[Review] - Breaking Bad, Season 5 Episode 14, "Ozymandias"

Courtesy of AMC
A cunning plan, starting the episode in days long past, back when all this was starting out and everyone was innocent and happy. It's been a long while since we've seen Walter White, whole, pure, and pantless. Watch with delight as he has to mutter to himself as he comes up with the lie that will keep Skylar unaware of his actions. See the joy in Walter's life as he adapts to the name Holly, and the promise of his daughter's future. Remember when Jesse spent his free time honing his mad Jedi skills, yo.

Then watch as time moves on, and nobody wins.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that appreciate the continuity of discarded pants.


In the words of Mel Brooks, "nice dissolve." The cinematography on this show is better then most films, and those opening scenes, framed by the desert and the rock, was a stark and apt way to begin. Using the unchanging geography of the area to contrast how far Walter has come in his last year was beautifully done. To let the past be swept away in a fading haze, and let the present return with an echoing shot is as definitive a statement on how Walter's life has progressed in between as anything else the show can suggest.

We knew the end was coming. I just never expected the end to come so suddenly. In retrospect, there really was no other way for things to end. The Jenga tower that is Walter's life could only come crashing down: there could be no gradual decline. As soon as Hank died, that was the end of Walter's entire existence. As soon as he hit the dirt, Walter was as dead as his brother in law, who died believing his mission had failed. The man who stood back up on his feet was not Walter. For all the actions he took later, his attempts to keep his family together, it wasn't Walter. It wasn't necessarily Heisenberg either, but it was closer to the Meth King of Albuquerque then the idealistic science teacher of the cold open. He's seen death before, and delivered it himself. But Hank was his family, and he has always taken extraordinary methods to protect his family. He failed. His only rule in all he has done was that his family would never get involved. And even when Hank started hunting him, his goal remained the preservation of his family. His threat to Hank was meant as a deterrent, to prevent Hank from taking further steps. Jack might as well have shot Walter, because he ended up in that same money hole as Hank.

There are times where truly great episodes can exist in a vacuum. This isn't one of those. This episode means nothing without every episode that came before it. It is, however, perhaps the best shot episode of the series. It is certainly one of the most densely packed, the most reactionary and one of the most emotionally powerful (ranking up there with the fourth season finale). Vince Gilligan has good reason to consider this his favourite, this episode excelled. And felt very much like a finale. In structure, in revelation, and in conclusion. The series could just as easily ended here. The final two episodes, taking place presumably in the future year we've glimpsed before, are just epilogue.

Thing is, nobody had a good day here. Nobody. And nothing that Walter does a year from now is going to make their lives any better. Certainly not Hank. Or Marie. Or Flynn (when Skylar called him that for the first time in seasons, I knew nothing good was on the horizon). Skylar at least gets to walk away with a presumption of innocence. Walter saw to that, with his phone call. It wasn't even another attempt to protect his family. It was an apology, the only way he had left to say he was sorry. To shield her from whatever he could by playing the villain one last time, and making her look like as much of a victim as everyone else who had gotten caught up in Walter's wake.

Like Jesse. Walter letting the Nazis take Jesse away with them will undoubtedly be his ruin, and Jesse might be the one who gets to live after everything is said and done. But death would have been so much better for him. Certainly would have saved him torture, and being forced to cook for Uncle Jack, and for knowing that Jane's death could have been prevented. That moment, more than any other, more so even than Flynn calling the police on Walter, or Walter taking baby Holly, was shocking. And seemed uncharacteristically mean. Walter is manipulative, and egotistical, and occasionally evil. But he's not mean. But Jesse is getting hauled off to the pain, and then to the death. Walter had no reason to tell Jesse about Jane, other than it caused him heartache. It hurt him, and he would die with that hurt. Which raises the interesting question of why Walter comes back. He gets off free and clear. His mission has been a failure, his family has no money, their lives are in ruin, but he escapes with 11 million dollars and gets to start over. As far as he knows, the Nazis killed Jesse, Hank is dead and his son thinks he's a monster. And he and Jack are square. So what, after a year, causes him to come back? What is he after? Who is he after?

I suspect, and we'll have to wait until next week to see if I'm right, that after a year, his cancer is about ready to kill him. In those final days, he seeks redemption for his actions by returning to kill the men who killed Hank. To right the only wrong he couldn't himself at the time. Walter did always manage to keep his business in a kind of karmic balance. It'll be then that he discovers that Jesse is still alive; maybe he'll even free Jesse. He'll probably succeed in avenging Hank. But Jesse won't be as forgiving.
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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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