BREAKING BAD Mid-Season Finale Recap: “Gliding Over All”

     September 2, 2012

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With Breaking Bad, viewers should know by now that nothing stays good for long.  As I mentioned last week, the gut punch may not be in how things may eventually end up, but the way they get there.  In prior seasons we’ve been teased, often week to week, with cryptic scenes or images without context whose significance, once revealed, is almost nothing like what we could have imagined.  The pink, one-eyed bear in the pool and the body bags in the driveway from Season Two are great examples, but it’s those twists and turns and layers that make the show so engaging and addictive.  The tease that kicked off this season with Walt celebrating his 52nd birthday alone, in another state, with an alias has not yet been solved, though we’ve gotten pieces of how he got there (Mike’s documents, for example), and a glimpse at a few hints (the cough). What we do know for sure is that the ride from Point A (the mid-season finale) to Point B (that diner scene) is going to be wild.  Hit the jump for why you may need to stock up on anxiety meds for 2013.

breaking-bad-season-5-poster-1“Gliding Over All” may not have been as literally explosive as some of the other Breaking Bad finales, but it has set up a great and terrifying game between Hank and Walt (where for once Walt will not have the advantage) to propel the series into its final run of episodes.  Was it predicted that Hank would find out about Walt at some point?  Sure — but Hank finding out by sitting on the crapper after Walt was already out of the game, finding a note from Gale to Walt where he used the same language and phrase as one Hank had pointed out to Walt from Gale’s notes long ago … that was novel.  Did anyone else feel extraordinarily apprehensive in the scene leading up to that reveal?   Knowing that happiness and contentment never last long on the show, every member of that outdoor party seemed a suspect in something big that was about to happen (or a potential victim).  And Marie was wearing yellow!!  What doth that portend but terrible things??

I wasn’t sure I believed Walt when he said he was out, but Walt was never more trustworthy than in this episode.  He entered into a genuine partnership with Lydia, he spoke evenly and with grave intention to the thugs he paid to off Mike’s nine guys, and he even paid Jesse.  When he told Skyler he was out, after everything everyone has been through in this arc, it seemed unfathomable.  But its truth was essential in making Hank’s hunt of Walt all the trickier.

breaking-bad-gliding-all-over-bryan-cranstonBack to the other biggest moment of the night, poor Jesse continued to get manipulated by Walt’s whims.  He wants him in, he wants him out, he wants to give him the money, he doesn’t want to give him the money … Todd has proven to be an extremely worthy and competent replacement for Jesse, but Todd will never have the bond with Walt like Jesse.  The tense moment where the two reminisced about the Bounder and the memories of that old RV were strangely touching, and to see the range of Jesse’s feelings from fear to wariness to apprehension to, ultimately, relief was emotional to watch.  It was also sad to see him beat himself up again over not trusting Walt when Walt did come through for him.  Oh Jesse, if you only knew.  Thank God you don’t. Yet.

Then there was that little doctor’s visit thrown in among the chaos.  Many didn’t believe that Walt was in fact in remission, and it’s difficult to know which way the tide has turned.  But it seems like the cancer may be back now, and it’s just another of the elements of Walt’s past returning to haunt him.  The paper towel dispenser he punched represented the cancer, then Gale rose from the dead to stab Walt in the back — who (or what) is next? (Even a fly made an appearance!  We know how much Walt hates flies …)  Walt’s watch ticking away the time suggested the cyclical nature of events.  Is karma already coming for him?

For the Walt apologists, I want to point out a recent LA Times interview with series creator Vince Gilligan where he says that he believes in a hell, and he believes Walt is headed straight there.  As for redemption, he agrees it’s a tricky thing.  But that almost (almost) doesn’t matter — in the end, it may be more about the people around Walt and their futures than his (which seems set).  Is the family he wanted to protect going to be ok?  Or torn apart like none of them could ever imagine?

Though I feel too keyed up to really process that it will be a year until we get more, I do feel that “Gliding Over All” did give a sense of completion for this arc.  Part One of this final season had some great, iconic series moments, it wasn’t the most engaging Breaking Bad has ever been.  Instead, it’s laid a thick foundation and set up a great final series completion next summer.  Next summer!!  What are we supposed to do until then?  Keep calm and purple on …

Rating: 9.9

breaking-bad-gliding-all-over-aaron-paulMusings and Miscellanea:

— One of my favorite things about the series is how the homes on the show really look and feel like homes.  They never have that extraordinarily bright effect of stage lights (like anyone’s home is ever that bright and clear).  There are lamps, there is natural light, there are shades drawn.  It’s very natural, and I love it.

— When Todd’s uncle said he couldn’t get the job done like Walt wanted, I said to the TV “Don’t tell Walt what he can’t do!” I think Walt and John Locke would have gotten along.

— Great music tonight — Crystal Blue Persuasion for one.

— Also some fantastic montages, from the Godfather-esque killing of the nine to the meth making and cash counting to the passage of time between Walt saying he’s out and that backyard party.

— Did not expect Walt to pack the ricin for his visit with Lydia … (who has great outfits, by the way.  Are her neutral tones supposed to suggest neutrality?)

— Speaking of colors, the blue was strong tonight with the pool and its reflections, Walt and Skyler’s clothes and of course the storage units.

— Marie Purple Count: 8+ – rug, pillows, purple kid pants, chair covers, picture, kitchen counter stuff, chair, zip-up jacket.

— Who knew the Czech Republic was so into meth?

— “10 trees is better than chasing monsters.” — Hank LOOKING AT THE MONSTER!

— Thanks Skyler, I have GOT to remember to spray my money stacks for silverfish.

— See you in 2013…

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