Breaking Bad Recap: Just Die

I was unable to post last week because of being sick, and, honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to put together an intelligible piece anyway. The fact is, last Sunday’s episode, episode fourteen, was absolutely brutal. It was simultaneously the most magnificent hour of television I’ve ever watched, and the most horrible. It was, in the words of my friend Matt, like “experiencing your world collapsing around you, captured on film.” It was virtually unwatchable at times.

Of course, the most heartbreaking event of the series to date occurred early on last week. Hank was murdered. In that moment, in the desert, as the shot rang out, it was like the show ceased to be a show. It became somehow tangible, palpable. It was real. And it was horrifying. The sheer genius of Vince Gilligan and his team is the way in which they have built these characters painstakingly over the course of five seasons, so that now we feel we really know them, down to the subtleties of their character and emotion. To lose Hank was to lose someone we know, love, and respect. To lose him that way was to experience the very darkness that is lurking out there in the world we live in everyday.

The clouds, of course, have been gathering all season. And now Walter White’s perfect storm is underway. I haven’t written about God all that much in these reviews, but if there was ever a time to do so, it’s now. Where is God in all of this darkness and mayhem? To be sure, Gilligan’s narrative is not theological in nature, but one must wonder in a universe as brutally real as his whether there may be an unseen Answer, a divine Comfort, leaving breadcrumbs to be found by us viewers. These days, there isn’t much – except, perhaps, for two glimmers coming from two of those characters that we have grown to love so much. And coming in the form of that divinely human attribute: dignity.

Last week, when Hank knew he was caught, that it was over, even as Walter spun his mad scientist tires trying to get his brother out of the trap he himself had set, Hank put his dignity on display. He was not a perfect character, not by any stretch. And even his choices in the episodes leading up to that fateful moment were not exactly dignified. Hank had selfish reasons for staying off the clock and detaining Jesse in his home and going on a rogue manhunt for his brother in law. He wanted to save face, keep his job, hold onto his pride. Pride is not the same as dignity. But when the moment came for Hank to face the music, gun to his head, a beautiful clarity and courage emerged. The words to his captor sounded like raw justice in the face of sheer evil: “My name is ASAC Schrader. And you can go f–k yourself.”

Tonight, we saw the second appearance of this divine dignity, and it may have been the brightest moment in the entire series thus far. Walter, now in New Hampshire, in hiding, is desperate to move some of his money to his family, lest it all be for naught. They have rejected his invitation to escape and start over. They have been plunged into the abyss of pain in the wake of the great Revelation of Walter’s dark secrets. And they find themselves severely hamstrung financially, with wrecked reputations in the community. Walter Jr. especially has been steamrolled by the truth surrounding his father’s life. Everything he knew and loved and trusted was a lie.

Still, Jr. stays on the phone at his school even as the caller reveals himself to be his father.

Walt is pleading, crying, so happy to speak to his son, but at the end of his rope, dying. He wants to send $100,000, but he’ll send it to Jr.’s friend so that Skyler doesn’t know. Jr. can get the money to the family. He didn’t mean for any of this to happen. What they are saying about him in the media isn’t true. What he did he did for his family.

As viewers, we are almost fooled by this sad sincerity.

But not Walter Jr.

“You want to send money? You killed Uncle Hank!” he cries. “You killed him! What you did to Mom…you asshole! You killed Uncle Hank! I don’t want anything from you…Why are you still alive? Why don’t you just die already, just die!”

The dignity coursing through the CP-afflicted body of this young man is a brilliant shot of lightning in this dark storm of destruction.

There is so much to say, but so little time. Jesse is in the crucible of judgment, experiencing the worst kind of hell imaginable. He is paying for his sins, and the sins of his mentor, several times over. Tonight, he lost another huge chunk of his own humanity, even as the man who led him by the hand down this very path remains at large.

At this point, my only remaining hope is that these two, mentor and student, may, in fact, cross paths one more time. And, perhaps there, find a moment of redemption, even if it is only the realization of Jr.’s prophetic word: Just die.

But, in the words of St. Augustine: Not yet.

How about you? What did you think of episode 15? And what are your predictions about how it is all going to end? I’d love to hear your perspective!

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Find him on Twitter & Facebook!

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    Good to see you back on form, Zach.
    I agree that last week’s episode (Ozymandias) was virtually unwatchable – I felt emotionally and physically drained afterwards. So the slower pace of this week’s offering was something of a relief.
    What we saw last night was a Walt who has lost his family and friends, his reputation, his created identity as Heisenberg and even his original identity as Walter White – and now, finally, it seems he’s losing his health too.
    The character I continue to feel most compassion for is still Jesse – after he managed to free himself from his dungeon, I was willing him to make it over the fence. And watching him suffer the agony of seeing yet another loved one die as a result of his involvement in Walt’s criminal empire was heart-rending. Aaron Paul surely deserves some kind of award for his portrayal.
    At the end, we see a spark of energy reignite in Walter’s previously dead eyes: seeing his former business associates spurn him on national TV clearly spurs him to action. The question is, what action, and for what purpose? I wonder whether he still wants to try in some way to salvage some good from the evil he’s perpetrated? Or is he fuelled by nothing more than murderous rage and a desire for vengeance?
    I can imagine a scenario in which Walt sets out to destroy the men who have stolen his money, and in doing so frees Jesse, thus at least performing one liberative act, even if inadvertently. But if that happens, I wonder what Jesse’s reaction will be. Will his own anger against Walt get the better of him and lead him to slay his erstwhile mentor? If so, will he find some kind of catharsis in that, or will it be just one more thing for him to torture himself about in the future?
    Perhaps by this stage Walt will even welcome his own death at the hands of Jesse? During that excruciating phone call with his son, Walt says “I’ve made some terrible mistakes”. I found myself wondering whether he really meant that, or whether he just said it for his son’s benefit. If he did mean it and he’s finally coming to see the error of his ways and the reality of everything he’s done, perhaps he’ll come to see his own death as no more than he deserves – and perhaps he’ll see some kind of poetic justice if Jesse is the one to carry out the sentence.
    So many questions, and only one episode left to answer them! Man, I honestly can’t remember the last time I looked forward to an episode of a TV show this much.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zachhoag

    Rob Grayson You are dead on. There is only one question at this point: Will Walter die as Heisenberg or a redeemed Mr. White? I simply can’t see the latter happening (though he may indeed submit to his own death at Jesse’s hand). I think it’s more likely, though, that in the main Walter will die as Heisenberg…and there will be vengeance before it’s all done.
    Then again, I’m a bit of a pessimist…

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    zachhoag I think you’re right that he’ll die more as Heisenberg than as Walt. At this point my main focus is on Jesse. I’ll almost be happy with just about any ending as long as Jesse comes out OK.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zachhoag

    Rob Grayson zachhoag right on. I think if Jesse suffers anymore, or dies unjustly, the show would simply dissolve into utter darkness. In life or death, Jesse MUST be saved. There’s no other way.

  • J Carver

    zachhoag Rob Grayson Walt kills Todd and his goons. Not by busting in with a gun. He lures them into trap and it succeeds because “He’s the devil and he’s smarter than you”. He frees Jesse but at this point Jesse is broken beyond repair. Jesse pleads with Walt to kill him and put him out of his misery. Walt takes pity on him and, trembling and crying, puts a gun to the back of his head. Scene cuts to Walt driving off in a car. Thus ends the life of Jesse Pinkman. Walt hides the money and leaves directions for Skyler that only she will understand. After Walt is satisfied that he has secured his life’s work for his family he breaks in to the home of Elliot and Gretchen and discovers they are both home. They are terrified. He pulls a gun and monologues about how they stole his work and how they created this monster they see before them. Then he leaves. Drives to the desert where he and Jesse first cooked. Where Hank is buried. Takes the Ricin and falls to the ground and waits to die. End credits.

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    J Carver zachhoag Rob Grayson Well, I guess that’s a viable ending in terms of story arc, but I (and, I suspect, a whole boatload of other fans) would be less than satisfied with it…

  • http://zhoag.com/ zachhoag

    J Carver zachhoag Rob Grayson It’s a solid theory. Very likely.

  • J Carver

    zachhoag J Carver Rob Grayson This is just one of the ways I could see things going down but I’m not sure I would be happy about it. If even one of my theories come true I will feel pretty boss though. :)

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    J Carver zachhoag Rob Grayson I think if you get close you will have done very well. So far the writer’s have managed to surprise me at every turn.
    Whatever happens, it’s going to be an intense episode, that’s for sure.

  • J Carver

    Rob Grayson J Carver zachhoag As I’m still processing days later I think one of my favorite scenes from Sunday’s episode was Saul walking out on Walt after he told Saul he was coming with him. The great and mighty Heisenburg was so weak and pathetic at that point. The culmination of the Ozymandias poem.

  • http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/ Rob Grayson

    J Carver Rob Grayson zachhoag Yeah, I thought that was cool too. Saul finally grew a pair and blew Walt off.
    I thought the whole use of Ozymandias was really clever. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair” is meant to inspire fear in enemies, but with Walt it’s been completely turned around so that he’s the one who ends up despairing at his own works.


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