Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts on the Breaking Bad Series Finale

Warning: Spoilers ahead... please stop reading if you have not yet seen the end of Breaking Bad.

I've only watched the episode once, and that ended just a few minutes ago, so I haven't had time to process the ending completely other than to paraphrase what I posted on my Facebook page: Step aside, Six Feet Under... there's a new 'best series finale ever' in town.

From the very beginning, we've speculated on how this series will end. Will Walt win? He can't win. He has to die. But he MUST win. We're all rooting for him. But we're not, because he's made every single bad decision a person can make, and there must be consequences for it. So he won't die. He'll end up in prison. No... Jesse will kill him. No... the cancer will kill him. No... he'll kill himself. No wait; that last one is bananas. Walt is all about self-preservation.

From the beginning, he said he was doing it for his family. But that was only the case when he was pantsless in the desert, calling his wife to let her know he'll be late for dinner. Once he got the taste of it, he knew he loved it. He continued to cook for his own pride. When he was Heisenberg, he was important. Even his own wife was afraid of him, and while that wasn't his original intent, hell... it's better than having her look at her laptop while jerking him off on his birthday, right? At least... that's what Walt thought at the time.

This has been a show that followed an absolutely perfect arc: we begin at what appears to be the bottom, and then we see the rise of Heisenberg until he becomes a drug kingpin, and then his family finds out, and then Hank finds out, and then it all unravels into a horrible, terrible place, and he ends up lower than he was before. But in hindsight, you realize he was never higher than he was at the very beginning. That it was all a downhill slide.

But this finale — this perfect finale — showed us the real trajectory: that it was all about perspective. From the perspective of family, yes, it was entirely downhill. But from the perspective of Walt's own pride and sense of place and importance in the world, Heisenberg actually was important to him, to his wellbeing. It made him feel important. He's become the consummate liar, where lies just roll off his tongue like sugar, but in the moment in "Felina" where he looks at Skyler and finally — finally — admits that he didn't do it for his family, but for himself, he's telling the truth. He's seen it, we already knew it, and it's an absolutely perfect moment in an episode filled with them. This series has documented the fall of Walter White, family man, but it certainly also showed the rise and fall (and rise and fall) of Walter White, man of pride.

Perhaps some viewers will see the episode as being a little too careful, too pat, but I don't think so. I think Gilligan managed what seemed to be the impossible: he made everyone happy. If you wanted Walt to die, congratulations. If you wanted him to lose, he did. Big time. If you wanted him to win... he did. If you wanted Jesse to be free, he was. Happy? Not for a long time, but he'll get there. Maniacally happy is the best we can get right now, and I'll take it.

Walt managed to get revenge on the Schwartzes: don't tell me they won't spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders at every bump they hear. (Funny side note: my dad came over to watch the finale with us, and when the red lights appeared on their chests and Walt began terrifying them, we were all laughing nervously and my dad said, "Watch. It'll be Badger and that other guy with laser pointers" and we all laughed and THEN IT WAS!!)

He helped get Skyler off the hook with the police, if she decides to use the coordinates as leverage in the way he suggested.

He was able to say goodbye to her, and let her know he cared about her, and she had one moment of seeing him as a loving father to Holly, something she hasn't been able to see much of at all.

He saw Flynn one last time, and realized he's a man now, who can take care of himself and his family.

He gave Marie the closure she needs with those coordinates. And he let Skyler know that he didn't actually kill Hank (even if his actions did).

He found a way to get the money to his family, and finally realized that almost $10 million is quite enough. You don't need $71 million to be happy. I loved the moment when Uncle Jack said, "If you pull that trigger you'll never find out where the mo—" Bang. Walt no longer cares about the rest of the money.

He allowed Jesse to kill Todd. It had to be Jesse who did that.

He got rid of Lydia by using her own weird OCD against her.

He allowed Jesse to get away. Jesse's name isn't tied with Walt's at all in any of this; remember, the only people who realized Pinkman was tied with Walt were Gomez and Hank, and they're buried at those lottery coordinates. Jesse is a broken man, but maybe that fantasy we saw of him with his own woodworking shop will actually come true. I hope so.

And then, he died. Jesse didn't shoot him (thank god; I knew deep down Gilligan wouldn't make that misstep), because it was what Walt wanted. And Jesse is DONE with doing what Walt wants.

Surprisingly, and beautifully, Walt died by his own hand. He died because of his hubris of taking care of everything by himself. He died because he'd misjudged where the machine gun would fire (or, perhaps... he KNEW it would hit him?) He died because he was protecting Jesse with his own body. Walt's death is so complicated, yet simply handled. He died. The end.

The first episode of the final season, way back in July 2012, was called "Live Free Or Die" (that flashes quickly at the beginning of this episode on Walt's license plate). And in this episode, Jesse lived free, and Walt died.

Walt did a lot of bad things, and we want him to pay for it. He does, with his life. But his family was innocent, and they will receive the money: is it drug money? Perhaps. But let's look at it another way. If Walt had been given his due by the Schwartzes, who took his idea and ran with it and acted like he'd never contributed anything to their giant empire, then his family would have lived in the opulence they've achieved. It's genius to have the trust money come from them: they are finally handing over the money that's long overdue to Walter White. Yes, he earned that money, through his brilliance in chemistry. Whether it's meth money or money because of his original ideas that made the Schwartzes filthy rich is up to how you want to perceive it.

I loved the final scene, with Walt walking through the meth lab one final time, tapping the pressure gauge (which we've seen him do countless times). For a moment, I thought he was actually going to finish Jesse's cook. But instead he walks up to the stainless steel container and looks at his own reflection. We'll never know if he likes or hates the man he sees looking back at him.

And then he falls onto his back... and he's gone. The king is dead.

I couldn't help but notice the final image (aside from being very Lost-like!) was like the final image in one of my favourite episodes, "Crawl Space," which ended with Walter lying on his back in the crawl space, with the money, which is partly gone because Skyler has given it to Ted, and Walter pretty much has a nervous breakdown on the spot, laughing and laughing as the camera pans back to show a man at rock bottom.

Walter's lying in a very similar position at the end, eyes wide open (of course, since as I've mentioned before, eyes are extremely important on the show), but dead.

The episode was called "Felina," which baffled fans leading up to it. My favourite explanation was that it's actually three chemical compounds: Fe (iron) Li (lithium) and Na (sodium), which are found in blood, meth, and tears. (Other fans shot it down by saying Walter never used Lithium in his cooks, so...)

But in the opening of the episode, it was clear the title referenced Marty Robbins' "El Paso," and the lyrics not only sum up the themes and tensions of the entire series, but foreshadow exactly how Walter was going to die:

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa's cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.

Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.

One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
The girl that I loved.

So in anger I

Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.

Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back
And away I did ride,

Just as fast as I

Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.

I saddled up and away I did go,
Riding alone in the dark.
Maybe tomorrow
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing's worse than this
Pain in my heart.

And at last here I

Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa's cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa's back door.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I'm getting weary,
Unable to ride.

But my love for

Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

Thank you, Breaking Bad for the five best seasons of television I've ever seen. Even better than The Wire (blasphemy!!! but true), with an even more perfect ending than Six Feet Under, with an ending that left me satisfied and bereft, and I doubt will divide fans the way other finales have done (see Sopranos, Lost, Dexter...) An incredible show has come to an end. And with one little kiss... I wave goodbye.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The LOST Locations Tour!: Part One

As many of you know, I'm in Hawaii right now on a last-minute trip (my golf writer husband was invited to play in the Hawaiian Pro-Am golf tournament and spouses were invited along!) Before the golf began, I made it priority to go on the legendary Lost locations tour. I'd written about it in my books, and some of the tour guides had sent me photos they'd taken during the tours, so I couldn't wait to do it. The tour is offered in 2-hour, 5-hour, and 8-hour versions, but because of the last-minute nature of the request, I couldn't get on the 8-hour tour. Wah. However, on the 5-hour tour you go to Kualoa Ranch, which is the giant piece of land where 70% of the show was filmed. What you miss out on by not doing the 8-hour version is the beach (kind of a big set, and frankly, calls into question that "70%" number they use on the tour); the flats where expeditions happened (cue Expedition music), where Kelvin was killed, and where Jack and the MiB had their legendary final battle; Dharmaville, which is the YMCA camp... You don't go into the bamboo or the jungle areas, so that last three hours seemed like a big deal. I'll have to come back some other time to do it. :)

But let's look at where I did go!

The first place you see just as you're pulling away from the pick-up area is the church that was used as the church where Desmond goes to make the wine and become a monk, but also doubles as Oxford University, where Chah-lie and his brother had the argument out front about being in the band, and where Faraday and Desmond chat about Faraday's experiments. It's right in the downtown area, not remote like it appeared to be on the show:

To jog your memory, here are the scenes where it was used:

Next up, it was the site of one of John Locke's low points, at the gates of that rat bastard Anthony Cooper's house:

You probably can't read it, but there's a sign on the fence warning passersby about the Rottweiler on guard. It's probably just a ruse to keep away Lost fans.

Next we went up this narrow, winding road that our tour guide told us used to be the main highway, which is hard to believe (that said, I've seen some major M-roads in England suddenly turn into what appear to be single-lane driveways, so it can happen!) This is a photo of the site where Jack and Kate are in the pilot episode, searching for the pilot (who gets yanked up into the tree by Smokey).

(Sorry it's so blurry; our tour guide shot it, and our camera takes some getting used to...) When you watch the episode, it appears they're deep in the jungle. But in fact, we're sitting on the road that runs right by it. They managed to constantly shoot inwards from this angle so you'd never see the road running right alongside it. Here's what the road actually looks like; it's rather glorious to drive through:

Just around that bend in the road ahead was the tree where Eko died at the hands of Smokey:

It looked to me a lot like the tree where Richard Alpert buried his beloved wife's necklace, but I'll let you be the judge. This is a screen cap of that episode:

As you come down the Pali highway, we arrived at a remote out-of-the-way shack, and as we walked up I said, "Ah. This is Sayid's Habitat for Humanity house." "Very good," said the tour guide as he turned to me.

He said a lot of Lost fans get it as soon as he explains it, but very few call it out ahead of time. So for all you Lost fans who have taken the tour and knew this stuff before it was explained to you, you're in a rare group, apparently! (And I know everyone reading this was able to do so...) Oh, here's the screen cap to jog your memory:

By the way, I should mention our tour guide, Greg. He was a ham, and a really fun guy. He loved his props (more on those in Part Two), and was an extra on several episodes of the show. His recurring role as an extra was as "Mental Patient #1" whenever Hurley was in the mental institution (he's the guy sitting and drooling and playing a game when Hurley thinks he's posing in a photo with Dave; he's the guy wandering up the front lawn in a daze when Ghost Chah-lie comes to visit Hurley; he's often standing near a window or sitting at a table near Hurley). At the beginning of "I Do," aka the one with Nathan Fillion!!!, when Kate walks down the hall to her hotel room she passes a guy in the hallway. That's Greg. He had a lot of fun showing us the screencaps he forever keeps on his phone and telling us about how kind everyone was on the set. Apparently Terry O'Quinn would come out to the mental institution scenes just to sit and watch, and would sit and chat with everyone in between takes. He thought he was a great guy. This is Greg quizzing me on a beach as he pointed off to the distance and asked me if I could guess what the pier was we could see.

"The one where the Others kidnap Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, and Kate?" "Very good... and another?" "It's also the one where Ben first comes to the island as a child?" "Wow. I'm impressed... AND ANOTHER?!" "Uh... the one where Sawyer throws Juliet's ring?" "NO. That's another pier." "OK... the one where... they come to the island in the 70s?" "Nope." Smile growing on his face. "The one... Locke blows up?" "Nope. It's the one where Widmore leaves the island." "Wow.... there were a lot of piers on that show."

I should also mention here that along with us on the tour were two guys who'd never seen an episode of Lost. A friend had told them it didn't matter, because they'd still get to see scenery and areas of the island they wouldn't normally get to see. But with Greg and I geeking out over every little thing for five hours, I had a feeling after about two that these guys were regretting being on this particular tour. ;) (They were super-nice guys, though, and it was fun to chat with them about non-Lost things. One of them asked me to tell him how Lost ended and I couldn't bring myself to do it. "Oh, you'll watch the show after this tour, won't you?" "Nah, I doubt it." "Oh come on you will, I just can't tell you the ending!" "I really won't watch the show..." I still couldn't do it.)

Just as we entered the ranch we stopped at this little away spot, where he showed us where they'd built the entirety of the set for Last Resort, that Andre Braugher/Scott Speedman show that I LOVED. Then the show was promptly cancelled (natch) and they just left the island... and the set. So if there's anyone out there who actually watched the show like we did, here is the cage where they kept the captain and the bar on stilts:

And now... back to Lost.

This was our first stop at the Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa Ranch is best described as "exactly like that place in The Descendants." Presumably it's what they based that movie on. Anyway, it's been in the family for six generations, and it's a plot of land that's about 4,600 acres, a massive section of the island, all facing the water, and comprising this huge bowl of windswept mountains and gorgeous views. Many films and TV shows are filmed here, and that's become a big source of income to the ranch. They maintain Angus beef cattle and two Texas longhorns so they can call themselves an agricultural ranch and therefore pay property taxes in a different tax bracket. According to our guide, the most recent offer they've had to buy the property was from Hilton Hotels, for $9.6 billion (yes BILLION). They said no. And thank goodness they did, because every photo in my next post will be from there, and you'll see what a gorgeous piece of land it is. Could you imagine a giant hotel plopped in the middle of it, and the mountains clearcut right through to create manmade concrete lagoons? No, me either.

So anyway, right in this same alcove where the Last Resort sets were, was this:

"Can you name this?" Greg slyly asked. "I'll be very impressed if you can." Me: "Oh wow, it's the African place where Eko did the drug deal!" Greg nodded his head and smiled as he held up the picture.

We walked through the house towards another pier (gulp). Knowing he could stump me on piers, he said, "Can you name THIS one??!!" with a little too much glee.

"Yes, that's the one where Jin comes to visit his father who's the fisherman in Japan." Nailed it! 

(Don't worry, Greg will get me back for my winning streak in the next post...) We turned to look back at Eko's drug deal cantina from the back, and Greg revealed that it was actually reused as Jin's father's house when Sun went to visit him. This is my photo of it (and that magnificent tree in the foreground!):

And the screen cap of Sun with Jin's father:

Amazing how they can dress up a place like that to make it look entirely different from before. 

I'm going to take a pause here and post this, because I've been at it for over an hour and there's a beautiful day beckoning to me outside! Next up: some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Breaking Bad: Ozymandias

Breaking Bad is, hands down, my favourite TV show. And yet, I don't write about it. I was someone who caught up late, watching the first episode of season 1, then leaving it for a while, and then watching the first three seasons in a marathon before watching seasons 4 and 5 live. So during those first three years, other people wrote about it. And their followings grew, and they did a fantastic job, so instead, if you follow me on Facebook, you'll just see me losing my mind every Sunday night watching this meticulously plotted, brilliantly written, and perfectly acted series... but I don't write about it.

And then yesterday, while on a long plane flight to Hawaii, my husband and I popped open his computer and clicked on this week's episode. And I gasped, and cried, and gasped again, and my hands flew into the air, and then to my mouth, and my jaw dropped, and I sobbed, and then I gasped, and then ended the episode crying and crying. My husband said, "Ok, now what do you want to watch?" And I said I was going to need a while to recover. And I stared out the window, thinking about how this show just gave me the best, most satisfying hour of television I think I've ever seen.

If you haven't watched it, STOP NOW. I've been dying all season NOT discussing it on Facebook so as not to spoil it for those who don't watch it until it's On Demand later in the week. But I MUST discuss this episode.

First, I had no idea until after I watched it that it was called "Ozymandias." For those English lit students out there, remember how you have to mainline about 1,500 poems throughout your degree, but you really only remember about four or five of them at the end? (No? Just me? OK FINE.) "Ozymandias" was one of those poems. Let's leave off the Watchmen reference (which was clearly a nod to Shelley's poem) and just look at Shelley's poem:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Like the great king Ozymandias, Walt's kingdom officially crumbles in this episode. He's lost his family, his partner, his dignity, his power... and his money. Look on his works, ye Mighty Viewers... and despair. The sand has washed over everything.

The episode begins with one of those absolutely fantastic cold opens. At first I thought it was a repeat of a scene from season 1, but they've clearly gone back and recreated it (both Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston look a little older) but what they do is take us right back to the beginning, to the moment when, as Walt discussed in season 3's "The Fly," they could have stopped and things would have been OK. Skyler is pregnant and happily shipping knickknacks from the house to earn some extra money. She and Walt have a sweet conversation on the phone. She loves him, and he adores her. They discuss doing something as a family. Jesse Pinkman is considered by Walt to be a dumbass. Walt is meek, but he's loved and respected by those he loves and respects, and that's all that should matter.

But it didn't matter enough, and now it's all gone. The phone call at the opening is to remind us of everything Walt has lost. This is the moment of the cook, right before the two gangsters show up and everything goes apeshit and people die and Walt and Jesse are inextricably linked forever.

This Walt... gone. Meek, happy, beloved, but — to his mind — fundamentally useless.

And in his place, we have this Walt:

No hair, scars on his face, his hand — slashed by his wife, no less — held together by duct tape. He's a drug kingpin, a murderer, and the most terrifying man in New Mexico. Bitter, broken, vengeful, and destroyed, he still has the lung cancer, and will be leaving his family with the most devastating legacy imaginable.

The contrast between the two phone calls is what makes this episode perfect. In the first, Skyler's chatting about pizza and cooing to him about how it's OK that his boss is keeping him late. Moments before making the call, Walt's running the lie through, practising it because he wants it to sound genuine. Skyler doesn't think of Walt as a liar, so she doesn't suspect a thing. But in the second phone call? She's surrounded by police, her sister despises him, Hank is dead, Flynn hates his father even more than Marie does, and Walt has kidnapped the daughter Skyler was pregnant with in the first phone call.

And then Walt lies. Beautifully, perfectly, without any practice, he just pops open that phone, dials, and lies. And at first, even the viewers fall for it. But Skyler knows exactly what he's doing. "Are you alone?" he asks. "No police?" "No. No police," she responds. And he begins yelling at her and abusing her in such a way that at first the viewers think he's completely lost it, but it only takes a few seconds before you realize what he's really doing: he's saving her. He knows damn well the police are there. He knows Marie will be sitting there, and Flynn, and that they can all hear him. And so he tells the biggest lie of all: that he tortured and abused and threatened Skyler for the past year, that she had no choice but to go along with it, that she couldn't tell anyone or help herself or her family. That he acted purely out of greed, family be damned. Just like he tried to incriminate Hank by creating a DVD that made it look like he was the scumbag, now he pulls the same switcheroo, and says things to her that he would never say to her, even at his worst.

And Skyler knows it. If the police weren't standing there, she would have ripped him a new one. But instead she knows what he's doing. She knows he's letting her off the hook, that he's incriminating himself and separating his family from everything he did, and he's giving her back her son, her relationship with her sister, her dignity, and her freedom. So instead she plays along, and says, "I'm sorry." And with those two words, Walt closes his eyes and knows the cops are standing right there. That's her signal to him, and so he ups the ante and makes the threats worse. In this moment, for the first time since he stood pantsless in the New Mexico desert, he really is doing this for his family. The cooks, the murders, the bargains... all of that was for himself and his own sense of pride and usefulness, despite him always saying it was for them. But this, this one act: this was for Skyler. This is Walt's one moment of pure selflessness, and in this act he redeems himself in Skyler's eyes.

Butbutbut... this is also the episode where Walt throws Jesse to the dogs. His family means everything to him, and Jesse is as much family as anyone but Walt has never seen it that way. Hank can turn on him; Skyler can wield a knife on him; Flynn can refuse his breakfast sausages... and Walt will forgive all of them. But Jesse is a partnership, and partnerships are based on loyalty. And if Jesse is willing to turn him over, then Walt will turn Jesse over, too. It's a shocking moment.

At the beginning of the season, Gilligan was asked: what would be the more painful thing for Jesse to discover: that Walt poisoned Brock, or allowed Jane to die? Gilligan, without hesitation, said Jane's death. And that's when I knew that Jesse would find out. I predicted early in the season that Jesse is going to hit rock bottom, perhaps Walt will be the one with his hand on the trigger, and he'll snarl the truth about Jane in his face just to hurt him more. And then he did.

Walt tells Jesse everything, and we watch Jesse's entire world crumble, knowing that the man he'd been helping.. the man whom he KILLED for... was the one who killed his soulmate. Jesse has been hanging on by a thread for most of two seasons, but with that confession by Walt, Jesse's entire world just ends. And moments later we see him chained, imprisoned, beaten so badly his one eye is closed (closed and damaged eyes are an ongoing trope of the series), and he has absolutely nothing to live for. But Landry and the boys aren't going to let him die: they'll force him to cook. And, oh yeah, they've put a little photo of Brock and his mom there just to remind Jesse of what will happen if he doesn't.

And then there's Hank. The good ol' boy who came off as a colossal dick in season 1 has grown into one of the most unexpectedly brilliant characters of the entire series. In the beginning he seemed to be a bit of a dolt, but you realize pretty quickly that he's an incredible detective. He's so smart, but he's a man who, like Walt, loves his family more than anything, so of course he's blind (there's the eye thing again) to the one person who's been manipulating him this entire time. Heisenberg couldn't possibly be his brother-in-law, right? Nah. Not family.

When the first half of season 5 ended with Hank discovering the Walt Whitman book, that moment went down in history as one of the cruellest cliffhangers EVER. Breaking Bad fan theories have been flying around for an entire year: Hank KNOWS, and how will he do the little dance around Walt so that Walt doesn't know that he knows? Turns out... Hank refused to do that dance. He let Walt know right away in the explosive end to the first episode back this summer, and watching Dean Norris in this second half has been sublime. He's so angry he can barely speak. Everything bad that's happened to him happened because of a man that he loved like a brother. Walt tries to play him with the phoney DVD confession, but Hank doesn't roll over like so many people do in Walt's path: he pulls Agent Gomez on side so he'll have an ally who will watch him do his work and know he's not the bad guy: Walt is. Then he gets Jesse on board and creates an elaborate scheme to catch Walt. But Jesse has other ideas.

There are two lines in this episode that really stood out for me and they're interlinked. The first is when Jesse looks at Walt in the cold open, after Walt has told him not to light the cigarette in the trailer, and Jesse says he's not a dumbass. Walt underestimated Jesse one too many times, and Jesse got him. Secondly, while Walt tries to bargain for Hank's life, Hank looks at Walt and says, "You're the smartest man I've ever met. But you can't see that he already made up his mind 10 minutes ago." Walt is a genius, but when he's under pressure, he doesn't think. That's how Jesse got him last week (Hank's plan was a drawn-out sting operation; Jesse knew that if you just put Walt under pressure, he'll crumble and you'll get him). Hank couldn't see Walt right under his nose; Walt couldn't see that Uncle Jack was going to kill Hank no matter what and instead he gave up the location of his money. Jesse's certainly not the dumbass in this situation.

Where Walt redeems himself with his call to Skyler at the end of this episode, his bartering for Hank's life redeems him a tiny bit in the beginning as well. For a while now the big question has been: what's more important to Walt: his family or his money? Last week his, "DON'T YOU TOUCH MY MONEY!!!" snarl to Jesse seemed to point in the direction of the latter. But this week he offers up $80 million to save the life of his brother-in-law, a man who has hunted him down and was willing to lock him up and throw away the key moments earlier. Despite everything, Hank's still family, and that means everything to Walt.

But it's not enough: Hank's smart enough to know that Jack is going to kill him either way, and he dies perhaps with the one tiny satisfaction that Walt just lost all his money in the process. He also dies, however, wondering if Jack is going to hunt down and kill the rest of Walt's family. There will never be any peace for Hank. I knew this death was coming, and I knew it would be in this episode, but the shot still made me jump in my seat and start crying.

We don't see Hank die, but instead watch Walt's devastating reaction. His entire meth career has come to this. He started off as a man with lung cancer who wanted to have a nest egg to leave his family. He began with lofty goals, but was dragged down, and his hubris and greed got the better of him. We've watched him break bad for five years now, and Vince Gilligan has achieved his goal: early on he said he wanted to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface, and he did that. But now it's all gone. The statue of the great Ozymandias is broken, lying in pieces in the sand of the desert.

He began everything with good intentions, and now his money, his family — everything — is gone. Walt is unable to move for what could be over an hour (they manage to dig up all of the barrels and he's still lying like this). This is the end of his career. But this tragic image of a broken man calls up a very similar one we saw a couple of seasons ago:

Gus saw his partner (possibly his lover) gunned down before him, and it turned him into the evil badass he eventually became. He acted out of revenge, and lost. Walt acted out of love, and his love turned into greed, and he lost, too. We know what happened to Gus in the end; we can only imagine where Walt will end up.

At the end of "Ozymandias," the king leaves Albuquerque via Saul's guy. Presumably, next week's episode will begin a year from now, and we'll see the Walt of those two cold opens: on his 52nd birthday, racked with lung cancer, a head full of hair, looking scrawny and frail, with a trunk full of guns and ammo and a tiny vial of ricin, and a house full of degenerates, spray-painted to suggest that the world knows about the crimes of Walter White/Heisenberg. The cold opens have been an exciting head scratcher for fans throughout season 5, but now I have a sense of who all that is aimed at. Gus returned to the scene of his heartbreak by the pool and took out the entire cartel. What will Walt do?