Breaking the Bad News: Heisenberg has fallen

Listen to this article

“You are a time bomb. Tick, tick, ticking. And I have no intention of being around for the boom.”

Thus were the words spoken by Cleaner/PI Mike Ehrmantraut in response to Walt’s proposal that he join the reformed Heisenberg team as a dealer in early season five of Breaking Bad. While Mike was one of the characters often gifted with wise words, this quote in particular stands out because it connects the audience to the one character that can see through Walt’s guise, self-interest, and manipulation and who also has the ability to take him down.

Warning: Spoilers abound

So when Mike meets an unfortunate (and pretty heart-wrenching) end, Walt effectively removes the last person standing in his way of empire building glory. But for four seasons, millions of viewers had also known that Heisenberg was a ticking time bomb and that it was only a matter of time until Walt reached the end of his fuse.

End of the line for Walter White?
End of the line for Walter White?

That end seemed otherwise flawed when the rest of season five, highlighted by awkwardly paired music and montage scenes, introduced some of the worst characters of the series. Plus it had Walt choosing to cook in a number of bug infested houses which was completely inconsistent with the fact that he spent an entire day chasing a fly in his lab, paranoid about contamination, and an entire series fussing over purity. Not to mention Walt was recklessly spreading footprints and clues, something he had always taken care in avoiding.

Executive Producer Vince Gilligan and crew first and foremost took a giant misstep in the character of Lydia, an executive at Madrigal and former associate of Gus Fring who seems to  lack the mental capacity of being able to fulfill either of these positions. She’s obviously meant to be the “Devil in Prada” (because females are involved in the meth industry, too) but her simple ordering of evil deeds in a nonchalant way doesn’t make her evil the same way Gus’ customer service friendly day job made him all the more a monster.

Lydia- not one of the better portrayed characters
Lydia- not one of the better portrayed characters

Her character is so poorly written and lacking of a defined personality that it appears she was thrown into a story she didn’t belong in just to keep it moving. Similarly, Jessie Plemmons portrays Todd, the sociopathic former exterminator, so blandly that he appears only as an eyesore trying to blend in with the desert landscape. The bland one liners he occasionally pops out aren’t enough to create personality or stir up interest neither are the bland conversations he has with his Uncle, a member of a white supremacist brotherhood out for blood. How convenient.

In any case, we’ve come to expect more from Bad than the disarray that was season five, part I.In the same breathtaking fashion that Gilligan first used to draw us into the saga of Walter White, though, he gave us a final scene (in the bathroom, no less) where Hank, Walt’s DEA agent brother-in-law makes a discovery that pieces together the mystery of Heisenberg. Fade to black.

Has the bomb exploded? Not yet, but the pressure gauge has nearly reached its breaking point.

Cut to part II, episode 6, and look around. You’ll still see millions of viewers with jaws dropped in astonishment, distracted at work and at school because the anticipation has them countlessly rethinking and retooling their end theories. Along with his right hand man, Hank is dead. He met a dignified end but not in a way many saw coming. Walt’s son, the only family still left on his side, knows about his father’s double life. And Anna Gun as Skyler gives a series best performance full of raw emotion as she reaches her breaking point in putting up with her husband.

Would she have actually killed Walt with the knife had she had the chance? It’s certainly not something the old Skyler would have ever thought of but her involvement in Walt’s meth business has left her mental state unclear as well. There’s a giant rumor floating around that she might become one of Walt’s victims due to the fact that he mimics her arranging of bacon on his 52nd birthday breakfast and he’s taken on a characteristic of several people he’s killed in the past.

Skyler takes a knife swing at Walt.

Let’s not forget that Gilligan suppressed the rumor that baby Holly would meet the same fate as her pink and white clothes link her to the pink and white teddy bear that “died” in the season two plane collision over the White’s house and landed in their pool. Though she was kidnapped by her own father, he gave in and returned her, unable to corrupt the pure innocence of a child. So perhaps she does symbolize something after all? The fall of Heisenberg? Or is Gilligan just manipulating us?

Back to the criminal side of things, other problems befall our antihero. Not only has the DEA essentially been taken out, Jesse is taken captive by the still bland Todd and his Uncle’s gang. Though Walt pretty much sold him out, it’s likely part of a plan to instead take down the group (and Lydia, please) as he was unarmed and that was the only way he himself could escape. Confessing his part in Jane’s death might as well have been a twisted way of making Jesse go along with it and an earlier flash forward saw Walt carrying an M60 machine gun meaning he’s out for revenge and they’re the only enemy that would require such force.

Will Jesse survive?
Will Jesse survive?

Will Jesse make it through to the end of Breaking Bad? That’s probably as likely as Walt making it through and he has next to nothing to live for after losing both his family and his money. History has repeated several times for Walt and if we want to be literal about it, it’s worthy to point out that Werner Heisenberg, a renowned chemist and professor, died of cancer in 1976 after theorizing quantum mechanics with two other scientists. Only Heisenberg came out on top, winning credit and the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

But who knows if Gilligan even pays attention to history and maybe, just maybe, he has one happy ending up his sleeve. It is a show about family values, right?

The final boom plays out in two extended 75 minute episodes of beginning tonight at 9:00 p.m. on AMC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.