BREAKING BAD Recap: “Ozymandias”

     September 15, 2013


In Breaking Bad‘s promotional material for its final run of episodes, there was a video that featured Bryan Cranston reading Percy Bysshe Shelley’s short but powerful poem “Ozymandias” over stark scenes of the arid New Mexico landscape.  Those scenes fit the poem well, which speaks of a desert where a fallen statue rests in pieces as “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”  The poem is about the decline and fall of a leader with an empire that, as all empires eventually do, has turned to dust.  Remember the poster for last season that showed Walt in full King mode, ready to rule as the new Gus?  And what does he have left now?  What has all of this been for if, in the end, he walks alone?  Hit the jump for more.

breaking-bad-season-5-part-2-posterSurely neither of the remaining two Breaking Bad episodes could be as explosive as this one was.  “Ozymandias” was the culmination of everything that the series has been building to, as illustrated in the cold open which showed how much things had changed from the days when Walt had to practice his lies, where he wooed Skyler and she joked with him on the phone lovingly, and where a snarky Jesse Pinkman mumbled and smoked and attacked rocks with sticks.  Flash forward to two years later, and Walt has kidnapped his own child, killed his brother-in-law, threatened his “stupid bitch” wife, and ordered Jesse’s death.  And after all of that, he is left with one barrel of money.  For whom?

Those who speculated last week that Hank would live haven’t been paying attention.  No half measures.  Hank wouldn’t have just been wounded again — it was because of Walt he was crippled before.  The show wouldn’t retread there, but also, this is the end.  There’s not another dance for these two to have.  The weight of all of Walt’s decisions are coming down, the price is going to be paid now.  One after another.

In “Ozymandias,” everything was laid on the table, things we’ve been both waiting for and dreading since the beginning, and things that Walt has done everything possible to hush up and avoid.  Walt, Jr was told what his father does, Hank — Walt’s main adversary — is dead, and Walt reveals his final secret: he tells Jesse he not only watched Jane die, but that he could have saved her and didn’t.

At that point, did it matter to Jesse if they killed him?  He looked up into the sky before the first time Jack tried to execute him, and there were two birds flying together.  Did that represent two birds with one stone (Walt order his death and Hanks together), or the fact that the final bond between Walt and Jesse was forever broken?  Walt just stabbed him in a way that will never heal.

breaking-bad-ozymandias-anna-gunnThrough the horror and the carnage and the pain and the emotion, the episode ended with Walt where Jesse had been — waiting on Saul’s associate to pick him up and give him a new life.  Next week it looks like we get the details of it, but the very final frame showed something, a dog?  a wolf?  trotting across the street behind the van taking Walt away.  After having dropped Holly off to be returned to Skyler and knowing there is no way home again, he’s truly a lone wolf.  He has himself and the money.  What was the point of it all for him?  He’s on his own now. Where does he go from here?  “How much time do you have left?”

Episode Rating: A+

Musings and Miscellanea

– I have been stabbed in the heart.  Goddamn you, Walt.  Goddamn you.

– The reference in the cold open to Bogdan was a nice little moment, as were the tighty whities and the fading in/out of the past and present scene.

– Todd is one sick fuck, isn’t he?  But he has a cruel streak of brilliance.  He got all of the info he needed from Jesse, then continued to exploit him to cook, using a threat towards Andrea and Brock as the stick.  Dear God.

– Walt giving up his fortune to save Hank was one of his most sincere moments, and Hank knew it while also chiding his stupidity.  He would have given it all to save Hank — nothing is worth the death of family — but his compromised emotions (like when Jesse fooled him regarding the money) meant he didn’t see what Hank saw, which was that Jack knew he would kill Hank, but happened into $60 million while he was at it.

– R.I.P. Gomey.

breaking-bad-ozymandias-bryan-cranston– “I could have saved her.  But I didn’t.” – Walt.  I’ve been dreading that moment of revelation since it happened.

– Walt’s face after Hank’s murder was so incredibly powerful in its deep horror.

– If you’re curious, most of my notes for this episode are just “omgomgomgomgomgomomggggggg,” amid me holding back tears.

– Walt’s car running out of gas reminded me of the broken RV back in the day.  And thank the lord for that tiny smidge of comic relief when Walt rolled that barrel and bought that car.

– Holly saying “mama” cut to the bone.  Walt leaving her at the fire station and turning the light on was brilliant and sad.

– Marie’s speech, with us knowing the truth, was ruthless.

– I still stupidly wanted Walt, Jr and Skyler to heed and pack up and get the heck out of Dodge.  Of course, that would have been a terrible idea (…right?)

– “I’m sorry for your loss” – Todd.

– “If all this is true and you knew about it, you’re as bad as him” – Walt Jr to Skyler

– The knife fight.  The knife fight!!

– How awful was Walt’s speech to Skyler where he called her a nag and a whiner and a stupid bitch who needed to “learn to respect” him, and then that if she crossed him again she would end up like Hank (he says as tears stream down his face). OH GOD THE EMOTIONS …

– Purple count: 1 — the orchid in Skyler’s office.

– “We’re a family” – Walt

– “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.”

  • Ricky Donaldson

    Walt’s final call to Skyler is one last performance: If you listen carefully, its designed to clear Skyler of all guilt, saying he acted alone.

    • junierizzle

      Yeah, Skyler also has a great realization at what he is doing and plays along.

    • Melwing

      Exactly. I’ve read a few reactions to this episode and nobody seems to have gotten that- I got it immediately. Great scene. I even said out loud “That is really nice of him”, and got a weird look from my girlfriend.

      • A-Man

        This article doesn’t seem to get it either! Only a slight reference to his tears at the end… But in the main bulk, they seemed to think he HAD threatened her. Fooooooooolish.

        It was the best part of the episode – really lets the emotion of him looking at his terrified family hit home. Walt has finally realised that no matter his protestations, he was never truly 100% doing it “for family.”

      • Harry Palm

        Yeah, I usually avoid Allison Keene’s articles. She misses a lot of things. She’s also someone that works on a movie site that hadn’t seen any ‘Star Wars’ of ‘Indiana Jones’ movies until last year or two. That’s like working on a football site and having never seen a Super Bowl.

      • seanmanband

        Yeah, c’mon, how do you miss that?! He knows full well that the cops are listening in. And taking Holly ensured the cops would be there. He is getting Skyler and the family off the hook in the only way he can. This is not to defend Walt because the Heisenberg monster he has to put on in this moment is who he has truly become despite the emotions tears of Walter White breaking through. Powerful shit.

      • A-Man

        Yeah… ‘Cause Star Wars and Indiana Jones are the pinnacle of filmmaking…

      • bombinUSA

        but anyone who hasn’t seen those films obviously doesn’t take film seriously. haters of sci fi and adventure or not, if your job is to critique films and tv shows you should have seen 2 of the biggest franchises of all time.

      • Greyson

        you need variety in your writers. I like Steve, but I don’t need 7 of him. That’s why you get a cynic(matt) and a nice, sweet, somewhat green Allison.

    • Andrew from Troy

      Even though Skyler’s off the hook in terms of the police, it’ll be interesting to see Marie and Walt Jr.’s reactions, since they know she’s complicit in all of Walt’s doings.

      • Christian Leroux

        Not really. The reason why Marie goes to Skyler is because she senses that she’s being forced into helping Walt, essentially a victim. This isn’t true, but Walt’s final call kind of helps to make them believe that she had no choice in all of this.

    • Shane Walker

      I am so glad you pointed this out, I was going to post the exact same thing. It amazes me that the reviewer missed this, since it was one of Walts final (?) displays of the humanity he has lost since the first season. Walt is beyond salvation at this point, but his family (including Hank) has always been his tether, and that is crumbling.

    • Greyson

      I think the reviewer understood it, but forgot to mention that she understood it.

      • Greyson

        great moment.

    • bombinUSA

      well said, took me 30 minutes to realize this after being in awe of the episode. Best…show…ever. You wire fanboys need to stfu.

  • Nick

    Man, I’ve been waiting for this review since the episode ended. I want to say though, I hope people realize that Walts conversation with Skyler was to clear her name. He never threatened her or anything. That was so heart breaking. Also the idea of him going back to save Jesse is BS. He thinks Jesse is dead. And he WANTS Jesse dead. The ricin is clearly for squid ice at this point. Todd made it clear that he is not above torture… So the ricin in an insurance policy to die before someone can do something worse than dead to him. I think the ricin will kick in with Jesse standing above him watching him die. Jesse showed he is good at surviving gun fire by hiding. He will be amidst the gun fire and survive(I hope)… But I don’t think Walt is gunning for his money and his revenge just yet. I think the nazis will cause more damage to his family first. This was such a sad episode, and so amazing.

    Hank… For how much I hated you just yesterday, man was it sad to see you go and you went out like a man

    • LEM

      I think we all got that from the crying on his end and yeah it looks like he lays all the blame on Jesse at this point.

      • Nick

        Well, I was watching some old episodes… Sadly this chain reaction really stems from Hank beating the piss out of Jesse. If he hadn’t, than Walt would never have needed to bribe Jesse to back off by making him his partner. I wish Hank knew that and didn’t die thinking Walt was a monster. I got a slight vibe from hank that he saw what walt was willing to do to keep him safe. So Jesse is to blame from the time he tried to kill the drug dealers, causing Gus’s anger to want them dead… But hank beat Jesse to bring them two back.

        I thought when the knife was in the air, I thought junior was gonna fall on the knife! Ugh this whole episode is night

      • Thal Sinestro

        I thought Skylar was going to wound up dead, then junior then Skylar again. I like how Gilligan uses the cliches against us. We have seen that scene play out many times before and he made us think that’s where he was going.

      • brNdon

        There was never a chance of Skylar or Jr. dying in that knife fight. Walt would not have run away from something like that. He would have given up the same way he gave up when he realized Hank was with Jesse.

      • Kevin

        Walt is a monster.

      • Nick

        He is in a lot of ways. But the path he went down, and everything he has done… He was willing to have done for nothing just to save hank, the man that wanted to burn him to the ground. Now, Gomez was at his birthday parties, he was clearly close enough with the white family to have deserved some concern from Walt. That certainly showcases Walts willingness to find people expendable, but in this episode Walt tried to save hank. He called off the hit. He was willing to lose everything, either to prison or to keep the nazis from killing hank. He also fully implicated himself and selflessly made his last conversation(probably) with his wife a menacingly cold and villainous conversation and he clearly never meant any of that. I’ve always wondered if he really was doing this for his family, or that was just his excuse after a point. It all falls somewhere between the two, but this proves that he has his heart in helping his family at this point

      • Kevin

        He also told them to kill Jesse (and told him about Jane) and kidnapped his daughter. He’s shown sparks of actually caring about other people, but truly he is damned and I have no sympathy for him.

  • LEM

    WOW this show continues to be incredible.

  • LEM

    Todd turns out to be the evil genius.

    • Daniel O’Reilly

      You could see that from the moment he shot the kid on the dirt bike.

    • Jason Herr König

      The evil Matt Damon genius. Jesse will get his revenge on him though; his light at the end of the tunnel is Andrea and Brock.

    • Fitzchiv

      todd wants jesse to cook to get the purity levels up so that he can impress lydia, we werent shown he has the hots for lydia for nothing, plus i reckon its from lydia that hank hears that jesse is still alive, and the only possible people walt buys the m60 to deal with is todd’s uncle and his cronies, i reckon saving jesse is his redemption!

      • Fitzchiv

        *that walt hears that jesse is still alive

      • LEM

        Yeah Todd is into milfs It seems and I really do hope Walt realizes that what he has done to Jesse was horrible just as he realized the position he put his family in now.

      • 97point6

        Walt will know that Jesse is alive when he sees/hears/knows that ‘his’ meth formula has re-arisen. The Blue will show him the way.

  • Tim

    Was it necessary to take the Lord’s name in vain?

    • Random


    • Tonym816

      Grow up

      • Guest

        Not respecting someone’s beliefs? He’s not the one who needs to grow up.

      • Nick

        Taking offense, assuming a religious stance and calling someone out for language used in a review of a violent tv show.. Yes he is the one who needs to grow up. He can feel however he wants, but assuming others need to participate is immature. I’m assuming this was a joke anyway tho.

      • Kevin

        You missed the joke.

    • ha


    • Jason Herr König


  • Drake

    I thought that the beginning of the episode, with Walt’s first lie to Skyler, was foreshadowing his last conversation with her. That was him lying again. His final lie, to clear her name and attempt, one last time, to provide something for his family after he’s gone. In “Ozymandias,” I believe, we saw both the birth and death of Heisenberg. What comes next is merely the degradation of the statue, as the desert claims what belongs to it.

    • Nick

      I love this.

    • Matheus Mafra

      So true.

  • RolandE

    Best episode of anything…TV shouldn’t be this good.

    • axalon

      Yes, yes it should. This is the level TV should be striving for.

      • 97point6

        TV is now filling the void vacated by the film industry. Other then the rare effort (sans, robots-aliens-vampires-superheroes) what film/movie drama comes close to the best efforts ‘television’ has delivered in the last five years?

  • Zox

    I had to piss within the first 5 minutes of this episode. By the end, I was sitting in a pool of my own filth. Television shouldn’t be this good.

  • junierizzle

    Someone on Twitter said this episode was great filmmaking, enough said.

  • Alex

    Damn it!! i need more!!! i need to see the end!

  • Tritium3H

    Hi Allison. Great recap and review, as always. However, I wanted to mention that I think you misread the phone conversation scene…although I see Nick already mentioned it, below. Walt knew full well that the Police were listening in, and his speech and threats to Skyler were Walt’s way of giving Skyler a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

    By admitting that it was all his plan, and by making the verbal threats, he knew that Skyler would be able to explain to the Police that she only went along because she was in fear for her life, and the lives of her children. Actually, a brilliant and heart-breaking maneuver on Walt’s part. You can also see the dawning realization, on Sklyer’s face, that this was precisely what Walt was doing.

    Watch the scene again. You can tell that Walt is barely able to keep it together. It is also at this moment that Walt finally and truly realizes that he has lost his family forever…but he still could try to protect them.

    • Janek Steifer

      THANK YOU. I was about to write that :)

  • Nick

    I can’t make up my mind on whether or not it’s Walt, or Heisenberg we see in the flash forwards.

  • WTF Guy

    This is what they mean when they say “the shit just hit the fan”.

  • Melwing

    This episode was the best film I’ve ever seen.

    • A-Man

      I wouldn’t go THAT far.

      It was the best Rian Johnson film I’ve seen though.

  • Sweetlows

    I see it now! thanks guys. i didnt notice the crying until he talked about hank but i see it now he was trying to hold it together and be mean.

    did anyone notice Noah Segan (from Rian Johnson’s Brick/The Brothers Bloom/Looper) has a cameo at the fire station finding Holly? That was a nice touch

    • It’s James Cain!

      Aye, terrific cameo.

  • Jason Herr König

    Scarface meets Mr Chips, was Gilligan’s pitch to AMC. If anything, from Steven Bauer to the 1983 classic; Walt has shown those true colours when he talks about family and crossing lines (in his case, not Coke).

  • pinkincide

    Deserves an Emmy just for NOT having that gas tank explode. Is there an award for defying stupid TV cliches? There should be.

  • Yo

    I love that that Walts pants from season 1 were there when he was rolling the barrel lol.

  • Kevin

    Walt, you basterd. You finally lost everything and you deserved it. You left one of the only people with a chance for redemption chained up cooking meth for Todd. All because he finally did the right thing and sold you out. Come on, Jesse, you can take down one guy. Just make sure that you escape before Jack and the Jack-ettes come back.

  • Captain

    I dont understand why walt didnt use the ” i will not cook again if you kill Hank” speech to jack before saying anything about the money. It worked before.. I didnt believe it Why reveal the location of the money? He gave all the power to the nazis. His reaction condemned hank. Sorry for my english

  • DippingSauce

    Looks to me like the flashforwards we see with Walt and the big machinegun are going to be about him rescuing Jesse for some reason. After this episode I don’t see why but what else can it really be??

    • Nick

      Revenge. The nazis promised to kill Jesse after they got answers. Walt thinks he is dead. Walt clearly hates Jesse. He’s not going to rescue Jesse, not on purpose. He’s going back for the money and revenge. They killed hank, and whatever Jesse said is at hanks will probably lead to more death in the white family.

      • Kevin

        Yeah, he’s definitely going after the Nazis. Maybe they come after Marie or his family? Idk. Why he goes back for the ricin? That I really do not know.

      • Liderc

        He’s going to take the ricin to die.

      • Kevin

        Why go through all the trouble of getting it? Why not just use a much easier way?

      • bombinUSA

        i think he gets the ricin as a last measure for himself if he happens to get caught by the nazi’s and tortured.

        i think the next episode will involve the flash forwards, either leading up to the exact point of where the flash forward ended with walt getting the risin (leaving the finale to show the conclusion of the flash forward in a singular episode) or it simply starts off with walt in his car with the risin and having flashbacks to fill in the blanks to show us how he got to that exact point while also progressing the flash forward story arc.

      • DippingSauce

        Oh right ha, totally forgot about that reason somehow.

      • Fitzchiv

        walt is definitely going to try and save jesse, it completes the story arc, walt and jesse will go down to the wire, the entire show is about their relationship and saving jesse offers walt redemption!

    • Andrew from Troy

      I think next episode, the Nazis will attack Skyler and the kids at home, leading to the house being burned in the flash forwards. Hopefully they’re not killed, but it’s possible. Can the show get anymore intense?

      Walt will be getting the machine gun for pure revenge against the Nazis. The money? Why? He already has $8 million. After all he’s lost, I don’t think greed is as much a part of him anymore.

      As for Jesse, I have no idea whether or not he’ll still be working for Todd and the Nazis on the flash forwards, or if he escapes/dies next episode.

      • bombinUSA

        from what has been shown thus far what reasons do the nazi’s have to attack walt’s family? none. walt gave them the money, didn’t squeal, gave pinkman. walts in the clear. something may happen to cause them hurt walt’s family, but we don’t know yet. as for jesse i think the show ends with jesse over a dead walter white.

      • Fitzchiv

        i think youre dead right about jesse standing over a dead walter white, but the reason the nazi’s will attack marie’s house is to get the tape jesse made with hank, it wouldnt have been mentioned in the specific way it was in this episode if that wasnt the case, personally i think marie is going to meet her maker too and thats maybe what draws walt back

      • bombinUSA

        Whatever happens Walt will prove that he’s not completely evil. His pleading and emotion during Hank’s death was sincere and Walt throwing himself under the bus exonerating Skyler with that last phone call was pretty damn noble (considering she tried to freaking kill him just hours before).

      • bombinUSA

        Whatever happens Walt will prove that he’s not completely evil. His pleading and emotion during Hank’s death was sincere and Walt throwing himself under the bus exonerating Skyler with that last phone call was pretty damn noble (considering she tried to freaking kill him just hours before).

  • Reggie1138

    This show has been such a great depiction of watching someone you genuinely like just spiral downwards into someone you have nothing but contempt for. Bryan Cranston has truly created a character that has eternally seared himself into the memories of all of us who have had the privilege and pleasure to take this ride. This show will end in just two weeks. (Sadly) But it will not be forgotten. It will continue to have more and more fans who will discover it’s brilliance on home video. I’m so riddled with different thoughts and emotions about this last episode I can’t begin to start. I know one thing this show when over will leave all of us fans wanting more. Best Dramatic series I’ve ever seen. My two cents.

    • bombinUSA

      best show in history, nothing can touch it. how many shows can make you go “wow that was the best episode ever” after every couple episodes? lol. As for Walt White’s character, if anything I felt he vindicated himself. The raw emotion of Hanks death showed that Walt isn’t evil and later on when he called Skyler essentially saving her from any guilt of wrong doing while putting the bullseye solely on himself was pretty heroic in a Heisenberg way.

  • Bryce

    Just the heads up – because I think Allison (surprisingly) missed it – Walt was getting Skylar OFF THE HOOK with the phone call. The entire call exonerated her and the family. He took the baby SO THAT the cops would come. And then Skylar (half way throught the call) realized what he was doing and played along. That phone call was a sincere goodbye. You’re free Skylar, Flynn, Holly. I’ll take the blame. You continue on.

  • -

    Holy balls, that was the best episode of season 5.

    • Nick

      I’m thinking on the series to date… There are some heavy contenders this serious but this had the death of a series long character. Climax of everything he’s been trying to keep from his family coming to a head. Outstandingly emotional performances and character conflictions. And somehow opened up Walt, skyler, hank to a degree and Jesse to new layers in their character. We’ve seen Walt become an even more complex person as he seems to be truly baffled that his family could not accept that hank was dead because of him.. Despite his own grieving, he didn’t allow them a moment to react as if it was frivolous. Jesse, the way he tried communicating with Walt with his eyes. The despair… We saw him die when Walt told him about Jane. That relationship is done beyond anything now. He is a shell. Skyler, we found her breaking point… And hank found his.

  • Greyson

    I wonder if he was planning on using the baby as a “I took the baby to teach you a lesson” argument, or he did it out of anger and then just packaged his “get out of jail free” argument around his mistake of taking her.

    • OhDawg

      I’ve seen others who have come down on the side of “it’s part of the ruse to get Skyler off the hook”, but when I rewatched the ep yesterday it was my distinct impression that he did it out of anger. It’s Holly saying “Mama” that changes his mind.

  • Remember

    “I watched Jane die… I could’ve saved her, but I didn’t”
    Just like he could’ve saved Jesse… but didn’t.

    • Nick

      I loved how he didn’t fully own it. He pushed her on her back while trying to wake Jesse. It’s not that he could have saved her… He kind of killed her

  • Christian Leroux

    I am honestly one of the only people who didn’t understand the purpose of Walt’s final call. I feel like an idiot for not seeing it at first. I thought that he had just gone off the rails after being backed into a corner. I wasn’t sure if he actually knew that the police were on the line because of his delirium, but it’s pretty obvious now.

    No one’s really mentioned it, from the little I’ve read in the comments, but the phone call at the beginning and end then parallel each other. I mean, Walt lies in the first scene to protect his family, and does the same in the end. It’s very poetic.

    • Fitzchiv

      i kinda missed the import of the call at the end, knew something was up with the type of language he was using, it was funny, he never really says anything that could be used in court against him, i mean like he never explicitly says hank is dead, he says they will never see him again, or he talks about ‘what i do’, nothing concrete, nothing that saul goodman couldnt weave his magic around! it was obvious he knew the cops were there when he took the battery and sim card out of the phone, i guess my absolute disdain for skyler blinded me to what he was doing! :D

      • junierizzle

        It wasn’t about confessing anything, he just wanted to make it clear that Skyler was not involved.

      • Fitzchiv

        without a doubt, but i just didnt kop onto that until after the show!

  • Yurine

    i literally had a heart attack watching this.

  • Sean P Ryan

    Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. The “Breaking Bad” apocalypse is upon us.
    Check out my analysis for “Ozymandias” at:

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  • Lauren

    I’m starting to think that Todd will keep Jesse a secret from everyone, including Lydia. He would want her to think he can get the purity up on his own.

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  • theavidwatcher

    Guys remember this poster for the series….. ? Look closely and you can see the machine gun in a corner. Given the show’s attention to details, is this a foreshadowing to the show’s ending? Walter White’s final stand? What do you think?

  • theavidwatcher

    Guys remember this poster for the series….. ? Look closely and you can see the machine gun in a corner. Given the show’s attention to details, is this a foreshadowing to the show’s ending? Walter White’s final stand? What do you think?

  • Pingback: BREAKING BAD Farewell Poster. BREAKING BAD Stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul | Collider

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