[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 9, "Blood Money"

Courtesy of AMC
As with last season, or the first half of this season (for the love of gods, not this again...), I find myself at something of a loss. Because Breaking Bad is, quiet simply, the best show on TV. There is next to nothing that this show does wrong, from the writing to the superb acting, to the cinematography and every detail in between. And considering that my modus operandi is to complain about all things that are wrong and terrible about film and TV, when a show just doesn't have any of that, I struggle. But I persevere as best I can, because it is rare for a show to be recognised as the best while it is still airing.

Plus, I took great delight in Skylar nearly snapping Lydia in half like a twig. And she could have done it too. Anna Gunn is not someone you mess with.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that tread lightly.


If the opening scenes, adding onto what little we know about Walter's future, are any indication, this will be a season of decay. The house, rotted to the literal core, as Walter wanders the corridors alone serve as a not too subtle indication of where things are headed. The place he's tried so hard for five seasons to protect, to isolate from the influence of Heisenberg appear to have suffered the most. But what do we know about Walter's fate, six months down the line? Precious little. The premier last year showed us that he is alone, possibly on the run, and looking like he'd just this side of being a hobo. And he has a piece of serious artillery in his trunk. So why, in this period of "last man standing" does he return for the ricin?

Ricin is, like all poisons, an intimate way to kill someone. Considering the wake of destruction Walt has clearly left behind, can we assume that there aren't many people left in Walt's life. So who would both warrant such a close personal death, and allow Walt to get that close to them? To trust him enough to let him near so that he could deliver it? Or, is it for himself. The only thing left in his own personal dystopia that is a guarantee. If his end of episode math is correct, he doesn't have long until the cancer eats away at him. The presence of the gun suggests that he means to kill someone very unsubtly, and his retrieval of the ricin suggests that he's not going to let himself be taken afterwards. Walter is preparing for his own personal Alamo.

Back to the present, let's congratulate Bryan Cranston on a fine showing as his directorial debut, and make us secretly loath his apparent skill in all regards just that much more. One of the things that I've always admired about Breaking Bad, and what sets it apart form so many other shows, is the attention to detail in the camera movement that reflects the detail of the characters. So, scenes like when Jesse is high tend to have static or sweeping camera movements. Scenes involving Skylar tend to be on the nose and straight out the barrel. And scenes with Walt, like the scene when he's vomiting in the bathroom, and the camera follows his hand as he places the towel on the ground, tend to be meticulous and deliberate in their action. And it makes the show just that much better to watch.

So, in the present, and picking up moments after the end of last year, Hank does not take to the revelation that Walt is Heisenberg well at all. Poor Hank has been more damaged then anyone on this show, being shot, suffering from panic attacks and PTSD, and now he's added this anxiety to his list of things that will probably kill him before Walt is forced to do so. What elevates Breaking Bad above other shows is that other programmes would have drawn out the cat and mouse between them for longer. I mean, yes, that has been the bed rock of most of the series so far, but the dance around both of them knowing that the other one knows would have been enough for other series to spend an entire year on. To the point of frustration and disbelief. Breaking Bad's adherence to reality, that Walter is too smart a man not to know that Hank knows, and that Hank wouldn't have been able to hold back his tempers upon sight of Walt, means that we got it in one.

And what a terrific scene it was. The writers know that each scene is it's own thing, and that if everyone were as intense as the "I am the one who knocks," the show would become too melodramatic. This scene, the punch aside, was very subdued and as soft as a confrontation as you can get. and both actors nailed their performances, Dean Norris looking every bit a destroyed man, and Bryan Cranston as ever himself. Part of the fun of watching Cranston play Walt, especially in these last few seasons, is to watch and see when he's playing Walt and when he's playing Heisenberg. While last year, I argued that he's all Heisenberg all the time, and that Walt is long dead, this episode made me think he's more like Gollum and Smeagol, and for one flirting moment when he was up close to Hank, Heisenberg seeped through and broke a smile. That levelled a performance is the reason this show is the power house that it is.

Elsewhere, the last wild card, Jesse, self destructs. When last year concluded, everyone going their separate ways, I wondered and not for the first time, how Jesse would continue to be an element in the story. His story could have ended several times over the course of the series, and a few of them were even happy ending. But the character is burdened now with guilt and knowledge, and has no way to express those feelings. I feel, going into this final run, that Jesse is Walter's greatest threat, and despite the theories last year that Walt will turn state's evidence, I believe it will be Jesse, in an effort to sooth his tormented soul, that will turn on Walt. He can pin murders on Walt, a far heavier crime then drug running. He knows everything that Walter has done, even the stuff he wasn't around for because he's smart in a way that Walt has never and can never understand. Jesse's testimony will tear down Walter White's world, forcing him to true desperation. And I doubt that anyone will survive his wrath. they haven't so far.

Also, the only thing that can redeem J.J. Abram's abuse of Star Trek would be an adaptation of  Badger's plot.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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