It's the beginning of the end for Breaking Bad, and Season 5, Episode 9: "Blood Money" (August 11) picked up right where we left off, with Walt and Jesse out of the game, and Hank suddenly, finally beginning to suspect that the real Heisenberg was under his nose the whole time.
How does the final season kick off, and what does it suggest about where the show is headed in the end? After a short recap of the episode, I'll be taking a close look at where the key characters are right now, and what the show seems to be saying about where they've been, and where they might be going.
Sound good? Then read on for Wetpaint Entertainment's recap of Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 9: "Blood Money."
As with the premiere last summer, we begin in the future, where a bearded, bespectacled Walter returns to his Albuquerque home, which has turned post-apocalyptic. Teens skate in the drained swimming pool, the interior is decimated, "Heisenberg" is scrawled across the wall (interesting). Walter's here for the ricin he kept hidden away in the wall socket. Why? That's a mystery for another episode.
In the present, Hank is reeling from his revelation. He immediately skips out on the get together that ended last season, and then veers off the road during a panic attack. That's not going to slow him down; as soon as he's out of the hospital it's back to work, pulling together the clues that all point in one unavoidable direction.
In the now unextraordinary world of Walter White, the Great Heisenberg is getting all up in Skyler's business, rearranging air freshener displays and pushing to buy another car wash. All's well and good, right? Not if you ask Lydia, who swings by the wash to complain that Walter's replacements in the biz aren't up to par. She just wants him to come back to the game for an itty-bitty meth cooking tutorial, but he's not having it — and neither is Skyler, who quickly deduces something's up and gives Lydia a piece of her mind.
Jesse, meanwhile, is not handling the life of leisure well. Badger and Skinny Pete may be happy to indulge in pizza and Stark Trek stories, but Jesse isn't that guy anymore. Too bad he seems to have no clue what guy he is, especially now that Walter has saddled him with 5 mil of "blood money." He instructs Saul to give half of the cash to Mike's granddaughter, and the other half to the parents of the boy Todd killed last season. Saul isn't so pleased with this plan, so he immediately goes to... Walter. Because that's a good idea.
Walter swings by Jesse's house for the second best scene of the episode. He tries to talk his former mentee out of his charity with a series of platitudes and lies that a tearful Jesse doesn't quite seem to buy. Later, Jesse finds another way to spend the cash: handing it out to homeless people and tossing it at houses like the world's most generous paper boy. Somehow, I doubt that will go uncommented on.
However, Jesse's reckless depression is far from Walter's biggest concern; a bad bout of chemo-induced vomiting brings him face-to-face with a troubling truth: Leaves of Grass is gone, and Hank has been "out of work all week." If there's one thing Walter knows, it's how to put two and two together, and he quickly finds a tracker on his car.
That brings us to the stunning closing scene, where Walter and Hank face off. And it is a face-off: Breaking Bad wastes no time getting to the heart of the conflict. Hank punches Walt and calls him out. "All along it was you!" he shouts, declaring that he will make sure Walter winds up in jail. In response, Walt tries to play the cancer card; when that doesn't fly, he gives up the act and slips into full Heisenberg mode.
"I don't know who you are," Hank realizes. "I don't know who I'm talking to."
"If you don't know who I am," Heisenberg replies, "maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."
And with that, all the chips are on the table. Now the question is: Where are they going to fall?
Where the Characters Are
Walter White: "The Past Is the Past"
Present: After last season so thoroughly transformed Walter into a villain, the first half of this episode does a decent job convincing me that maybe he was serious about getting out. He turns Lydia down, he's invested in the car wash; combine that with the return of his cancer, and suddenly it looks like he really wants to spend what's left of his life with his family.
The second half of the episode pulls back the curtain. If left alone, Walter may have pursued a life of peace from here on out, but as soon as he's confronted with a problem, Heisenberg is back — lying to and manipulating Jesse, threatening Hank. He's too far gone to ever be a good man again.
Past: The scene between Jesse and Walter is effective because it is so reminiscent of the many scenes we've seen between them in that room before. And Walter? Walter is acting exactly as he has toward Jesse since at least Season 3, using lies, charm, and an appeal to his authority as a father figure to try to manipulate his mentee into doing exactly what he wants. The only difference is this time, Jesse isn't buying what he was selling.
Also, the "I don't know who I'm talking to,"/"If you don't know who I am" exchange immediately reminded me of the unforgettable "I am the one who knocks," speech, which begins, "Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see?" Hank's right: He doesn't know who he's talking to, because Walter hasn't been Walter for a long time now.
Future: Of course, we literally know some of Walter's future. By the age of 52 his house is in pieces, and given the graffiti, it would appear his identity is out. He's packing heat and now a deadly little ricin package. Clearly, the car wash life does not work out; based on the end of this episode, we have to assume that's at least in part because Hank won't back down, which means Heisenberg is back in play in a big way. But why is the house in such disrepair? It would appear the White family up and left ... if the rest of the family is alive at all.
Jesse Pinkman: "It's Blood Money"
Present: For someone who used to basically be a co-lead, Jesse's role sure has felt reduced in Season 5; he doesn't even show up until halfway through this episode. Fortunately, once he does appear he steals the spotlight. We haven't been given much to go on with Jesse since he left the biz, but Aaron Paul's stellar performance quickly fills in the missing pieces: He's emotionally broken, he's not buying Walter's lies, and he's struggling to find a way past the horrific things he has seen and done. There isn't any of that sweet, innocent Jesse we fell in love with in Season 1 here; he's hardened and devastated, and clearly he has no idea what to do.
Past: Many of Jesse's scenes this week evoked images of him in the past; particularly the beginning of Season 4, when he dealt with killing Gale by withdrawing. The opening scene where he sits in a stupor while Skinny Peter and Badger prattle on works in part because we've seen Jesse in a similar state before.
Future: Where is Jesse going to go from here? It's hard to tell, but it looks like he's definitely out from under Walter's spell. The question is, will he pull himself together? We've already seen Jesse self destruct, so one can only hope he'll end up being more proactive this year.
Hank Schrader: "All Along It Was You!"
Present: Narratively, Hank's been given an upgrade: This week, anyway, he's framed as practically the protagonist of the story. The first scene in the present is from his point of view; his perusal of the evidence is given the musical montage treatment that's normally reserved for Walter and Jesse's criminal doings. However, by the end of the episode he's practically unhinged; after a week of doggedly digging into the evidence he's a shaky mess compared to the cool, collected Heisenberg.
Past: It's nice to hear Hank reference the many ways Walter has screwed him over in the past ("You drove us into traffic!"). There's something very satisfying about seeing it all click in his head.
Future: Clearly, Hank is going to pursue Walter any way he can. That said, he's back to using a personal tracking device, working from home, and acting generally crazy. He's had a hard time convincing the rest of the DEA of his out-there theories about Heisenberg in the past. Will accusing his cancer-ridden brother-in-law be the step too far that destroys him, or will uncovering the real Heisenberg make his career? It could go either way at this point.
Skyler White: "Have an A1 Day"
Present: There's not a ton of Skyler this week, but what we get paints an interesting picture. She doesn't seem particularly loving toward Walt, but she does seem comfortable; she's a woman who thinks her nightmare is over, and she might even have forgiven him enough to live side-by-side with him. That said, those claws are still there.
Past: How many times have we seen Skyler miserable in bed next to Walter? Not this week — she seems perfectly content.
Future: What causes Skyler to abandon her house? Does Hank's investigation uncover her money laundering? Wherever the plot takes her, her confrontation with Lydia confirms that she's not going down without a fight.
Other Thoughts and Notable Scenes
— Badger and Skinny Pete rambling about Star Trek is perfect. "Look it up, it's science."
— Jesse smoking pot to get in to see Saul is a nice nod to his devil-don't-care ways of the past. Also, it's hilarious. (Jesse half heartedly hiding the bong when Walter shows up is also a nice touch.)
— Saul line of the week: "When they start to wack the lawyers, that's where I draw the line."
— Walter calling Jesse "son" in an attempt to convince him to listen is heartbreaking.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!
Breaking Bad airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.