On Breaking Bad last night, Walt took a look at the hand he was dealt, realized he was all in with little chance for victory, but refused to fold.
Forced card metaphors aside, "Bullet Points" was a phenomenal episode, one that proved this series really can do it all.
Consider the silence of the fourth season premiere, an installment that didn't require very much dialogue in order to ratchet up the tension. Here, however - with the exception of the outstanding, tense, humorous, beautifully shot opening scene - viewers were treated to practically nothing but exchanges between the main characters.
And it was equally riveting.Walt and Skyler going over their bullet-pointed, novel-length lie to their loved ones was at times funny, enlightening and fascinating. It was impossible not to laugh at these two, arguing like a regular married couple, but doing it over such pressing and even somewhat ridiculous topics. Hmmm... should Skyler pretend to cry when telling her sister than their fortune is based on a gambling problem, not a drug manufacturing one?
Of course, the misdirection was never without subtext. Why am I ashamed? I would never say terribly. I'm sorry for all I put you through, how does that sound? Walt was at his coldest and in his classic state of denial throughout the plotting.
But did that change when he arrived at dinner? After seeing Gale in his innocent, sweet singing glory, did Walt actually feel a ping of regret? It felt that way when he did, indeed, utter the double "terribly" and apologize to his son and excused himself from the table... but then we saw him rifling through Hank's file and realized, no, Walter White is far past the point of sorrow. He was just concerned about the murder investigation.
From here, we were treated to yet another long, intense, revealing scene of dialogue. Framed by Hank's rock (sorry, mineral!) light, Walt sifted through Gale's lab notes. It was difficult to read what he was thinking.
Fear over Gale exposing him and Jesse? Mostly. But also some pride over the formulas jotted down, some curiosity over this unusual man who included poems and other notes in the journal. Always thinking one step ahead, though, Walt was also looking for clues. Did he really convince Hank that the "W.W." inscription was meant for Walt Whitman? I think so. But Hank gave off an air of suspicious throughout the conversation, didn't he?
Finally, we had the chat with Saul, a session of whining and complaining from Walt. He actually wondered how things got "so screwed up," but he didn't blame himself. Far from it. Everyone had had played some role. It's not that he stayed at the table too long, or doubled down when he should have walked away; it was that the dealer dared to deliver the wrong card; the player in front of him had mismanaged his hand; heck, the air conditioning was too high. Anything except an admission that Walt should never have been playing in the first place.
And might it be Jesse whose chips will be cashed in? I doubt it (and I really am done with the card metaphors). But it wouldn't shock me. Naturally, it would be heart-breaking to lose Aaron Paul, but Vince Gilligan continually says the show will conclude after next season. I can't imagine either of these cooks remaining alive when it's all over. Jesse has to die at some point.
Just an outstanding hour of television all around, with half-truths (gambling, Gale as Heisenberg) exposing real truths and Walt continuing to think he can stay one step ahead of it all. But in refusing yet another answer to his problems (Saul's friend has a card?!?), did he write Jesse's death check? And, aside from wondering if he's next, does Walt even care at this point?
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