Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14 - Ozymandias

When something gets destroyed, there was invariably an inflection point when the first crack appeared. Sure, hitting an iceberg caused the Titanic to sink, but a flaw in its construction exacerbated the problem and a lack of life boats caused hundreds to needlessly perish. And so it was that in Ozymandias, the human WMD that Walter White has become finally detonated, but not before we were reminded of a time when he was a meek science teacher who had to practice his lines before telling the whitest of lies.

The unsparing and unapologetically wrenching way that Breaking Bad is careening toward its end will probably be studied by television producers for years to come. While I sometimes found the first “half” of Season 5 meandering, all too often, I find myself gasping for air at the jaw dropping risks that are being taken as the show winds down. Last night was a reckoning no one was spared – not gruff but affable Hank Schrader, ignominiously gunned down mid-sentence by Uncle Jack or trusty sidekick Steve Gomez, already dead when the action picks up; both tossed in a pit conveniently left empty by the removal of $80 million in drug money.

Arguably, a swift death may have been preferable because all who come into Walt’s path are destroyed. The other supporting characters do not fare well either – Flynn is finally clued into Walt’s nefarious deeds and is left to protect Skylar during a squirm-inducing scene of domestic violence, his image of his father forever destroyed. Marie, so assertive with Skylar when she thought Hank had his man, is left to learn that Hank will never return home. Skylar must absorb a barrage of venom from Walt as a way to minimize her role in his misdeeds even as her hatred toward him caused her to slash him with a knife. Even young Holly becomes a pawn, spirited away by Walt in a moment of frenzy only to be left in a firehouse with a note pinned to her onesie.

But if Walt attempted to exercise one last gasp of humanity in protecting Skylar from the risk of prosecution as an accessory to his crimes and realizing Holly could not go on the lam with him, he was far less forgiving toward Jesse, who he cruelly left to the whim of Uncle Jack and his not-so-merry band of neo-Nazis. If that was not enough, Walt poured salt in the wound by finally revealing to Jesse that he could have saved Jane, but chose not to. Ironically, it was Todd that saved Jesse – first, seeing the utility in learning what Jesse told Hank and Steve, and then finding him a useful servant to improve the purity of his meth.

That Jesse has suffered this fate is in part his own doing; had he not tossed his millions out the window, the cops never would have been on to him, Hank never would have intervened, Walt would not have suggested Jesse leave town, Jesse would not have flipped on Walt, which never would have put him on the wrong side of the gun fight. So much of where we are at this point is predicated on a massive game of “What If” that goes all the back to Walt’s decision to “cook” out in the barren desert landscape. Jesse has been frustrated that decisions have not had consequences (“If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what’s it all mean, what’s the point?”) but if Ozymandias showed just how permanent those consequences can be – for the living, and the dead.

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