Walt and Jesse come within inches of a slow and painful death when the Crystal ship breaks in the middle of nowhere. Would it be better if Walt left his family with little money and many haunting questions, or if he lived longer to suffer the consequences of his decisions? The realization that he’s only managed to distance himself from his family ever since the diagnosis renders him powerless.
WARNING: Spoilers from Breaking Bad Seasons 1-5 follow
IN TRANSIT (Many deaths of Walter White – Part 2)
Based on the false assumption that he may not live for long, Walt sets out on another desert trip to cook the rest of the methylamine barrel with Jesse. He prepares for a heroic death…perfect timing, he thinks; if he could cook enough to reach the planned 737 grand in the remaining time or hopefully during this 4-day trip, then he would leave his family peacefully. That’s probably the main reason why he throws away the “Hope” chip in 2.05.
But he’s given a second chance upon receiving the news of his remission: Just when he thought he was out he is pulled back in… no easy way out as his worst fears come to life: Not only does the option of time force him to face the bitter consequences of his actions, but now in order to survive in the grim reality of the crime world, he needs to embrace the Heisenberg identity and leave the decency behind. That’s what enrages him in the end, because at this point Walt still believes he “can’t be the bad guy” (See 3.01). But he eventually finds rationalization/justification to be the safest way to repress his guilt. In “Gliding over all” following his new MRI, Walt enters the clinic’s bathroom in a scene which mirrors the end of 2.09, only on an entirely different character level:
- In this episode Walt is enraged upon hearing the news of remission, indicating that he has no choice but to live with the decisions he’s made, while in 5.08 he appears to be more or less relieved and even indifferent, leading us to believe that perhaps the cancer is back. Here he proceeds to wash his face to cool off and then starts punching the dispenser, which results in us seeing his distorted reflection, while in 5.08 we see him simply washing his hands, with a “clear” reflection and then noticing the damaged dispenser with an uneasy look ; you could say in 2.09 Walt is unable to face the truth, hence distorts it, while in 5.08 he accepts it:
- The bathroom scene and Walt’s burst of rage also resembles a similar scene from season 3’s “I.F.T.” where Hank’s distress caused by the complexity of the blue sky case and the Texas promotion leads him into a brutal bar fight. In both cases Walt and Hank wash their faces to cool and later stare at their distorted reflection:
- Accepting the inevitability of death with hope for rebirth are among the major themes of the episode. We see water imagery throughout the episode, in the form of clear, ‘cleansing’ liquids, symbolizing the aforementioned themes and how Walt prepares for his demise. This clarity contrasts the yellow/red chemo fluid imagery we tend to see at the beginning of his transformation stages. Water is the symbol of life, change and sometimes rebirth, fitting the new chance Walt is given here. The episode begins and ends with water and throughout the latter half of their trip, Walt and Jesse nearly die of dehydration. Similarly, in 5.08 we see the clear liquid imagery, with the water hose (mirroring the cold open of 2.01) and in the bathroom scene:
- Walt symbolically departs from his normal life at the airport and boards the secret one: this notion is visualized by him disappearing from and reentering the shot. The scene also resembles the moment in “Green light” where Marie drops Hank off at the airport, but upon hearing news of blue meth’s reappearance he decides to come back. There’s also an auditory Easter egg heard in the background during this scene which fits Walt believes he has to abandon his loved ones sooner than expected: “The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only…[…]…please maintain visual contact with your personal belongings at all times.”
- We’ve seen this exiting/reentering motif in other occasions as well, mostly during Walt’s transformation moments: As thoroughly analyzed in the “Reflections on the Doppelganger” video and article, the mild-mannered Walt exits the store and the pragmatic Heisenberg enters to teach the bully a lesson (1.01). The opposite of this occurs in “Say my name”, when the overconfident, authoritative Heisenberg fails to stand up to Mike and exits the shot, but then an insecure Walt comes back to shoot him in cold blood:
Next: “Make Hay While the Sun is Still Shining…”