Where in the World is the White Family?
Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 9 recap.
I spent my entire Sunday watching the first part of season five and realized that the meth business was always my least favourite part of the show. Drug dealing only has so many solutions and endings - murder, money, jail, more murder. This story isn't about meth; it’s about a man grappling with mortality, failure, power and his own propensity for sociopathic behaviour.
First scene -- teens skateboarding in an empty pool at an abandoned house which is the former White residence, now a dilapidated, fenced-off shack.
Walt has hair, a beard, and different glasses - this is the birthday Walt from the diner. He opens the trunk, which we saw him slam last season after placing a huge M60 inside, and crowbars his way in. (Really the fence looked kind of flimsy, he just could have pushed through.)
The house is severely beat up and HEISENBERG is spray painted on the wall. I'm so freaked out right now you guys. This is some Manson sh-t.
This one-time ordinary family home is now gutted, torn apart and broken down with doors kicked in and graffiti on the walls. There’s an aura of violence - was the White family there for the destruction, and were they destroyed in the process? Was the house the only recipient of violence, or did tragedy come knocking for Skyler and the kids?
Walt walks around his former home and goes straight for the light socket where the ricin was hidden but what he came to get isn’t clear. He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror - this is not the powerful Heisenberg in a porkpie hat.
A neighbour spots Walt outside. He is dirty and disheveled, and she freezes to the point of dropping her grocery bag. Is that terror, panic or disbelief on her face? Tell us what happened Carol! Obviously something terrible took place in the house - fatalities? Walter White is living under an assumed identity so is Carol looking at a "dead" man?
And back to the present - Hank emerges from the washroom after finding the book of Walt Whitman poems, and he looks shell-shocked. "You are the devil" Marie jokingly says to Walt as the door slides open. While the deck is the picture of suburban familial harmony, Hank feigns illness and gets the hell out of there.
Marie is going on about Europe while Hank is having a severe panic attack - is he stroking out? A minor car crash (which happens a lot in a time of crisis on this show) and a trip to the ER ensue. Back home, he seems to have his wits about him and even asks Marie to keep the Whites in the dark about his little medical emergency. Hank is all business now, comparing the book of poems with his file, including Gale's handwriting. You have to hand it to Hank: after finding out his brother-in-law is a meth kingpin, he still does his due diligence.
In the morning, Walt opens the car wash and seems to be taking the business seriously, detailing where the air freshener should go and easily talking Skyler into franchising. It really doesn't take a lot for Skyler to agree to expansion. She feigns innocence, but she can't resist a good location.
Lydia shows up, so obviously this peace is short-lived. She's stressing over the declining quality of the meth and tries to convince Walt to help her fix this problem, talking about being put in a box and a lot of moving parts. For a drug dealer, she is not the least bit discreet. Seeing as Mike, Gus and all of the potential informants are dead, why is Lydia even continuing on with it? If it's for the money, solve your own problems Lydia. Move along dummy.
Skyler's interest is piqued (because Lydia is such an obvious Nervous Nelly and a total head case) and Skyler gives her the business. I would have appreciated a little smack down, but let's hope this is the last we see of Lydia. It won't be.
Hank is going underground, similar to how he holed up with his minerals and files after the shooting. He quickly pieces together the story, finding an old sketch of Heisenberg that is so obviously his brother-in-law.
Jesse is lethargic and listening to Skinny Pete and Badger talk about Star Trek. I don't know if they are smoking meth or pot - can you smoke meth out of a bong? I've never seen anything Star Trek - TV or film - so this might actually not be that much of an outlandish script idea. Jesse shuffles out with his bag of $5 million. I feel like so much bad stuff has happened to Jesse in this house - starting with his aunt dying - that he needs to leave it. It's his vortex of pain and desperation.
Jesse takes his cash to Saul's to donate it all to Mike's granddaughter and the parents of the boy Todd killed in the desert after the train heist. Saul tries to talk him out of it, particularly giving money to the boy's family. Saul freaks out (I guess client privilege isn't his priority) and calls Walt, because of course sending $2.5 million to people would arouse suspicion.
Walt receives the call as he's getting chemo. WHAT? SINCE WHEN? I would guess right about the time he quit the meth business.
Walt pays Jesse a visit to "talk some sense into him" and it's a familiar scene: Jesse plays the petulant and unresponsive teen and Walt the stern dad. Walt quickly spins his wheel of manipulation. First he's stern, then proud, then empathetic, then encouraging, all the while using his amoral logic to justify their unforgivable acts.
Jesse has pieced together that Walt killed Mike and can't even look at him. Walt lies straight to Jesse's face and this is what makes him so quietly evil. Just like he did with Brock, Walt uses his sincerity to convince Jesse he did nothing wrong. But why does Walt need Jesse to believe this lie so badly? If Jesse suspected so strongly, what difference does it make? Perhaps Walt is worried it would sink Jesse further into despair and hopelessness, causing him to seek relief in more drugs and an eventual confession. Walt knows that if Jesse goes over the edge he will have to kill his last connection to humanity. He has wronged Jesse in profound ways and for the most part, Jesse doesn't know the extent of the terrible things Walt has done to him. But Jesse senses all of this betrayal and it manifests in deep heartbreak and disillusionment. Walt’s always been able to pull him out of it with work or a life-or-death emergency, but with both of them in retirement, Jesse has a lot of time to think. And that’s not good for Walt.
Or maybe Jesse knows Mike is dead and is testing Walt.
Later, Jesse is asleep in his car in front of a fine establishment called the Dog House. A homeless man asks him for change, and Jesse gives him a wad of cash. Energized by this, he drives around chucking wads of money out his window like some kind of crazy paper boy. Walt's appeasement didn't work and Jesse is growing increasingly erratic. He is going mad from guilt - how long until he fully cracks?
Back at the intact White residence, it's all college talk for Walt Jr. and Sr. is trying to hide his chemo side effects. I don't know if this is supposed to make us think Walt is somehow trying to spare his family, but it's just another way he compartmentalizes and lies. He uses a towel when he kneels to throw up, just like Gus. Who knew meth kingpins had such sensitive knees.
Hank took the book home - necessary but risky. Walt discovers it is missing and takes a quick look around, but unlike the ricin cigarette he so expertly lifted and planted, this book is out of his control. Now Walt is perked and checks his car and finds a tracking device.
Sh-t storm here we come.
Hank refuses to go into the office and when Walt pays him a visit, Hank rushes to put his files away. He's nervous but sends his fellow officers away. Walt and Hank have a cordial but very loaded conversation - this is such an interesting dynamic, because they are adversaries by circumstance but not enemies. Not yet.
Suddenly, Walt shows his hand, pulling out the GPS tracker and putting it right in Hank's face. Hank closes the garage door - looks like they are both pulling their d-cks out.
After a quick sucker punch and tussle (Walt doesn't even attempt to fight back), Hank lists his laundry list of betrayal and clues. The Marie "accident" phone call so Walt could destroy the RV, the car accident outside the meth lab/laundry facility, bombing the nursing home, Heisenberg, the 10 hits - yes Hank is angry, but he is destroyed, too. Betrayed by a brother.
Walt keeps his head about him, almost to the point of sounding rehearsed. He admits to nothing and everything and then plays his last card - cancer. He is dying and this is his Hail Mary pass to be left to live the rest of his life as a simple husband and father. Cancer was Walt's motivation for getting into the meth business and now it's his only reason for staying out of it.
Walt again spins his wheel of manipulation, trying to appeal to Hank's sense of family and justice - their family will be destroyed and Walt will never see jail anyway, the cancer will take him first. So what would be the point of revealing everything?
Hank is devastated and shaken but steely in his resolve, insisting that Skyler and the kids come live with him, which Walt flat-out refuses. Hank is the bull in the china shop, the good cop, the real family man - I don't know if he can understand the depth of Walt's evil, and if he can't understand, how can he fight it? And there’s so much for Hank to consider: Skyler’s involvement, the kids, his career, everyone’s safety. Walt has taken out giants to become a giant - even if he has given up the empire, he hasn't given up the ego.
Playing his last card, Walt subtlety changes tactics and quietly tells Hank to tread lightly - the most unnerving threat he's ever uttered.
Next week's episode is called The Box - Lydia mentioned a box, so maybe she'll make her way into it. Only 7 left!