The ever erudite Simon Howell will have a review of the midseason premiere of Breaking Bad later tonight, but until then, here’s a quick look at the most anticipated return of the year.
From the opening shots of a seeming skateboard ramp to the closing ones with Walt and Hank, “Blood Money” is fully aware of its role in both the show’s run and also the more general public consciousness. The combination of deliberate stillness and stylistic editing immediately puts the viewer back in the world of Breaking Bad, and what a captivating world it is.
We open back in the flash-forward that kicked off season five. We get some answers, immediately followed by more and bigger questions. Wherever he may have been, Walt is back in Albuquerque and his house is utterly deserted- the skate ramp from the first shot is in fact the drained pool. As Walt walks through the house, past an intriguing spray-painted “HEISENBERG” on the wall, we walk through memory lane with him. The air vent, the kids’ rooms, the crawl space, and then, we get our answer- Walt’s back for the ricin. If that weren’t enough to keep us intrigued, we end with a terrified Carol (the White’s neighbor- perhaps the same one who Walt sent into his house to check for bombs? Not sure on that one), who quakes with fear upon seeing Walt as he leaves. It’s a tantalizing start, and the perfect way to build suspense for the rest of the final arc. It’s incredibly open ended, but powerful none the less.
After the break we’re back in a room those who haven’t been rewatching recently would be forgiven for not recognizing. As we slowly, oh so slowly, push in on the door, we see Skyler and Walt’s picture on the wall and realize we’re right where we left off last season, outside the bathroom. After what feels like an unending hold, Hank opens the door, clearly shaken to his core. We follow him as he walks back out, pockets the incriminating Leaves of Grass, and we go into his POV as he goes back outside to the family. Walt remains oblivious as Hank can’t keep his eyes off of him. As Hank and Marie head out, we get a matching shot with a more neighborly Carol, and Hank and Marie head home, though operating heavy machinery seems like a poor choice for Hank, who has what looks like a heart attack, but more likely was a panic attack, and crashes the car.
Back at the car wash, Walt is his usual controlling, pedantic self as he seamlessly transitions in conversation with Skyler from discussing air freshener displays to their laundering operation. Walt and Skyler are looking great in white and beige, by the way, a theme that will continue throughout the episode. After an appearance from Lydia, who’s desperate to get Walt back cooking, if only to train his successors, whose product is 64% less potent than Walt’s. After getting run out first by Walt, and then far more memorably by Skyler, Lydia leaves and we’re back to our core characters.
Marie’s concerned about Hank, but he promises to take it easy, promptly digging in to boxes and boxes of materials brought in from the Fring case. We see Hank piece more and more together, starting to realize the scope of what the rest of us have been watching for 5 seasons. From the activity of Hank, underscored very memorably, to the stillness of Jesse, who’s in the same suicidal, despondent state we last saw him in. Badger and Skinny Pete fill the scene, while Jesse remains disengaged, with a hilarious, Patton Oswalt Parks and Rec filibuster level entertaining recounting of Badger’s ideas for a Star Trek script (the combining of universes, first with Star Wars and then Voyager, is an added bonus).
Unfortunately, we leave just as the fanfic is kicking into gear, following Jesse to Saul’s. His waiting room time is delightfully counterpointed with “His Truth Is Marching On” on western guitar and, with a little public pot use hurrying along the process, Jesse goes to talk with Saul, trying to give $2.5 million to both Mike’s granddaughter and the family of the boy Todd killed after the train heist. He leaves the cash with Saul, who promises to take care of it, then instantly renegs and calls Walt instead, revealing to the audience that Walt is undergoing chemo and his cancer has indeed returned.
You know it’s Breaking Bad whenever we get a Walt bullshitting Jesse scene, and this episode’s doesn’t disappoint. Jesse wants his lies to be true, and perhaps even more than that, wants to believe Walt’s not lying to him, but he knows better and this weariness seeps through every pore. Walt returns home for dinner, excuses himself to throw up, concealing his illness from the family, and in doing so, discovers Leaves of Grass missing from its usual place. When he talks with Skyler as he’s going to bed, he starts to piece together the missing book with Hank’s mysterious sickness and a quick search of his car reveals the tracker he and Hank used to follow Gus.
Jesse sleeps in his car, before deciding on a plan of action when a homeless man asks him for change- he drives through town, throwing bundles of bills into random yards, and in at least one case, down the sewer. For our final scene, we’re back to Hank’s, as he’s being delivered more files. Walt drives up, in a nice touch greets the police officers by name, and he and Hank have a loaded conversation for a while, with Hank knowing, Walt knowing Hank knows, and by the end, Hank knowing Walt knows he knows. The confrontation many have been waiting for comes immediately, with a violent and emotional confrontation between the two men that culminates in a, can we even call it thinly veiled, threat from Walt. And with that, the premiere ends, leaving the audience breathless.
Simon will have his thoughts later, and for my review you can tune in to The Televerse this Tuesday (spoiler alert- I loved it), but what did you think? Leave your thoughts, predictions, and other reactions below!