Warning! Major Spoilers ahead…
The long awaited (a whole year!) 9th episode of Breaking Bad‘s season 5 premiered on AMC tonight, and opened where we left off at the beginning of the episode 5.01 “Live Free or Die” prologue. We hear loud noises and see skateboarders. As the camera pans out, the skaters are using the White’s now empty family pool. Walt, with hair and new glasses (proving this starts from where we left off) gets out of the car he was given the keys to at the Denny’s. He is parked in front of the White home, which is now gated, boarded up, and obviously abandoned. He opens the trunk and we get a glimpse of the gun he illegally bought at Denny’s (and who hasn’t seen some crazy shit happen at Denny’s?) and pulls out a crow bar. Walt then breaks into his own home. As the camera pans out, we see that someone has graffitied on the main wall in the living room in bright yellow “Heisenberg”. The house is empty, yet trashed. None of the furniture is there, but there are papers scattered and the home has been vandalized. Where did the furniture go? And clearly, it is well known who the Heisenberg is, since his name is so glaringly scrolled across the wall. Walt looks through the blinds after hearing laughter and sees the teens skating in the pool. He slowly walks down the hall, and in a symbol that has appeared throughout the series, flies are seen and heard in the kitchen. Walt continues to the bedroom and the door has been been knocked off the hinges, is laying on the floor in the room, and what seems most odd is that it is really bashed in. Walt then heads for the outlet, unscrews it with a quarter, and pulls the ricin pack off that he left there after bringing it to his Czech Republic meeting with Lydia. He closes his eyes and seems to reflect for a moment. On what? Perhaps on everything that we don’t know that has happened to get to this point. Maybe on what he is about to do with ricin? Who does he plan to use it on? Is it for himself? Is he ready to go out, guns-a-blazin’ and then end himself with the ricin? He then goes back outside, puts the crow bar back in the trunk and turns to see his old neighbor. She is holding bags of groceries. Walt says, “Hello, Carol.” She drops her groceries (Trivia: When Carol drops her groceries, oranges roll out of the bag and down the driveway. This could be a shout out to The Godfather, where oranges often symbolize death. Earlier in Breaking Bad, when Ted puts himself in the hospital, several oranges fall on his body when he slams into the kitchen cabinets). And it was almost as if she had seen a ghost. Why would the house be in this condition? Number one, shit has hit the fan. Heisenberg is not only caught by Hank, but he is outed by other people in the biz, and they are mad. Where are the kids? Where is Skyler? My guess is that Skyler is dead, and most likely, the kids are either being taken care of by Hank (if he is alive at this point) and Marie, or also dead. And more than likely, people either know that Walt fled, or that he may have faked his own death. Perhaps the reason for Carols’ reaction. EIther way, he is now back, and it looks like he is out for vengeance.
Coming back to present day, we come back where we left off at the end of 5.08 “Gliding Over All”. Hank leaves the restroom, his breathing is labored and he is visibly upset. He puts Leaves of Grass in his bag and stares at Walt through the sliding glass door. When he finally opens the door, we hear Marie jokingly tell Walt, “You’re the Devil!” Not only is this what Hank is thinking, but it is a continuation of a Breaking Bad theme: God. It seems odd that in a story about meth and many an un-Godly thing, that God could be a theme, but here he is. In the past, we have heard Walt say he prayed to God the RV wouldn’t crap out and that if Jesse believes in Hell, they are both going there. We will hear more about God in this episode, but I’ll get to that in due time. Hank goes out to the patio where the family is having a fun time and tells them he doesn’t feel 100%. Hank and Marie leave and the White family walks them out. Walt asks Hank if he is alright to drive, which we will find out he’s not. As the White’s go back up their driveway, Walt turns and greets the neighbor, “Hello, Carol.”
Hank and Marie’s drive home does not end well. Not only is Hank tuning out Marie’s surprise at Skyler’s idea of going to Europe, which she apparently mentions on the patio (is this where the White family is in the future?) but Hank is having tunnel vision. He Is mad. He is mad at Walt. He is mad at himself. And he is afraid. Because he knows who The Heisenberg is and what exactly he is capable of. Hank crashes, and then is taken to the ER for a possible heart attack. Hank and Marie return home and Marie is warned to not tell Skyler about the incident. Then Hank goes to the garage and pulls a single manila envelope off a top shelf with the label “Boetticher, Gale.” Isn’t it odd that this file is at Hank’s home and not the office? He has continued to obsess over it because he knows the story doesn’t fully add up. He pulls the copied notebook of Gale’s and matches the handwriting to the inscription in Walt’s book, confirming something we have long known.
Walt comes to work at the car wash and opens the garage. And then something happens that hasn’t happened in SEASONS. Skyler greets Walt. And they are nice to each other. And they are working together. When did Walt start actually working at the car wash? He has obviously quit being the cook. And something else of note, yet another symbol. The color they are wearing. In the past, Walt has been notorious for wearing green (money) or red (blood) and Skyler wears blue (pure, her name is Skyler, or the reason in the first place for cooking the blue stuff) but here, at the car wash, with all their niceties, the Whites are wearing… White, to keep up with their lily-white facade. The facade that Walter White is a good man. The facade that Walter White still really exists. And that Skyler is just as innocent. But then Walt tells her, “The story is”. And he ropes her into the facade again with the car wash (even though the car wash was all Skyler’s idea) because Skyler has been and always will be Walt’s greatest alibi and he trusts her more than anyone. But why this moment to talk about what their story is? Walt doesn’t know that Hank is on to him. Walt has been out of the business for a little while. What is he scared of that he reminds Skyler of the “story”? TIme will tell. Enter Lydia, the lovely basket case who is Walt’s old connection to the Czech’s and all that money. She tries to speaking to Walt about coming back because the product is only at 68% pure rather than the 99.1% that Walt used to make. So who is making the new stuff? Todd? The people from Phoenix? My bet is on Todd. And Todd knows too much (The train, the kid at the train, the meth recipe, and Mike). More than likely, he will be a liability later. The best part of Lydia pleading for Walt to come back to fix things, because she is scared for her life, is that Walt has an extremely Gus Fring attitude toward her. She talks meth business, he talks car wash business. Not too long ago, Walt was talking meth business and Gus was talking fried chicken business. Skyler realizes something is amiss because Lydia brought a rental car to be washed and Skyler sees an ulterior motive. When Walt admits who she is, Skyler gains the upper hand over everyone and tells Lydia to never come back. Not only is Lydia Skyler’s bitch right then, so is Walt. As much as Walt can suggest moving soda cans, or buying another car wash, Skyler is running the show right now.
At the Schrader house, Hank has the DEA bring him boxes of evidence, much to the dismay of Marie, as Hank should be “recovering.” As he opens the boxes and files, we see a lot of things we haven’t seen in a long time bringing many things full circle. Here are some things I noticed: a picture of the DEA and Gus shaking hands over a check for an anti-meth program, a close up of Gus, a Los Pollos Hermanos bag with the Madrigal serial number, The Salamanca brothers, the cars at the Hank/Tuco shoot out, including Jesse’s license plate “THECAPN”, Combo’s dead body and his grade school picture, Tio Salamanca young and old, Mike Ehrmantraut, Chow close up and Chow dead, gas mask found in desert, close up of Gale, Ron (the guy Lydia gives up the DEA), Gus’s guard Tyrus, the burnt meth lab below the laundromat, the guy who was cut in half at the junkyard who Hank poses with, the video of Walt and Jesse stealing a barrel of methylamine, which is too grainy for Hank to see who it is, and of course, the sketch of Heisenberg himself (For the full list of case files, click here).
About halfway into the episode we finally see Jesse sitting in his living room and high. Skinny Pete and Badger have really funny banter about Star Trek and Badger’s screenplay he wrote for it. In the middle, Jesse gets up, goes to the bedroom, comes back with the two bags of money Walt gave him not so long ago, and leaves the house. As a side note, who thought that Badger and Skinny Pete would be Trekkies? And to know the difference between the original and Voyager? Impressive. Jesse takes the bags to Saul Goodman’s office. After finally making it into the office (after blatantly smoking weed to be let in ahead of the packed room) and catching Saul at a bad time with a lady friend, Jesse gives Saul the money to give to two people: Albert Sharp and Kaylee Ehrmantraut. Albert Sharp turns out to be the father of the little boy, Drew, who was killed after the train robbery. Again we see Jesse’s affinity for children, proving Jesse’s moral compass compared to the rest of the characters and maybe even how feels about himself, a misguided child. Saul strongly advises Jesse not to give the money away as it may tip people off as to why. He also asks Jesse if he has had contact with Mike. Walt and Todd still are the only people to know what happened to him. Jesse leaves Saul’s office and tells him to take care of it. But as always, when Jesse is in trouble, Saul calls Walt to clean Jesse up. As a side note, when Saul opens up his drawer of phones, does anyone else notice that one of his phones has Hello Kitty on it?! When Walt talks to Saul and assures him he will take care of it, we find out for sure that Walt’s Cancer has returned. This is something I have predicted for a while as we have never found out the test results of Walt’s MRIs.
Jesse looks at his reflection in his dirty coffee table and another bug crawls across, this time a cockroach. Walt knocks on the door and brings back Jesse’s money. This is one of the most important scenes of the episode. Walt asks Jesse if he has an explanation to which Jesse replies, “It’s like you said, it’s Blood Money.” And now we know the meaning of the title of the episode. But then Walt says a curious thing, something i don’t believe Walt has ever said before. He admits he said it was blood money in the heat of the moment and that … wait for it… that Walt was wrong. Since when has Walt admitted fault? The scenes layers unfold as Walt begins to tells Jesse to let bygones be bygones. He places his hand on Jesse’s knee and calls him “Son”. Jesse isn’t looking at Walt. For a long time, Walt has been a very twisted father figure to Jesse, giving him guidance in a world that Jesse knew, but Walt recreated. Is this why Jesse has such empathy for children, because he still is one? Has Walt been more of a father to Jesse than to Walt Jr.? Walt tells Jesse that he has been out of the business for about a month and Jesse looks at him. Then Walt does something he has always done: push buttons. He asks why give the money to Kaylee Ehrmantraut. And then short dialogue, very common in Breaking Bad, leads to Jesse letting Walt know that he thinks Mike is dead and he thinks Walt did it. Walt is adamant that he did not kill Mike. Again, Walt is not lying to Jesse to protect Jesse, but to protect himself and his newly adopted pure persona. Walt tells Jesse he needs to believe him, that Walt needs this to happen, placing Jesse as his partner, his son, and his friend again. But the silence that Jesse gives Walt fills in the blanks. Jesse knows this is Walt’s classic way of manipulating him.
During a rare family dinner, Walt runs to the restroom; the effects of the chemo are hitting him. As he sits on the floor by the toilet throwing up, he notices the Leaves of Grass book missing (Trivia: Walt places a towel under his knees while vomiting, an act that Gus Fring did while at Don Eladio’s home to expose of the poison he ingested. Walt’s behavior is consistently imitating Gus’ even in subtle ways. And this is not the first time this has happened. Since season 1, Walt has eaten crustless sandwiches, like his first victim Krazy-8 and now drinks scotch on the rocks like Mike.). Later he asks Skyler if she has seen the book. Walter puts it together. In the middle of the night, he goes out to his car and finds a GPS device attached the back passenger wheel. He knows Hank knows. Jesse, presumably high, is passed out in his car in a parking lot when a homeless man begs for change. Jesse gives him a stack of cash from the bag. He then drives down a street that looks similar to the street Andrea used to live on and throws stacks of cash onto the lawns of the neighborhood and crying as he does so. Is he now the Robin Hood of the meth business ala Omar from The Wire?
In the last scene, (which happened a lot sooner than expected) Walt comes to Hank’s house to “check on his health”. They have small talk about the other one’s life, and again as so often, the silence fills in the blank. They both know why Walt is really there. Walt even makes it apparent by resting his hand on one of the boxes of evidence. As Walt leaves, he stops himself and confronts Hank about the GPS. He chooses his language carefully to note the bond Hank and Walt had chasing Gus Fring. He asks if it is the same device they used on Gus when it was “just the two” of them. Hank closes the garage and then does the best thing Hank has done since collecting minerals. He punches the shit out of Walt’s face. I mean he reared back and that fist smashed hard. He picks him up and lists all the things he could think of that Walt had done to throw Hank off and ends by declaring he knows that Walt is the Heisenberg. Again with God, Hank says “I swear to Christ, I will put you under the jail!” Walt then uses his manipulative tactics to choose this time to tell anyone, much less Hank, that he has cancer again. Hank doesn’t sympathize that easily, though. Walt declares he is fighting like hell and then let’s Hank know he has 6 months to live, and therefore will have no way to be ever put behind bars as he will be dead before it happens. “I am a dying man who runs a car wash. My right hand to God, that’s all I have.” Hank tells Walt that he doesn’t know who he is. And Walt, or rather Heisenberg, tells Hank, “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.” As Hank looks at him, it becomes clear he can’t look at Walt and see this monster, all he sees is the brother-in-law who betrayed him. Will Hank tread lightly? Or will he be looking for revenge?
With all the classic Breaking Bad devices used in this episode, the flash forward and the inevitable Hank/Walt confrontation I give “Blood Money” an “A”.
*All pictures and video content courtesy of AMC TV.