Well, this is it, folks. The last Breaking Bad of the summer. Does your TV-watching life already feel emptier?
Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 8: "Gliding All Over" brought the show's most chilling season (or half season, anyway — next summer's final eight episodes are technically part of Season 5 as well) to a bloody but slightly rushed close. It isn't the show's strongest offering, but a last-minute twist serves to set up next year's conflict well enough to leave us immediately craving more.
A note: Breaking Bad is a story about moral decline and the reasons people commit crime; in that spirit, we'll be using our recaps to track the moral state of the key players each week. Sound good? Then read on for Wetpaint Entertainment's recap of Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 8: "Gliding All Over."
Walter White: "It Can Be Done Exactly How I Want It"
The bad news: We're starting with the bad news first, because, let's be honest, bad has been Walter's default all season. And he starts off this episode firmly in that mode. He meets with Lydia to get the names of the nine people Mike had been paying off (10 now, with the lawyer from last week). He clearly goes into the meeting with the idea of killing her on his mind, because he brings the ricin. However, she appeals to his desire for empire, and he lets her stay alive in exchange for her help expanding his business into the Deux ex Machina Czech Republic.
The men in jail aren't so lucky. Walter teams up with Todd's neo-Nazi uncle to take them all down in a carefully coordinated bloodbath — a sequence that's set to music, of course. All the best carefully coordinated bloodbaths are. This is Walter at the top of his Scarface game, acting exactly how we have been trained to expect newly minted kingpins to act in media.
The good news: And as swiftly as he ascends, he … gives it all up even faster? Maybe? We're treated to a quick drug-making montage, over the course of which Walter collects apparently infinite money. But, alas! That money can't fill the void in his soul, as indicated by various shots of him showering and moping around alone in his living room. After Skyler shows him said infinite money and asks him how much more it will take to stop, he tells her he's out. Part of getting out is swinging by Jesse's house, sadly reminiscing about their old RV — and, implicitly, their partnership — and finally giving his ex-partner his due, in the form of bags of cash.
But is he really out? Leaving aside the last second twist, which is sure to draw him back in, do we buy that Walter came to his senses? This season has painstakingly showed us that Walter's primary motivation is ego and a thirst for power — and very explicitly not money. Did loneliness really change his mind?
We hope not. If we are supposed to take Walter getting out at face value, it feels entirely rushed, which is the last thing we've come to expect from this show. We would be willing to believe Walter took a step back, perhaps letting Todd take over the manufactuing for a bit so he can convince Skyler he's really changed his ways. But to actually leave the business over the course of only a few scenes? That seems out of character both for Walter and Breaking Bad.
Jesse Pinkman: "I'm Not Coming Back"
The good news: The little boy is all grown up and seems to be really out of the game. He may have a soft spot for Walter — as we've said before, he'll always have a soft spot for Walter until he learns the truth about Jane, Brock, and/or Mike — but he's not pleased when Walter shows up at his house, and even when they start to share stories about the crappy RV he remains distant.
He's clearly come to see Walter as someone to fear; he grabs a gun when he sees Walter at his door. Given his reluctance to kill, we can only assume it's for self-defense — perhaps he's worried that Walter plans to silence him for good, too. And the expression on his face when Walter tries to justify killing Mike's men tells you everything you need to know about how Jesse feels about Walter's excuses.
Whatever soft spot he may still have for his former mentor, he doesn't look up to him anymore, and that's exactly what he needed to cut the cord for good.
The bad news: He seems to be drifting, and Jesse drifting is never good. Although he has a newfound self confidence, he could easily slip back into self destructive behavior, especially now that Walter has handed him an incredibly large amount of cash. We have no idea where the show plans to take Jesse in the last eight episodes, but we're concerned. He has no one anymore.
Skyler White: "How Much Is Enough? How Big Does This Pile Have to Be?"
The good news: Skyler takes another stand. She's pushed into a corner when Marie gently suggests she and Hank think Skyler and Walt should take the kids back again, so she makes one last desperate attempt to get through to Walter, taking him on a drive to show him the pile of cash she's stored away.
"This is it. This is what you've been working for," she tells him. "I want my kids back. I want my life back. Please tell me. How much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?"
Note that she's finally speaking his language: Instead of talking about how far he's fallen, she shows him how much he's achieved. If she still hates him, she hides it; instead she addresses him as a partner. It's smart, and it (apparently) works. Finally.
The bad news: As good as Skyler's last stand is, it's also a reminder of how fully she's embraced the life of crime for herself. She's renting storage facilities and trying to think up clever ways to count unimaginable amounts of money. She seems ready to live a lie forever after Walt declares he's out. She didn't choose this life, but she's part of it, now.
We don't blame her, but it does put her in interesting position. A different character would have left Walter, maybe even have fought him. But for two seasons Skyler has been ready to go along with him as long as she can keep her kids safe. In many ways she is now doing what Walter claimed to be for so long — she's sacrificing her own morals for the sake of her family.
Hank Schrader: "A Lot Better Than Chasing Monsters"
The good news: First, we're shown how what he does weighs on Hank when he talks to Walter about how hard "chasing monsters" is. It's a lovely moment of humanity cracking through his macho-man exterior.
And then, of course, there's the twist: While going to the bathroom in the White's house, Hank finds a book of Whitman poems that Gale had given Walter, signing it "to my other favorite W.W." He actually puts two and two together; it doesn't look like he'll wave aside the clue this time. It's too big, and he's not the kind of guy to ignore it.
The bad news: Hank's cocky swagger once again got him in trouble: If he'd taken the deal that one of Mike's men offered the DEA early in the episode, he could have had a goldmine of information. Instead, his certainty that he could get someone else to crack left him with nothing. Not that we really blame him for failing to predict Walter's perfectly executed mass slaughter.
Lydia: "You're Tying Up Loose Ends, And I Don't Want to Be One of Them"
The good news: Lydia continues to fascinate us. She's a consummate survivor, and she's willing to throw anyone under the bus. Which … is not actually good news. We guess the one thing we'd say in her favor is that her primary motive seems to be to stay alive and out of jail, which is at least understandable.
The bad news: But really, Lydia is a snake. A very smart snake with big ideas, but a total snake. She's fun to watch play against Walter because she is as ruthless as he is, which means she actually manages to stay ahead of him. She gets how he thinks. She knows he'll kill her without a second thought, and she knows that the only way to stay alive is to stay useful — and she's got the wherewithal to do that. If she weren't so cowardly she'd be a threat; as it is, she's practically the perfect partner. She can bring in the big bucks, and all Walter (or anyone else) has to do to keep her loyal is be scarier than the competition.
On the other hand, Lydia could easily turn on Walter next summer if the DEA offers her protection. So maybe not so perfect a partner, after all....
The good and bad news: We haven't had a breakout section about Todd yet, and although he didn't have a lot to do this episode, we figure it's time we talk about the season's most perplexing new addition. Except the thing is, we don't really know what to make of Todd.
He killed a child, which seemed to face track him to sociopath territory. But in every other circumstance Todd's been happily subordinate, and eager to learn. Last week, he even refused to let Walter pay him until he learned how to make the meth correctly. After meeting his hardened neo-Nazi of an uncle this week, we're starting to think he's just a product of his environment. It doesn't make killing a kid okay, but it does put the action in a different context.
Notable Scenes, Quotes, and Other Thoughts
- "You wouldn't be doing this, the names, if Mike were still a factor." Lydia is definitely very smart.
- So, that "shipping meth to the Czech Republic" thing sure seemed to go off without a hitch. Will it come back to bite them next summer? We hope so, because nothing has ever been that easy on this show, and it's a pretty insane plan to pull off so flawlessly.
- Todd's uncle on Walter's prison plan: "Whacking Bin Laden wasn't this complicated." Topical!
- This show can even make a shot of barbed wire beautiful. Just add a sunset.
- We've seen a countless number of "mass whacking" scenes in various movies and TV shows, so most of this one is expected. But the part where they set a guy on fire is still impressively disturbing.
- Walter playing with his daughter while watching the news about the mass prison murders that he ordered is a nice touch.
- "Crystal Blue Persuasion" is more or less the perfect song choice for the drug-making montage. "Pick Yourself Up" for the whackings is another good choice. However, we're not sure if having two montage sequences so close together works. We think that's part of what makes the episode feel rushed; they sped through Walter's ruthless rise to extreme power.
- That said, the drug-making montage is visually very appealing. We particularly like the pest control tents popping up on house after house.
- We also appreciate the shot of Saul drinking. He clearly knows he's made a deal with the devil.
- Marie to Skyler: "Maybe at this point the best way to help repair the family would be to … repair the family."
- Pools are beautiful. All filmed media should feature pools. Breaking Bad certainly knows how to utilize the White's.
- Oh hey, Walter has cancer. Remember that? Good to know that he stills gets checkups.
- Walter on why he and Jesse kept the RV: "Inertia." But we all know it was more than inertia that kept Walter and Jesse together for so long. They cared (and still care) about each other.
- A thought: Most episodes this season have been either Skyler-heavy or Jesse-heavy; none that we can think of feature a lot of both. Why is that? Something to ponder, structurally.
- There has also been a lot less of Jesse on his own this season. For the last few seasons he's felt basically like a co-lead, and has had tons of scenes (and relationships) completely independent from Walter. This year he felt like a true supporting character; almost every single one of his scenes involved Walter. We miss him.
- Note: For those of you keeping track at home, it's been a little under three months since Hank and Marie first took the kids.
- Would Walter really be dumb enough to leave that Walt Whitman book lying around?
- The Chekhov's ricin will go off in a big way next summer. Count on it.
- Bring on Hank vs. Walter! We are so ready.
- We need some time to process this season as a whole, but our gut reaction is that while it's very good, we don't like it as much as Season 4. But to some extent we have to wait until next summer to really judge.
What did you think of the episode? The season? Let us know in the comments below.
Read the rest of Wetpaint Entertainment's Breaking Bad coverage here.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.
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