Breaking Bad "Confessions" Review: The Truth Shall Set You Fiery

By Tim Surette

Aug 26, 2013

Breaking Bad S05E11: "Confessions"

To quote our dear legal counsel Saul Goodman, things have gone nuclear on Breaking Bad. But the shockwaves were preceded by the usual whistling of a megaton bomb speeding through the air creating an uncomfortable air of anticipation, particularly because of how relentless the season had been so far. For the bulk of "Confessions," my gaze was up in the air waiting for something to fall from the sky and put a crater in the ground, and when it did, KABLAMMO. "Confessions" wasn't the constant barrage of mortar fire the first two hours of the final season gave us, playing it tame and rather unspectacular for the first 40 minutes of its 47-minute run. But those last minutes? Hoo-boy. They were about as brutal and explosive as anything this wonderful wacky show has ever done and represented one of the sharpest turning points for the series. 

I don't want to use the word "sleepy" to describe most of the episode, because everything's relative, but "Confessions" slowed things down a lot. I've been slightly concerned about how Breaking Bad would be able to sustain a pace set by "Blood Money" even in a shortened season, and "Confessions" almost fooled me into thinking it was filler.

Let's look at those moments before Jesse went all Manimal rage with a gas can, anger drool, and bug eyes anyways, because there were some interesting choices made. First and foremost, and this should generate a lot of discussion, was Walter's "confession." The setup was pretty great (and intentionally misleading, something the show doesn't always resort to); Walter and Skyler sat down to film a confession and we thought it would be the "I give up" that was discussed on the bathroom floor last episode. Then came the most uncomfortable Mexican dinner I've ever been a part of, where the heartburn and gas pain came before anything was even ordered. It was Walter and Skyler giving Hank and Marie one last chance to back off before things got extra-serious, but Hank's tenacious bulldog face he made at Walter the entire meal was having none of that. And I think Marie was pretty clear on her stance when she told Walter to drink a bleach margarita and make things easier on everyone. Check please, overenthusiastic server!

But instead of paying his half of the bill, Walter left behind his "confession," and once again we all bit our knuckles. Could this be it? Could this be the moment Walter finally gives in to Hank and the final five episodes of Breaking Bad become a drawn-out courtroom drama full of legalese and Saul yelling, "objection!" to every other word the prosecution says? Nope. Instead, that "confession" was a dirty, dirty threat to Hank and Marie. There was Walter admitting to a whole bunch of stuff but pegging Hank as the make-it-happen man, a crooked DEA agent who imprisoned Walter for his chemistry skills, used his connections to create a meth empire, and killed Gustavo Fring. 

The question here is, "Would this really work?" I would assume that if it came down to it, a "he said, he said" situation would lean in favor of Hank, a revered member of the Albuquerque office of the Drug Enforcement Agency. I agree with Marie, if Hank got out in front of this, I wouldn't see him taking the fall for anything. I'm also not clear why Walter paying for Hank's surgery factors into anything, other than a flimsy cahoots accusation. If Hank is building this "meth empire" that Walter accused him of, wouldn't he be able to pay for his treatment himself? Isn't that actually a sign that Hank wasn't involved in the business? Maybe I'm underthinking this. The hardest part of this season for the writers was to find a convincing way to keep Hank from telling the DEA what he suspects, and it's getting harder and harder for us to believe. Yes, there's Hank's pride about looking like a buffoon over not seeing that he was picnicking with Heisenberg, and pride is a huge part of Breaking Bad, but there's also common sense. I'm not entirely sold that Walter holding this false confession over Hank is the ample threat the show is making it out to be. But good lord does it make for fun television! 

Okay, let's talk about Jesse. Jesse got bailed out of his situation with Hank thanks to Saul arriving (he heard about Jesse's money shower on the news?). Interestingly, Jesse was in no danger of flipping on Walter at that moment. At that time, there was no one on the planet Jesse hated more than Hank, so the chances of him cooperating with him were about as good as Huell fitting into a 36-inch waist pair of trousers by next summer.

Saul arranged Jesse's meetup with Walter next. What a lovely little scene this was, and the first time this season that Aaron Paul had a chance to remind everyone that he's got Emmy hardware on his shelf, bitch. Walter did what he always did in these situations and played the father figure, like he did in "Blood Money" and any other time it served his purpose. But Jesse was as empty as he's ever been, and laid into Walter with a speech he's always wanted to say:

"Just drop the whole "concerned dad" thing and just tell me the truth. You're acting like me leaving town is all about me and turning over a new leaf. It's really about you. You need me gone, because your dickhead brother-in-law is never going to let up. Just say so. Just ask me for a favor. Just tell me you don't give a shit about me, and it's either this, it's either this or you'll kill me the same way you killed Mike. I mean isn't this what this is all about? Us meeting way the hell out here? In case I say no? C'mon. Just tell me you need this."

Walter's reply? *HUG* Which to me is an admission of guilt by not providing a denial. Still, it's what makes this messed-up relationship so strong. Walter is doing it because it benefits him, but let's be honest, it's also what's best for Jesse. Jesse somehow came to the same idea, and agreed to use Saul's man to make him "disappear" to Belize Alaska. Saul made the call, Jesse smoked pot, Saul said don't smoke pot, Jesse put the pot back in his pocket, and Jesse was headed out of town for good.

Being the final season, you'd be forgiven if you thought for a micro-second that Jesse was actually leaving. But that just wouldn't be right, and Jesse searched his person for his weed and came up empty except for a pack of secrets. A lightbulb the size of the New Mexican desert went off over his head and that's when it hit him: that bastard Walter had Saul snake the ricin cigarette from his pocket back in Season 4, one of many skeletons in Walter's closet that are trying to push their way out. (Is Jane's death next?)

And I think we can say Jesse did not take this very well. Not at all. Eyes red, teary, and bulging like he just took his helmet off on Mars, Jesse ran back to Saul's and confirmed the truth. Jesse kicked the shit out of Saul! Oh my god! Then he drove to the White household, ran over one of those cool front-yard lamps that I hope to have a normal enough of a life to own one day, kicked the door in, and doused the livingroom with what one would guess was gasoline, all the while drooling and snarling like one of Pavlov's rabid dogs at a bell factory. Holy crap. Hold me. Aaron Paul, ladies and gentlemen. This was the explosion we've been waiting to see from Jesse for years.

NOW does Jesse flip on Walter? Now would seem like a good time to flip on Walter, Jesse, if you're going to do it at all. Or do we just settle this like drug dealers and burn each other's houses down? (Note: something must stop Jesse from burning the house down, as the flashforward showed a White house that was trashed, but not burnt.) I'm still on board with the idea that either Jesse or Skyler will turn on Walter, and these episodes are building to that.

"Confessions" may not have matched the intensity of the previous excellent two hours of Breaking Bad, but you can argue that it took the biggest step in pitting Jesse irrevocably against Walter. Jesse against Walter! These two will never be the same. No more, "Yeah, Mr. White!" No more Walter calling Jesse "son." No more Jesse and Walter. 


– If you watch closely, you can see Huell snatch the weed out of Jesse's pocket as he's leaving Saul's office. Smooth move hot dog fingers.

– I love Kevin Rankin in anything he's in, most notably Friday Night Lights (wheelchair rugby player Herc) and Justified (white supremacist Devil), and really hope we get to see as much of his Kenny (one of the thugs, again, a white supremacist, that Todd works with) in the short amount of time we have left. "Nanny state, when I see a kid with a bicycle helmet on, I wanna smack the shit out of him. For his own good." Dream casting idea: he sticks around for the rumored Saul Goodman spinoff.

– I don't know what it means for Walter that Todd and his band of racist co-workers are headed back to New Mexico to do some cooking. Could Walter revert back to Heisenberg's hubris and get mad that an inferior product is in his territory? Does he have a little left in him that wants to go back into the trade? Will Todd try to get him to cook after his 74-percent garbage doesn't sell as well? There has to be something to Todd's phone call saying that "there's been a change in management." And did Walter listen to that voice mail yet?

– Saul: "I imagine Schrader shared with you his recent discovery. Then you get my complete lack of chill!" There's a new phrase to add to my dictionary of everyday conversation.

– There was something to Skyler zoning out when Walter came into her office. I think she's seriously contemplating her options here... one of them being turning on her husband and saving her family. It would be fun if the show had someone flip on Walter, but didn't tell us who it was immediately, leaving the identity of the turncoat to be revealed at a later time while we all wonder who it was. They sure are building several candidates, aren't they?

– Walter played the situation with Junior and Marie perfectly. Oh you wanna try to get Junior over to your house for dinner? "Junior, I have cancer again." Bam. Trump card. Pull those strings, Walter.

– The way the show has made Walter and Marie so convicted in their beliefs with the revelation that Walter is Heisenberg has been brave. I've often wondered why neither Hank or Marie asked Walter or Skyler the simple question of, "Why? Why did you start making drugs?" There hasn't been a hint of compassion from either of the Schraders, which one would expect from the kind of family that frequently shares backyard BBQs. But there's not even a glimmer of wondering why or how this happened. It's probably the smart decision, though. If the writers went down that road, it would jam up the acceleration of the season. In a 13-episode season, I think those questions could be asked and we could watch the anger build. But eight? Not enough time.

– Jesse's explosive reaction at the end is only magnified by the way he held out against Hank when he asked him to turn on Walter, and when Walter was able to convince him that leaving town was his best course of action even when Jesse knew he was being manipulated (again, probably for his own good). When you add all those things together, it makes the ending that much more potent. That's good TV writing, there.

– When Steve is giving Hank grief about putting some of his men on surveillance of Jesse, he's wearing purple! Is he channeling Marie? Also, Hank wears purple to the Mexican restaurant. Was that a sign of their solidarity? Purple, you guys, PURPLE!

– Are we really supposed to believe that a Taqueria in New Mexico would have a white kid as a waiter? THIS SHOW IS SO FAKE.

– Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have both won Emmys for their acting on Breaking Bad. But we might want to nominate Walter White for an award based on that acting job he did on his fake confession tape. Goodness gracious that guy can pretend!

– Over-analyzation of the week: There was a blue sympathy card right over Skyler's shoulder in the car wash, that means she's dying right?

– I always rewatch Breaking Bad on Sunday night without the burden of overthinking it or taking notes after I've sent off my review, and I always pick up on things that I didn't include in the review. Of course this sounds silly a week later, but Future Walter is back in ABQ to get his money, right? Maybe he has to dig it up, maybe someone else got it. But that's his main reason for being back, I'm guessing.

[UPDATE] There's been some confusion over the ricin cigarette and the Lily of the Valley and how Jesse figured out that Walter poisoned Brock and all that, and superuser DavidJackson8 summed it up well in the comments below. But because people are lazy and going through the comments section is a lot of work (guilty!), I'll repost it here. Take it away, DavidJackson8!

"In season 4 episode 11, 'End Times,' after learning that Brock was in the hospital from some sort of poison, Jesse went outside to smoke and realized his ricin cigarette was missing. He then told his GF and the nurses that Brock may have been poisoned by ricin. Then he went and had that huge scene with Mr. White where Jesse was really close to killing him, accusing him of poisoning Brock with the ricin. That big scene was all about Jesse thinking Mr. White had taken the ricin from him (possibly through Saul/Huell) and poisoning Brock to get back at him. Walt then twisted it and convinced Jesse that Gus (through Tyrus) took it from him and poisoned Brock so that Jesse would think Mr. White did it and kill him. That was Walt's plan all along... Jesse was getting closer and closer with Gus, so Walt came up with all of that to convince Jesse to be on Walt's side so they could kill Gus together. It wasn't until after they killed Gus that Jesse found out it wasn't the ricin that hurt Brock." 

The idea that Huell stole the ricin cigarette from Jesse's pocket under Walter's orders had always been on Jesse's mind (he was so convinced of it that he put a gun to Walter's head), so when he reached into his pocket and noticed that his marijuana was missing as he was headed to Alaska, he put it altogether right there just in the nick of time. It's a bit of convenience that television sometimes takes, but I think it works here and I'll overlook anything that leads to Jesse acting like a madman. Hope that clears things up!

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  • tobsh Sep 01, 2013

    Although I loved the episode, I didn't really like the directing. It didn't really feel like Breaking Bad and way too conventional. I noticed, for example, when there was a shot of Todd's uncle flushing down the bloody tissue. Usually, they leave out these kind of shots that show obvious actions.
    However, I loved the shot of Walt's content face after Junior says he'll stay. It just serves to show how much Walter enjoys successfully manipulating people.
    Another great one was Walt in the shadows talking to Skyler, dressed in white, in her office. Foreshadowing, anyone?

    The confession tape works for me because you can't forget Hank isn't the only one with benefit-of-doubt-material on his CV. We tend to forget that a year ago, Walter was an underachieving chemistry teacher with a second job at a car wash and cancer.

  • Sherif_El_Helw Aug 31, 2013

    Walt wouldn't have filmed that confession tape if he didn't have Hank by the nuts. And for people saying that the DEA would always side with a respected agent, remember Merkert? He was fired simply for being too close to Gus Fring. Imagine what they would do to Hank if they found out Heisenberg was his brother-in-law.

  • joename69 Aug 30, 2013

    SO ive noticed that a lot of people think this, but neither of the flash-forwards are in New Hampshire, obviously the 2nd one isnt, but the first one is in Albuquerque. As proven when the waitress sees his ID says hes form new Hampshire they talk about how thats 2000 miles away, and a 30 hour trip. Also Walt tells the Gun dealer that the gun isnt leaving town, and then it shows him still in Albuquerque, i just want to say that as i see so many people thinking that.

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 29, 2013

    Jesse is Fredo. He's going to have to go down by Walt's hand. If that is of course, where they are going.

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 29, 2013

    Love the taqueria scene. Perfectly done. Extremely serious with touches of humor (waiter's interruptions) thrown in to balance out the bleak subject matter.

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 29, 2013

    Last week I hated the fact that Jesse was written as having been caught on a merry go round and this appeared to be what would lead to a scene where Jesse confesses and teams up with Hank. Glad to be proven wrong! The decision to have it build up to Jesse going insane and no longer seems like bad writing. Fantastic episode! Great fake out by the writing team and this will lead to a much more exciting plot development than just simply Hank and Jesse teaming up!

  • WillReed Aug 28, 2013

    What are those thing behind Jesse in this picture?

  • brianditmer77 Nov 21, 2013

    that's actually what is called the Juan Tabo Dam. In the more serious flash flooding that occasionally occurs from the mountains above it, those concrete stanchions are to slow down the flow of water over the barrier and not wash out the neighborhoods below.

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 30, 2013

    Some type of memorial?

  • Henie Aug 31, 2013

    Usually structures like that are put along expressways to deaden the sound of the cars for the surrounding areas. The memorial symbolism is striking though.

  • RobinRyschlic Aug 28, 2013

    Jesse got into the house really quick, but what about Junior? Maybe he's still inside the house, and that is what's stopping Jesse from burning the house down. Junior would also turn against Walt as Jesse would reveal Walt's secret to him.

    Yeah... I think that is going to happen, I'd love to see a Jesse-Junior scene!

  • SteffWoolfolk Aug 29, 2013

    I'd also love a Jesse-Junior scene, but Junior's car wasn't on the driveway. Lets still hope for the possibility of him being in the house though!

  • patsully Aug 28, 2013

    Brilliant. I hope it ends with Junior offering to make Jesse some breakfast.

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 28, 2013

    I could see it. Totally hope it happens. It'll be much harder for Skyler to stay aligned with Walt after that.

  • IAmMikeWhite Aug 28, 2013

    Hey guys,

    There's so much to talk about after the last three episodes. My friends and I at the Obsessive Viewer recorded a special episode of our podcast in which we discuss these first three episodes of the final season of Breaking Bad. Give us a listen and give us your thoughts! Thanks guys. 12-bonus-ep-breaking-bad-the-final-episodes-part-1/#more-3020

  • steelez Aug 28, 2013

    Am I imagining things or did Hank turn off the video camera before he spoke to Jesse. Then Saul came in, turned the camera away and switched it back on, possibly thinking he was turning it off. Their discussion about Walt and Jesse will then have the sound recording confirming Walt as Heisenberg.

  • super_friend21 Aug 29, 2013

    Surely Saul is smart enough to know whether the red light is on or off

  • mrjimmyjames Aug 28, 2013

    An intriguing theory.

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