Spoiler Alert!- Read if you want, but there are many spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet.
GLIDING o'er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul--not life alone,
Death, many deaths I'll sing.
Walter White may have sung his last death. He’s managed to escape it- through luck, chemotherapy, the help of Jesse and others, and his own intuition- on numerous occasions over the past year of his life and the past four and half seasons of the show. Although we know Walt is still alive by his 52 birthday, he is on his own, on the run from a very dangerous foe(s), and appears to have lost everything he has risked so much for. After last night’s mid-season finale, how it will all end is still entirely unclear; however, the writers were kind enough to lay the framework for the true beginning of Walt’s demise. After having wrapped up all remaining loose ends, made enough money for “ten lifetimes”, paid his debt to Jesse, and declared he’s “out”, life seems to have returned to normal for Walt, but just when he thought he was out…
Title- “Gliding Over All”
In what was probably one of the more brilliant titles in the show’s history- “Faceoff” from Season 4’s finale is my favorite- the writers have craftily managed to encapsulate plot development, character, and theme so perfectly and poetically with its mid-season finale’s title. “Gliding Over All” is the title of a Walt Whitman poem, which comes from Whitman’s classic Leaves of Grass, a book which Gail Beticker had purchased for Walter as a gift, which finally provides Hank the missing link of his investigation. Finally, after many seasons and episodes of wondering HOW Hank would finally figure it all out, one of the biggest questions of the remaining season and entire series has been answered, and to steal from other site’s reviews of the episode, achieved true “poetic justice”. Moreover, the poem also seems to capture Walt’s arrogance, with his unbridled belief in his superior intellect, which he believes has allowed to escape cleanly. Finally, the poem’s final line, “Death, many deaths I’ll sing” reinforces the themes most consistent and longest running theme, Death. Yet how exactly it relates to the show’s portrayal of death, or Walter, is still open to speculation. Obviously Walter has overseen many deaths, in this episode more than ever, and as previously noted, he has escaped many deaths for himself, so it seems that the poems final line is referring to both aspects of death both of the past and still to come in the final eight episodes.
Scene 1- “Pick Yourself Up”
Speaking of death, the writers took a stab and succeeded in capturing the most intense shiving scene since HBO’s OZ. In classic Breaking Bad fashion, they managed to keep the multiple stabbings lighthearted by playing an upbeat Frank Sinatra tune, “Pick Yourself Up”, thus offsetting one of the more gruesome multiple murder scenes in entertainment history. Again, the sequence seemed to be a homage to the end of The Godfather, when Michael has all of his enemies killed while at his son’s baptism. Although Walter wasn’t at a baptism, he remained at home, the house of his wife and children, enhancing the contrast of innocence and violence so well.
Scene 2- Meth & Money Montage?
I was disappointed by the montage that sped the episode and series along a few months, and it made me wonder how many homes need such intense, long-term fumigation. I was confused by the sudden establishment of Walt and Lydia’s international expansion without the consultation between the Phoenix crew. Is Walt merely cooking with Lydia now, or is he supplying both parties separately, or is there a new partnership established between all of them? Lydia’s neurotic nature, more than anything makes me question this new arrangement, because she doesn’t seem to trust anyone and it was never made clear if she met Walt’s Phoenix business associates. It doesn’t make sense that Walt is simply cooking for Lydia because technically the Phoenix crew owns the methylene. Finally, I confused about all of the money Walt has made and Skyler has been storing away. Is that money simply from the past few months? Either way, it worked well enough in hindsight to move the show forward, but I hope some of these open-ended items will be addressed in the final eight episodes.
Scene 3- Fond Memories
Walter and Jesse’s trip down memory lane was another great scene, if not somewhat ridiculous. Sometimes the show struggles with its timeline. Since all of the events have only occurred over one year for the characters, it seems a bit implausible that Walter and Jesse would be speaking of events that didn’t happen so long ago with such nostalgia. However, for the viewers, the memories of the RV and the original partnership of Walt and Jesse work well to remind them how far the two have come over the four and half seasons of the show. While Jesse obviously feared the worst in the unexpected meeting, by portraying the relationship between the two in a state of seeming concord, it leaves the culmination of their troubled association still in suspense and the true worst yet to come.
Scene 4- Chasing Monsters
“Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters.” Certainly true and certainly poignant considering Hank is expressing such thoughts to the very monster he’s been chasing for the past year. Yet, it’s Walt’s sentiment that he “used to love to go camping” that seems the more important here. Although this scene occurred earlier in the episode, the significance in relation to Walt’s changing demeanor throughout the episode is worth analyzing. With Walt happily playing with his daughter, and then Hank’s recollection of his earlier, more pleasant job, the theme of loss of innocence is portrayed so well, and it is clear through Walt’s own reflection that he recognizes this loss, apparently more than ever. This self-reflection is something arguably more important than any other development in the show, and although extremely sudden, it’s essential nonetheless for it reestablishes the most important conflict of the show: Walt’s vacillation between good and evil.
Scene 5- Dr Jekyll or Mr. Hyde
The abruptness with which Walt has resolved his inner demons is definitely questionable. After years of developing a character transformation that seemed irreversible, the writers have turned a new corner on Walter White’s road to self-destruction. As shocking as this turn may be, the writers and Bryan Cranston still pulled it off so well, with the ever so subtle scenes of Walt staring contemplatively off multiple times throughout the episode. His reflective focus on the fly, the painting, the pool, the smashed up towel dispenser all convey a man at a loss and a man at peace, equally, at the same time. My favorite of the four was certainly the pondering that occurred at the mangled dispenser, with Walt unable to see his true reflection. Even though the show’s direction at the end implies that Walt, and Skyler, are heading down a path of reformation, together, Walt’s chances of redemption are definitely more unstable. And even though we know something is going to go awry, the writers have still managed to force us to ask whether Walt has he reigned in his anger, resentment, and arrogance enough to actually move forward and reclaim his soul and a normal life. The dramatic irony of knowing that he can’t and won’t only makes his impending turn back to Mr. Hyde all the more tragic.
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.