On the next episode of Low Winter Sun... ha, just kidding guys. Those words were like children kicking the back of my seat while watching Breaking Bad's relentless "Ozymandias," an hour of television that will not be easy to sleep off. But seriously, Low Winter Sun had been one of the most grim, humorless, bleak shows on television and it now looks like Romper Room compared to what transpired over one of the most brutal episodes of television that will ever haunt my life. If the previous episode "To'hajiilee" was designed to blow up our hearts like balloons with pulse-racing intensity and anticipation, "Ozymandias" was here to stomp on them like old bubble wrap with frightening finality, always finding one more little packet of hope to burst when we thought there were no more. This was one difficult episode to get through, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
There's no real good place to start–Hank, Holly, Walt Jr., Jesse, Skyler?–so I'll start where "Ozymandias" started, at the beginning. The choice to open with a flashback to Walter and Jesse's first cook and overlay the Methmobile RV on top of the shootout from "To'hajiilee" was brilliant story-wise and a savvy way to prepare the audience as much as it could for what was to come. It was, in a sense, the show's way of saying, "Hey, remember when things used to be light? Remember when Walt had to practice lying? Remember when Skyler's worst problems were getting rid of scary dolls? (Also, check out these knives!) Well, things are different now." I LOVED the vehicles fading out, by the way. It was wonderful visual poetry about the beginning and the end of Walter's kingpin life. And it's good we were momentarily transported back to the past because it would multiply the devastation we would feel through the rest of the episode. And make no mistake, the point of "Ozymandias" was to devastate, and it did its job very well.
The greatest question of the week was answered awfully fast: Steve Gomez didn't make it out of that initial shootout, as people standing in front of a bunch of hicks with automatic weapons in a firefight usually do. Hank made it though! For a few more minutes at least. And he was defiant until the very end, realizing that the fight was already over and that the best he could do was tell all these jerks–Walt included–to go have sexual intercourse with themselves. There will be some talk about whether or not Hank was given a proper sendoff, and to that I say, well, this is Breaking Bad. And Hank's death was a perfect example of how "Ozymandias" moves forward unrelentingly with an air of realism that seemed impossible for television.
Hank's death reminded me a lot of Mike's death–it just happened. Nothing too ceremonial, just a rather distant shot of a body toppling over, another body left in the wake of Walter's poor decisions. And because of the previous episode and all the possibilities it presented, I was more emotionally prepared for Hank's death in "Ozymandias." Psychologically, I don't know, it was just easier having a week to prepare for it. Or maybe it's because we didn't have any time to let it linger because "Ozymandias" was just getting started on its parade of sorrow.
When Jesse was pulled out from underneath the car after Walter gave him up, you wouldn't have been alone if you thought Hank and Gomez would have to share their final resting place with Mr. Pinkman. I braced myself so hard I melded with my couch but the gunshot never came. Jesse even turned up to the heavens, perhaps a nod to Game of Thrones's penultimate Season 1 episode, accepting his fate. But no, it was Todd who would save Jesse's life, at least in that moment. And to be honest, Todd's excuse for saving Jesse's life–he could tell them what he told the DEA–always sounded a little suspect.
This scene also pulled one of those nagging threads out of the darkness. Walter, still entirely enraged at Jesse for selling him out to the DEA, had one more round to fire off at Jesse: the truth about how he watched Jane die and did nothing to prevent it. And the thing about him saying it was that he didn't have to, he wanted to. He hates Jesse so much right now (it makes me wonder what Walter would do if Todd chooses not to kill Jesse). Walter did everything he could to prevent Hank's death and wept when Hank was taken out, but he would have loved to see what Jesse's real brains looked like splattered out on the desert floor. Frankly, I'm shocked that Walter agreed to let Jack and Todd take Jesse for a little post-morten sitdown chat.
And maybe Jesse would have preferred having his skull opened up compared to what's looks to be in store for him, which was something more out of a bad horror movie than Breaking Bad. Todd's plan was to treat Jesse like his tarantula in a jar, imprisoning Jesse in the White Power Lab to do some cooking. I know people are weirded out by Todd, and you should be, but dammit, this kid wants to learn! He is taking his job seriously and wants to learn how to cook meth from the best. And if he needs to inspire his teacher by showing a picture of Brock and Andrea as a warning, so be it. Much respect, Todd! But don't act all surprised when you win The Big Creep award.
However, all that torture-slave stuff and Hank's death would be rather mellow compared to the family fallout. Family has always been the heart of Breaking Bad, and Vince Gilligan ripped it out like Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, letting it spray blood all over the audience while cackling maniacally. For all the drug dealing and murder, is there anything worse than seeing a son who once worshipped his father realize his father was a fraud? The entire sequence from Skyler and Marie telling Walt Jr. the truth about his dead to Walter storming out of the house with Holly was the most affecting stretch of this series that has been all-too powerful so many times.
For as much as Walter wanted the money, he would have paid 100 times the amount and baked a million more trays of crystal blue persuasion to keep his family. But here they were cowering and raising cutlery against him, physically struggling and rolling around on the ground of the room they've shared so many bacon breakfasts. His family had abandoned him. There was no harder image to see than Skyler and Walter Jr. on the ground, staring at Walter like he was a monster while he bellowed, "What the hell is wrong with you? We're a family!!!" And there was nothing tougher for Walter than to see his own son call the cops on him and tell them that his dad might hurt them.
I mean, geez, show! I got two black puffy eyes from watching this unforgiving episode. But the punches would continue when Walter ripped Holly from her hole and took off with her. I never thought Walter took Holly to spite Skyler. I think that in the moment, Walter grabbed the only part of his family that didn't hate him in a last-ditch effort to keep some semblance of it. Yet even Holly was done with her dad, saying "Mama" as her first words (I think) and slapping some sense into Walter after he had cooled down a bit and performed a gas-station diaper change.
There will be a lot of people who hate Walter even more after this episode, but I saw a big step towards contrition in the face of finality. Yeah, he couldn't convince Skyler and Walt Jr. to pack up and leave with him, but as soon as he realized it, he left to get out of their lives as much to avoid the cops as to keep them out of his problems. I'll chalk the Holly abduction to mismanaged emotions and poor decision making caused by distress, but the phone call to Skyler was about the best thing he could have done in that situation. He cleared Skyler of prior knowledge of his actions and did what he always tried to do: protect his family. He knew the cops were there and his anger was a clever charade to take the blame all himself because he's the one who was really screwed here, and if you look at it from just the right angle you might even find it romantic in a totally messed-up way.
In the end, Walter knew the best thing to do was to return Holly, get as far away as possible, and erase himself as well as he could. It's surprising Saul's man would help him realize that dream after Jesse stood him up, but Walter entered the red minivan and drove away with his barrel o' cash to get that fresh start. That doesn't mean he's done in Albuquerque, though. Walter's last words in the episode are, "I've still got some things to do," and we know he'll be back to finish them soon.
"Ozymandias" was terrific and awful to watch, a powerful piece of television that transcended fiction with the brutal way it closed a chapter on a family we've spent six years with and gotten to know. Even though we knew the day would come when Walter White's choices would cut him off from his family, "Ozymandias" delivered something even more horrifying than what we could have imagined. Maybe it's the morose air of "Ozymandias" or the crushing feeling leftover from watching it, but this is feeling like more than an end to a series, this is feeling like the end of a part of me.
– Every time I think I know exactly why Walter is coming back in the flashforwards, something else sounds a lot better. He could be coming back for his money, he could be coming back for revenge (on either the white supremacists or Jesse), or he could be coming back for his family.
– All the early desert stuff (Hank and Gomez dying) came before the real credits rolled. By that time, the episode could have said "Guest starred (past tense) Steven Michael Quezada."
– Half of the horror from this episode came from knowing what Marie didn't: that Hank was dead.
– Anna Gunn! Step up and collect your Emmy. Dean Norris, your Emmy is right over here, too. And Bryan Cranston, hope you have room for one more.
– I still think the second half of "To'hajiilee" was the highlight of the season so far, but "Ozymandias" was consistently outstanding for the entire episode.
– Walter looked like a dung beetle rolling that barrel around the desert.
– Todd: "Sorry for your loss." Thanks, buddy!
– Todd walked over to Walter's car and told Jack he didn't see Jesse, but it would have been awfully hard for Todd to miss him. Did he see Jesse and not say anything? He wanted to save his life when he asked Jack to spare him to get info out of him, but did he try and save his life before by not saying anything? Am I crazy to think the Todd must have seen Jessie before? Does it matter?
– I'm going to watch The Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones to cheer up.
– Like I said before, no screeners from here on out so this written a bit rushed. It's also super late, so I may add some stuff tomorrow when my brain has properly processed the episode.
Let's hear it: What did you think?
AIRED ON 9/29/2013
Season 5 : Episode 16