“Breaking Bad” Season 6 Episode 3 “Confessions”: Unleashing Chekhov’s Arsenal

One of the reasons Breaking Bad is such a great series is that it somehow manages to feel surprising while also entirely inevitable. Most narratives implicitly follow the law of cause-and-effect, but few showrunners actually hold to it as tightly as Vince Gilligan has with his tale of Walter White’s fall from grace. This is why it’s emerged as one of the most profoundly moral shows on television: it’s a show in which actions always have consequences.

Author and playwright Anton Chekhov famously said that you should never show a loaded rifle on stage if you’re not going to fire it; Breaking Bad isn’t about Chekhov’s gun, it’s about Chekhov’s arsenal. These weapons can take the form of seemingly innocent objects that suddenly become instrumental to the plot—a box cutter, a cigarette, a tap bell—but they more often show up as bits of knowledge, or secrets waiting to be exposed. A typical episode juggles several of these elements, and a great deal of the show’s tension derives from the careful balancing act Gilligan and the writers have maintained when crafting each season, figuring out which rifle to fire at particular points and which to leave until later. Breaking Bad is a structural symphony, and Chekhov’s gun is the notes.

“Confessions,” the eleventh episode of the fifth season—or the third episode of the sixth season if you’re thinking of this last batch of episodes that way—would have made Chekhov proud. It’s an episode in which several figurative guns were finally fired and others (including one actual gun) were set on stage. The slow burn of Season 4 is a thing of the past. We’re in free fall now, and the show is hurtling towards a definitive conclusion.

It all feels so methodical and obvious in retrospect. Of course Jesse wouldn’t tell Hank anything, given their history. Of course Walt would find a way potentially turn Hank into the fall guy. Of course he wouldn’t kill Jesse, his pseudo-son—he tends to only resort to murder out of a last grasp for self-preservation. Of course Jesse can’t dig himself out of his spiritual hellhole until he’s discovered the truth about Brock’s poisoning (though the circumstances of Jane’s death, Walt’s final secret, remain unspoken). And of course once he realizes the extent of Walt’s deception, his immediate reaction will be a wild dash for revenge.

The scene where Walt confronts Jesse in the desert takes their relationship to its only logical conclusion given the elements in play. There is no explosive act of violence, no sudden reversal or unexpected twist. The only thing that changes is Jesse’s willingness to say what’s on his mind. He’s done paying lip service to Walt’s lies, and he lays it all out on the table, from his certainty that Mike died at Walt’s hands to his understanding that Walt only really cares about himself. But just as he did two episodes ago, Walt doesn’t break character. He’s become such a master manipulator that he himself can’t separate truth from falsehoods, so he takes the lie to its breaking point, embracing Jesse like a prodigal son. I think there’s a part of Walt that really does love Jesse, and it’s that side of him that ironically allows him to take Jesse further down the rabbit hole. As much as he’s willing to kill and cheat his way to the top, he also wants to deny that he’s that kind of person. This is one of life’s great paradoxes: No matter how evil we become, we all still want to believe that we’re good.

Walt’s lies have now so affected everyone around him that there appears to be no hope to take him down. The confession tape he gives Hank reveals the full extent of his moral bankruptcy—he’s so determined to get away with it, to die without facing a jury, that he’s willing to frame it all on his arch nemesis, the show’s moral core. He has subverted the very essence of a confession; he hasn’t atoned for his sins, he’s only transferred them to someone else. Because his medical bills were inadvertently paid for with drug money, there’s likely no way for Hank to come out of this unscathed. Like the ricin, the DVD is Walt’s last resort, the simpler version of Saul’s escape plan—if he can’t become someone else, he’ll turn someone else into Heisenberg.

With Hank out of the way, the only apparent wild card is his former protégé. But even if he takes care of Jesse (one way or another), there’s still another party that could ruin Walt’s plans: Todd. This episode opens with Lydia’s new cook recounting their train robbery to his uncle like he’s speaking about a folk hero—Heisenberg has once again become the stuff of legend. He views Heisenberg as a role model rather than a cautionary moral tale, and he’s so captivated that he can barely leave a voicemail message informing Walt of the “change in management.” This subplot involving Madrigal and the continuation of Walt’s meth enterprise continues to play out largely in the background, only taking up a scene or two each episode, but I suspect it will soon play a major role in how Breaking Bad ultimately ends.

After all, once you’ve shown us the rifle, you can’t just let it sit there.

What did you think of this episode of Breaking Bad? Let us know in the comments below!

Read More:

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 1: Blood Money.

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 2: Buried

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 4: Rabid Dog

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 5: To’hajiilee

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 6: Ozymandias

Vote on how the series should end here.

Breaking Bad: Anna Gunn Speaks Out on Skyler-Hate


Anna Gunn plays Skyler White on Breaking Bad and she’s got something to say. Skyler is the wife of chemistry-teacher-cum-meth-dealer Walter, an ordinary woman thrust against her will into a world of violence, money, temptations, danger, and moral compromise.

All the acting on the show is amazing and Anna Gunn is no exception. She’s alternately angry, depressed, desperate, resolute, and strong.

And people hate her. So much that Ms. Gunn wrote a piece in the New York Times responding.

A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.”

“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

I enjoy taking on complex, difficult characters and have always striven to capture the truth of those people, whether or not it’s popular. Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” wanted Skyler to be a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised. But at the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter.

Male characters,” she says, “Don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.”

I never saw Skyler as a nag, a shrew, although other people (ahem) in my household have. I’ve seen her as a victim who has not given up. Her goal has been to protect her family and she’s made some morally questionable decisions down that road.

Last week’s episode, Buried (recap here), was the strongest yet in which Skyler crosses over into the dark side, rejecting her chance to come clean and get out. She’s not a victim any more. She’s driving this train, or at least helping.

Personally, I’m less concerned with whether Skyler is a feminist heroine or not. I’m more interested in seeing what happens as her own compromises take her down the same trail that Walt has blazed. She’s in. Will she personally sell meth? Will she kill someone?

Why can’t a woman have as powerful a story arc as her onscreen husband?

Most of all, what will her choices mean for her children? When she refused to let Marie take her baby, she essentially signed her kids up for the devastation to come.

What do you think? What will happen to Skyler? And does she deserve it?

Read More:

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 1: Blood Money.

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 2: Buried

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 3: Confessions

Vote on what the end should be here

“Broadchurch” Review: Everyone Is Guilty

It’s not unusual for guilt to set in after the death of a loved one or an acquaintance, even if it’s completely unfounded. We all want to be excused for what happened, to assure ourselves that nothing we did contributed to someone else’s tragedy. I should have been there, we say. I should have gotten to know him better. I should have been more compassionate. I shouldn’t have done that one thing that one time. Maybe if I’d behaved differently, the universe, or God, would have set different events in motion.

This week’s episode of Broadchurch was all about how the past can rear its head during a crisis and transform grief into self-loathing. Mark Latimer blames himself for having an extra-marital affair the night of Danny’s murder. Beth struggles with the knowledge that she’s pregnant, presumably by someone other than her husband. Det. Hardy searches for the murderer with the guilt of a recent scandal hanging over his head. They’re all haunted by past transgressions and the possibility that Danny’s death “may be punishment for what we did,” refusing to let themselves be comforted out of a subconscious desire for judgment.

Det. Hardy is the only one who seems to recognize this psychological pattern, though. When asked why he stays in Broadchurch even though he clearly hates working there, he states it outright: “Penance.” Maybe if he tortures himself for a few months he can make up for whatever he did wrong during his last murder investigation. We also learn this episode that he’s got some sort of serious medical condition that could be aggravated by stress. Perhaps he feels so guilty that he subconsciously longs for death; maybe then the cosmic scales would be balanced.

He isn’t the only one. Mark is so ashamed by his affair with Becca Fisher that he allows himself to be arrested and obstructs the investigation into Danny’s murder just to keep it secret. He hates himself so much that he meets with Becca again that evening, desperate to continue the affair. Is it because he desires comfort in the midst of tragedy, or because he wants to do something to further damn himself and potentially ruin his life? Like Detective Hardy, he’s reeling out of control, desperate for something to hang onto.

It’s a shame he doesn’t reach out to his wife. Beth feels trapped in the house and is desperate for any sort of relief. Last week she found solace in the words of Rev. Coates (who checks in on her this episode—he’s such a nice guy) and this week she turns to self-proclaimed psychic Steve Connolly, despite the fact he’s practically stalking her. He appears to be mild-mannered and well-intentioned, but there’s something sinister about the way he weaves comfort and suspicions together, claiming that Danny doesn’t want her to worry but also that he was killed by someone she knows very well. Her marriage is in trouble, and likely to collapse under the weight of the trauma, especially if instead of helping each other they reinforce each other’s self-hatred.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, however. In the funniest scene of the episode, Det. Miller invites Hardy over to her house for dinner, despite the fact he’s spent the entire day humiliating her and not trusting her judgment. Last week’s episode was about how social mores are often unsuitable for dealing with grief; this is one instance where the socially accepted idea of “what people do” may be the first step in building a healthier relationship. If Miller can help Hardy pull himself out of self-loathing, maybe there’s hope for everyone else.

This is why Broadchurch continues to impress me. It began with a simple premise that’s been done a thousand times and is gradually turning our expectations on their head. The murder investigation isn’t the primary focus here, and for the past two episodes it’s been mainly left to simmer in the background. It was always obvious Mark Latimer was a red herring, not the real culprit, and rather than quickly move on the show spent an entire episode wallowing in why he chose to lie. This isn’t a police procedural as much as it’s a series about community and how individuals respond to trauma.

I find myself wondering what a “satisfying” or “good” outcome could be. Even if Danny’s killer is caught, that won’t take away the pain or the confusion. That has to be lived through no matter what. Maybe, as with so many real-life murder cases, the killer will never be found. Does that render the grieving process completely pointless? So far, I’m finding these characters’ chaotic quests for comfort more meaningful than any verdict.

“Breaking Bad” Season 6 Episode 2: Nothing Stays “Buried” Forever

Last week’s episode of Breaking Bad ended with the confrontation fans have been waiting for, as Walt and Hank each acknowledged that the other is now his mortal enemy. This week’s episode, ”Buried,” was almost nothing but such confrontations, from Hank, Marie and Skyler fighting over a baby (I suppose it’s not a huge leap for Marie to go from kleptomania to kidnapping) to Lydia meeting Declan’s gang and terminating their services.

I suspect there are more than a few of these encounters left to occur (the episode ends right as another one begins), and that’s fine with me. We’ve had four-and-a-half seasons of lies and murder, so now it’s time to witness the toll the truth can take on people as they start to realize just how far Walt has fallen. If this episode is any indication, it’s going to be fantastic.

Hank and Walt are two sides of the same coin; both of them are tempted by their egos, but Hank will always sacrifice himself for the greater good (he’s minutes away from telling Gomie everything), while Walt will always choose himself (his plea for Skyler to keep the money doesn’t stem from a desire to help his family as much as a stubborn refusal to lose).

Breaking Bad has often been stylized in the vein of old-fashioned Westerns, and our first look at the two of them is a beat-for-beat homage to a Sergei Leone gunfight, with cell phones serving as the weapon of choice.

Hank draws first, calling Skyler before Walt can warn her that the jig is up, but the shooting is far from over.

The scene where Hank meets Skyler in the diner lasts for over seven minutes, and it’s one of the tensest sequences in the show’s history, bolstered by some of the most nuanced acting yet by Anna Gunn and Dean Norris. In Breaking Bad, knowledge is power, and the only way to defeat your opponent is to know something they don’t. At the beginning of this confrontation, Hank and Skyler are both equally unsure of the cards they’re holding: Skyler doesn’t know what Hank has discovered, and he’s uncertain as to how she’s involved.

Just when it looks like he might persuade her to trust him, he pulls out the recorder, a telling sign that he doesn’t have the proof he needs. She, in contrast, reveals no details about how she’s involved, or even when she found out her husband was cooking meth. When Hank lets it slip that Walt’s cancer is back, he loses all his leverage. The odds are against him, and they both know it.

As soon as he realizes Hank is meeting with Skyler, Walt panics and gets to work hiding his stockpile of cash.  Cranston has mastered the art of communicating Walt’s desperation—underneath the facade of Heisenberg, Walt has always been a scared, frantic character. He can hide it perfectly, letting Heisenberg be confident for him when necessary, but once the need has passed his true cowardice always seeps through.

Last week, I noted that Walt was explicitly referred to as the devil, and this week the symbolism continues, particularly during the scene when he buries the money out in the desert. One shot frames him between two barrels, trapped in a pit with hellish red light emanating from below. If what we’ve seen these past two episodes is any indication, he is damned, and there’s no escape.

He isn’t the only one hiding the evidence of his sins underground. Lydia decides to figure out just why the meth she’s paying for has declined so much in quality. Declan’s cook site is also buried in the desert, and it’s a far cry from the superlab Gus Fring built for Walt. His methods are bad for business, so Lydia hires Todd and his uncle to replace them, cowering in the corner while they’re, er, sent on a trip to Belize. She prefers to stay as far away from the violence as possible, as if by ignoring it she can maintain her innocence.

“I don’t want to see,” she says, effectively summing up the entire show in a single line; Breaking Bad has always been about people living in denial about who they really are and how they should behave. Hank is still coming to grips with the fact the criminal mastermind he’s been chasing for over a year was right under his nose. Marie seems reluctant to realize the full extent of Skyler’s involvement (which is why her reaction is so explosive when she finally does).

Even Skyler herself now seems unable to see which action would be the “right” one to take. She’s been both a victim and a co-conspirator over the course of the series, and by the end of “Buried” she decides to bet on Walt, or at least, Walt’s cancer. Granted, she really does seem to think that’s the best route to take to protect her children—I have a feeling she’d betray Walt in a heartbeat if she thought it would help them—but she seems unwilling to even consider the possibility that working with Hank would be best in the long run, at least for now.

The only character who has really “seen” things for a while now is Jesse. He’s no longer under any illusions about who he is and what he’s done, and it’s destroying him. Aaron Paul is only in two scenes this episode, and he doesn’t have a single line, but he communicates all he needs to with his eyes. He might as well be on another planet while he’s being interrogated. It’s the same look he used to get when he was high on heroin (the camera even zooms in on him slightly at the end of the opening scene, a reversal of the moment when he “flew” away from Jane in Season 2), except this time he isn’t lost in a drug-fueled haze, he’s trapped in his own self-understanding. He gazed into the abyss, it stared back, and now he can’t look away.

Unlike Walt, though, he can still be redeemed. Michelle MacLaren—one of the show’s best directors—frames the second-to-last shot like a Catholic confessional, with Jesse stewing in his guilt while Hank watches from behind a grated window.

This might be the most important moment of Jesse’s life. With only a few words, he can save his soul and condemn the guy who corrupted it. But will he? It could go either way. The God’s-eye view in the opening scene finds him on a playground roundabout, presenting him as both a child spinning in a swirl of confusion and a lone bullet in the chamber of a gun Hank can’t wait to fire.

Patheos loves Breaking Bad. And we love to write about it!

For more recaps, reviews, and discussion, visit our Breaking Bad page.

What did you think of this episode of Breaking Bad? Let us know in the comments below!

Read More:

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 1: Blood Money.

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 3: Confessions

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 4: Rabid Dog

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 5: To’hajiilee

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 6: Ozymandias

Vote on how the series should end here.

“Broadchurch” Review: Healing Is Hard To Do

The first episode seemed like a pretty straightforward setup for a typical murder mystery, but this week’s installment indicates Broadchurch may be going for more than your typical whodunit. Yes, there are the expected plot twists revealing that certain individuals may be hiding something, but more than anything there’s an oppressive sense of stasis, as if the community is so traumatized by Danny’s murder they’re unstuck in time. Several scenes find characters just walking, lost in their thoughts—Hardy exploring the cliffs, Danny’s mother Beth aimlessly wandering the aisles of the grocery store—which suggests that Broadchurch is just as interested in the emotional and social effects of a crime as the investigation into who committed it.

Now that most of the major players have been introduced, director James Strong takes his time establishing a strong mood and peeling away the layers of small-town etiquette in the face of tragedy. What he uncovers is one of the most fascinating explorations of grief in recent memory. How should we respond when confronted with loss, both in our own lives and in the lives of others? That’s the question driving this episode, and its ultimate conclusion is there is no right answer, only the struggle to find one. When faced with such devastating grief, there’s the feeling that one “ought” to do something, from offering personal condolences to the family to creating a memorial fund, but there’s no guarantee that will make anyone feel better. In fact, it could just make things worse.

“Be a decent person,” local hotel owner Becca (Simone McAulley) tells shop owner Laurie (Bill Fellows), who seems more concerned with how the murder will affect his business than with how to respond “appropriately” and respectfully. That’s easily said, but nobody knows quite how to do it. Laurie comes off as insensitive, but he’s really not that much more selfish than anyone else. Strangers stop and stare as Beth nearly breaks down in the grocery store. A word of sympathy from someone inspires rage rather than comfort. A public statement of support for the community is interpreted as a grab for fame. And even Becca hopes that the murderer will be caught in time for her to earn a few of those summer tourism dollars. Some trauma runs so deep that the only way people know how to try and make others feel better is to do what makes they themselves feel better, even if those gestures are hollow or damaging.

If the first episode of Broadchurch was about death, the second is about life after death, whether it’s a supernatural afterlife or the day-to-day struggle to cope with loss. In an unexpected twist, the series doesn’t ignore the former. A new character, telephone engineer Steve Connolly (Will Mellor), claims to be able to receive psychic messages from the dead, and he might actually be telling the truth. Detectives Hardy and Miller are immediately hostile—after all, police work relies on concrete evidence, not unproven claims—but Connolly seems sincere, and he even brings up something from Hardy’s past that nobody else should know. What initially seems like a goofy attempt at comic relief soon becomes a fascinating development for an otherwise standard police procedural. It’ll be interesting to see how Broadchurch handles these metaphysical themes and how the possible presence of supernatural insights—or, at least, the desire to believe they’re true—affects the investigation.

This episode also introduces a compelling new character in the form of Rev. Paul Coates (Arthur Darvill), a vicar who becomes one of the few people to whom Beth feels comfortable opening up. He seems genuinely interested in helping her through her grief, and he doesn’t judge her when she reveals she’s pregnant and “it’s complicated.” Many films and television shows cast religious figures in broad strokes, often as hypocritical wolves in sheep’s clothing, but so far Coates seems like a real, complex person of faith. He doesn’t always seem certain that he’ll say the right thing, but he does his best, and most of all he seems willing to listen (as he reminds Beth, belief in God “isn’t compulsory” to receive his compassion).

But even he seems flawed, or perhaps unconsciously acting out of self-interest. Danny’s grandmother Liz (Susan Brown) encourages him to connect with the town, to help them through this tough time; he does so by making a televised statement of support. Beth seems moved by his words, but Mark reacts violently, interpreting it as a tactic to increase church attendance. And he’s not entirely wrong; Coates does seem to be looking for a way to attract more people to his services. “Your God left my son for dead!” Mark tells him, and for all practical purposes he’s correct: God or no God, Danny won’t be coming back.

Christians often stereotype atheists as cold rationalists that refuse to acknowledge the healing power of God, but the truth is, the mystery of God can sometimes become a source of further pain. One of the uncomfortable realities of faith is that there is no guaranteed source of comfort in times of crisis. This episode of Broadchurch did a fantastic job exploring the confusion that sets in after a traumatic event, and I hope the show continues to be willing to embrace the uncertain. As Danny’s grandmother Liz tells Coates, “People never know what they need until it’s given to them.” All we can do is try our best to be decent people and accept that, despite our best intentions, we won’t always succeed.

Review: This “Low Winter Sun” Has Already Set Once

It’s easy to see why an American network would want to remake the 2006 British miniseries Low Winter Sun. It was a bleak, twisty cop thriller about flawed people doing awful things for the right reasons featuring great performances and oozing atmosphere. Best of all, it was a two-part miniseries that clocked in at only two-and-a-half hours, leaving ample room for expansion. Remaking it seems like a no-brainer, right? After all, brooding male anti-heroes have been trendy ever since Tony Soprano, and AMC will soon be losing its both Walter White and Don Draper. Instead of redefining or evolving their brand, they seem to have decided to just stick to what’s worked for them in the past.

The problem with the pilot for Low Winter Sun, however, is that it lacks everything that made the opening episodes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad so refreshing. The former was so precisely stylized that even if viewers weren’t immediately captivated by Don Draper’s womanizing ways, they could still be drawn in by its lush production design, and the latter understood that the best way to bring viewers on board is to open with something they’ve never seen before (say what you will about a guy in the middle of the desert in his tighty-whities, it’s memorable). Low Winter Sun looks just like every other cop drama on television, and it’s so focused on getting the plot rolling that it forgets to give us a reason to care.

The episode plays out exactly like the first quarter of the British miniseries, with Detective Frank Agnew (Mark Strong, reprising his role from the original) and Detective Joe Geddes (Lennie James) murdering the latter’s partner, Brendan McCann (Michael McGrady) and making it look like a suicide. Agnew does it because he believes McCann killed the woman he loved; Geddes just seems hate him. Of course, their plan starts to go awry when a body is found in the trunk of McCann’s car and internal affair investigator Simon Boyd (Breaking Bad’s David Costabile) shows up to investigate his dirty deeds. The pilot suggests most of the drama will revolve around their efforts to keep from getting caught.

This has all the makings of a quality drama, but it feels like too much of the same too late in the game. Strong and James are both immensely talented performers, but neither fares well here; Strong is a bit too monotonous, and James enunciates his lines a bit too precisely, as if they’re struggling to find a way to make stale dialogue seem important (or perhaps the two British actors are just trying to ease their way into an American accent). When the script isn’t stealing dialogue from the original miniseries word-for-word, it’s replacing it with stilted exposition or heavy-handed exchanges about the themes of the show. For example, the UK version opened with Agnew implicitly questioning his decision to kill McCann by debating the ethics of eating lobster. This one finds Geddes just directly stating his worldview: “Folks talk about morality like it’s black-and-white… But you know what it really is? It’s a damn strobe, flashing back-and-forth. All we can do is try to figure out how to see straight enough to keep from getting our heads bashed in.” That’s an idea worth exploring, but who talks like that?

The first two episodes are directed by Ernest Dickerson, a veteran of shows like Dexter and The Wire. Where the original miniseries favored a color palette of muted grays and blues, he photographs this version in browns and blacks, lending an aura of lived-in dirt and grime to most of the locations—the police station feels ancient—and providing the proceedings with a welcome sense of place. The rest of the direction and editing feels perfunctory, and I can only hope the series continues to use its Detroit setting to differentiate this Low Winter Sun from its UK counterpart. Often times the best way to revive stale tropes is to move them to a unique location, and The Motor City certainly fits the bill. It’s been through tough times, but as the theme song states, “I ain’t no quitter… Ain’t nobody gonna hold me down.”

There is one subplot new to the American version. It follows Damon Callis (James Ransone) and his wife Maya (Sprague Grayden), two low-level criminals who were planning to use ties with McCann to take down a local crime boss. This storyline provides AMC with an opportunity to differentiate this Low Winter Sun from its UK counterpart and to explore the underbelly of a city on the verge of economic collapse. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the pilot to suggest Low Winter Sun will be anything other than a plot-centered carbon-copy of a superior original property. I’ll keep watching for now, but Agnew puts it best at the end of the episode: “I don’t know if I can look at this.”

“Breaking Bad” Recap: The Beginning of the End

“You are the devil.”

This line is uttered only a few minutes into “Blood Money,” the first episode of the final half-season of Breaking Bad, which kicked off the final eight episodes of the series last night. It’s something fans of the show have known for a long time yet the characters onscreen are only now beginning to grasp (and the person who says it doesn’t even mean it). With his bald head and goatee, Walter White even looks like a prototypical cartoon Lucifer, just without the horns and pitchfork.

There have been, and will continue to be, debates among fans about when Walt fully became his villainous alter-ego, Heisenberg. Was it when he let Jane die? Or was it at some point along the chain of lies to Skyler? I’ve always felt that Walter White died pretty early on, in the fifth episode of the first season, when he rejects Elliot’s offer to pay for his chemotherapy. Even though his early attempts at cooking meth led to murder, he still refused to set aside his pride, and it’s that self-centeredness masquerading as bold confidence that set him down this ever-widening path of destruction. At this point in the series, that selfishness has consumed him, and all traces of Walter White are gone. Only Heisenberg—the devil, in a sense—remains.

When we last saw Walt, he had finally found a way out. He trained Todd to be his successor and left his meth business in the hands of Lydia to continue running things overseas. All he had to do was keep running the car wash with Skyler for the sake of appearances and they could live off their millions of dollars in savings. But in the universe of Breaking Bad, there is a God who punishes the wicked. Or at least, there’s poetic justice. This episode picks up right where the mid-season finale left off, with Hank realizing Walt’s true identity as Heisenberg from the comfort of a toilet seat, a posthumous last laugh from Gale Boetticher. He’s so stunned he can barely drive home, but he’s a good cop, and he doesn’t hesitate to start having boxes of evidence delivered so he can put all the pieces together.

At first it might seem remarkable that Hank doesn’t even question what to do—after all, his entire family will be ruined if he sends Walt to jail—but that’s only because we’re so used to seeing characters in film and television bend their morals in the name of family. He’s the antithesis of Walt, a man who won’t use the people around him as an excuse to do wrong or let it go unpunished because he recognizes that it’s better to hurt those he loves than to lose his soul. Despite all his flaws and the inevitable fallout, he’s the guy we all should want to emulate. The final scene in the garage at last finds both men revealing their true selves: Hank, the man who’s committed to stopping Walt without compromising himself, and Walt-slash-Heisenberg, the guy who will do anything to keep from reaping what he’s sown.

It’s here that we finally learn what’s been hinted at for a while now: Walt’s cancer has returned. For most of the series’ run, he was the cancer, infecting everyone around him with lies and violence. Now that he’s no longer playing the meth game, he’ll die, and he doesn’t even seem to care. This isn’t a defeat, it’s a victory. If he dies now, he’ll die on top of the world, having escaped judgment for all his sins. His family will be secure. He’ll have won. That’s what’s at stake when he confronts Hank in the garage, and it’s why Hank still has a tough job ahead of him. The battle lines have been drawn, and as Walt reminds him, even though he knows the truth the odds are against him.

It’s a gripping moment that has already become another meme (though I doubt “Tread Lightly” will have the same staying power as “I Am The One Who Knocks”), but it pales in comparison to Walt’s meeting with Jesse, who’s so desperate for forgiveness that by the end of the episode he’s trying to buy it, tossing wads of cash at strangers’ houses. Becoming the Robin Hood of Albuquerque won’t erase what he’s done, but he at least seems closer to redemption than Walt, who can’t even admit that he killed Mike. Cranston delivers an incredibly nuanced performance in this scene, somehow managing to make Walt seem sympathetic even as he spouts one lie after another. It’s as if Walt isn’t just trying to persuade Jesse of his innocence, but himself as well. He’s so trapped by his own ego, so lost, that he only views himself as guilty as the people around him do—if Jesse (or Skyler, or Hank, or the audience) thinks he’s innocent, then he is, at least practically speaking. Were Jesse to fight back, to claim he still believes Mike is dead, Walt would be forced to come to grips with the monster inside, and he might not like what he discovers.

Denial can only take him so far, though. Lydia isn’t happy with the quality of product her partners are distributing, and she wants Walt to come show them how it’s done. He refuses, but that won’t be enough. His deeds have become chains tying him to other people, and he’ll likely never be able to fully break them. He might be able to deal with Hank or Lydia individually, but the pressure from both could prove too much.

After all, we already know things probably don’t go his way. This mid-season premiere repeats the same technique from the beginning of Season 5, opening with a flash-forward of Walt, disheveled and alone, his outward appearance finally reflecting his spiritual malaise. He visits the dilapidated remains of his home and grabs the vial of ricin he hid there. Maybe he’ll poison an enemy. Maybe he’ll poison himself. Can even Walt be redeemed? It seems unlikely, but I hope it’s not impossible. Maybe the real devils are those of us watching at home, assuming (or maybe even wishing) that there is no hope.

Patheos loves Breaking Bad. And we love to write about it!

For more recaps, reviews, and discussion, visit our Breaking Bad page.

What did you think of this episode of Breaking Bad? Let us know in the comments below!

Read More:

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 2: Buried

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 3: Confessions

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 4: Rabid Dog

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 5: To’hajiilee

Breaking Bad Season 6 Episode 6: Ozymandias

Vote on how the series should end here.

Review: ‘Broadchurch’ Like ‘The Killing’ Without the Rain

Ever since Twin Peaks aired in 1990, television has seemed like the perfect medium to tell long-form stories about detectives investigating a single crime. Unlike film, in which the mystery typically needs to be solved over the course of a mere two hours, the small screen allows fictional police work to be presented more faithfully to its real life counterpart: as slow, methodical and draining rather than action-packed and exciting. The past few years in particular have seen a resurgence of slickly-produced tv dramas about serial killers and the people hunting them down, both in the United States and the UK. Dexter, Hannibal, The Killing, The Fall, Sherlock, Luther, Top of the Lake, The Bridge… Murder makes for compelling television, and while most of those shows are worth watching for virtues beyond the initial cops-and-killers premise, it’s starting to feel more than a little tired.

The latest entry into this ever-expanding genre is Broadchurch, a British import that received rave reviews and ratings when it aired in the UK last spring. Showrunner and head writer Chris Chibnall is perhaps best known for his contributions to Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood, and the series reunites him with two recurring directors from those programs, James Strong and Euros Lyn. Viewers in the mood for something bleak may find lots to love, but there’s not much in the first episode to differentiate it from its crime drama brethren.

The premise is simple. A young boy named Danny Latimer is found dead on the beach, and detectives Alec Hardy (Doctor Who’s David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) have to track down the killer. The opening episode is painfully familiar, and there’s not much to indicate it will proceed much differently from other shows of this ilk. It plays out very similar to the pilot of another show that follows one murder investigation over an entire season or longer, The Killing, albeit without all the rain. We’ve seen this before: a body is discovered, the police and media descend, the family members of the victim begins to grieve. It’s likely the show will develop its own identity as the season progresses, but this beginning is pretty standard stuff.

That said, Broadchurch kicks things off as well as a series about a murder investigation can these days; this is one of the rare instances where a solid execution may prove enough to breathe life into a premise that feels like it’s reached its saturation point. The two leads are supremely talented (go rent the British drama Tyrannosaur for a powerful look at Colman’s capabilities) and the direction in this first episode never feels insecure.

There’s loads of potential in the setting, the titular small town. In the United States, a single murder in New York City or Chicago is commonplace, or even a “good day.” But in smaller communities—especially in the UK, where even London seems relatively safe—the murder of a child is far more impactful. A greater percentage of residents may know the victim, or perhaps even have a motive to commit the crime. Even law enforcement officials, in the case of Detective Miller, may find their professional judgment tested by personal connections to multiple invested parties. The smaller the community, the greater the upheaval when lives and routines are suddenly disrupted.

We aren’t told much about our main detectives, but what we do learn could lead to some interesting developments. Miller’s first scene finds her returning to the office after taking three weeks maternity leave, only to discover that a promotion she was assured was hers has been given to Hardy. Not only does this immediately introduce tension between the two officers—can you remember the last time you saw a detective show where people worked together without any problems?—it also clues us in that she’s psychologically vulnerable to the pressures of this case. She knows Danny and recently had another baby, so the murder weighs heavy on her mind. Hardy’s obstacles, meanwhile, are more professional in nature. He’s an outsider, having only recently arrived in Broadchurch after a scandal during another high-profile murder case tarnished his reputation. The fact that the Daily Herald has sent seasoned reporter Karen White (Vicky McClure) to investigate may make it more difficult for him to escape the media spotlight and possible past transgressions.

Sure, this is all well-trod territory, but it would be a mistake to completely write off Broadchurch after one episode, particularly given its overwhelmingly positive reception overseas. I suspect that like most shows of this vein, it will succeed or fail based on how it develops everything around the murder rather than the murder itself. The identity of the killer is important (which is why so many people felt cheated after the first season of The Killing), but it won’t matter if the show can’t create compelling characters, moods and themes.

Enough of all those things are present in the first episode to suggest that Chibnall knows what he’s doing. One astonishing shot in the first half follows Danny’s father (Andrew Buchan) as he takes a morning stroll on the way to work, chit-chatting with friends and acquaintances along the way. It’s all presented in one long, smooth take, the calm before the storm, and begs the question: Which of these smiling faces hides a killer underneath? If Chibnall, Strong and Lyn keep crafting things this precisely, Broadchurch might just be able to take its clichéd premise and elevate it into something fresh.

Broadchurch airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on BBC America. The first episode is available for viewing on demand and on the web for a limited time.

Andrew Johnson is a freelance journalist and the founder of Film Geek Radio, a network of film-and-tv-themed podcasts. He’s also a contributing editor to Movie Mezzanine. His writing has appeared in numerous print and online outlets, including The Syracuse New Times, The Post and Courier, AFI-Fest and Film School Rejects. Follow him on Twitter @WriterAndrew.

Holly Tucker Sings Hymn on ‘The Voice:’ Comforting After Oklahoma Tornado

Did you catch The Voice last night?

The tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma was very much on the minds of contestants and even one judge. Blake Shelton hails from Oklahoma, as does the contestant team Colton and Zach Swon.

Any other week, when Holly Tucker took the stage to sing the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art,” the overtly religious song choice might have seemed odd.

But with families tearing through rubble to find missing loved ones, the reminder of God’s faithfulness felt like what we needed.

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Usher seemed taken aback at the overt public display of faith, but Shakira called her “an angel” and “heavenly” while Blake expressed gratitude.

Later in the show, host Carson Daly checked in with the Swon brothers, whose own background leans toward Gospel as well. “Oklahoma is a praying state,” one of them said. In an aggressively secular TV world, it’s good to be reminded.

What do you think?


Interview: Kurt Warner on ‘The Moment’ (Premieres TONIGHT!)

It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement in 1999 when an unknown named Kurt Warner came from obscurity to lead the St. Louis Rams to win the Superbowl.

His story, now well-known, electrified our household: A star of the Arena football league, which we all knew to be for those who couldn’t make it in the NFL, he was stocking shelves at the local grocery store to support his family when he was signed to the Rams. Unexpectedly, a spot opened for him due to injuries in the string of quarterbacks above him. He took the spot of quarterback, surprised everyone by winning, and further astounded everyone by leading his team to a Superbowl victory.

He had a second chance at his dream.

I talked to Kurt recently. He hosts the reality show “The Moment,” premiering on the USA Network tonight, in which people are given a shot at pursuing the dream that eluded them.

When you got the call saying we want you to come play in the NFL, how did that feel? 

There was relief, there as excitement, there was nervousness. And the knowledge that after all the perseverance, after all the hoping and wishing, it was up to me to show everybody that I could make something of this second chance.

I knew that opportunity, because somebody gave me a chance, didn’t mean I was guaranteed anything. On this show, we’re not giving anybody anything other than an opportunity. We’re giving them a chance to chase their dream. When I personally was given that chance, I knew it was up to me.

 You’ve always been vocal about your faith. I’d love to hear about a time when God really met you. 

I became a Christian at about 26 years old as I was going through the process of playing Arena football and trying to get back into the NFL and pursue my dream. About six months after I became a Christian, I had to leave my family for four months and go to Amsterdam [to play for a Rams affiliated team in the NFL Europe league].

Of all places.

After six months of being a Christian to go that city.

It was really the first time for me to be on my own, from a faith standpoint. My wife had been a Christian since twelve years old. I’d had friends who were really able to give me direction. And then He throws me into Amsterdam.

To go to church there, I had to walk through a red light district. I remember feeling like, Ok, this was the first time I couldn’t do it on my own. As a man, as a football player, you’re kind of like, “ok, what part of this can I control? And God can kind of do the rest.”

This was the first time where I’m like, “Ok, this is going to be impossible. How am I going to get to church on Sundays? How am I going to lead the guys?” And I saw Him show up over and over again. I was able to connect with a friend, he later became a pastor. I was able to lead a Bible study with half the guys from my team. And really became able to testify to people with my faith. And the only reason was because I fully trusted God to take over.

Kurt’s enthusiasm about giving people a second chance to work hard and chase a dream comes through loud and clear. The show is inspiring and fun for the entire family. I encourage you to tune in.