[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 13, "To'hajiilee"

Courtesy of AMC
By the simple fact that we know that Walter's world will come crashing down around him at some point, the greatest tension in this season has come from wondering what form that fall will come in. And despite Hank's doggedness, Walter has seemed to be on top of things thus far. He has, in classic Walter fashion, covered his bases, and seemed secure. It made the impending destruction all the more mysterious. But like most things in life, revenge, greed and neo-Nazis make even the best plans dissolve, and on the very ground where Walter began his journey, everything went bad in spectacular fashion.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that really did see the blue, in the right light.

A running theme on this show is that Walter's greatest failures occur when he operates impulsively. When he has time to plan, he is unstoppable. But every misstep, every unintended consequence and every near miss that he has suffered has been at his own hands. But never before has it put him in an unwinnable situation. Certainly, when it comes to Gus and Mike, he's had to take lethal action, but Walter himself has rarely been directly in the cross hairs. And he has always found a way out. This time, there simply wasn't any other option for him.

This episode was as well structured as last week's episode, if more conventional in it's execution. Two teams, Walter and Hank, each with their wingmen, working at full capacity against one another. It was chess played out in life. Walter and the Nazis go after the kid, while Hank puts pressure on Huell (who was the only person in this episode I felt sorry for). I like that the focus of this season has shifted slightly more onto Hank than Walter, if only because a villain cannot exist in a vacuum, and you need to know that the hero is just as smart and just as ruthless as the man he's hunting. And Hank has been. He's always been a professional, but in the shadow of Walter, he's always seemed less than. Now that they are on even ground, he's proven just as competent as his brother-in-law, and suffers from just as wounding weaknesses.

While Walter might be impulsive, Hank has tunnel vision. His desire to take down Walter is his singular intent. His family has been threatened, his career is in peril, and he refuses to take assistance from the (as good as) infinite resources at his beck and call. While Walter's knee jerk reaction will result in his doom, Hank's one man police squad will be his. And considering how this episode ended, looks like it'll happen for both of them pretty immediately. If Hank had called in for back up, even from local police, without divulging any specifics of the case, he'd probably survive his current situation. Instead, he barrelled in, not prepared for anything unexpected to happen (which, when Walter in involved, should be expected). Two guys and a unarmed witness against the single most powerful drug kingpin in the South West seems like solid math, but Hank should have known better. After that turtle exploded a few seasons back, he should know not to go into the desert without a militia backing him up.

Given the finality of the conversation Hank had with Marie, I was expecting the first fired bullet to find Hank's forehead, and for that to be the end of it. Breaking Bad has managed to deflect expectations by never returning to any consistent formula when it comes to cliffhangers. Sometimes, as it did here, it will defy what we expect, leaving us gripped in anticipation. Other times, it'll do exactly what we'd expect, exactly when we'd expect, and leave us to stew in our own juices for a week. So watching the stand off become a firing range, the viewer blessedly had no idea what was going to happen. And that's exactly what makes this show one of the best ever.

We've rarely seen Walter give up on this show, if we ever have. Here, he did; he accepted his fate. Cranston played that moment perfectly, as has become the expectation, but that lingering shot as he is slumped against the rock, you can see him working it out. Running every possible version of events and coming to the inevitable conclusion that his run had ended. It was beautiful, and touching, and you get the impression that, if Hank had succeeded there, Walter would have just let it all happen. Even his outburst at Jesse, calling him a coward, had a ring of defeat in it. A sort of "you brought me here, you should be here with me," taunt. And all due credit to Aaron Paul, whose twitching proto-smile all the while Walter was being handcuffed, was perfect.

There are only three episodes left, and next week's Ozymandias all but promises that Walter's time as a free man is over, one way or another.
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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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