Breaking Bad Final Showdowns

Fring and Mike are both dead. Jesse’s out and Walt promises Skylar he’s done making meth. And Hank has finally found a clue  linking Walt to Heisenberg. What now?

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad are still a year away. While we impatiently wait to see how Vince Gilligan resolves (heals? punishes?) the bad that’s been broken in the previous four and a half seasons, we look at some possible scenarios.

How do you expect/hope the impending showdowns will play out?

Walter v. Skylar

1. Recognizing that Hank may be on the Walt, Skylar privately confronts Hank and pleads for the protection of her family. Hank refuses to cooperate and Skylar ends up killing him. Walt destroys the evidence and goes back to his job teaching chemistry. The White family takes Marie into their home and everything goes back to normal.

2. Unable to take the fear, pressure, and anxiety of Walt’s drug activity (and after some leading cues from Marie), Skylar accidentally finds the ricin and, despite not really knowing what it is, she pours it into the coffee she serves Walt for breakfast one day.

3. Skylar discovers that Walter, Jr. has started dealing drugs. Blaming Walt for his negative influence, she takes the kids and disappears just as the DEA arrives to arrest Walt.

Walter v. Jesse

1. When they realize Hank is on to them, Walt tries to pin the entire thing on Jesse. Jesse ends up killing Walt, and after realizing he is now completely alone, he kills himself.

2. Skylar figures out that Hank is closing in on the case. On her own accord she kills Jesse and tries to convince Walt to blame Jesse for the whole thing. Walt must decide if he is going to protect the reputation of his partner or risk his own innocence.

3. The DEA brings Jesse in for questioning and Hank reveals that Walt is responsible for Jane’s death and Brock’s poisoning. Jesse negotiates with the DEA and the series ends with Jesse visiting Walt in jail, the ricin in his pocket.

Walter v. Hank

 1. Hank confronts Walt right away and after a series of threatening and angry interactions, Walt convinces Hank he really is out of the drug business (and has, in fact, helped to stop it by killing Fring). Instead of turning him in, Hank agrees to help Walt launder more of the money in order to provide for both their families. Everybody wins.

2. Hank secretly retraces Walt’s steps throughout the last year, collecting all the evidence of his wrongdoings. Walt quickly realizes he is faced with the choice between getting rid of Hank (and the evidence) or facing conviction and serious jail time. When Hank refuses to negotiate with him, Walt sees no choice but to kill him and bury Heisenberg’s identity once and for all…or so he thinks…

3. Walt learns his cancer has returned. He goes to Hank’s office to confide in him and finds the evidence Hank has against him. In a confrontation gone wrong Hank kills Walt, in what he says was be self-protection. Skylar freaks out and disappears with her kids and a big suitcase full of the money from the storage unit. No one ever learns Walt’s cancer had returned.

Let us know what you think is going to happen as Breaking Bad comes to a close. Comment from the options above, or create your own ending.

Post by Patheos intern, Samantha Curley.

The Sacred Science of Well Being

This is a post by intern, Samantha Curley. Reprinted with permission. 

How far are you willing to go in order to be healed?

Not just what medical measures are you willing to take, but actually how many miles would you travel for the chance to be made whole? For eight people, the answer is the Amazon jungle. Yes, that’s right, Sacred Science is a documentary about eight terminally ill people who have lost hope in Western medical treatments. Their illnesses and diseases range from neuroendocrine cancer to irritable bowel syndrome to alcoholism to Crohn’s disease.

25% of our medicine’s active ingredients come from the Amazon jungle. Yet only 1% of the region’s plants have been studied for medicinal purposes. And the long tradition and deep knowledge of the Amazon’s medicine men, orshamans - the men who walk for hours everyday to find the plants and food that will heal the ailing body (and soul) – is quickly disappearing. And so the story begins. Eight Americans travel to remote, isolated huts in the unchartered region of the Amazon forest. They are assigned their own shaman who is given one month to try and heal their broken bodies. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy, and it’s not what I was expecting to see or have happen.

In the solitude of living in nature, these men and women discover they cannot hide from themselves. The shamans are not only working to heal the broken biological patterns of how their bodies are working, but also the social and emotional patterns that contribute to illness. “The first thing we do with disease,” says one of the medicine men, “is to push it away. We tell the body (subconsciously) not to send healing agents.”

The Western mind is also taught to demonize and fear death. As we stay away from death, we also stay away from life. The shaman teach us what it means to look at death and life, to share presence with each other, and to learn who and what we are.

Each of the eight people end up with a different healing story – some more hopeful and successful than others. As I watched this documentary, I was struck by the desperation that drives us to so much more than physical health. What is it that makes us want to be well? Not just physically (although we primarily see wellness through a physical lens) but healthy in the head and the heart. The kind of health that can be taught, cultivated, and experienced.

In a world where culture, religion, and medicine get tangled and enmeshed, Sacred Science offers us a new way of thinking about sickness and healing. There are some strange tools and unusual methods, but we discover that the shaman tradition uses the same language of our Western religious traditions: wisdom, presence, self-knowledge, solitude, love, and transformation.

In matters of life and death, as we consider how to live, it is imperative to open our eyes and release our minds to go beyond what’s right in front of us. Sacred Science finds us in our lostness and our illness and sets us on the journey of transformative healing.

 

This post is part of the Patheos Movie Club for The Sacred Science, a sponsored conversation in partnership with Threeseeds Documentary Productions. For more of our reactions to and conversation about the movie, go to our Movie Club page

Breaking Bad: Inertia

I am officially putty in Vince Gilligan’s hand.

I had finally given up on Walter White (Bryan Cranston). I had accepted the fact that I was witnessing the unraveling of a man’s humanity; the defraying of his soul. I had given up on redemption and wholeness and settled in to watch evil become evil. On some level, I had started to lose interest. The nuance and tension was dissipating as Walt became more and more of a monster. But I was also too bought into the story to really give it up.

Then he spoke the two words I’d been waiting for, hoping for, yet – after four and half seasons – had given up on hearing: “I’m out.” 

“Gliding Over All,” the 8th episode of season 5, was brilliantly written. It contained the best montage clip Breaking Bad has yet to display: a month’s worth of making meth comprised into mere moments of seamless transitions. Beautifully synchronized scenes. Business as usual. “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

At the end of it? We enter a storage unit with a huge stockpile of money. More money than anyone could spend in ten lifetimes, let alone launder in one. And with Skylar (Anna Gunn), we ask ourselves: Walt, why are you still doing this? Please tell me how much is enough?

Apparently enough came as soon as the problem solving stopped. As soon as mastery, control, and routine had begun. As soon as Jesse (Aaron Paul) isn’t around to question him. (Remember Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) response when Walt says he doesn’t want to talk about Mike’s death? “OK,” Todd says. That’s it.) Enough is as soon as Mike (Jonathan Banks) isn’t around to challenge him and as soon as Walt is able to pick up right where Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) had left off.

It’s as soon as Walt attains the smooth stability of his meth-making empire that he steps out. It was the quest, not the destination that he was after. The challenge and thrill of adventure, risk, and creative problem solving. The collaboration of working with a team. The sense of purpose and of worth that comes from living into your potential. Am I really that different? Aren’t these the same things that I want? That I live my life striving for?

All of a sudden, I’m back to rooting for Walt. I believe he’s finished making meth. He’s out and he means it. The story doesn’t make sense otherwise. Walt, as a human being, doesn’t make sense otherwise. And I don’t think we make sense if a large part of us doesn’t want to jump on board as soon as the current starts to shift towards good.

Yet, does that justify, excuse, or negate the consequences of the last year? Can Walt just sidestep the full impact and weight of his actions? Can he “dust himself off and start all over again?” 

An object in motion remains in motion (and an object at rest remains at rest) until acted on by an outside force. This is the scientific definition of inertia. It’s also why Walt says he and Jesse hung on to their old, beat-up RV.

What’s kept Walt going? What force will it take to stop him? And what will that sort of collision look like when it happens?

We’ll have to wait until next summer to see how creator, Vince Gilligan, addresses these questions to conclude the Breaking Bad series. There are only eight episodes left for Hank (Dean Norris) to catch up to whatever remnants of his trail Walt has left behind. How many degrees separate Walt (Jesse, Skylar, and Saul) from Gale’s death? Fring’s death? Jane’s? From the ricin? Or the little boy on the bike? What about Mike? And Tuco?

A lot of questions remain. The tactical questions of inquiry, discovery, and punishment. But also those moral questions that once again hang in the balance: Who is to blame for what? When did the line of bad get crossed? Can repentance outweigh consequences? Should we get another chance?

It’s easy to punish what we deem as truly bad. But what if we don’t know? Or, more likely, when we aren’t totally sure? What happens and who decides then?

I’m glad Breaking Bad isn’t quite finished. I’m also nervous to see what new kinds of bad get broken as we uncover our answers to these questions. Something tells me the second half of season 5 may be more painful to watch – a different, more self-implicating, kind of pain – than what we’ve been exposed to thus far.

A Contemporary Screwtape Tackles Story via The Dark Knight

This article first ran on the Clapham Group blog and is reprinted with permission. By Mark Rodgers

Supping With Screwtape

In his collection of letters by senior devil Screwtape to his nephew devil Wormwood, C. S. Lewis recorded a conversation 60 years ago which sadly is as relevant today as it was then. Clapham Principal Mark Rodgers give the correspondence a contemporary application:  

My Dear Wormwood,

I must say, you’ve outdone yourself this time. Your concern that man will see our true nature and His true nature most clearly through story (they were made to create and respond to the creative, how distasteful!) and in the intimacy of a theatre was well founded.  That agent of the Enemy, Mssr. Nolan (oh, don’t you despise his given name!) in his last film blew the cover of your Cousin Slumtripit who is based in that city named after the legion of our Enemy’s soldiers. We didn’t relent when the Enemy tried to keep us from that actor, Ledger, who portrayed Slumtripit. Thankfully, our dear cousin had his vengeance.

But Nolan’s latest film is a threat much greater than his last, and your assignment to neutralize it was a difficult one. You may have felt handicapped by the fact that we can only twist the stories those mortals create, but your spasmodic violence of hatred for the vermin expressed IN a theatre SHOWING the film was just the distraction we needed. Wisely, you have taken my advice, and the humans are now talking about pathology, mental illness, and clinical depression. Make them think about therapy and chemicals, about support groups, pills and programs. About interventions and breakdowns. Let them commission studies. Blame it on parents, bullies and Twinkies.

Throw them off our scent.

Thankfully, the Enemy just retired two of His men who used story to reveal our tactics. Ha! You were too blind to see that the creators of The Andy Griffith Show and Encyclopedia Brown (who He just took to His loving bosom, gak!) exposed us in a different way, reinforcing our and the humans’ natures by implicating their audiences in very mundane ways.  Too trite, you thought. No threat.

HOGWASH!!!!  I should have devoured you then. It is JUST at this point of personal implication that a story is the most dangerous. Thankfully, Slumtripit brilliantly thought to encourage some of the human “creatives” to craft horror stories and make us appear quite distant from their daily experience. Oh, a few true stories got out of our hands, like the one about Emily Rose. But mostly our work to keep them and their finite minds thinking about vampires and zombies has been successful. And thereby keeping them away from where our work is most effective, in their little white lies and disregard for their neighbor.

But the Dark Knight has come too close to home, and its recent installment too close to the True Myth. The brutes don’t deserve mercy. But he still loved them! Shudder. He came back for them, after they rejected him. He was willing to sacrifice himself for these pitiful humans. And if that wasn’t enough, he even cared for their orphans and the widows. How weak! We devour orphans and widows, as the film plainly showed.

So if Nolan is intent to keep supping with us, as he appears to be, he better learn to use a longer spoon. If he sits too close again, he’ll be our next main course.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

Max McLean, pictured above, stars as Screwtape in Clapham client’s production of The Screwtape Letters. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit www.screwtapeonstage.com.

[Images via The Dark Knight Rises.Com and Screwtape On Stage]

Breaking Bad: Rest in Peace

Mike (Jonathan Banks) is gone. And Walt (Bryan Cranston) killed him. Breaking Bad has unraveled into a game of every man for himself. And based on the preview of next week’s episode (which is the final episode until the series concludes next summer), this looks like it means trouble for everyone.

C.S. Lewis, who calls pride the’ Great Sin’ also writes, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

Walter White has become the living, breathing embodiment of pride. As he compares his ‘product’ to the talent of the New York Yankees and the classic purity of a Coca-Cola, Walt demands that we say his name and deem him king.

As Mike breathes his last breath, Walt apologizes, not for what he’s done, but because he remembers another way out in which everyone could still have ‘won.’

Walt tells Jesse (Aaron Paul), “Jesse, what we do – being the best at something – is a very rare thing. You don’t just toss something like that away. You want to squander that potential? Your potential? Why?”

And he tells Todd, “Give your full effort and attention. Listen and apply yourself. Do that, and we might have a fighting chance.”

It’s the competition, the challenge, and the potential, that inspires him. It’s the possibility of more, of better, of the fight. Striving is the only thing keeping Walt going.

And apparently this striving for potential justifies everything.

Even if the consequence is hell. Especially if the consequence is hell. Walt tells Jesse he is not going to lie down and wait until hell arrives. And anything less than the best counts as lying down according to Walt’s calculations.

Walt’s logic is flawed though. Because it relies on the the cowardice, evil, and ignorance of others. What happens when fear, death, power, and money fail to function as lures in Walt’s scheme? When Mike decides to die in peace? When Jesse is out, with or without his money?

The illusion of power and pride produces a festering evil that has systematically destroyed Walt’s job, his relationships, his family, his moral compass, and his own humanity. Walt believes he is “pretty much going” to hell and seems perfectly content. What Walt fails to see in all his calculating, though, is that he’s already there.

Daniel Defoe, the prolific and versatile English novelist, said “Pride is the first peer and president of hell.”

I don’t know if Walt is the king Heisenberg he sees himself as, but it’s hard to deny that he reigns as president of some sort of hell.

If hell is the choice of pride, may everyone else choose to get out. To embody another reality. To live – and to rest – in peace.

 

Humor, Generosity, and the Bible: An Interview with Jeff Foxworthy

With Rebecca on summer vacation with her family, Samantha Curley, the Patheos Movie intern, got the chance to interview Jeff Foxworthy about his role as host of The American Bible Challenge. 

Chicken and Dumplings. This would be Jeff Foxworthy’s team name if he was a contestant on – rather than host of – GSN’s newest show, The American Bible Challenge.

The American Bible Challenge premiers this Thursday, August 23 at 8/7c. Teams of three go head-to-head to see who knows more about the world’s best selling book of all time.

In an interview with Patheos, Jeff said there is a lot about The American Bible Challenge that is similar to other shows he’s been a part of. “Just like, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, there will be those questions that you know and some that you don’t. And when you hear the answer you’ll think you knew it all along.” So what’s different about a game show centered around the Bible?

“No one is doing this show for themselves. This isn’t about you, this is about helping other people.” Each episode the winning team gets $20,000 to give to their chosen charity organization. For example, Jeff pointed to the team of three women from Texas who dream about the 80,000 people they could feed if Minnie’s Food Pantry were to receive that money.

Foxworthy believes most people are more faithful than they let on. If the secular world could see the generosity that is the hallmark of the Christian life, he says, then they would start to see Christianity differently, too. Maybe even read the Bible differently. With this show, the Game Show Network could become the place for changing the Evangelical conversation. And Jeff Foxworthy will be at the center of it all, making us laugh and perhaps teaching us a different means of knowing God.

As a successful and gifted comedian, Jeff doesn’t know why God choose him to do all that he’s done. Aside from hosting the hit show 5th Grader, Jeff is the largest-selling comedy recording artist in history, a multiple Grammy® Award nominee, and bestselling author of more than 26 books. “It’s certainly not because of anything I did; that’s not how God seems to choose.” If not based on smarts, looks, or talent, there’s something to God’s grace that forces us sit back and laugh. Together, with each other.

Humor, Foxworthy says, unifies us. Almost all of Jeff’s comedy comes from paying attention to what happens inside his home and within his family. When people come up to him after his shows saying, “Yes, how did you know that? You must have been inside my house!” Jeff replies, “Exactly. We really are all the same.”

Team Chicken and Dumplings would include Jeff, his mom (who, Jeff says, would hate to be on TV), and Chicken Man, Jeff’s friend from the homeless ministry and bible study he is a part of in Atlanta.

This, more than anything, is the image Jeff gives us of what it means to follow God. It’s family, it’s humor, and it’s generosity. There are times when laughter is the best medicine. And times when the best thing to do with money is to give it away. The American Bible Challenge is situated to teach us both lessons as we learn to laugh, to give, and hopefully to change the way the world understands the Bible.

Breaking Bad meets “Ricky Hitler”

Empire // supreme power in governing; imperial power; supreme control; absolute sway.

All Hail The King. It finally makes sense. This is the game Walt’s playing. It’s not about the meth, or money, or cancer, or even his family. It’s about Walt’s desire for power. Supreme power. Imperial power. Absolute sway. The potential to take the world by storm.

Has this always been what it’s about? Or is it only as Skylar (Anna Gunn) waits for him to die that Walt (Bryan Cranston) decides he has nothing else left to live for?

Did Walt become a soulless evil, or did he begin the journey this way? What does the demise of a man look like?

Jesse calls Todd (the man who doesn’t hesitate in killing an innocent 12-year-old boy), “Ricky Hitler.” Breaking Bad is dealing with the fascinating and terrifying question of how Hitler became Hitler. In Walter White, creator Vince Gilligan says it happens by putting yourself on a throne and manipulating the world to worship you with respect, love, money, and business. Walt is right, this isn’t about the meth. And the reason Breaking Bad is so powerful is because it never was. This is a series about our humanity. About the ways of being human that we worship, celebrate, and become.

“Jesse, nothing can change this. Now, finally, we are self-sufficient. No one to answer to except ourselves. In a year, a year and a half…we’ll have plenty of time for soul searching. Now, we cook.”

I don’t know if I feel relieved to finally hear Walt confess his strategy out loud: cook meth now, accumulate power regardless of consequence, and question ourselves (maybe even find ourselves) later. Or if I’m more afraid than ever of what’s coming next. It’s probably a little of both.

Remember earlier in the season when Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) girlfriend, Andrea, comes home with a bag of groceries and invites Walt to stay for dinner? And soon after Walt manipulates Jesse to throw away his chance for family? We see a parallel of that scene in the sixth episode of season five, “Buyout.” Except this time it’s Skylar coming home with dinner and Walt insisting that Jesse stay. What happens around their dinner table says it all.

Jesse, innocently clueless to what’s going on, says all the wrong things. Skylar plays the role of partner turned hostage. Walt remains a silent, yet threatening presence; his back to the camera for the entire scene. The house is pitch black and a clock audibly ticks in the background.

Saul (Bob Odenkirk) warns Mike (Jonathan Banks), “Whatever you’ve got planned, best pull the rip chord while you still have the chance.”

What chance is left? What option would you vote for? What, or who, can win in Walt’s business of empire?

Walt promises everybody can win.

But when you reduce life to a game of winning and losing, as Walt has done, you create a dualism that is impossible to escape unharmed.

Keep up with the rest of Season Five:

Episode One - “Is Redemption Possible For Walter White?”

Episode Two - “Madrigal, Money, and Metanoia”

Episode Three - “Breaking Bad Made Whole?”

Episode Four - “An Object Lesson and Breaking Bad’s Next Move” 

Episode Five – “Is The Thrill of Breaking Bad Over?”

Is the Thrill of Breaking Bad Over?


Last week’s episode ended with Walt (Bryan Cranston) proclaiming that nothing would stop his train. But Walt didn’t have time to decide how seriously he meant those words before Todd grabbed his own gun and fired.

We’ve learned to pay attention to Vince Gilligan’s opening scenes.

“Dead Freight” begins with an unknown little boy playing with and eventually capturing a tarantula spider in a glass jar. I assumed it was a scene that wouldn’t come back into the plot for at least a few more episodes. Like the tired Walt at a diner on his birthday that opened season five (a scene we now know comes a year from this point in the season). Or the outlined bodies and police tape on Walt’s driveway and the ratted, pink teddy bear from season one.

And then, just as I was sucked back into celebrating another of Walt’s victories as the team extracts the final gallon of methylamine from the train just in the knick of time, the unthinkable happens. That same little boy emerges – in the wrong place at the wrong time – and without hesitation, or time for anyone to stop him, Todd (Jesse Plemons) reacts and kills an innocent boy.

Is the killing of a child the last layer of bad to be broken?

So far, the only characters in the show who have remained innocent are children. Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) relationship with Brock. Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) love of his granddaughter, Kaylee. Skylar (Anna Gunn) is desperate to protect Walter Jr., and Holly. Even Lydia’s daughter becomes the reason Mike didn’t kill her. And while Walt has proven he’s willing to go to any length to ‘protect his family’ and continue making meth, even he has yet to actually kill a child.

Breaking Bad has become a battleground of words. Words that foreshadow. Words that come back to haunt and to kill. Words that shatter our assumptions about right and wrong, good and evil. This is what makes the show (and creator, Vince Gilligan) so brilliant. In this episode alone, we hear –

Hank (to Walt): “It’s always darkest just before the dawn.”

Walt (to Lydia): “Trust has to work both ways.”

Mike (to Walt and Jesse): “I’ve done this long enough to know there are two kinds of heists. Those that get away with it and those that leave witnesses.”

Jesse (to Mike and Walt): “What if we ripped off the train and no one ever knows?”

Walt (to Todd): “No one can know about this other than the three of us. You understand?”

Todd (to Walt and Jesse): “You guys thought of everything.”

Skylar (to Walt): “I’m not your wife. I’m your hostage.”

We’ve gotten used to drugs, deception, and the seemingly inevitable death of those who choose to get involved in these activities. But in this episode, Breaking Bad has broken new ground.

Is the thrill of breaking bad finally finished? For Jesse? For Walt? For you?

Keep up with the rest of Season Five:

Episode One – “Is Redemption Possible For Walter White?”

Episode Two – “Madrigal, Money, and Metanoia”

Episode Three – “Breaking Bad Made Whole?”

Episode Four – “An Object Lesson and Breaking Bad’s Next Move” 

 

An Object Lesson and Breaking Bad’s Next Move

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?

Follow along with Breaking Bad’s Season Five: episodes One, Two, and Three.

Breaking Bad Made Whole?

Episode 3, Season 5 by Samantha Curley

“You will be made whole.”

These strange, almost threatening words are spoken by Mike (Jonathan Banks) in the opening scene of this week’s episode, “Hazard Pay.”  They are words that should strike a chord for anyone from any sort of faith background.

The third episode of season five sees a begrudging Mike forced back into business with Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in order to make-back the hazard pay the feds took from his guys’ off-shore accounts. A discovery, remember, that resulted from Walt’s giant-magnet scheme in the season’s first episode. Another reminder that no small action in this series goes without bigger and badder consequences. (This is known as the butterfly effect, most dramatically depicted in what happens after Walt doesn’t stop Jane from dying in season two.)

On the surface, the wholeness Mike promises is related to money; to replacing the confiscated funds that ensured Mike’s guys did their job well. But what does it mean to be made whole? Are there other layers of wholeness going on? Perhaps in Jesse and Andrea’s seemingly good relationship? Or Jesse’s offer to give a double cut from his share of their earnings so Walt doesn’t have to pay his portion. Maybe in Walt continuing to ‘play house’ by moving back home and sharing popcorn while watching a movie with his kids? And this has always seemed to be about more than money for Mike. Are these signs pointing us towards a longing to be made whole? Is this a longing we all feel? Is it a longing that can (or will) be satisfied?

“Hazard Pay” gives us Walt at his ‘best’ and his worst. He’s back at his mastery of creative and terribly brilliant problem solving as he outlines his plan for the team’s new cook sites. Also, in his fatherly (albeit feigned) attempts at connecting with Jesse regarding his relationship with Andrea. But unlike in the previous four seasons, Walt is too far gone. Reinterpreting truth to fit his deceptive scheming, Walt manipulates Marie (Betsy Brandt) concerning Skylar’s (Anna Gunn) affair with Ted Beneke and also twists the memory of Victor in order to excuse his own greed and justify his selfish gain. Walt is so deep in his own web of lies and manipulation that he must actually believe his version of what’s true. Walt has created an alternate reality that he’s living inside and is systematically working to suck the others in with him. And those who don’t get sucked in? Those whom Walt can’t brainwash (Jesse), manipulate (Marie), or control (Skylar and Saul)? Well, they’re the ones who end up getting killed (Gus). That just leaves Mike and Hank…

What kind of wholeness will creator Vince Gilligan offer us as Breaking Bad’s legacy?

The episode concludes by leaving Jesse with a choice between Mike and Walt. As Walt warned him earlier in the episode, secrets do in fact create barriers between people and Walt has kept a lot of secrets from Jesse. It seems like the whole thing is riding (and maybe it always has) on what Jesse will decide to do next.

[For some Breaking Bad extra credit, notice the details of how media conveys deeper levels of meaning throughout this episode: the lyrics to "On A Clear Day" by the Peddlers playing as Walt and Jesse cook, the plot to the movie Scarface that Walt watches with his kids, the sounds coming from Jesse and Brock's video game. As if we didn't already know, Vince Gilligan is good!]

Join us each week as we blog through the epic final season of Breaking Bad: 

Episode 1: Is Redemption Possible for Walter White?

Episode 2: Madrigal, Money, and Metanoia


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