‘Breaking Bad': Was Last Night's the Best Hour of TV Ever? And Gaming Out Who Survives

'Breaking Bad': Was Last Night's the Best Hour of TV Ever? And Gaming Out Who Survives

Is there any scenario where Jesse, Hank or Gomie live? Or where Walt doesn't go to hell?

(Spoiler alert: Don't read this unless you saw last night's “Breaking Bad.”)

Last night's “Breaking Bad” may have been the best hour of television I've ever seen — beating out the show's pilot.

I'm not trying to be hyperbolic. The episode, entitled “To'hajilee,” had everything. The sight we never thought we'd see of Walter White being read his rights. A soaring, joyous moment between Hank and Marie. Even jokes, including Saul's most Saulish line: “Don't drink and drive. But if you do, call me.”

It was breathtaking.

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad': The Case for Why It Isn't Good

“Breaking Bad” has always been a chess game, with Walt winning through cold logic. Last night he lost to the two people he has underestimated most: Hank and Jesse.  They beat him even after he cravenly played Brock, his most put-upon pawn. But Hank and Jesse won clean. Best of all, Jesse gained a moral victory by proving that what Walt really cares about most is his money. Hank called his wife to tell her their horrors were over: They had won. There were parallels to Walt's call to Skyler, after he killed Gus.

And then … they flipped over the board. It turned out not to be a chess game at all, but a gunfight. Pure evil, in the form of Walt's white supremacist collaborators, looked certain to win by brute force. And cruelty: How grotesque was Jack's promise to surrender, if Hank and Gomie would show some ID?

Also read: ‘Breaking Bad’ Star Aaron Paul on Last Script Read: ‘The Moment We'd Been Dreading’

The two seemed to make just one mistake, and a big one: leaving no breadcrumb trail into the desert. They clearly trailed Walt as Jesse tricked him into a telephone confession, which means whatever recording they made of it is most likely in their car. Did they call Walt's arrest into the DEA? It doesn't seem like they did. So if Hank dies, only Marie will know Walt was involved. Phone records will confirm Hank's call to her from To'hajilee, but that might not be enough to bring Walt down if every witness is dead, and the recording of Walt's confession — his real one, not the one from two weeks ago — is destroyed.

Since we left off last night with the deaths of Hank, Gomie and Jesse looking very plausible, Walt may very well be able to escape. But he's also the only person, apparently, who can save their lives.

The gang needs him alive to cook. So maybe Walt can convince them to stop shooting and let Jesse and the DEA agents live. Maybe, but not likely. Jack and friends don't like loose ends. Todd shot a child. Would he or his uncle show mercy to agents with whom he's just been in a shootout?

Also read: Will Hank Take a ‘Trip to Belize'? Let's Consult the Color Chart

I guessed earlier this season that Marie would be wearing black by the end of it. I hope not. But the high of her call with Hank seems, from a storytelling standpoint, to heading toward a low.

Of course, this is “Breaking Bad.” It's writers are obsessed with painting themselves into corners. If Walt could get out of that RV, maybe this situation is surmountable, too.

Walt could redeem himself with a huge sacrifice, threatening to kill himself unless Hank, Gomie and Jesse are allowed to go free. But he was willing to have Jesse killed even before he found out his ex-partner had betrayed him. It's hard to imagine a complete change of heart now.

There seem to be two other ways for Jesse, Hank and/or Gomie to live. Jesse can speed off in Walt's car, perhaps forcing part of the gang to chase him and drawing fire from Hank and Gomie. Hank might have a chance then. He took down the cousins, after all. But he and Gomie look desperately outgunned. At some point they'll need to reload.

Or perhaps someone did call the DEA, and the cavalry is coming in a big way. Or perhaps Hank and Gomie can call for help now, and hold off the gang until it arrives, especially if Jesse creates a distraction.

But I doubt it.

Walt seems to have made a huge mistake by surrendering instead of fleeing into the desert, abandoning his money, and going underground (literally) to build a new meth empire. Maybe he was afraid of losing his family. But turning himself in didn't seem like a better route to seeing them again, except in court or behind glass. Maybe his plan upon surrendering was to rat out the gang and Lydia, given that they still have an active meth operation, in hopes of entering the federal witness relocation program.

We know from flash forwards that Walt's journey leads to his vandalized former home, driving a Caddy with an M-60 in the trunk, ricin in his pocket. Many have speculated that perhaps he was returning to Albuquerque after being relocated to New Hampshire. The question was who he was coming home to kill.

The arsenal we – and Walt – saw at To'hajilee suggests that he might be arming for battle with the gang. His firepower isn't as intense as theirs, but he never wants to be as outgunned as Hank and Gomie.

Does it make dramatic sense for the show to end with a battle between Walt and relatively new bad guys? Not really, unless Hank and Jesse die and Walt sees himself avenging them, in some twisted, self-serving way. Or perhaps by the time of the flash forwards Walt has fallen out with the gang, perhaps over Jesse and Hank being killed, and disappeared. Or perhaps the gang has taken his family hostage to make him cook again.

Maybe the gang is a worthy opponent, if we see Jack and Todd not as mere adversaries but as the personification of pure evil. Walt allied himself with it, and now has to keep it from killing everyone he's ever loved. It doesn't seem like a problem he can solve with logic, or even brute force.

Probably none of the scenarios above are even close. “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan talked on the latest edition of the “Breaking Bad” podcast about the importance of not giving viewers what they expect. So perhaps the entire show will end with the Whites and Shrader's sitting down to a happy meal at Denny's.

Probably not, though.

  • Sean Murdock

    I think at this point in the endgame — three more to go! — all Breaking Bad fans are at risk of declaring “Best. Episode. Ever.” when still buzzing from the adrenaline rush of the latest mind-blowing cliffhanger. It was an excellent episode, do doubt — tricking me into thinking it was a slower, “table-setting” episode … until Jesse sent his fake barrel of money pic, and then it was fasten-your-seatbelts time. Few things on TV are as rawly exciting as Walter White frantically zooming through traffic, breaking every known speed and safety law, as he desperately tries to negotiate some kind of solution on his hilariously outdated flip-phone.

    Even before the race to the desert, this episode had all the makings of a classic. Walt Jr. met Saul! Huell was in protective custody! Jesse's fake brains were splattered all over Marie's kitchen floor! But the episode ultimately demonstrated that it really WAS going to take the combined brainpower of BOTH Hank and Jesse to take down the evil Mr. White. Walt's ploy to use Brock and Andrea — and thank GOD they weren't kidnapped by the Nazis! — was easily seen through, and Hank's “dead Jesse” play got them something, but not enough. Ultimately, Hank needed Jesse not just as a pawn, but as a PARTNER, and it was Jesse's fake money barrel (and bravura telephone performance) that pushed all the right buttons with Walt.

    That said, the ending gives me serious pause. No doubt, Walt's surrender and Hank's cuff-slapping — and Jesse's defiant spittle — were all cathartic, and deeply satisfying. But knowing that there were still three episodes left made me uneasy, and Hank's triumphant “It's all over, Marie — I'll see you soon” gave me a deep-seated “oh crap” feeling in my gut. Vince Gilligan and his writers usually avoid such obvious TV cues as the happy “It's over” call home to the wife — not to mention the ready-made loyal minority sidekick who is ready (and contractually obligated) to die in place of his higher-billed boss — so I can only hope that they planted those tropes in there to make us THINK that Hank and/or Gomez were goners, so they could subvert those feelings of dread in next week's opening.

    Unfortunately, though, even that would pose a problem, because in that 45-second firefight (yes, I timed it), hundreds of rounds were fired, and NO ONE on either side was hit. Was this some kind of Pulp-Fiction-esque “miracle” that will cause the Nazis to rethink their lives of crime? Somehow I doubt it. I love Breaking Bad, and I have complete faith in Vince and Co., but they really — REALLY — need to stick the landing on this cliffhanger, and make it believable, or else I fear I'll have a hard time accepting anything that comes after it.

    • tim.molloy

      Great points. Like you said, we are three episodes from the end, and in an eight-episode season (half season?) this would usually be the “down” part. Last week was such a drag I was really worried they'd save everything good for the end. I'm glad at the very least they're going for an exciting middle section.

      And I definitely expect them to top this episode. I'll be disappointed if they don't. I feel like we're right in the thick of the best television show ever and I want to savor it.

      Don't you think Hank is doomed though? I think he's doomed. Gomie dying and Hank surviving to the end would be a huge cop-out, I agree.

      • Sean Murdock

        Yeah, I think Hank is doomed, sadly. Gomie dying in his place (as a “redshirt”) would be a cop-out (no pun intended, right?), but I would be crushed if Hank dies out there in the desert. I mean, they would really be sticking us — brilliantly, I admit — with a frustrating “if a tree falls and no one hears it” dilemma, don't you think? If Hank gets to catch Walt, slap on the cuffs, and stuff him into the back of his SUV … and then ALL the witnesses to his triumph are either killed or motivated by criminality to deny it, did his triumph really happen? It would feel kind of empty to me.

        On the other hand, if we step outside being viewers of the show and think like writers … what's left to Hank's “arc” on Breaking Bad? Are they going to keep him alive in critical condition so he can watch the end play out from a hospital bed? Not very exciting. Other than not wanting to make Marie a widow — which would be terrible — I'm not sure if Hank has a story-telling reason to exist anymore. Makes me very sad, because I've been rooting for Hank ever since he escaped the Cousins.

        • tim.molloy

          Gotta agree with you again. Maybe the fighting stops, everyone talks for a minute, and they come to the conclusion that Hank and Gomie both have to die. Maybe Walt does it out of some kind of respect.

          Meanwhile Jesse speeds off in Walt's car.

          If they do that, I hope they call the episode “Cop Out” in an homage to “Face Off.”

          • Sean Murdock

            LOL — as long as it's not an homage to the horrible movie “Cop Out”! :-)

    • spacemanspiff72

      Who said Brock and his mother weren't kidnapped by the Nazi's? That remains to be seen in an upcoming episode. (The Nazi's could have them right now, but it was just never shown) Could be that Jesse escapes death only to be kidnapped by the Nazi's to cook under the fear of Brock and Andrea dying. That would seem to be a totally plausible plot line. This would allow Walt to fake his own death and take off to New Hampshire. Walt would use Saul's disappear-er guy only after he sends Saul to Belize for telling Jesse about the ricin. If Hank and Gomie were to die, the only loose end that knows what is going on would be Marie. She has already shown that she is wanting to take the children and has fantasized about poisoning Walt. Also, what if Marie were to use the SD chip of Hank's in an attempt to get the children from Skyler? That would force Skyler into using the video that she and Walt made. This would discredit, or at least place reasonable doubt, into the minds of the DEA. It would seem to me that if these things happened, Marie's mind couldn't handle it and would go immediately for the safety of the kids. Skyler wouldn't allow this and I could see Skyler die in the incident between her and Marie. There has been animosity building between the two since season 1. I think that would be the only thing to bring Walt out of hiding. Remember, he looked really lonely sitting in the Denny's on his birthday doing his bacon ritual by himself. I have a feeling that he is going to get his kids back and accidentally kill them and Marie. Having nothing else to lose, Walt just wants to finish everyone off that is involved. (Scorched earth style) That is what the M-60 is for. (Todd, Lydia, and the Neo-Nazi's) While the ricin is for him and Jesse.

  • Jesse whatsupbitch

    To me it was the most retarded episode ever. I am the biggest Breaking Bad fan ever but there were so many issues, inconsistencies and things that didn't ring true with last night's episodes. And cliffhanger… what cliffhanger? There's a massive shooting and not even one bullet hits anyone… doesn't matter that it continues next week. Also they've been dragging everything way too long. Whenever someone dies next, it won't be a surprise or as interesting as if they would've died when they were supposed to. When Mike died, it was interesting, you didn't see it coming… now if Jesse, Hank or whoever dies… it's expected. So it's not as interesting. The whole picture in barrel thing, the fact that neither Walt nor Saul thought for a second Jesse might be with Hank… there's so many things that were just done for the convenience of the writers and not the story…. you might disagree… but go back and watch the episode again. We're talking about an extremely calculating guy… one who although they try to sell him now as he is sloppy…. an episode or two ago was so calculating that he sent a confession to Hank where he put him against a wall… so don't tell me he is now sloppy, bulshit. try to study the reason behind what happened and you'll see — The story should've unfolded in a different way to be believable… in order to buy the fact that he would so stupidly just drive to the dessert to be trapped… I mean… seriously? Extremely disappointed.

    • spacemanspiff72

      There were several times where Walt was warned about Jesse turning on him. (IE Krazy-8 and Gus both foresaw this as a problem and fault with Jesse) Although it is a twist that most wouldn't have seen. (Hank and Jesse working together) I do feel that this a marriage of convenience between the two. (the enemy of my enemy is my friend)

  • Gerard Kennelly

    48 hrs star jonathan banks sparing Lydia in season 5
    was the first BB scene i ever saw
    i was hooked

  • Eduardo Dorado

    I guess at the end, that flash forward is about Walter going to rescue Jessie from Todd and his uncle.