Bad Ass Quote of the Week
“My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself.” – Hank Schrader
Thoughts on “Ozymandias”
The opening shot of this episode is of water coming to a boil, which is symbolic of where Breaking Bad is as a series with this episode. It is driven home by Walt’s opening lines to Jesse explaining that they are waiting for an exothermic reaction, a reaction which gives off heat, to take place. Every molecule in the mix is entering a higher energy state, the characters and the viewers!
It’s wonderful to see this flashback of Walt and Jesse cooking in the good ol’ Methabago, and to see their characters and interactions just as they were at the beginning of their criminal days. It is not until they exit the RV and we see where they are that we realise this is their first cook together (Episode 101 – “Pilot”) taking place in the exact same spot we ended Episode 513 – “To’hajiilee” with the gunfight. This is an entirely new scene, and would have occurred in the middle of their first cook in the “Pilot” episode. For the record, so far in “Season 5b” the episodes are running at 66% on tightie whities.
Walt rehearses his excuse before calling Skyler to tell her he is going to be late arriving home. This is going to be Walt’s “first lie” to Skyler, at least the first one he tells her about his meth business. While this is a flashback, it emphasizes the fact that he has never been a good liar when it comes to Skyler and his family, and this is the first time we’ve seen him literally rehearse one on his own. We’ve seen how he bumbles lies when he doesn’t put much thought into them (I’m thinking of the gasoline story in Episode 512 – “Rabid Dog”), and how Skyler has even coached him when he has had to tell an elaborate lie like in Episode 404 – “Bullet Points”. This, along with him ticking his fingers just prior to filming it, makes me certain that Skyler helped him script and rehearse his fake confession video for Hank and Marie (Episode 511 – “Confessions”). Walt doesn’t lie well, but Heisenberg does.
The knife block on the counter in the foreground when Skyler is on the phone is good foreshadowing, although on subsequent viewings it seems over emphasized. I love that she wants him to bring home a pizza from Venezia’s, the same place where the pizza that he threw on their garage roof in Episode 302 – “Caballo Sin Nombre” came from. This is also where Badger ordered pizzas for Jesse’s parties at the beginning of Season 4 (the ones Skinny Pete wanted scissors to slice). Check the link… there is a Venizia’s on Juan Tabo boulevard, the same street that Gale Boetticher lived on and where the Disappearerer meets his clients. Ah the little touches on this show!
Holly’s name being discussed twice during the phone call could be considered as a bit of foreshadowing of what will occur later in the episode, but it also sends a strong message about the entire arc of the story as we transition from this flashback moment to the “present”. Walt seems to be a happy family man here, he has just done something (although illegal) to take care of them, and is planning a fun trip with them on the weekend. I thought it was brilliant the way Walt, Jesse and the Methabago faded away, leaving the empty desert backdrop, then we hear the gunfire of the battle from the end of “To’hajiilee” and see the vehicles fade in. We’ve gone from Walt’s very beginning, happily talking about the new baby coming to the family, to the present, where his criminal life is about to lead to the death of a family member.
I think this transition would have been even better had it not been interrupted by the opening title and a short commercial break. I suppose it will be as close to uninterrupted as we can get when it is released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Jesse’s “sword fight” with a stick against a rock in the background while Walt is on the phone is about the only light moment we are going to get in this episode.
Seeing Gomez lying dead hit me hard, right in the chest. I didn’t realise just how invested in these characters I was, even smaller parts like Steve Gomez, and it really hurt to see a decent guy like that killed. This does not bode well for my emotions during the final few episodes.
Hank crawling for Gomez’ shotgun with a shell (although probably spent) lying nearby, was so reminiscent of him crawling and grabbing Lionel’s (one of “the cousins”) pistol and loading the “Black Death” bullet to kill Marco in Episode 307 – “One Minute”. Not so lucky this time.
Amateur hour for Walt… asking Hank to forgive and forget, and then trying to buy Hank’s life with his money. I suppose he had to try, but both Hank and Jack are right, “there is no scenario where this guy lives.” Hank’s final words about Walt being the smartest guy he ever met, but that he’s not able to see what’s plainly in front of him were quite astute. If you think Hank softened a little towards Walt in those final moments because of Walt trying desperately to protect him, think again. Hank was stating a fact, and that’s it. He’s about to lose his life because of his brother-in-law, and he’s not a martyr here… he’s Walt’s victim, and he knows it even if Walt doesn’t.
Hank wasn’t going to beg. He went out like… well, like Hank. It was cold, and hard for us to witness, softened only by the fact that we were expecting it.
Walt is gutted, and his face maintains a silent scream for quite a while. His expression was almost the same as Gus’ when his partner Max was killed in Episode 408 – “Hermanos”. Great imagery and a really nice touch (which I didn’t notice until I heard it talked about on the “Insider Podcast”) was the way the packed sand cracked when Walt’s head hit it. His foundation (family) has just been shattered. The symbolism of the hole where Walt buried his money, his home “where he really lives”, now being turned into a grave for Hank and Gomez was also quite powerful.
Uncle Jack isn’t a dumb guy. He’s a bit incredulous that Walt didn’t tell him his brother-in-law was a DEA agent, but I’m not surprised that the topic didn’t come up in their limited dealings with each other. Jack making use of the GPS coordinates to find Walt’s money was astute. Of all the possibilities for what could have happened with Walt’s money (as I discussed in the “To’hajiilee” article), I am pleased with the way the writers dealt with this. The fact that Jack left one barrel for Walt was interesting, although I presume it has something to do with his personal “code”, and how he believes America and Americans should be. He is looking after “family”also, of which he considers Walt a member, as he intimated in the last episode. He speaks about his nephew Todd respecting Walt, and Jack obviously has a soft spot for Todd. I think Jack has a certain amount of respect for Walt also… his intelligence, and the criminal operation he created. I did notice that they left Walt handcuffed until they had his money loaded and ready to go though.
Todd is as awkward as ever when dealing with other people, “Sorry for your loss.” What a doofus.
I mentioned in the “To’hajiilee” article the importance of the moment when Walt shook hands with Jack, that it was the transfer of power between them, and the beginning of Walt’s fall. Now Walt has to begrudgingly shake Jack’s swastika tattooed hand again. With much distaste he is shaking the hand that just pulled the trigger on his brother-in-law. Walt has no power to take vengeance on Jack (now), but he can do something to vent his anger, and take vengeance… as he sees it. “Pinkman.” “Found him.”
I appreciated the imagery of the two birds in the sky that Jesse sees when he looks up, just as Jack is about to kill him. He’s seeing the departing souls of Hank and Gomez, and he’s about to join them. The naive Walt is gone and Heisenberg is back, as he nods assent to the execution. Jesse is spared (temporarily as far as Walt is concerned) by a request from Todd, but Walt has to strike out and hurt him somehow right now. Walt is too blind with anger to see that he is just as responsible as Jesse (even more so) for Hank’s death. You can almost see the hope on Jesse’s face when Walt says, “Wait!”, and then he completely deflates as Walt drops the bomb that he watched Jane die, and he could have saved her (Episode 212 – “Phoenix”). Bastard.
The final shot of this scene, after the Uncles of Anarchy drive away, is the same long shot of the desert used in the fade out and fade in earlier. This time it’s Walt standing there alone in the swirling dust cloud left by the departing vehicles. Excellent!
Only when Walt was at the height of his power was he ever able to carry out a flawless caper… the first of which was the train robbery in Episode 505 – “Dead Freight”. Before that, every job that he tried had some stupid unforeseen hitch, that he (and Jesse) were only able to stumble out of by sheer dumb luck, and usually just by the skin of their teeth (I’m thinking of the “magnets” scheme in Episode 501 – “Live Free Or Die”.) Now that he’s no longer on top, his luck seems to have turned again, as his car runs out of gas and he has to roll his barrel of money across the desert. I’m glad to see he’s learned his lesson and is actually rolling it, unlike the struggle with the barrel of methylamine that he and Jesse stole in Episode 107 – “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”. I was amused by the “Insider Podcast” when they said the writers call this the “dung beetle” scene. I also liked the call-back to the pilot episode, when Walt rolls his barrel by his pants that flew off the RV into the desert. It’s a delight for the true Baddicts that they are putting in so many of these little references to things from the series.
The song that plays in this scene is “Take My True Love By The Hand” by The Limeliters. The lyrics fo this song are perfect for this episode, as they pretty much sum up the theme and story. You can read the lyrics in the comments section of the YouTube video if you click on the link. A great image ends this scene too, with Walt handing a bundle of cash through the barbed wire fence, framed by the bull’s skull. Walt is coughing from the exertion of pushing the barrel, and also probably due to his lung cancer, but money isn’t going to buy his way out of his coming death.
Marie telling Skyler that Hank has Walt in custody was a role reversal between the two sisters. We’ve heard Skyler lecture Marie before, but this time it’s Marie dictating the terms, and we have never seen her so forceful and directed (at least in such a calm focused way). That Marie has the power in the room is symbolised by the tall purple orchid on Skyler’s desk. Skyler, who has been resolute in her stand with Team White to this point, finally folds. Initially I was surprised that she would acquiesce so quickly, but I think that seeing her sister being so self-assured and confident convinced her that she was being confronted with the truth and the game was over.
Todd has Jesse in a cement cell with a thickly grilled roof that reminded me of the dinosaur pens in “Jurassic Park”. He’s got another trophy, a pet like the tarantula in a jar he took from Drew Sharp after he killed him (Episode 506 – “Buyout”). Todd has tortured Jesse to find out what the DEA knows (as he said he would do when he asked for the execution to be delayed), and I am presuming it’s only a matter of time before the neo-nazi gang show up at Marie’s house to get the recording of Jesse’s confession. Danger for Marie if she’s home when they arrive!
It looks like Todd has another purpose for Jesse as well… to improve the quality of his meth cooking. I presume he’s not going to kill Jesse now that he has the information, as he told Walt and Uncle Jack he would. Walt is out of the picture, and isn’t likely to find out that Jesse is still alive under the present circumstances. This brings a few questions to my mind. Are Uncle Jack and the gang in on this plan of keeping Jesse alive to improve the cook? Are they even interested in continuing with the meth operation now that they’ve just gotten 70 million dollars? Perhaps this is Todd’s plan alone, in order to satisfy Lydia and his schoolboy crush on her? I think that is what was on his mind when he put a stop to Jesse’s killing, but whether the Aryan Uncles are in on this or not remains to be seen.
Todd’s hooks Jesse up to a “dog-run” leash track so he can cook in the lab. The first thing I thought of was Hannibal Lecter’s exercise set up in the movie “Red Dragon”. That kind of goes along with Todd’s general creepy nature. The photograph of Andrea and Brock pinned up in the lab is insurance against Jesse refusing to cook. Chilling. The view of Jesse’s pulped face as he looks at the photo echoes Gus Fring’s blown up face in Episode 413 – “Face Off”. Although Jesse’s face is intact, the left hand side is mulch, and his left eye socket looks empty. Jesse is definitely receiving punishment for his crimes.
I noticed that Todd got into a chemical suit, but Jesse wasn’t provided one. I guess that Jesse’s well-being isn’t the top thing on Todd’s mind. I assume he will at least be able to wear a respirator. This got me to thinking about Uncle Jack and Kenny removing theirs at the beginning of “To’hajiilee” and not being told what air to breathe or not. Maybe Jesse will kill them with fumes, like Walt did to Emilio and Krazy 8 in “Pilot” (although Krazy 8 lived through it.)
I am glad that R.J. Mitte got a chance to stretch and show off his acting skills in this episode. His portrayal of Junior’s disbelief of what his father has done, his not knowing who to believe or trust, and even his defense of his Mother were well played. That’s exactly how a 16-year-old boy would react. On the ride home with Skyler, his accusation that Skyler is as bad as Walt if this is all true, cuts right to the bone.
Marie doesn’t know just how accurate her statement, “Hank is probably in the thick of it with your Father.” really is.
The view of Holly in her car seat behind them was meaningful also, she is alone as the only family member left that is unaware of what is going on, but she’s along for the ride.
The pictures of the family members on the hallway wall as Walt rushes to pack were powerful imagery as well. They are portraits of each member of the family alone – symbolising each one of them dealing with their own piece of this mess. Of course, this is also the final moment for this family as a unit.
Walt’s insistence that Skyler and Junior just follow his instructions without question, and his mentioning all the money waiting in the driveway to buy them new lives is a repeat of his pleading for Hank’s life earlier. Walt is not seeing the truth in front of his eyes again. His anger peaks after Skyler cuts him, and the scuffle ends with Junior separating them and calling the police. Walt says, ‘We’re a Family!” angrily, but the camera pulls away from Junior shielding Skyler, illustrating the gulf that has just materialised between them. The sight of Junior protecting his Mother seems to drive home what has just happened. Walt’s second, “We’re a family.’ is much weaker, almost whispered.
Walt grabs Holly and drives away. I think at this moment the only thought he had was to try to keep the one bit of his family he possibly could, as impractical as it is. Masterful acting by Anna Gunn as she runs out into the street and drops to her knees shaking. That is exactly how I felt at that moment.
A much better thinker when he isn’t angry, Walt realises what he has done when he changes Holly and she calls for Mamama (how heart-rending was that?). That brings the message home that he has destroyed his family and that taking Holly away from her Mother is one thing he can put right. You can see the realisation in his face as he hugs Holly close, for the last time. As crummy a guy as Walt is, I had sympathy for him in that moment.
The phone call between Walt and Skyler was outstanding writing and acting. Initially I thought “how can Walt even think there are no police there, and that Skyler is alone?”, but it dawned on me pretty quickly what he was doing, probably about the same time that it dawned on Skyler. They show Walt from behind as he starts the call, and when he turns around, he does seem to be all Heisenberg with the vicious things he says to Skyler. When he realises that she has clued in that he is trying to protect her and give her an alibi, he begins to cry, while his voice remains hard… Walt and Heisenberg at the same moment. Stunning.
We began this episode with Walt’s first lie to Skyler, and we are finishing with his last.
I think Skyler knows this is goodbye too, and despite everything, I think there is some part of her that is saying goodbye back. I’m sure she can hear the hitch in his voice right at the end of the call. Another powerful moment was Walt saying, “You’re never going to see Hank again.”, Skyler’s reaction, and Marie’s reaction to Skyler’s reaction. What a tour de force!
I was pretty sure that Walt was going to leave Holly somewhere so she could be returned to Skyler, but I wasn’t certain until he left her in the fire truck. Poor little Holly! More symbolism in the chess game being played between two firefighters, with the White King in danger and near checkmate. I did liken the last episode to a chess match in my “Five Second Synopsis”.
It was a little amusing to see Walt’s luggage when he was waiting for the Dissapearerer (at the same location that Jesse did in “Confessions”), three bags and a barrel full of money. I liked, again, that the Dissapearerer is an invisible man.
Walt leaves with the Dissapearerer and his money, and the episode ends. We are left with his final line though, “I still have things to do.”
I can only speculate on what those things are, and the only thing that comes to mind is to take vengeance on Uncle Jack for killing Hank. Or maybe to set up his money so that it gets to his family when he dies somehow. As far as Walt knows at this point, Jesse is dead, so I don’t think that is on his agenda.
I spoke in the “Rabid Dog” article about all the dog symbolism used this season. We had some more in this episode. Jesse is now a dog on a leash. When Walt and the Dissapearerer drive away, a mangy, scrawny dog crosses the road behind them. This is Walt now. A stray dog, with no family, no home and out on his own.
You may be wondering why I haven’t spoken about the “Ozymandias” poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, or the sonnet of the same name by Horace Smith. There are a few reasons. The first is that I am assuming that almost every other article about this episode out there, and every podcast, will have already deconstructed this show in light of those poems, so I thought I would not tread where I think others have likely beaten a pretty deep path. The second reason is that I think that these poems are over used in television and film to provide some symbolism or deeper meaning. Just this past season the Shelley poem was quoted and referenced on an episode of “Mad Men”. I don’t deny that the poems do have a lot of parallels with the story in this episode, and you can read all about them elsewhere, or read the poems for yourself and draw your own. I would say if I had one complaint about this episode, it would be the title, because of its triteness.
I was bowled over by “To’hajiilee”. This episode was even better, perhaps the best of the entire series. The writing, the cinematography and the acting were all top-notch. I think that Breaking Bad could sweep the “Drama” category at the 2014 Emmy awards based on this episode alone, probably with multiple actors nominated against each other in some of the supporting categories.
The series could have ended right here, with Walt going off rich and alone to die of cancer in a few months. It’s sad that we have only two episodes left, but the bright part is, they are two episodes that will definitely be full of the unexpected!
I really can’t make any new predictions this week. Any that I would make would be really basic like “Walt’s new identity will have him settling in New Hampshire”, but that’s too easy.
My prediction that Hank would die came true. That one wasn’t a stretch really, but you never know for sure with Vince Gilligan and the writing team!
My score since beginning this site now stands at 7 1/2 predictions correct, 4 1/2 predictions wrong, and 3 predictions are now still pending.
Humorous Quote of the Week
“Jesus! What’s with all the greed here? It’s unattractive. “ – Uncle Jack