After the exciting season premiere of "Breaking Bad" last Sunday, tomorrow's episode promises to up the ante in the final seven episodes of the series. In case you missed it, here's Chancellor Agard's recap. Again, there are spoilers below!
Last September, the first half of the fifth and final season of “Breaking Bad” ended with a cliffhanger five years in the making – DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris) learned that his seemingly mild-mannered brother-in-law Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is in fact Heisenberg, the methamphetamine kingpin Hank has been chasing a for several years. Now almost a year later, “Breaking Bad” picks up where it left off and surges forward with a premiere that promises a satisfying conclusion to Walter White’s story.
“Blood Money” opens with a flash-forward in which a piteous Walt drives to his old home, which is now fenced off and abandoned. After the credits, the episode returns to present day and picks up right after Hank's epiphany.
Having given up the drug business in the midseason finale last summer, Walt is now struggling to return to his old Mr. Chips-esque lifestyle. In what can only be referred to as sublimation, Walt becomes more involved in the car wash he and his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) own as a way to launder his drug money. Cranston’s acting masterfully captures one of Walt’s enduring character traits: His need for a problem or puzzle that needs to be tackled and solved.
For the first time in a while, Walt is not waging war against a competitor or business associate or fighting for his life. Thus, he finds—or rather, creates—a relatively miniscule problem at the carwash that only he can solve. His fight in this episode, at least initially, is against boredom.
In one of his best performances in the series, Norris as Hank manages to convey through his facial expressions and physicality just how troubled he is by his recent epiphany. From the moment Hank steps out of the bathroom where he found incriminating evidence that Walt is Heisenberg and returns to the Whites’ backyard, we see a range of emotions from unease to disgust to fear cross his face as he tries to reconcile his two conflicting images of Walt: Walt, the smiling family man playing with baby Holly, and Walt as Heisenberg, the ruthless drug kingpin and murderer. When Walt visits Hank at the end of the episode after finding a tracking device on his car, Norris’ eyes are empty and it is very evident just how heartbroken he is by Walt’s deception.
Sunday night’s crowning moment is the confrontation between Walt and Hank in the Hank’s garage. On an average television series, the producers and writers would most likely have waited several episodes before staging such an important scene. But “Breaking Bad” is anything but average, and the scene in Hank’s garage showcases the incredible talents of both Cranston and Hank.
The scene in Hank’s garage works really well because of the care with which creator Vince Gilligan has developed these two characters. Hank’s character traits are reaffirmed when he punches Walt—the physical blow alluding to the incident in the third season in which Hank assaulted Jesse (Aaron Paul), Walt’s cooking partner, who faces his own demons in this episode. The confrontation also reminds the audience of the size of Walt’s ego. Not fazed by his cancer relapse or intimidated by his brother-in-law the federal agent, Walt displays his arrogance by threatening Hank in Hank’s own home. It is also in this scene where Gilligan follows through on his initial promise five years ago, to tell a story that would “make people question who they're pulling for, and why.”
In the closing shot of the episode, the tension is palpable as Walt and Hank stare each down. This shot not only sets up a battle of wills that will be waged by the two men in the last seven episodes of the series, but also challenges the audience to question who they wish to emerge the victor.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.