Spoiler Alert!- Read if you want, but there are many spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet.
Sunday finally ended the growing anticipation for the premiere of the final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Hailed by more and more TV critics as the “Best Show of All Time!”, Breaking Bad has reached its zenith of worship status amongst much of the general viewing public, achieving a cult following unlike any show in recent history. And the admiration is certainly worth it, because for the first four seasons, the Breaking Bad team of actors, writers, directors, and producers has managed to maintain a seemingly flawless show worthy of serious attention and not just the standard water cooler, casual conversation. Therefore, for the remaining sixteen episodes of Breaking Bad, eight this summer and eight next summer, I will be analyzing specific details and scenes from each episode.
Title- “Live Free or Die”
It’s obvious that the writers want to establish very clearly the idea of death and the effort to escape from it, a recurring theme throughout all four seasons so far. Now that Walter White is truly death incarnate, having beaten it himself on countless occasions, it seems to me that the title of the first episode serves as a warning to all who are near to Walter to run for their lives and free themselves of his fatal nature. As Mike, Gus’s former hitman and now potential ally of Walter and Jesse, says to Walter in the official trailer, “You’re trouble. You’re a time bomb, tick, ticking away, and I have no intention of being around for the boom.” If only it was that easy. Realistically, I don’t expect anyone to escape Walt’s sinister madness, even Walt himself.
Scene 1- “You Scare Me”
Again, the writers are wasting no time establishing that Walter has taken a major turn for the worst, or best as far as good TV goes. They’ve been setting up this transformation to the dark side for four seasons, and in the opening episode, they don’t seem to want there to be any confusion- Walter is freaking sociopathic! This new reality is conveyed through the impact Walter’s change has had on his closest confidant, his wife Skyler, who after returning home from DEA protective custody from the end of season four, point blankly tells Walter, “You scare me” and then leaves the room. Walter doesn’t seem too disturbed by this, and later will use this Machavelian power over his wife to his own sick satisfaction.
Scene 2- Hank’s Walking
At the end of season four, Hank, the only one remotely on Walt’s tail, albeit unwittingly, is still confined to a wheelchair. And although his suspicions have all been validated and his case seems to be concluded, he does see the cameras that provide the only potential lead to Walt and Jesse. It is evident that Hank will not be satisfied until someone is in cuffs, so it won’t be long until he’s back on Walt’s trail, which will probably bring about one of the more intense faceoffs of the show, more than likely forcing Walt to cross the last line of depravity by having to kill his brother-in-law and best friend.
Scene 3- Skyler’s Apology?
One of the major question marks at the end of season four was the fate of Ted Beneke, Skyler’s former boss and lover. Having tripped and slid head first into his own counter after trying to elude the henchmen sent by Skyler to force him to pay the IRS and avoid any investigation of himself and Skyler’s “book cooking” left many viewers wondering if he was dead. Keeping Ted alive works very well for the development of Skyler, who continues down her own path of morally questionable decisions. While not nearly as demented as her husband, Skyler seems to be feeling more and more comfortable with the power of other’s fear. Although she visits Ted in the hospital to apologize and probably deny her involvement, when Ted tells Skyler that he won’t tell anyone, obviously terrified of her and the possible repercussions, there’s an immediate change in her face that seemed to indicate something far more satisfying than Ted’s silence. Although she’s scared of Walt, is it possible that this fear could turn into admiration and that Walt will drag Skyler into the same dungeon of depravity?
Scene 4- Magnets
As far as character development goes, the one character with the most arch left is, ironically, the one that creator Vince Gilligan intended to kill off in season one, Jesse. Jesse’s transformation throughout the first four seasons, while not as mesmerizing as Walt’s, has been far more dynamic and much more of a roller coaster, as opposed to Walt’s one dimensional path. Jesse is the one story of real redemption left, and it is yet to be seen if Walt’s manipulation of him will win out and drag Jesse down the same dark path. However, for the final season, it is obvious the writers intend to make Jesse much more of a formidable opponent for Walt. It is Jesse who is able to convince Mike not to kill Walt, and it is Jesse who suggests the idea of a magnet to destroy Gus’s laptop, which seems to contain the only evidence of Walt, Jesse, and Mike’s culpability in Gus’s meth production. The fact that the plan works and deters the authorities, for the time being, truly conveys that Jesse has come into his own, and that he will pose the greatest threat to Walt’s ascent. The eventual showdown between Walt and Jesse is the ultimate remaining question mark of the show and will be sure not to disappoint.
Scene 5- “Because I said so” & “I forgive you”
Yes, these are two separate scenes, but they both serve the same purpose to establish Walt’s complete and irreversible conversion from a sympathetic, ethically compromised man to a narcissistic, morally corrupted monster. After successfully using the magnet to destroy the laptop and any evidence of their involvement in the meth cooking business, Walt and Jesse are forced to leave the truck and magnet behind. After Mike’s expression of concern, Walt’s assurance that nothing is traceable “because I said so” is a sign of Walt’s arrogance and the perfect extension of the season four culminating line, “I won” after successfully killing Gus. Finally, the closing scene of the episode, bringing Walt and Skyler back together in the bedroom, solidifies Walt’s self perception as the true king, granting Skyler a disturbing pardon for her role in the Ted Beneke debacle. The scene functioned as a subtle homage and brilliant contrast to the final scene of The Godfather when Kay looks on as Michael is being bowed down to by his subordinates as the door closes, thus truly detaching Kay from Michael’s world of the criminal underbelly. The difference here though is that Skyler knows everything and Walt is more than happy to have her aware of his achievements and new found power. Walter’s unscrupulous demeanor knows no limits now, which is conveyed disturbingly well in this concluding scene as he pulls Skyler in close and whispers “I forgive you”. For Skyler and her children, the only question is will she run and live or stay and die.
Patrick Edmonds is a co-founder, editor, and writer for/of The Lunch Break. His passions include Food, Arts & Entertainment, and Education. You can follow Patrick Edmonds on facebook and on Twitter @patrickedmonds1.