I’ve been writing a bit about Breaking Bad, as it’s one of the most intense TV series I’ve seen in years; it’s almost Shakespearean. With only two episodes to go, I’ve been thinking about how the series may end.
NOTE: If you haven’t seen Ozymandias, do not read any more. You will be spoilered.
In the trailer for the final half-season of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston (Walter White) read Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet Ozymandias:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Here’s the trailer:
And in the latest episode, Ozymandias, the inevitable occurred. Shortly after the episode begins, when Jack kills Hank, we see Walt lying “on the sand, / half sunk, a shattered visage…”
Now that Hank is dead, there’s nothing left for Walt to do but to burn bridges. Jack’s gang took six of his seven barrels of money, leaving one to Walt because Todd respects him. (Odd, but perhaps there is honor among thieves.) So Walt has about $10 million, and it’s time to get out of Dodge.
But first, Marie goes to Skyler and tells her that Hank had arrested Walt. In the previous episode, Hank made a call to Marie telling her it was over. But this call sounded very much like a goodbye phone call, and Hank’s death was no surprise.
Marie forced Skyler to tell Walter Junior what his father had done, which set things in motion. Walt returned home to get enough belongings for the family to leave, and Skyler and Walter Junior came home as he was packing. Walt wanted them to leave with him, but they wouldn’t; Skyler eventually took a knife and threatened Walt to get him to leave, but he took their young daughter Holly with him.
Walter Junior called the police to get rid of Walt, and protect his mother, and Skyler told the police that Walt had kidnapped their daughter. It wasn’t clear what else she told them. Walt, parked near a fire station, called Skyler and, knowing the police were there and listening, berated her for “whining and complaining about how I make my money.” Hearing this, the police might think that Skyler was not on the inside, and this may allow her to avoid jail, and the children to avoid foster homes.
But what will Marie say to all this? Walt is responsible for Hank’s death (but Marie doesn’t know that Walt didn’t kill him, and actually tried to save him). Will she help Skyler save the children? Or is she going to tell the police and the DEA what she knows? They might not believe her; after all, Hank had no evidence other than the phone call he recorded in the previous episode, and Gomez, the only other person who knows what happened, is dead.
What’s left now in the last two episodes? Walt has used Saul’s guy to disappear. He’s got a barrel with $10 million, and he’s probably headed to New Hampshire. (Remember the New Hampshire plates on the car in the first episode of the final season?) Walt returns to Albuquerque with that car, and a large gun, to settle some scores.
It’s worth re-watching the cold open to the first episode of season 5. Walt, on his 52nd birthday, gets the gun, but we also see him taking some pills in the bathroom of a Denny’s where he’s eating breakfast. So his cancer is probably back by now. Walt’s days are numbered, and he wants to get even.
We don’t know when this “now” is, but clearly enough time has passed for Walt to grow back his hair, and a full beard. After taking possession of the gun, he goes back to his old house, which we see in the flash-forward of episode 9. There, he gets the ricin, that he’d hidden behind a wall socket, and his neighbor is shocked to see him. It’s clear now, after Ozymandias, that everything he did is going to be in the news. Skyler and the children leave the house, and people write graffiti in it and vandalize it. Walt – or Heisenberg – has become a pariah.
In the flash-forward to episode 9, we see that someone has spray painted “HEISENBERG” on the wall of the house. It’s worth considering Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that you cannot know both the position and momentum of a particle. Perhaps this is what Walt has become: a free radical whose position and momentum cannot be pinned down.
After Ozymandias, Walt shows no shred of humanity. He’s not only ordered Jesse’s death – even though Jesse is spared for now – but he coldly told Jesse how he allowed Jane to die. The father/son relationship that had been waxing and waning over the years between the two characters has now been severed.
So what’s next? It seems like this tragedy has become a revenge tragedy. Walt doesn’t know that Jack’s gang is keeping Jesse alive. They clearly want him to cook meth, since he can do it better than Todd, and, well, $70 million isn’t enough. So Walt is probably not headed back to kill Jesse, but to take out Jack and his gang. Whether or not he wants the money probably doesn’t matter; it’s more likely he just wants to get even for the theft, or for killing Hank.
Walt needs to go out in a blaze of glory. My guess is that he’ll be going after Jack’s gang, and find Jesse there. Whether or not the “father” and “son” will reunite is up in the air, but it looks to me that, if they meet up, Jesse will eventually kill Walt. I still think we’re going to see a high noon finale to Breaking Bad, one that Walt’s uncertainty principle has been leading too for a long time.