Ed. Note: This week I welcome back Lloydenberg, I mean Lloyd Nelson, to share his thoughts on “Fifty-One”, Episode Four of the fifth and final season of “Breaking Bad”. Lloyd previously penned a piece about his favorite Girls songs.
After spending all day with another Mr. White (ahem: Jack) at Reckless Records Store, I settled in Sunday night to watch my other favorite Mr. White (Walt) as he navigated the murky waters between being a drug kingpin and family man.
“Fifty-One”, a superbly quiet and tense episode directed by Rian Johnson (of “Brick” and soon-to-be “Looper” fame), brought about the return of Heisenberg and put us right smack in the middle of the “Breaking Bad” story.
It’s Walt’s 51st birthday. We’ve been with the mild-mannered teacher turned cutthroat drug lord for one year now. And maybe more importantly, we’re one year away from Season 5′s first season where Walt celebrated his 52nd birthday in New Hampshire with the purchase of an assault rifle.
The fall of Heisenberg is coming, and if “Fifty-One” tells us anything, it’s that it won’t be pretty.
Here’s 10 things I took from last night’s episode:
1. The scene where Walt tells Marie and Hank about how difficult this year has been, how it’s because of his family that he’s been able to get through it all, while Skyler stands over his shoulder slowly submerging herself in the pool, was perfect. The series started with Walt turning to meth king as a way to support his family as his body was being eaten alive by cancer. Now, it turns out Walt is the cancer.
2. Skyler delivers the biggest blow of all this episode when she tells Walt she’s just going to sit and wait for Walt’s cancer to come back. What could have been an opportunity for Walt to reevaluate his life, what he’s become to those who loved him, was instead simply disregarded as he pointed to the watch Jesse gave him for his birthday, telling Skyler, that he too wanted him dead, but he changed his mind.
3. So Jesse, the only guy who has given Walt the time of day this season, gives his mentor a watch for his birthday. It’s interesting because we all know Walt’s time is ticking away and it’s hard to imagine Jesse isn’t integrally involved.
4. Hank’s promotion plays well against Walt’s self-promotion. Both men are now taking on leadership positions that will have as-yet seen difficulties in the future. For Walt, it’s the cost of distribution. For Hank, it could be politics. But these two have been playing a cat-and-mouse game for quite some time and it’s clear their careers have a symbiotic relationship. The rise of Walt has brought with it the rise of Hank. But what about the fall?
5. Lydia is a problem. Her addition to this season is questionable as she seems to be just a loose end that could cause the unraveling of Walt’s drug empire. I’ll give Vince Gilligan the benefit of the doubt (as he deserves it) but I’m not sold on what she’s bringing. Mike, for one, understands this and would like nothing else but to end her short stint on the series. But Walt refuses to stop the train, despite how unstable its tracks are. And Jesse just doesn’t want the bloodshed.
6. Also, does anyone else think Jesse might be reacting to the fact that Lydia looks a bit like Jane?
7. Walt’s pool has been mighty busy in the past year. From the image of a bear with half its face burned off (Gus Fring, anyone?) to Skyler’s submersion, I think it’s time to reconsider having the pool. Maybe put a tarp over it or drain it.
8. Has there ever been a show that’s taken its antihero protagonist so far past the point of being redeemable? Tony Soprano on the Sopranos, Al Swearengen on Deadwood, Stringer Bell on The Wire all had some shred of humanity throughout. But Walt, who I still think will end up a tragic hero, has simply become an arrogant man bitter at the world for not recognizing his greatness.
9. The hat is back. What Walter used to conceal his identity in the early stages of “Breaking Bad” has now become a symbol of his real identity. Heisenberg, the ruthless stop-at-nothing kingpin, has returned. Fun fact about physicist Karl Heisenberg: He died of cancer to the kidneys and gall bladder. (Ed. Note: Only Lloyd would consider this a fun fact.)
10. I liked when Walter said that Gus was the danger and he got rid of him, allowing Skyler to shoot back “I thought you were the danger.” Skyler has made her stand, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s something. She’s compromised, but she’ll be damned if she lets Walt infect her kids.
What I didn’t like: The dubstep music blaring with a ridiculous amount of quick shots of two expensive sport cars to start off the episode. It was the flashiest moment of a very quiet episode and maybe that was the point. But I just don’t like dubstep!
What did I miss? Do you think “Fifty-One” compares well to “The Fly”, the other Rian Johnson directed Breaking Bad episode? Let me know in the comment section.