by Billie Doux
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.
-- 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.