'Breaking Bad' Recap: No Victory for Walt's Evil Ego

Breaking BadThank god, our long arid Breaking Bad break is over! Tonight was the much-anticipated premiere of season 5, and in case the word 'recap' in this article title didn't tip you off, here's my contractually-obligated warning that I'm about to get into the details of what went down in this episode. In other words: SPOILERS AHEAD.

When last we saw the Breaking Bad gang, Walt had turned Hector's wheelchair into an IED, thus dispatching Gus Fring in one of the most epic bad-guy deaths in television history. (What was more awesome, Gus's pre-death tie straightening, or the gory number the Walking Dead FX artists did on his face?) Thanks to a clever final shot that focused on a seemingly innocent plant, we also got an idea of just how far down the rabbit hole Walt had fallen -- and how much evil he's capable of now.

With that kind of finale, tonight's premiere episode couldn't come fast enough. After months of impatient waiting, here's how season 5 started out:

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Our episode cold opens with a mysterious glimpse into Walt's dreary future: bearded, sickly, and celebrating his birthday alone at a Denny's by spelling out "52" with hunks of bacon. This isn't the grimly triumphant "I won" Walt from the season 4 finale, it's a hunted-looking version who's got more problems than nitrates can solve. What's he up to? It's not terribly clear, aside from the fact that he's buying a machine gun (Ellsworth in the hizzy!), between dry hacks of his old familiar Cancer Cough.

Fast backward to Walt cleaning house after his Gus-plosion, remembering at the last minute to toss the incriminating Lily of the Valley plant into the trunk of his car. Whew, all's well that ends well, evidence is totally taken care of, time for a refreshing victory drink of -- oh wait, Gus's security cameras. D'OH.

Walt and Jesse meet up with Mike, who's recovered enough to pull a gun on Walt before he hears about the camera problem. They retire to Jesse's house so that Walt and Mike can go alpha-male on each other, arguing about the impossibility of breaking into an evidence room to destroy the laptop that's storing the security footage, while Jesse comically repeats "magnets!" until everyone finally stops fighting long enough to go, hey, MAGNETS.

Wait, magnets? Yes: the new dynamic crime trio of Mike, Jesse and Walt use junkyard Joe's enormous car-lifting magnet to zap the evidence room wall until all the electronics inside get fried and metal goes flying. Their truck gets hosed in the process, and as they speed away Mike is super pissed and demanding to know why he should believe the plan worked with impunity.

"Because I say so," Walt deadpans from the backseat, because he's a BAMF now. An arrogant-to-a-fault BAMF who has no idea their magnet-heist just unveiled a key piece of Gus Evidence that had previously been hidden in a picture frame: a list of offshore bank account numbers.

Meanwhile, we learn that Ted's not dead after all, just deeply fucked up and in a hospital. Skyler goes to see him, and she's all weepy and apologetic until he cravenly begs for his life and swears he'll never breathe a word to anyone, at which point she goes stone cold bitchface, and says, "Good." Mrs. Heisenberg, present and accounted for.

Walt meets with Saul to get the lowdown on Ted, and in the course of their conversation, Saul tries to wash his hands of his increasingly difficult client. That's when Walt gets up, and slowly, menacingly approaches Saul before growling, "We're done when I say we're done." Saul's like, hey remember when you were a wussy chemistry teacher that I once compared to an anal polyp? Yeah wow me either.

Back at Casa White, whatever cojones Sklyer summoned in front of Ted disappear when she's face to face with Walt, as he creepily folds her into a stifling embrace and whispers into her ear. And that's where the episode ends, with those three little words every woman wants to hear from her murderous, meth-cooking, megalomaniacal husband: "I forgive you."

How is this relatively simple scene so profoundly disturbing? See seasons 1-4 for the utterly peerless character arc that's brought us here.

What was up with the intro scene at Denny's? Will Gus's bank account numbers start a chain of events that eventually leads Walt to his seemingly desperate M60 purchase? Are they going to tease Walt's future throughout this final season (which is split, frustratingly, into eight episodes that air this year and eight to follow in 2013) like the plane crash from season 2? How did Hank get down that ladder in the destroyed meth lab while wearing a full Prometheus-style biohazard suit and gimping around with a cane? Doesn't Skyler know that if you put a baby on a bed for a diaper change, the baby must be watched at all times? How clever is the episode's title, "Live Free or Die," given Walt's fake New Hampshire ID and whatever predicament he seems to be in at the Denny's? So many questions, so few answers -- and I can't wait to see where it's all going.

What did you think of tonight's Breaking Bad premiere? How soon do you think we'll catch up to the Denny's storyline?

Image via AMC

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