Seriable’s Aria Mohtadi reviews Breaking Bad 5.08 “Gliding Over All”
Heisenberg’s reign in blood reaches its peak as he glides over all the milestones, indications and resolutions, coming full circle by the end of this unearthly journey…Transformation, Decomposition…Transmigration…With no land left to conquer, will he settle into the crystal throne or will he regress?
As a ship on the waters advancing…
By handling Mike, Walt is left to tie up the remaining loose ends. The contamination’s become so overwhelming, that it’s simply not “fun” anymore to break bad and to be in charge; this is apparent in Walt’s dull facial expressions throughout the episode, making is his most “introverted” since “End Times”. He reluctantly dissolves Mike out of the game, and makes sure Jesse stays far away from all this.
On the way to meet with Lydia, he wears the Heisenberg costume “on the outside”, fully embracing its qualities. While at the meeting, he changes into the chemist, or at least that’s just the image he’s supposed to portray in front of Lydia, to gain the upper hand in the negotiation. The thin barrier separating Walt’s two sides has blurred to a degree that at times it’s nearly impossible to tell which one is in control. While he clearly intended to poison her with the “impending” ricin powder, it seems in the end Lydia manages to ‘seduce’ him, using his ‘greed’ against him.
And she escapes death once again (Is it the fifth time already?). The Czech Republic market plan works for their mutual benefit. Lydia, the “carrier of waves” from point A to point B, gets to live and keep getting richer in this highly profitable business, and Walt gets to be even “more powerful” than Gus; after all Lydia and Gus were only in the process of moving the product ‘overseas’ until half of the the guy’s face was gone like the beloved T-800.
Only one final loose end to tie up; Mike’s 9. No time for second-guessings, and certainly no justifications, so Walt quickly asks for Todd’s uncle and his gang of rough-stuff-type enforcers. The Godfather/Sopranos-style prison wipe-out was probably one of the season’s greatest achievements both thematically and visually; as Walt calmly counts the seconds, while the 9 assets each die a horrifying death. The final nail in the coffin of DEA’s Fring case investigation.
Smooth sails from then on… Within three months of producing for Declan’s crew and Madrigal’s overseas market, Walt manages to grow his empire more than he ever did before. But eventually, the thrill of it fades away and the empire business becomes another routine. Walt’s pile of money certainly doesn’t need getting any bigger, as money was never the main driving force…
So Walt walks out, makes peace with Jesse by buying him out with probably more than his share, and Skyler’s able to ‘breathe’ openly for the first time in three months. Everything seems to fall into place perfectly…until Karma hits him hard…Hank stumbles upon the single most ‘incriminating’ piece of evidence (not for the DEA, but Hank alone): Gale’s gift to Walt; Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. A memento/trophy Walt kept on his bedside drawer throughout season 5. How poetic and tragic…a token of friendship from the victim who didn’t have to be sacrificed in the first place (half/full measures aside!) brings all the puzzle pieces together. Hank will definitely have to cope with some major changes.
The voyage of the soul, not life alone…
“Where do you suppose these come from?” …
There are many call-backs to ‘defining’ moments throughout the series, such as the presence of a ‘descendant’ of The Fly, the ‘smooth sailing’ painting from 2.03, the scan and the damaged dispenser. Even in the motel room scene, Walt says it out ‘loud’ to us the viewers…as if he’s wondering if some ‘esoteric force’ is throwing ‘universal indicators’/ ‘manifestations’ at him. And in the end they all factor in his decision of ‘walking away’ from the empire.
Breaking Bad has the advantage of being perceived as a reality-based show and yet as a ‘metaphysical’ experience; hence the foreshadowing elements, references, highlighted colors, etc. Those of you who are familiar with the Silent Hill video game franchise know that there are moments within those games where the protagonists figuratively ‘break’ the fourth wall and makes us wonder ‘where’ the symbolism is coming from. I remember there was a theory back when season 3 was over, about the “reliability of the narrator” of Breaking Bad (ie. Walt). It basically came to the conclusion that Walt’s journey is in fact a “nightmare” starting from the moment we see his alarm clock in the pilot. It would examine many of Walt’s ‘unconscious’ moments as well as the symbolic elements.
Whether that theory comes into ‘life’ or not remains to be seen, but what matters in the context of this particular episode is that Walt’s journey comes full circle; assuming his cancer to be fatal, Walt decided to go all the way down the dark road and he’d handle the consequences as long as he was certain he would Die, or in other words take the easy way out. It was a major blow when he went into remission (“4 Days Out”), because that meant he ‘had’ to stay in the business and deal with the consequences. There are hints in 5.08 leading us to assume his cancer may be back (we’re gonna be discussing them in the “Projecting Through The Shades” section), and that may as well be the main reason he decides to “walk out”, so he could spend the remainder of his days with his family, trouble-free.
Whether the return of the cancer is the reason or it’s just the “fascination with power” fading away, the question is, which side will Walt choose to settle in for the rest of the journey; the Teacher or the Drug Lord? The transformation into Heisenberg is complete with elaboration, it’s time for decomposition.