SPOILER ALERT: Watch the episode before reading this post.
I crossed boroughs Sunday night to watch the “Breaking Bad” premiere, only to learn my venue of choice – Union Hall in Brooklyn – had reached capacity long before my arrival. When you cross boroughs for a television show – or anything, for that matter – failure is not an option. Such is the hassle that crossing boroughs involves.
So my friend Shaheim and I set out on foot for option No. 2, Halyard’s, resigned to the likelihood it too would be at capacity. And then what?
On the brink of despair with the premiere five minutes away, and still blocks away from Halyards, I spotted Canal Bar, an unlikely candidate for a “Breaking Bad” screening but what the hell. Did I mention we were desperate? Inside, the accommodating blonde bartender, praise her unknown name, switched the TV from an anonymous sports program to AMC right as the opening sequence of “Breaking Bad” unfolded.
Sure, Canal Bar lacked the “Breaking Bad” inspired drinks and nerdy camaraderie Union Hall promised but it made up for it with a red Kool-Aid and rum concoction called “Jungle Juice” and the drunk woman at bar’s end who sounded like she had a megaphone taped to her mouth. She, regrettably, did not come with a mute button. I tuned her out best I could and basked in the excellence on the screen.
Here are my thoughts on “Blood Money”, in no particular order:
A) We all knew Walt and Hank were on a collision course. I, personally, did not expect them to ram into each other in the first episode of Season 5’s second half. Yet, I could not have been more pleased with the scene’s execution. The way it played out with Hank unloading anger, shock, and disbelief on Walt only to have his brother-in-law return serve with his cancer prognosis, denial of his wrongdoings, and the bad-ass “tread lightly” line made it one of the most riveting moments of the show’s five-year run, especially when you consider the anticipation surrounding their inevitable confrontation. The scene had a back-and-forth tension to it that recalled a prize fight. Hank punched Walt – both literally and figuratively – in his attempt to learn why Walt became a mass murderer. Walt ducked and dodged, then when cornered about who he’d become, directed a not so subtle threat Hank’s way. Ball’s in your court, Hank.
B) So about Walt’s impending arrest: Hank has a duty to gather evidence to arrest Walt for murder, drug distribution, and a never-ending list of other felonies BUT his investigation will implicate his sister-in-law in a major way and raise questions about what he knew about the criminal enterprise when he accepted money from Walt for his leg rehabilitation. The investigation montage suggests Hank has sufficiently connected the dots on Heisenberg’s criminal actions but I wonder how far he’s gotten into how Skyler plays into all of this. How will he pull everything together? Who will he confide in about the Heisenberg revelation? Gomez? Surely not Marie, right?
C) Dean Norris (Hank) deserves an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor based on his Episode 9 work alone. His anguished look exiting the White’s bathroom told the story better than words could and he stood toe-to-toe with the great Bryan Cranston in the episode’s crowning scene. Bravo!
D) Let’s rewind for a second: Holy hell, the opening sequence set my mind racing. The White house is no longer the White house. It’s been seized, the interior walls have Heisenberg scrawled on them, and kids use the dried-out pool as a skating bowl. Oh, and Carol the next-door neighbor is freaked the hell out at the sight of Walt, a veritable ghost rocking a beard and patchy brown hair. What does it all mean? Well, it seems to suggest the DEA seized Walt’s house, and Walt went on the run. He has a gym bag of cash and an AK in his trunk. Maybe the kids went live with Hank and Marie. Where does that leave Skyler? Does this mean Walt stopped his chemo?
E) Poor Jesse. He’s a train wreck, grieving both Mike and the boy shot in the Great Train Heist episode from earlier in season five. I know I’m not the only one who felt a surge of pride watching him go all Robin Hood meets Paperboy flinging his fat stacks in random yards. Sure he amassed the money through criminal means but he disposed of it in a manner that could help people in need (if the cops don’t seize the money first).
F) My friend Shaheim offered this observation: Wouldn’t the cops find fingerprints on the mystery bills and tie them to Jesse? Definitely possible. It would be a harsh irony if Jesse went to prison for an act of repentance. Then again, he is a murderer.
G) Walt lied clear across this episode – to Jesse about his role in Mike’s death, to Hank about his role as a mass murderer, and to himself about making a clean break from the meth game. No one believes him anymore.
H) Heisenberg might be the one who knocks but Walter White is not, especially not in this episode. Others are coming for him, be they Lydia at the car wash, Hank, or even cancer. His time as a criminal kingpin is over. He is in a state of retreat and denial, as evidenced by his above mentioned lies.
I) Loved the scene with Saul in which he told Jesse he’s “two miracles short of sainthood” when the latter revealed his plan to donate $2.5 million apiece to Mike’s granddaughter and the parents of the boy who Todd shot in the Great Train Heist episode. As he has done throughout the series Bob Odenkirk (Saul) provided comic light amid the perpetual dramatic darkness.
J) As a non-trekkie, Badger’s Star Trek nerdgasm went over my head but it was entertaining nonetheless.
K) Rumor has it AMC plans to make a Saul Goodman spin-off. Why not invest in a Walt Jr.: The College Years show too? PS: The show would consist of Walt Jr. eating microwaveable meals alone.
L) It would not be “Breaking Bad” without a shot of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in his tighty whities. Dude refuses to spend any of his millions on boxers.
M) Walt will regret not killing Lydia. Bank on it.
N) Where the hell is Todd? He’s another loose end character who promises Walt headaches in the near future.
O) The actress who played Carol deserves a raise or at least priority treatment at the craft services table.
P) Only seven more episodes. Sad panda face.