-serving, and pushes Jesse towards deciding to leave.

Jesse bounces back to Saul’s office, with the lawyer putting everything in motion, making the call, getting the money together and bidding him a fond farewell, and hilariously giving him a Hello Kitty phone just in case the mysterious contact—who will give Jesse his new life—doesn’t show up. Jesse is nervous and uncertain, with something still ticking away in the back of his mind. He attempts to roll a joint, which Saul angrily snuffs out emphasizing that if Jesse is high, the deal will be off. Jesse is eventually hustled out of the office and heads to another middle-of-nowhere location, with a bag of money and his future literally driving up to him at any moment. He waits and reaches for his little plastic bag of weed … it’s gone. Huell (Lavell Crawford) must have lifted it off him. Fine. But it’s a pack of cigarettes and Jesse’s frenzied mind that finally puts the pieces together. It was Walt. He had the ricin. Jesse bails on the rendezvous and races back to Saul’s office, kicking the shit out of him, and getting him to confess he lifted the ricin cigarette off Jesse and gave it back to Walt. Jesse knows. It was Walt who poisoned Brock. It was Walt who made him break it off with Andrea. It was Walt who ruined his life. And now, Jesse has purpose. Vengeance. And in the last scene we see him kick down the door at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, storm inside and pour gasoline all over the house. And while Saul has warned Walt, with Heisenberg grabbing a gun stashed in the car wash soda machine and peeling out, he may be too late…

Thoughts & Observations

Oh, we forgot the cold open, right? Not exactly. “Confessions” begins with Todd (Jesse Plemons) in a roadside diner, bragging to his Nazi uncles about the train heist in “Dead Freight,” openly dropping the names of Walter White and Jesse and how they got away with it. But even more crucially, before he does that, Todd is outside on his cell phone leaving a message for his former mentor, letting him know about Lydia’s (Laura Fraser) former supplier Declan (Louis Ferreira) and the “change in management.” We never see Walt get the message or even acknowledge the call and this is key. 

Hutchinson semi-confirms that this relationship between Walt and Todd is one-sided. “Yeah, that’s kind of it. The thing I like about Todd is he’s obviously not really a functional member of society in a lot of ways,” she notes, adding: “… he also just shot a child for no reason. He tells that story about how the train heist went off perfectly and doesn’t even mention that he killed a kid.” Todd is kindness wrapped in a mercenary package, and he may be just what Walt needs to keep his family together, but more crucially, save himself and his loved ones from Jesse. Will Walt fall further and put himself in league with Todd’s uncles? And remember, we’re still yet to find out how that big ass gun comes into play, and who is able to supply it to him.

There is also the fate of the White homestead. While it seems Jesse will be the one who—as we’ve seen already in flash forwards— destroys the White residence, nothing can be taken for granted on this show. And we’re still yet to see what Walter does that’s so horrific, that his next door neighbour (as we saw at the beginning of the season) is paralyzed when she sees him again. Does he get found out? Can Walt spin the destruction of his house to further implicate Hank? Where is Skyler’s breaking point? She’s slid over to the Heisenberg side, but as we witnessed in her car wash office as she stared off into space—with Walt ominously nearly entirely in silhouette—the strain is already getting to her.

Five more episodes to go and it’s going to be wild, wild ride. [A]

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