Breaking Bad: Ozymandias

Hank: "You're the smartest man I ever met, and you're too stupid to see he made up his mind ten minutes ago."

Before the final episodes began this summer, there was a Breaking Bad promo that consisted entirely of Bryan Cranston reciting the poem 'Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Now we know what this promo was for.

'Ozymandias' was a powerful, intense, moving and upsetting episode, possibly the best in the entire series. Although there are still two episodes to go, what happened here was rock bottom for Walt. The empire he initially started to provide money for his family has now crumbled. He has caused the death of his brother-in-law and destroyed his own family as well as Jesse, his former partner, a man he once treated like a son. It's hard to imagine what more damage Walt could possibly do to himself and others.

Let's start with the big one, and that's the courageous last moments of Hank Schrader. Hank started out as comic relief, a blustering caricature of a cop who was too incompetent to see that his biggest nemesis was developing right under his nose. Over the course of the series, Hank gradually acquired depth and complexity as a character, and as I grew to despise Walt, I became quite fond of Hank and wanted very much for him to take Walt down. Hank may have failed, but he got the last word and went out like a hero. And his death utterly destroyed Walt.

Even though it was the bottom of the barrel (so to speak) for Walt, I still saw glimpses of the good man he used to be. Walt was not only willing but desperate to trade his entire 80 million dollar fortune for Hank's life. Walt did come home to his family, although it would have been safer and smarter to just leave town without saying goodbye. He may have walked out the door with Holly, but I think that was an emotional spur-of-the-moment decision, since Holly was literally the only family member he had left who didn't hate him. And the fact that he rethought what he did and left her safely at a fire station was commendable, the proper action on his part.

The telephone conversation with Skyler was amazing, too. The first time through, all I heard was the genuine rage and anger Walt was expressing at her "betrayal", things he must have wanted to say to Skyler forever. But the second time through, I listened to what he was actually saying, and factored in that he was crying so hard that he fogged up his glasses. "You know nothing. It was only me, nobody else." Walt had to know that the cops were listening, and he took the blame for everything. He made Skyler sound like a victim, an abused and helpless prisoner of a monster. He even took the blame for killing Hank. It was almost a redemptive act on Walt's part, and Skyler had to be aware of it.

And yet, the cruelty of what Walt did to Jesse was overwhelmingly awful. Letting Todd take Jesse away to a horrible and lingering death? Choosing that moment to confess to Jesse that he'd let Jane die? It was even worse than just killing Jesse, who seemed ready to die; in what he thought were his last moments, Jesse looked up at the two birds in the blue sky as if he was ready to ascend. I was so upset about the prospect of Todd torturing Jesse that I almost couldn't handle it, but Dan immediately said, they won't kill Jesse, they'll make him cook for them. Of course.

Which brings me to Todd, who has become such a fascinating and revolting character. When Walt collapsed with grief over Hank, Todd looked at him as if he just didn't understand what was happening -- and then he gave Walt the cliche phrase, "I'm sorry for your loss." I really thought that Todd wanted someone to torture, but instead Todd already knew that Walt would never come back and cook for them. Todd thought it through.

Now that Hank is gone, I want even more for Jesse to make it to the end of the series, to find a real life for himself. In fact, what I really want now is for Walt to rescue Jesse, and die after succeeding in the attempt. Because if Jesse dies too, I don't know if I'll ever be able to rewatch this series. Come on, Vince Gilligan, you can at least give us that.

Poor Junior. His world just came to an end. Although he mostly drowned in confusion, he also came to his mother's defense, turned on his father and called the police. I was so afraid that either Skyler or Junior would end up getting stabbed. Fortunately, no -- the writers must have known that they'd done enough to us in this episode already.

Finally, a few words about the opener. It began with a boiling beaker, the RV, the pilot episode, and Walt telling Jesse that "the reaction has begun". Then we saw Walt composing his first lies to Skyler before she told him she wanted to name their baby girl Holly (as Jesse cavorted like a child in the background). Everything faded out, and the current situation faded in. Beginning and end. The scene was so well done that at first I thought it was a scene cut from the pilot episode.

This episode didn't make me cry -- at first. It sort of hit me in the face and I sat there, stunned. I did cry while watching it the second time, though.

Bits: (and you all know this is my section on symbolism and metaphor, right?)

-- Flashback Skyler sold "the hideous crying clown". Walt was, of course, a hideous crying clown shortly afterward. They tentatively decided to name their baby Holly, and holly is green; Walt had just started on the course that would lead him to millions of dollars.

-- The present day scene began with breaking glass.

-- Hank's death echoed the last moments in "One Minute", with him reaching for a bullet that might make the difference, except this time it didn't. Hank and Gomez were buried in the hole where the money was; the wages of sin are death.

-- I loved the juxtaposition of the handshake and the swastika, the money and the cow skull, and especially Skyler weighing the knife versus the phone.

-- Walt pushing the immense barrel of money was so Sisyphusian. Is "sisyphusian" a word? If it isn't, it should be. The light-hearted music playing during Walt's barrel roll included the lyrics, "Say goodbye to everyone."

-- Marie, now a widow, has been wearing black for several episodes now. When Junior learned the truth, he wasn't wearing stripes; he was wearing a blue jacket. Skyler's white outfit had blue cuffs that looked like mourning armbands.

-- There was the dinging of the seat belt that Junior wouldn't fasten. He wasn't safe any more and never will be again.

-- When Walt left the To'hajiilee site, he looked at the money pit/grave in the rear view mirror; he was leaving it behind. And when he left town, it was from the same place that Jesse was supposed to leave town, with that tombstone-like drainage whatever in the background.

-- The last shot was of a stray dog crossing the road. Remember the problem dog and the rabid dog? And a beaten Jesse was in chains like a dog, forced to cook with a photo of Andrea and Brock in front of him.

-- If you're interested in the verse and some analysis of the poem 'Ozymandias', check out the wikipedia page.

And pieces:

-- Steve Gomez's death was understandably overshadowed by Hank's, but I wanted to acknowledge that he was a good character, too. I always liked how he never seemed to let Hank's mildly annoying racist comments bother him. Gomez certainly knew that Hank cared about him, and vice versa. And now they're buried together. I'm going to cry a little now.

-- The scene between Skyler and Marie (in white and black) was exceptional, like everything else in this episode. The fact that Hank's death made Skyler take a stand and even draw a knife against Walt is to her credit.

-- At the end of the episode, Jesse had one eye swollen shut like it was in the pilot episode. Jesse under the car reminded me of Jesse under the train during the great train robbery. Like Hank and the bullet, it didn't save Jesse this time.

-- It was upsetting to hear Marie talking on and on about what Hank would do when she didn't know he was dead.

-- Gold acting stars for everyone. Especially Dean Morris, Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, R.J. Mitte, and Aaron Paul.

-- I wanted to start this review with OMFG, but I managed to restrain myself.


Hank: (to Jack) "Do what you're gonna d...."

Jack: "Jesus, what's with all the greed here? It's unattractive."
Although when you think about it, it was Jack's greed that will probably be his downfall. If he had just killed Walt (and probably Jesse, too) and taken all the money, took off without trying to continue cooking...

Walt: "I watched Jane die. I was there, and I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her, but I didn't."

Flynn: "Were you lying then or are you lying now? Which lie is it?"

This is how it's done, people. Five out of four barrels of money,

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


Ben P. Duck said...

When I saw Walt rolling the barrel across the desert, I immediately thought Sisyphus and Walt's hell of trying to somehow make this all work out for himself. Everytime he seems to make it, back down the hill he goes.

Jess Lynde said...

And now they've tripled down on the "be careful what you wish for" front. What an emotionally devestating hour! I was barely breathing through most of it, and hating myself for all these weeks (years!) of wanting to see everyone get Walt. Now Hank's dead, Gomey's dead, Jesse's been brutally beaten and imprisoned, and the Whites and Schraders have been completely shattered. And poor Brock and Andrea are still in danger.

I didn't cry until the very end. I came close when the Nazis were putting Gomey and Hank in the money pit, but I held back the tears. But then that shot of Holly crying in the firetruck just did me in. Seeing that scared little girl, abandoned by her daddy and longing for her mommy broke me. I started sobbing, and sat on the couch crying for a long while after the episode was over.

That final phone call was amazing (especially juxtaposed with the opening one). I agree that Walt was putting on an act for the cops to try to protect Skyler and the kids, but there was so much truth in everything he said. He has absolutely felt and thought those things over the course of the last year, even if he didn't completely mean it in that moment. Watching that scene, I believed every word he was saying was him going full Heisenberg. It wasn't until I saw that he left the baby behind that I considered it might be an act. It's kind of like his "confession" tape to make Hank the villain. Elements of truth sprinkled in with the lies. Only in this case, less lying and more truth.

A powerful and haunting hour.

Anonymous said...

When Walt is rolling his barrel, we can see on the ground his pants that he lost at his first cook.

I also really liked the firefighter moving a big white piece on the chestboard... I guess Walt has something big coming.

Mani said...

Great episode, very, very well done. See this Dexter writers, casting agents, this is how you do it! That baby was wonderful. She is the reason I cried. First when all she would say was "Mama" and then again in the fire truck. That face, so heartbreaking.

I felt shock on several occasions: when I saw Gomie dead and utter shock when Jack shot Hank, when Walt outed Jesse, when Skyler told Jr. about his Dad, when she drew the knife on Walt and cut him, the fight between them, him stealing the baby. Almost every moment of this episode was pure tension with great writing, acting and photography.

I hope that like Jesse, Walt has a change of heart about going incognito and goes back to get the rest of his money and maybe saves Jesse from servitude. We'll see what happens....

Josie Kafka said...


This episode hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as close to unbearable as I've ever seen TV be. I had to take two breaks--in which I got up and puttered around the house--just to process stuff before jumping back in. I've never had to do that before.

Break One came after Walter revealed Jesse's hiding place to Uncle Jack. Walter had just seen someone he thinks of as family killed. He'd clearly been upset. He was ripe for an epiphany. I expected an epiphany. He and Jesse were both prone on the ground, fallen completely from their happy-go-lucky first-episode cook. It was a classic set-up for an epiphany.

And Walter gave him up.

We don't often get "points of no return" in life, and Walter has gotten more than one opportunity to re-set everything. But I think he reached a point of no return when he confirmed the kill order on Jesse. If that scenario--Hank dead, the option to spare Jesse--didn't make him do the right thing, what would?

(I've read on the internet the idea that Walter blames Jesse for Hank's death, which is nonsense. We can blame Walter and the neo-Nazis for Hank's death.)

Break Two came after Marie told Skyler she had to tell Walt Jr. the truth. Skyler broke my heart in that scene, and Marie's self- certainty was just as difficult to watch.

By the episode's end, I probably should have taken another break, but I decided to plow through. The knife. Walt Jr. being completely awesome after his world was blown apart. (What a contrast, too: after trauma, Walter Sr.'s impulse is to kill; Walt Jr.s' impulse is to protect.)

I yelled "no" at the screen when Walter took the baby. It wasn't even "No, Walter, don't do it!" Because that's a fruitless plea. It was more like, "No, showrunners, don't make him do that, too! You can't pile this stuff on like that!"

Walter's phone call to Skyler was so painful. I think he meant every word, and I agree that he also wanted to leave Skyler an "out" so the cops wouldn't blame her for his meth empire.

But I also think it's worth pointing out that his phone call made it clear she had knowledge of his actions, and it introduced the idea of there being more to the "domestic dispute" than just a routine spousal knife-fight and babynapping. Walter put Skyler on the hook for explaining to the police what he was talking about.

That means Walter created a situation in which changing identities and leaving it all behind might finally appeal to Skyler. He forced her hand. And now she's in a bind that--from Walter's perspective--only he can rescue her from.

Josie Kafka said...

Oh: I forgot to add a shout-out to director Rian Johnson, who did "The Fly" as well as a few awesome films. He did an incredible job of making me miserable with this episode.

topher darling said...

I wonder if Walt grabbed Holly thinking, "What could I do to make Skyler a victim in this?" after the quick realization that his world had crumbled. He's a clever manipulator and I wouldn't put it past him.

I was actually thinking that Jesse facing a future of literally being tied to cooking meth for the rest of his (probably short) life seemed Sisyphan to me so it's funny that you Billie saw that as Walt rolled the barrel. The Sisyphusness of Jesse's situation hit me immediately. Well, right after I thought of the scene of Dabney Coleman being hooked to the garage door opener and flying backwards in 9-5 flashed across my mind.

Wonderful episode. Too wonderful in fact. I haven't watched Dexter episode 11 yet and now I don't think I can bring myself to do it. Breaking Bad just set the bar REALLY high.

Memz said...

I love this show. It might be my favorite show ever. I cry a lot during other shows, but I have never cried watching "Breaking Bad" because what they do to me is put me in such a state of shock I never have the opportunity to grieve. I cried at least thee times watching this episode. I was so speechless and in shock and like Billie, I felt for Walt. But then I remembered what he did to Jesse and I instantly hated him.

Bryan Cranston was absolutely amazing during this episode. Everyone was, but after 6 years of watching Cranston doing his thing --even more, because I used to watch "Malcolm in the Middle"-- you would think he couldn't surprise me anymore. I think even baby Holly was amazing here.

I really really need for Jesse to end up okay but I don't see how that's going to happen. Walt hates him and is not going to rescue him (also, he probably thinks Jesse is dead). Jesse somehow has to come up with a genius idea like the magnets or something. After seeing this episode I would've liked to see him dead instead of what Todd is doing to him.

Anyways, I think this episode was superb and infuriating and devastating and shocking and amazing, but it was so hard to watch.

I might need therapy after this. I'm pretty convinced I am not gonna make it. Vince Gilligan and the writers are slowly killing me and I am loving and hating every minute of it.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Jesse is trapped in a lab with some of the most dangerous chemicals in the world. With someone who is merciless, but not the brightest bulb in the box. Jesse has trained under Walter White for over a year (which is kind bizarre to say considering we're in season 5), who is a genius level manipulator. Jesse is the one who has come up with at least three (that I can think of off the top of my head) majorly impressive solutions to complicated problems that even Walter couldn't figure out.

For some reason, maybe I'm being optimistic, but I don't think Jesse will need saving.

Freaking spectacular episode.

I can't believe Hank is dead. This wasn't the end that I saw coming for him.

I keep coming back to Walter, and how all of this is his fault. Sure the world no longer has Gus, or Tuco, or the creepy twins, or Crazy 8, or the cartel, or so many others that really were horrible. However, how many countless lives has Walter destroyed with his product, how many more directly through his actions. Heisenberg would be a legend, a cautionary tale, a myth. Half forgotten like a statue covered in a millennia of sands.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Dear gods what an episode! How, how, how will the series end!?

I just can't figure out why Walt would give up Jesse if he DIDN'T blame him for the death of Hank?
His reasoning HAS to be "If Jesse hadn't betrayed me we wouldn't be in this position". He now so utterly hates Jesse for Hanks death and losing his money that he also wanted to destroy him with the story of how he didn't save Jane. What other, possible, motive could he have?

Anonymous said...

If Uncle Jack looks familar, he's played by Michael Bowen, a 'that guy' who played Danny Pickett on LOST. He's giving a great performance here. I don't think I've ever seen a bad performance on Breaking Bad.

Billie, I disagree with you about Todd wanting someone to torture. The thing I've noticed about the Nazis is that they don't seem needlessly sadistic, which almost makes them scarier. Todd is an empty human. He doesn't even have the sadism of Tuco because he simply can't summon the emotion. He won't torture Jesse because he likes to, but because it's a means to an end. I don't take any pleasure or displeasure in making tea. I just want the tea.

I also want to say how scary Jack has become, from a fairly minor (albeit crucial) character to the closest thing we have to an outside 'Big Bad'. And he even has some sense of honor. He's a scary guy.

Mike DiMasi said...

I want to bring out 2 scenes out that not a lot of people caught:

1- Walt rolling the barrel reminded me of when he and Jesse stole the chemicals and carried the barrel. And when watching the video Hank said "its a barrel you idiots! its round! roll it!"

2- Love how Hank got buried in the hole Walt dug for his money. So in effect...Walt literally dug Hank's grave.

Your Modest Guru said...

A lot of gut-punches. Hank's belated but inevitable execution at the top of the list. Props to Dean Norris for staying on the show a little longer and having the most devastating death I've seen on this show. So far.
Hank's death broke my heart, and it broke my heart how much it broke Walt's heart (in that closeup of him crying on the ground he looked just like Gus after he saw his friend get murdered). Especially his delivery when he accidentally confirms Hank's' death to clarify that he didn't kill him: "I tried to save him!" I almost cried. Cranston is freaking tremendous.

Watching the Nazis cheerfully make off with Walt's money and dumping Hank and Gomez in the ditch made my flesh crawl. Shattered visage, indeed. Walt is definitely not gonna forget being bullied into accepting 11 of his 80 million and shaking the hand of Hank's killer, not when he's fully transitioned into Heisenberg (or so it appears). We all saw how far Walt went to protect Hank from Gus.

As bland and superficial as he appears, Todd's got a real twisted mind. The entire sequence with Todd taking Jesse out of his people cage and introducing him to his new life as his pet cook felt like something out of a horror movie. Seems Todd didn't let it go when he punched him earlier this season for his "shit happens" explanation. For Jesse, it really must be worse than death.

Though he confessed that the evidence was at the Schrader house, Jesse frantically swore to Todd that only he, Gomez and Hank knew about Walt and the money. He knows Marie was in on the secret too. Wouldn't put it past Jesse to protect an innocent even when he's being brutally tortured. Doesn't mean Marie's in the clear yet. Maybe she'll go home and post Jesse's confession online before the Nazis get to it.

Since he basically gave Todd the go-ahead to torture Jesse, I doubt Walt's returned home with an M60 a year in the future to save him. If they ever see each other again, it will end with one or both of them dead.

If it isn't Jesse Walt's coming back for, I'm guessing Skyler, Walt Jr., Marie and even Holly are still in danger. The White house has still got to burn down. Maybe they will all go into the witness protection program? I kinda thought Skyler might get drunk from grief and pass out with a cigarette in her hand, igniting the gasoline in the rug. That might be a little too tragic.

That scene in the house was absolutely raw. Then again, it's also kind of funny because I remember an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where Hal got scared and pulled a knife on Malcolm. I guess screaming and violence was a bit more common in that family? Ha.

Every actor had their chance to shine in this episode. Such an amazing cast. Rj Mitte as Walt Jr. doesn't have as much screen time as the other characters, but he was just as good as the rest of the powerhouses on this show. Loved how quickly he turned on Walter, his hero, when it became quite clear that he is the bad guy. The danger, if you will.

I have never known exactly what to expect on Breaking Bad yet and I highly doubt I'll do any better with the last two episodes. I'm just so psyched to see a story told this well.

J.D. Balthazar said...

So apparently, the baby saying Mama in that scene in the bathroom was unscripted. One of the most powerful moments of the episode was unplanned. Go figure.

Mani said...

I don't think the house was burned, it was abandoned, with Heisenburg spray-painted in yellow across a wall. He's having a birthday breakfast at a Denny's under an assumed name-Mr. Lambert. it's been a year and he's 52, he's got a New Hampshire license, he's got hair, he's taking meds and coughing. He switches from a white Volvo with the license plate "Live Free or Die" to a 70's-80's era auto(?). He's got an M60 with several boxes of ammunition and a manual.

We can probably assume from the flash forward that he did indeed go ahead with the 'disappearance' and has gotten the weapon to protect himself or maybe he's been planning to get his money back and had been laying low for a year to keep the Neo Nazis off guard until he could make his move? Hmm.

Billie Doux said...

Baby Holly got "performer of the week" from TV Line. :)

Anne said...

It's 10.30 p.m. and I am so tempted to screen the final two episodes of the show. But, instead, I am going to read a book, go to sleep, and save the final two episodes for the weekend.

So do not want this show to end.

Anne said...

Interesting to see Walt, Jr. "physical" in the scene where he was protecting his mom from his dad. We have never seen Walt, Jr. do anything like that before.

One thing that has always puzzled me (and nobody has addressed it here that I know of) is the ugly paintings on the walls of the White house. At first, I thought they were bad paintings of the family members, but in this episode, when we got a closer look at them during the fight, I don't think they are supposed to be the White family at all.

What do you guys think?

Billie Doux said...

Anne, I always thought they were caricatures of the family members.

Marianna said...

I'm pretty sure it was a cayote, not a dog, at the end.

Anonymous said...

If you did not break out laughing when Todd (Big head todd the monster) comes up and quickly says to Walt: " Sorry about your loss"..... you just don't get it. It is the ludicrous (and hilarious) insertion of the traditional expression of sympathy for the loss of a family member by a non family member, by a psychopath, who has this unnatural uber respect for the Head Monster, Walt, the Wizard who turns lead into gold... similar to the quick utterance to Andrea before he shoots her in the back of the head.."I just want you to know, this is nothing personal"... as of it mattered if she knew it was not personal in the fraction of a second she would still be conscious.. both statements by the monster were for (black) comic effect, ONLY. It is easy to miss the comic nature of the program due to the over the top horror portrayed, but in the end, it is a black comedy, and symbolic retelling of the wizard who sold his soul to the devil; a modern day version of Faust, created by a team of true story telling artists, and colored with the cultural experience of a movie junkie, (vince gilligan) who loves quentin tarantino, and reservoir dogs, (mr white, mr pink (jesse pinkman) mr blonde (skylar) mr orange (hank), mr purple (marie) brown (gus fring)... with a demented sense of humor and fetish for big ears.... and evoking powerful emotions in the viewer, as good fictional art and story telling can do.. think of Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, with modern cultural cross references which stimulate the subconscious in profound ways....

TJ said...

Grrr Arrgh! Hank is dead. I thought he would make it there for a few seconds, but no.:((

When Walt told Jesse that he watched Jane die, it was just plain awful creepy. That is what a narcissistic selfish person does to boost his own superior self, and without any empathy whatsoever. I even think Hank's delusional thinking that he is doing everything for his family is just self-deceiving. He is just doing everything for himself so that he can THINK he is doing it for the family. I'd say it's narcissism. All about the self.

So Skyler finally comes around? Well, sorry lady, too late! I will not forget ordering Jesse's death, or making evil tapes about Hank. I still want Skyler down.

Junior really got to me here. When he realized that his father was a monster, it was unbearable to watch.

Steve S. said...

Wow, great review and even better comments by the gang. Mike D., awesome points about the barrel and the grave. Hadn't thought of either -- you're right. Good one.

Something no one has yet mentioned is that when I saw Jesse get led into the lab, I immediately thought "this is his purgatory". He's not alive, not dead -- just trapped and forced to cook forever. And the best outcome is that he is finally allowed to die.

I realize everyone is hoping Jesse survives and is redeemed, and maybe the showrunners will do that -- but it makes sense to me if everyone suffers and loses. Walter is just the latest drug lord -- they rise, dominate, and are destroyed by the next one (as are all those around them). Lather, rinse, repeat. Everyone is destroyed, eventually. That should happen here, but it's probably too dark even for this show.

Props to Walt Jr. -- that role hadn't worked for me up to this point but this was a good show for him. As for Marie revelling in her revenge, it was unseemly.

As Anne said, "It's 10.30 p.m. and I am so tempted to screen the final two episodes of the show. But, instead, I am going to read a book, go to sleep, and save the final two episodes for the weekend.

So do not want this show to end."