As Skylar (Anna Gunn) winds a single strand of floss tighter and tighter around her finger, wincing with the comfort created by pain, creator Vince Gilligan gives us several object lessons in episode four, titled “Fifty-One.” With this episode we are officially a quarter of the way through Breaking Bad’s final season; four more episodes to go this summer and eight remaining for the summer of 2013.
Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) Pontiac Aztek opens the episode, operating as an analogy for Walt. It’s been continually beaten and bruised, but restored at the expense of someone else; a shiny exterior covers the broken, apparently unbeatable interior. This is a car that’s unwilling to die. The mechanic brags about the car’s indestructibility while Walt knows its hardly worth $50. Lydia’s mismatched shoes carry the weight of a woman losing control of her own life. A clue that only Hank (Dean Norris) picks up on, trying to weave the object into the unfinished lines of the story. We see Skylar’s unwinding in the scenes with the floss and her escape into the pool. As she’s submerged in the water – signifying freedom, cleansing, baptism, new life, and drowning – we see her smile for the first time of the season. And in the final scene Jesse (Aaron Paul) gives Walt a watch; an all-to-telling reminder that time is running out.
With the reemergence of Walter Jr.’s (R.J. Mitte) snazzy red sports car, Walt’s 51st birthday “celebration,” and the anniversary of Walt’s dismal cancer diagnosis, Vince Gilligan brings us through one full year of breaking bad in the life of Walter White.
As Walt’s house gets darker and darker, physically and relationally, he insists that he is just getting started. “Nothing stops this train. Nothing.” Not Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), not paranoid women or tracked barrels of Methylamine, not Jesse, Beneke, or Mike (Jonathan Banks). Not the DEA. Not his cowardly wife who tries to pronounce the end of his bullshit rationalizing. Not infidelity or boarding school. Not even cancer.
What’s the next move? How do you take on a man who has lost his soul?
With Skylar, we wait. We watch as the clock ticks, more characters unwind, and Walt ramps up. We hope that Hank ties the story together faster. That Skylar snaps. That Mike kills Lydia so their meth production has to slow down. We hope that the cancer returns.
And we wonder, whose bad is being broken now?