Sunday, August 25, 2013

REVIEW: 'Breaking Bad' - Aaron Paul Shines in 'Confessions'

AMC's Breaking Bad - Season 5, Episode 11 "Confessions"

Jesse decides to make a change, while Walt and Skyler try to deal with an unexpected demand.

"Buried" ended with Hank going into the interrogation room with Jesse. Between the two, they have enough information to prove many of Walt's criminal dealings. But they also hate each other's guts. Hank simply could not turn Jesse like that because he does not have the right fuel to light Jesse's fire. He does handle this interrogation better than Skyler's but it was over way before Saul came into the room.

Up until this point in Season 5B, Aaron Paul has been laying on the outskirts of the main action - not even saying a word in last week's hour. And all that subdued work makes a great contrast with his desert outburst at Walt. Jesse can see through Walt even though he still can't bring himself to look at him. He snaps and just wants to hear the truth: that Walt actually needs him to go away to help himself. Walt can't do that, instead hugging him - which will likely be the last hug the two ever share. He then goes through the motions with Saul to meet with the guy who will help him disappear - choosing to head to Alaska instead of Saul's suggestion of Florida. In a moment that calls on the audience's recollection, Jesse realizes that it was Saul and Huell who picked the ricin out of his pocket and Paul absolutely sells this moment. He's angry, desperate and a loose cannon. Barging into Saul's office and holding him at gunpoint to get the truth out of him. Jesse is never this angry a whole lot in the series but it is the exact material that Paul shines in. We all are expecting Jesse to team up with Hank to take Walt down - but that also doesn't feel like an honest reaction from Jesse as a character. He's not going to wait for justice to find its way to Walt. He wants quick payback and drastic retaliation. His hatred for Mr. White now runs much deeper than insecurities of being offed like so many of his past business associates. Now, he has the rage to want to see him burn in hell. When he calms down a bit, he'll see the opportunity with Hank. But that may no longer be a viable option.

The biggest turning point of the hour was when Hank and Marie were watching Walt's confession tap - which gives the episode its title. Over the course of the series, Walt has changed from a man unable to cover up anything into one who can lie with Emmy-winning conviction. This is a man whose sole thought at the moment is self-preservation. Hank knows who he is and could topple everything he has worked so hard for. But Hank also knows nothing. He has his suspicions - Walt and Skyler aren't outwardly denying it either - but he has no concrete proof. Once the truth is exposed his career is over, so Hank's pride is keeping him from sharing this with his friends at the DEA. He desperately needs to be the one to catch Heisenberg. And yet, when he's watching that tape and seeing just how easily Walt can manipulate the situation, he realizes just how diabolical and smart his adversary is. The truth that the White's paid for his rehab is the ultimate "nail in the coffin" for Hank.

At this point of the series, nothing Walt says can be trusted. It is all pixelated. The further Walt gets into his grand confession monologue, the more the camera focuses in on the details of Walt's face. He will say or do just about anything to ensure his safety and the safety of his family. The fact that it's family who's coming after him puts a huge wrinkle into things. He refuses to send Hank on "a trip to Belize" but he ultimately has no problem with destroying his career.

When Marie just bluntly blurts out that Walt should just kill himself, it cuts through everything. That truly is the only way that guarantees that things end well for Walt. So why doesn't he just do it now and get it over with already? Why risk his secret being exposed and having the money ripped from his family? His death will secure the legacy of Heisenberg and the legacy of how his children see him. Now, Walt's ego and pride have him convinced that he's come out on top against Hank. The tape will seal his fate no matter what happens to him - and Hank is powerless to prove otherwise. He is in control. Up until Jesse rips into Saul's office. Now, he has a serious threat to his legacy. One that could only be remedied by retrieving his gun from the car wash's pop dispenser.

At the start of the series, the show took pleasure in slow-building and its methodical narrative - taking four years of episodes just to cover one year of Walt and company's experiences. Now, with the end fast approaching, the show has pushed on the acceleration as fast as they could. It is a stark contrast but it's also very rewarding. These are the moments the show has been building to and the ones we have wanted to see. Hank and Walt's confrontation happened in the season opener. Jesse learns that Walt did poison Brock tonight. Wasting no time getting there is immensely satisfying. The show has a direct outline of where it wants to go - through the "Mr. Lambert" flash-forward sequences - and it needs to go through this story quickly to get there. But nothing feels like the show is cutting corners simply to get to an end result. That's what has been working immensely well in these first three episodes and will be the momentum that caries this show off into greatness - although it already does have an imprint on TV history. 

Some more thoughts:
  • What's Up with Walt Jr.? - He's finally pulled into the crosshairs of Walt and Hank via Marie. RJ Mitte's reaction to learning about Walt's cancer returning was amazing and proves that he is more than capable of handling great material when it is given to him.
  • I love the scene in Skyler's office where Walt is telling her everything will be okay. It's short but how it's composed and lit - with Walt being almost completely shrouded in darkness - was amazingly stunning.
  • Seeing the tarantula in the desert with Jesse and Saul before Walt gets there brings up memories of Drew Sharp's murder and makes Jesse's later outburst about Walt either killing him or sending him away much more emotionally impactful. 
  • Trent the waiter had the perfect little snippets of comic relief during that tense White/Schrader diner. I also wonder which of the two pairs suggested that place for their meeting. I'm guessing it was the Whites.
  • Whereas Jesse has grown furious at Walt, Todd is still seeking out his approval - making sure to call and leave a message for him after last week's massacre of Declan's crew.
  • And yet, Jesse still can't force himself to call Walt anything but Mr. White.
  • Speaking of Todd, I have no clue what he, Lydia and his uncle's crew are up to or how they figure into the final arc. They are amusing but I wish for a bit more clarity.
  • I know that Jesse won't burn Walt's house down because the flash-forwards show that the house doesn't have fire damage but Paul sells that moment of devastation and anger so well I don't really mind it.
  • And Walt went for the gun instead of the ricin because he figures he wouldn't be able to have any kind of rational conversation with Jesse at this moment in time, right?