Sunday, September 15, 2013

REVIEW: 'Breaking Bad' - 'Ozymandias' Has Walt At His Most Devilish and Desperate With Bryan Cranston at His Absolute Best

AMC's Breaking Bad - Episode 5.14 Ozymandias

Everyone copes with radically changed circumstances.

"Ozymandias" is just about a perfect hour of television. It is by far the strongest hour from Breaking Bad's final run - and with two more still to come it doesn't feel like the show will be going down quality-wise anytime soon. This hour is riddled with tension and power. It has the precise ability to grab you deep in the belly and twist your guts. It is a great hour but it also is one of the most devastating the series has ever produced.

"To'hajiilee" painted the show into a very impossible corner last week - with only one real way of getting itself out of. The shootout in the desert simply had to end with death - and not just Gomez's. Hank is wounded and still outgunned. Jack has made up his mind to kill him. But Walt still has an ounce of humanity left in him. He pleads with Jack to save Hank's life - offering up all his buried money as a bartering chip. But Hank knows what is going to happen and painfully accepts it - with a bullet to the head. This pushes Walt truly past the point of no return. At first, motionless and then truly lashing out at everyone he has ever carried about in the life of the series.

Going into the final season, we knew that the truth about either Jane's death or Brock's poisoning would be revealed to Jesse. I was perfectly happy just to get the truth about Brock exposed to him - sending him on this path to destroy Walt. I never thought that the series would bring up the truth to all Walt's misdeeds to Jesse. But while I never the odds were against both secrets coming out, I never in a million years thought it would be Walt to just plainly tell Jesse that he watched Jane die. That truth would have utterly destroyed their relationship. But now, Walt doesn't care about that anymore. He considered Jesse family up until he became a rat which resulted in Hank's death. He rats out Jesse's hiding spot and tells him out of pure spite to his face. Jesse doesn't have much time to live and Walt wants to make him suffer in a similar way to how he is suffering now. But Jesse is not entirely down and out. Uncle Jack's crew beat him to a pulp and he rats. But now, Todd has him leashed up to help with the cooks.

But the most devastating sequences of the episodes are those between Walt and his actual family. For the length of the series, Walt has justified all of his actions by saying it's all for his family. But him rolling around on the floor with Skylar and a knife and stealing baby Holly is proof that he is only out for himself. He wants to protect his family and take them away and in hiding with him no questions asked. But they can only stare at what truly evil person this man must be. He basically killed Hank and they have no clue of just how dangerous he could still be. Skylar also wants to protect her family and needs to grab the knife. But she is incapable of truly harming Walt as he can still overpower her. It takes Walt Jr. to get him off.

Seeing his family against him is such an eye-opening experience for Walt. He leaves taking Holly with him as she is the only person who hasn't been corrupted by the truth of who he really is. He craves family and Holly is truly his last chance at having that. But seeing her cry out for her "mama" is another moving sequence for Walt. He can't just take her away. So, he tries to make a clean break. At the start of his phone call with Skylar, it seems that he is just this dark and devilish man calling her out for being the one to destroy the perfect thing they had going. But as the conversation continues, it becomes clear that he is doing it as a way to protect his family. The police will no doubt question Skylar and Walt Jr. about their involvement in Walt's enterprise. So he needs to leave them with a tape confessing just how much control he had over them and how blindly they were just following his every instruction. With that out of the way and with Holly in a place to be returned, he can finally accepted Saul's guy's help to disappear. Off to New Hampshire as Mr. Lambert.

Some more thoughts:
  • The credits don't even appear until we're 25 minutes into the episode!
  • Was Marie in the room when Hank and Gomez were recording Jesse's confession? Her first scene with Skylar would infer that she was. But then, that would mean Jesse is protecting her by not saying anything about her to Jack.
  • Did Todd come up with the idea of Jesse helping him cook from the start or did he realize the opportunity he had once they were in the desert?
  • Steven Michael Quezada is credited for the hour but he only appears as a corpse. Was Gomez's death satisfactory for you. He wasn't a main character but he's been on the show since the very beginning. And yet, the show killed him off so quickly at the top of the episode.
  • I love the shot with the phone and knife in the White kitchen. You just can tell Skylar will reach for one but aren't sure which one she will choose.
  • What are the odds that we see Dean Norris die on two different shows this week?
  • And even though he has cancer, Walt still has superhuman qualities - with surviving the gun shootout unharmed physically, being able to roll that barrel across the desert for a distance and overpowering Skylar with the knife.
  • The pre-title sequence is a re-airing of Walt and Jesse's first cook in the desert and Walt's first lie. The poetic symmetry has been a little lacking in the final season but this callback more than makes up for that as we see just how far Walt has come from that person in the pilot.