Browsing Tag

Walter White

Breaking Bad Recap: “Gliding Over All”

Skyler (Anna Gun) and Walter (Bryan Cranston) in a scene from Breaking Bad's "Gilding All Over." (AMC)
Skyler (Anna Gun) and Walter (Bryan Cranston) in a scene from Breaking Bad’s “Gilding All Over.” (AMC)

Season 5, Episode 8: “Gliding Over All”
Purity level: 70%

For all of you Breaking Bad addicts out there, welcome to withdrawal. There are only eight episodes left in the entire series, but we won’t get another fix until the show returns for its final mini-season next summer. To send us off, we were treated to a summer finale titled “Gliding Over All” (fittingly named after a Walt Whitman poem that ends with the telling line, “Death, many deaths I’ll sing”).

But following last week’s plot-packed installment that included Jesse’s defection and Mike’s death, this episode could have easily been entitled “Inertia,” which is Walter’s explanation to Jesse about why they didn’t use their drug money to buy a better RV when they were first starting out. Anyone expecting an explosive, action-packed finale was instead treated to a contemplative, sometimes slow hour that seems just as concerned with looking back as it is with moving forward (the risin capsule, Leaves of Grass, the hospital test, the dented paper towel dispenser, the hotel painting and the housefly that mesmerizes Walter in the opening moments are all callbacks to previous seasons).

Not that the plot doesn’t progress. Todd officially takes over as Walter’s new right-hand man, Lydia convinces Walter to spare her life and let her take his operation global, Walter orchestrates the prison killings of Mike’s men, and Jesse finally gets his $5 million. And the sluggish first half gives way to some major revelations in the final act: Walter abruptly quits the business, which (of course!) is when Hank discovers Gale’s inscription in Walter’s book and realizes that one of those “monsters” he’s been chasing is his own brother-in-law. Just when Walter thought he was out, they pull him back in.

This Week’s ‘Who’s Bad?’ Index:

Walter: What exactly was it that made Walter finally decide to quit the meth game? Was it the moment he came face-to-face with more money than he could spend in 10 lifetimes? Has his cancer returned? Was it the exhausting realization that building an empire can eventually feel as much like a grind as teaching high school? Did his chat with Jesse about inertia make him realize he’s stuck while everyone else has moved on? Whatever caused his sudden about-face, Walter seems content to finally return to boring, domestic bliss. He even began treating the two people closest to him (Sklyer and Jesse) with compassion again. In just a few short scenes, he stopped being the show’s villain and was re-established as a protagonist we want to root for. Too bad it won’t last. 6 blue crystals out of 10

Skyler: Speaking of about-faces, what the heck happened to Sklyer in this episode? The last time we saw her she was a zombified shell who could barely stand to be in the same room as Walter. But now that she’s got a brand new pile of cash, she’s welcoming her husband back with open arms? Her new acceptance of his monstrous deeds is about as believable as her sudden inability to count money. 5 blue crystals out of 10

Jesse: Walter stopped off at Jesse’s to drop off his cut and engage in some awkward small talk, but Jesse was armed the entire time and opened the bags Walter left behind as if he expected them to contain bodies, not cash. Walter may be trying to make things right, but it’s too little, too late; their relationship is damaged beyond repair. 4 blue crystals out of 10

Final thoughts:

-Is there a better looking show on TV right now? Director Michelle MacLaren should win a boatload of Emmys for this episode’s stunning visuals, from the gruesome prison sequence to the time-lapse skylines to the riveting meth operation montage that was expertly stitched together with match cuts.

-Speaking of Emmys, the show’s sound director also deserves kudos. What a wonderfully macabre choice to use Nat King Cole’s jaunty “Pick Yourself Up” to soundtrack some of the most brutal prison killings ever seen on the small screen. And using Tommy James & the Shondells’ peppy “Crystal Blue Persuasion” for the meth montage was pure genius.

-It will be interesting to see how Jesse gets pulled back into the action for the final eight installments. Aaron Paul was only in two briefs scenes in this episode, and the show was poorer for it.

-Let’s hope next year’s summer premiere picks up seconds where we left off. What will Hank’s reaction be? Will he come barging out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles and his gun drawn, or will he decide to help cover up Walter’s secret (which he himself has benefitted from, albeit unknowingly)? We can’t wait to find out!

Meanwhile, check out the latest edition of our Breaking Bad podcast:

(This recap was originally posted on

Breaking Bad Recap: Say My Name

Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in the closing, heart-wrenching moments of Breaking Bad's "Say My Name."
Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut) and Bryan Cranston (Walter White) in the closing, heart-wrenching moments of Breaking Bad’s “Say My Name.”

Season 5, Episode 7: “Say My Name”

Purity level: 95%

I’m beginning to worry what my neighbours must think of me. For the past seven weeks, almost without fail, I scream at my TV every Sunday night at exactly 10:55 p.m. And this week, my screams must have been deafening. Even though the scenes leading up to this episode’s jaw-dropping final moments hinted at what was about to happen (when Walter eyed the ‘go bag’ full of money and passports, I actually scribbled in my notepad Walter, don’t you dare hurt Mike!), the death of one of this show’s most compelling characters still sent my vocal chords into overdrive.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The episode opens with Walter, Mike and Jesse meeting Declan and his gang in the desert to work out a new deal. Walter convinces Declan to fire his cook and sell his meth instead based on its 99.1% purity (“Yours is just some tepid, off-brand, generic cola; what I’m making is Classic Coke”).

With the deal done and his $5 million share secured, Mike leaves the team and hands his haul to his lawyer, who divvies it up between Mike’s nine men in prison and his granddaughter. Jesse tries to leave as well, but Walter’s not letting him off the hook that easily. First, he makes him endure yet another awkward encounter with Skyler as they retrieve the hidden methylamine from the carwash. He then launches into a desperate pitch to get Jesse to reconsider, first plying him with flattery (“Start a new lab that you’ll run; a cook all on your own. Why not? You deserve it”), then deriding his life choices (“What have you got in your life? Nothing, nobody. Video games and go-carts”), and finally trying to poke holes in his sanctimony (“Isn’t it filthy blood money? You’re so pure and have such emotional depth”). But Jesse is disgusted by Walter’s increasingly transparent manipulations and is determined to walk away, even if it means walking away from his $5 million cut.

Walter loses no time replacing Jesse with the always eager Todd, who can’t wait to learn the cooking process and even refuses payment until he “gets it right.” But there’s trouble brewing: Walter overhears Hank and Gomez talk about closing in on Mike. He is able to warn Mike, who evades arrest but he can’t grab his escape bag without being spotted. Saul can’t sneak off and Mike refuses to put Jesse in danger, so Walter is stuck grabbing it and bringing it to Mike. But nothing’s simple with Walter. He can’t just hand off the bag and be on his way; he badgers Mike about the identities of his nine men, the two argue, and when Mike gets into his car to drive away, Walter runs up to his window and shoots him.

Unlike Gus’s explosive death last season, Mike’s is fittingly quiet, contemplative and resigned. Bleeding from the stomach, he crawls out of his car and sits by a lake to watch the sunset. “I’m sorry, Mike,” Walter stammers in the world’s worst apology. “I just realized that Lydia has the names. This whole thing could have been avoided.” But Mike refuses to have the last words he ever hears come from Walter White. “Shut the f**k up,” he barks through clenched teeth. “Let me die in peace.” The camera pans out; we don’t even see Mike die; we just hear the thud of his body hitting the ground. And with that, the first of our gang meets an untimely end. I’m betting he won’t be the last.

This Week’s ‘Who’s Bad?’ Index:

Walter: Why did Walter kill Mike? It wasn’t to get the names of his nine men. It wasn’t even to steal Mike’s money and passport and create a new identity. Walter shot Mike because he pissed him off and hurt his pride. That’s the kind of man he’s become. 9 blue crystals out of 10

Mike: He may have died at the hand of his most hated adversary, but at least he went out like the stoic, straight-up badass we’ve always known him to be. He even managed to call out Walter for who he really is: “All of this falling apart like this is on you…you and your pride and your ego. You just had to be the man. If you’d done your job and known your place, we’d all be fine right now.” 8 blue crystals out of 10

Hank: There’s only one episode left this year, and I’m betting that Hank and his inevitable discovery of Heisenberg’s true identity is going to play into next week’s cliff-hanger. Now that Mike isn’t around to pay his nine incarcerated men, one of them is sure to turn. And did anyone else notice that part of the scene in Hank’s office looked like it was shot by a surveillance camera? Perhaps Walter’s bug planting was caught on tape? 2 blue crystals out of 10

Meanwhile, AMC’s behind-the-scenes video on the episode is just as heartbreaking as the show’s closing moments. How can you not tear up a little when Jonathan Banks says “I asked Bryan to come and hold my hand with me ’cause it’s a mother****ing tough day.” And the crew members wearing black armbands in his honour? Sob!

(This recap was originally posted on

Breaking Bad Recap: “Hazard Pay”

Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in Breaking Bad's "Hazard Pay." (AMC)
Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in Breaking Bad’s “Hazard Pay.” (AMC)

Season 5, Episode 3: “Hazard Pay”
Purity level: 80%

Even in the criminal underworld, there are varying levels of morality. Mike, who has been made a full partner alongside Walter and Jesse, is the quintessential “stand up guy.” Sure, he gets his hands dirty when the job requires it, but he’s going to look out for his men and stay true to his word. This episode opens with Mike visiting his nine henchmen in prison and ensuring their ongoing loyalty by promising to recoup their hush money, which has been frozen because of the DEA’s investigation of Gus Fring. “You will be made whole,” he promises them, not just because he doesn’t want them to flip, but also out of a personal sense of honour.

No such moral code exists for Walter, who decides to move back home without even bothering to consult his wife. He blithely unpacks his belongings, including a tattered copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (“Take warning – I am surely far different from what you suppose”), completely oblivious to Skylar’s horror. But who has time to notice a wife’s revulsion when there’s work to be done?

The gang sets out to find a new spot to set up their meth lab, with Saul leading them on a tour of potential Albuquerque front companies that includes a tortilla factory and last season’s laser tag facility. They settle on partnering with a crooked extermination firm who’ll set up tented, soon-to-be gassed homes – the perfect cover to cook in daylight. We’re treated to the welcome return of Jesse’s goofy pals, Badger and Skinny P, and introduced to a small crew of exterminators that includes Friday Night Lights’ Jesse Plemons. (Fingers crossed this episode’s revelation that Skinny P is a piano prodigy paves the way for Crucifictorious 2.0!)

After a mesmerizing cook sequence, Walter gently pries into Jesse’s personal life under the guise of father/son-type bonding. Jesse, desperate for Walter’s approval, listens in rapt attention to his mentor’s relationship advice. “Secrets create barriers between people,” says Walter, ostensibly encouraging Jesse to come clean to Andrea. “I know you’ll make the right call. If she loves you, she’ll understand.” But Walter knows that Jesse doesn’t expect anyone to forgive his sins (especially his soul-crushing part in Gale’s murder) when he can’t even forgive himself, and masterfully manipulates his impressionable sidekick into ending the only good thing he’s got going on in his life. Walter, of course, couldn’t care less about the emotional fallout. Once he realizes that Andrea’s out of the way, he can barely fake enough interest to let Jesse finish telling him about their split.

Not that Walter is entitled to be giving anyone else relationship advice. After a spectacular meltdown, a horrified Skylar awakens to find her husband bonding with his kids over the bloody ending of Scarface. Creator Vince Gilligan has often described the show in interviews as “Mr. Chips turns into Scarface,” and while the scene seems a little too on-the-nose for Breaking Bad, it’s redeemed when Walter is heard softly muttering with glee, “Everyone dies in this movie.” Foreshadowing, anyone?

Meanwhile, cracks are already starting to appear in Walter and Mike’s uneasy alliance. The final scene has them quibbling about how much money Mike’s incarcerated men should be allotted. The issue is seemingly resolved when Jesse shames Walter into agreeing to it by offering to cover his cut, but there’s clearly trouble ahead. The closing moment sees Walt musing to Jesse about Gus’ throat-slicing of Victor, suggesting that, like Icarus, “maybe he flew too close to the sun.” The implication is clear: this is what will happen when a subordinate like Mike (and possibly even Jesse) overreaches.

This Week’s ‘Who’s Bad?’ Index:

Skylar: The more unhinged Skylar becomes, the more of a threat she poses to Walter. From her glorious “shut up, shut up!” freakout in front of Marie to her increasingly unnerving interactions with her husband, she’s becoming a real contender in our “who’s going to take Walter down?” betting pool. It can’t be a coincidence that the standout moments of each episode so far this season feature her responding to her husband’s actions with a look of pure terror. 9 blue crystals out of 10.

Walter: Remember when Walt was terrified of contaminates, even going so far as to shut down the lab to prevent a housefly from polluting a batch of meth? Those worries are gone; he now has no problem cooking in a roach-infested house. It’s no wonder; from his casual encounter with a child he once poisoned to his manipulation of his sister-in-law to his episode-ending threat, the implication is clear: Walter has become the contamination. 8 blue crystals out of 10.

Jesse: Jesse no longer waits obediently for Walter to tell him what to do; instead, he’s now stepping up and offering solutions, from his magnet plan in the season premiere to his equipment moving scheme in this episode. Of course, he may be evolving in his professional life, but Walter is still pulling the strings in his personal life. 6 blue crystals out of 10.

(Article originally posted on