For me, Breaking Bad is not only the best show currently on television; it is also one of the best shows that I’ve ever seen. Its attention to detail, character development, and focused hand have woven a thrilling TV series.
From here on I will be delving into spoiler territory so be forewarned if you have yet to watch this episode or the show in general.
With Season 5 now five episodes in, I think a better title for the show would be Broke Bad. We’ve seen Walt now take control of his own ‘business’ and how the power has now corrupted him. Thinking back to the first season, it is hard to believe this is the same Walt. When we first met him, he was a timid man, unable to even decide his own fate when given the news of his cancer. He was a soft spoken man, one who would rather be swept under the rug than speak up. We’ve seen his rise in a world that he had no previous knowledge of and we’ve witnessed his many close calls and even cheered him on to get away with it. Even with the shocking twist at the end of season four, some part of me was glad to see Walt get away or as he put it ‘win’.
But that is not the Walter White of season 5. This is a different beast altogether. Gone is the humanity and justification of Walt. In its place is a man of greed, ego, disgust, and hubris. Walt is gone and only Heisenberg remains. The man who fought so hard to have even a moment with his family has changed to a man who threatens with teeth bared. Lost in the grips of the small bit of power he has has blinded him to the fact that indeed he is a threat to his wife and children. Any ounce of forgiveness or support for what his character had done up to this point is gone. Walt is now a character I despise and I want to see fail.
With that brings the true genius of this show. To take a character that you followed and rooted for and turn them into a full monster that you can’t even stand; speaks volumes of the direction, writing, and incredible acting of Bryan Cranston. That being said brings us to episode five: Dead Freight.
If this season so far has been a leg with a hairline fracture, this episode is what would happen if the owner of that leg jumped off a roof. I have a feeling that with the last episode we will see nothing but a downhill slope from here on out.
The episode starts out with a figure riding a dirt bike through the lonely New Mexico landscape. It turns out to be a young boy who stops for a moment to collect a tarantula in a glass jar, and then ride off, followed immediately by the opening sequence. What may have seemed random and unrelated is known by Breaking Bad fans to have significance at some point. More on that in a bit.
In a first funny and awkward scene which soon turned into a shock, we watch Walt confront Hank about the current state of his marriage to Skyler. At first you may think that Walt’s tears may have a hint of something genuine in them, it isn’t long before this is revealed to be part of a plan as Walt knew Hank would get uncomfortable and have to leave the room for a moment, allowing Walt to plant a microphone into a framed picture of Hank and Marie. We find out the bug is planted partially to listen in to a phone call. The call is made by Lydia who has now been handcuffed to a desk by Mike and made to speak to Hank about the tracking device they found on the bottom of the barrels of methylamine. Luckily for Lydia a call from Hank saves her from the barrel of Mike’s pistol to her head (a great Mike moment that was) but bad news for the Walt and the gang as we learn that all the barrels were marked with tracking devices. Lydia comes up with an idea of how they can get a ton of the stuff and all they have to do is rob a train. Simple, right? The guys decide that since actually holding up the train will lead back to them, they need to sneak it out and Jesse is the one who comes up with the plan of how. Jesse this season has been one of the most level headed characters but I feel like his newfound respect for Walt has more behind it than what we have seen so far. With the heist they understand the risk of being caught and what must be done to whoever is on that train if that ends up happening.
After a confrontation with Skyler where she reveals to Walt that she will never again love or trust him (and good for her on that), he informs her that he’s off to rob a train. In almost every scene with Skyler this season, she lights up a cigarette. And every time she does, I’m reminded of that bit of Rican poison that Walt has stashed away in that electrical outlet.
Which brings us to the train heist sequence. The boys developed a plan to be able to steal what they need and replace what they took with water in a way that won’t raise suspicion. And this time they are given a bit of help from one of the Exterminators; Todd. The heist starts off as planned as one of their men pretends to have a broke down truck on the tracks, and while the two men on the train help him out, Walt, Jesse, and Todd do the work. Unfortunately their plan is cut a bit short in an intense scene where a man pulls up in a truck unexpectedly and helps the other man off the tracks. Instead of packing up at the first sign of this change to the plan, Walt instructs Todd and Jesse to keep going until he says so. As he’s done so far this season, Walt disregards Mike’s advice and does what he wants without any respect of second thought of the consequence. With Walt’s direction, the train starts to move with Jesse still under it, only escaping by lying flat on his back as the train rolls over top of him.
Even with the close call of being caught or flattened by a train, the three erupt into celebration and we the viewers breathe a sigh after the tension of this almost disaster. However, the celebration is short lived both for the characters and for the viewer. We see the trio’s faces go from joy to shock as they look ahead of them. Sitting there on a motorbike is the young kid from the opening sequences. He waves at them as they stare blankly back at him in silence. Then Todd, without word or warning, reaches behind him, Jesse screams and runs forward, but it is too late. Todd shoots the boy in the chest and he falls off his bike dead, and then instantly the credits fade in.
In a show filled with tension and moments of ‘holy shit’, this was one of the few times that I’ve seen anything that has literally had me holding my breath. I watched as the credits rolled unable to speak. Bad things have happened before, but this is where we’ve gone completely over the edge. This is THE moment of the beginning of the end for Walter White. His decisions and pride have led him to the point where a child has been killed because of what he has done. This from the man who said his own family need not worry about their safety as he had it under control. This is the moment where that control is gone. The blood is directly on his hands and he will not be able to wipe them clean. This is one of the most defining moments of this series. The moment of realization of action, the consequence of it all. There is no turning back. No chance at redemption.
What was breaking is now completely broken.