Seriable’s Aria Mohtadi reviews Breaking Bad 5.01 “Live Free Or Die”
Once again Walter White embraced the dormant Heisenberg and came out winner in last season’s finale; basically shattering the mighty Gustavo Fring… in half. And just when we thought things were finally settling down for the new ‘King’, Breaking Bad managed to catch us off-guard (again) with showing the repercussions of Walt’s Master-plan, and things yet to come:
In this section we go over the major developments of the episode..
For a taste of victory…oh, wait!
One of the great things about this show is its way of setting the timeline straight from the start; meaning that we always get a glimpse of the ‘consequences’ and are left wondering about the ‘sequence of events’ that have led to them. “Chemistry is change”, right? And that’s always been the main focus of the show. While the episodes of seasons 1,3 and 4 gave us pre-title sequence flashbacks or flashforwards ‘resovled’ in the same episodes (the Pilot’s famous pant-less scene, or Walt and Jesse’s nasty fight last season), we experienced the huge ripple-effect consequences of Walt’s actions in season 2, through a series of carefully (and chronologically) constructed ‘glimpses into the future’, of the plane crash incident. And here we are in the first half of the final season, being presented with Walt’s (err…Mr. Lambert’s) situation in the near future…
So, unlike the veggie bacon Skyler prepared for his 50th birthday in Season 1, Walt’s journey of “masculinity” (in every sense!) has brought him, in distress, to his favorite diner, Denny’s, where Real bacon is served, two years later (hence, 52.), but alone and in disguise.
Now this Walt is pretty much different from the one we saw at the end of last season. Here we see him coughing and taking pills again (is the cancer back?), bitter and disoriented as if he’s sick of the shadow of death hovering around his head for so long. And the M60, a measure of last resorts, when he’s finally become Tony Montana and his enemies have to “say hello to his little friend”?
“Live free or die”, the motto of New Hampshire becomes something more embodying all the reasons why Walt chose to break bad in the first place. He decided to walk out “Big” (as Cranston himself has described Walt) instead of letting the cancer devour him in misery and humiliation. Ironically, he beat the lung cancer (mostly) but had to cope with the burden of his “Living-free” drug life. And the machine gun? Is it the cost of Living free? Hunt or be hunted? – Well, now we know his “reign” won’t last long, but we’re still eager to find out what leads to the intro scene. What will the next episodes unfold? Memento-vise regression as opposed (and in line) to the plane crash flashes, Or something totally different?
We go back to months before the diner scene, when Walt has to tie up some loose ends from the whole explosion plan, not once but actually 4 times…with the chemicals, the infamous Lily of the valley, wife and son, and the camera feed. There’s always the cool “on-the-edge” music when Walt’s in distress!
And it’s nothing new for Walt and Jesse, as they’ve been cleaning their own messes throughout the series especially in the first episodes of each season; taking care of the Tuco situation, Jane’s body, Gale’s murder etc. The series creators have always come up with simple but mind-blowing ways to surprise the audience while not deviating from the plot. I mean, after the huge torch of the superlab, every trace leading back to Walt and Jesse seemed taken care of, but how could they have thought about the camera ‘feed’, being known for their “on-the-fly” planning and, after one hell of day they’d been through?! Genius.
The ‘bond’ between Holly and Walt always works for me, and it’s tense when Skyler’s standing there, unwillingly unpacking her stuff, being very afraid of the husband she lost to Heisenberg. I believe we first experienced this sheer terror in Skyler when Walt figuratively “died” in their grave-like crawl space (episode “Crawl space”), and from his disturbingly maniacal laughter, Heisenberg came and devoured his soul! Well, at least, Brock’s poisoning was something Walt (and us) doubted he could ever be capable of doing, until he gave in to his “Heisenberg” side.
It’s good to see Hank taking charge once again, being right about everything all along. Well, according to Walt Jr, the news hasn’t yet announced Gus to be the druglord that Hank rightfully claims he is.
Moving on from Walt’s short-term victory, we see Mike, treated for his gunshot and feeding chicken in the middle of the desert; we’ll get to that later on. Here the main focus of the episode becomes apparent, the newly formed triangle of associates, Walt, Jesse and Mike. Out of the 3, it’s safe to trust Jesse (one of the few morally stable), and dangerous to trust Walt. Last season, Mike became some sort of a father-figure to Jesse, pretty much replacing Walt, and that’s, I believe, the main reason he tolerates Walt in this episode yet advises Jesse to skip town before things get complicated. Is there more about Gus’ organization than Mike’s letting on?
Whenever the show visits scrapyards we know something cool and crazy is about to happen…and this time thanks to Jesse the “Yeah, Science!” journeyman, they’re about to use the giant (cue to Desmond Hume!) magnet to crack Gus’ laptop containing the camera files inside the Police evidence lock-up. And somehow all of their plans go wrong in the end; scrapyards, burials and wastelands are among the consistent elements of the show, all conveying death and doom, it’s no wonder their plans always bring collateral damage.
I guess the most surprising revelation of the episode for me, after the flash-forward, was Ted being alive. In our “Hitlist” article, I included Ted among the victims of Walt’s “business”; well one way or the other, Ted Is a victim, and a miserable one; watching him in the hospital just made me feel sorry for the guy, despite all the silly troubles he made for Skyler!
Now the take-away from the hospital scene is probably when Skyler slightly becomes the “Ego-driven” Walt and gives an intimidating look to Ted. Now we know she’s far from the devious monster Walt has become, but every once in a while she shows symptoms of that same appetite for ‘power’.
Funny how when Walt’s pretty sure that the magnet-blast worked on the laptop, and reassures Mike to take his word because ‘He says so’, the police finds new evidence leading to one of Gus’ foreign bank accounts. And leading to speculation about the rest of the players involved in Gus’ business…and Mike…why so desperate to leave town?
The amazing “ethically-charged” scene between Saul and Walt pretty much explained the Cigarette pickpocket and Brock’s poisoning mission. Well, you could say it was a bit forced, but the way Saul delivered the lines was as always great to watch. And the way Walt cornered Saul with his badass “When I say we’re done” line, was just damn frightening…HT (Honey-T*ts!) should be afraid too when Walt returns for payback time!
By the end, it appears all loose ends are tied up (well, not the bank account), and Walt is more powerful than ever…even granting Skyler forgiveness for her independent acts behind his back…notice how Skyler’s chin avoids Walt’s shoulder…All hail the king!!