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Breaking Bad Review: Down the Toilet

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We all knew it had to end this way, right? We all knew the final Breaking Bad episode of 2012 just had to set up the inevitable showdown that would bring the series to a close in 2013.

Walt. Hank. DEA. Heisenberg. Let's do this.

Yet "Gliding Over All" still managed to shock, taking Walt to a place I never imagined he'd be prior to the big reveal: contentment. Happiness. A sense of satisfaction over a job well done, an emperor who no longer needed an empire.

Walt, All Alone

What drove Walt to that relaxed scene on the patio?

Was it the murder of Mike? The depth to which Walt had sunk and his shock over taking such an action? Think of how many times he told people tonight a killing "had to be done" and wonder who he was trying to convince.

Was it the realization that it really is lonely at the top? That it truly might never end? That once New Mexico is conquered, there's the Czech Republic and then... who know where else? But always someplace else.

The most telling scene took place in that dark hotel room, with Todd's prison connections plotting multiple murders. How many other drug lords sat in a similar seat? How many more would do so in the future? Walt was akin to that picture on the wall, just the latest in an assembly line of kingpins. He wasn't special.

Was it Skyler's expertly-delivered speech? No yelling, no screaming, no real emotion; just her appeal to Walt's ego, using logic and even acknowledging all he had accomplished?

In a word: Yes. It was all these things. And, as a result, following two gorgeous montages (never thought I'd write that about a series of prison murders and meth cooks), to paraphrase a poet not named Walt Whitman: Walter White got out of the drug business not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Except for the big, shotgun-related bang we all know is coming next summer.

The episode was laced with call backs to previous developments: the fly buzzing on Walt's desk, the ticking watch Jesse gave him, the remembering between protege and mentor over their busted RV. It was a walk down Breaking Bad lane and it legitimately seemed like Walt was out. He would have cracked open a can of Schraderbrau for a barbecue everyday for the rest of his life, if not for that pesky bathroom read.

Did I expect the concluding scene of this run to be Hank sitting on the toilet? Not exactly. But it's perfect, really. Breaking Bad specializes in details above all else. Details and the consequences of every tiny action.

It wasn't gonna be some major screw up that connected the dots and finally led Hank to Walt. Of course it was going to be something small. That's the way this incredible show rolls. Even when Walt wants to be out, he can't be. He can't ever be, no matter how well he thinks he covered his steps. Damn that inertia, huh?

The title of this episode referred to a Whitman poem by the same name. It talks about nature, time, space and the "voyage of the soul," concluding with a reference to "death." We saw Walt coughing in the opening season of the Season 5 premiere. We saw him undergo another medical test today. Hank is now finally on to his brother-in-law.

Make no mistake, we all know how this will go. The mesmerizing voyage of Walter White's soul that we've all been witnessing will come to an end next summer. He is going to die. From the cancer? From Hank's bullet? We'll find out a year from now.

But the brilliance of Breaking Bad, as evidenced by how it took us to both an expected and unexpected place on the summer finale, is how it arrives at that destination.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (230 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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That statistic about "5% of people use meth in the Czech Republic" sounded absurd to me, so I Googled a bit for research on this. The tables said E. Europe meth use is at .5%. Makes more sense. One out of 200 (still pretty high) but 5% is one out of twenty!

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Amazing season! I still think that Jesse is gonna ultimately bring Walt down...even with Hank's new revelation, somehow Jesse has to find out about Walt poisoning Brock and his invovlement in Jane's death. And when he does...there'll be no stopping him!

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it wasnt meant to be long, its shit going bad, with people that are not fit for this line of business. Walt may think he is the boss, but mike was right. When distribution comes to the picture, walt doesnt no shit about this business, he isnt cut out for it and he panicks easy. Through the bettr part of the show he keeps on taking drastic measures to guard people that he seems to have all but relinquished now. He is going to die, and mark my words; Skylar White is going to put him down. Walt will surely completely loose it and will set his targets on Hank or the DEA, bring heat on his family. Its already hard to say who he cares for and who he doesnt. Jesse was never meant to do this, he was just a part timer; and now he is scarred...for the rest of his life. I always felt that with the kind of intelligence that Hank has, he would have found out about Walt in the second or third season; keeping him in the dark seemed like a weak ploy.However, this is how it was supposed to be, no big screw ups. It was always in front of Hank, he just looked the right way this time; and believe me, he is coming for Walt. I feel sad about this rushing thing, but maybe this curtness will enrich the enigma of this series. Its one of the modern day man made wonders,a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

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There are several things about "Breaking Bad" that bother me right now: (1) the show is ending arbitrarily; there is an understanable impulse to avoid "jumping the shark," but the killings of Gus Fring and Mike indicate to me that the train is on a rigid, thoughtless schedue that must be kept,even though there are many other stories to be told; (2) Saul Goodman is a major neglected resource; (3) some way must be found to bring Jesse back into the picture; the new, responsible Jesse is a bore; is he really SHOCKED that the drug business involves occasional killings? (4) Walter White seems unnesassarily confused and indecisive; since when does he really CARE about the feelings of Skyler, a woman who said that she was counting the days until his cancer came back; (5) I would think that a quick, dangerous affair with Lydia was called for, not because either wants love, but because they are both gigantic egos seeking momentary fulfillment. What is Walt going to tell Hank about the book and inscription, that Gayle came to him as a fellow chemist at the high school and asked for help with a problem. Why didn't Walt mention this during the investigation of Gayle's death? Because he was embarassed to learn that someone he helped with a pH problem turned out to be a drug manufacturer. Will that slow Hank down even if it doesn't completely fool him? Can't Walt bargain with Hank on the basis that Hank doesn't want it known that Walt paid thousands for Hank's rehab? And that money came from meth? What is Hank's defense, that he did not know if was "meth money" because he thought it was profits from ILLEGAL gambling? What if Marie never told him that Walt was paying, and he thought it was insurance money? Can he say that and lay all the blame on Marie? Will the DEA think that until now he has been protecting Heisenberg's identity?

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My only complaint is the show seems a little rushed at this point. One of the things I've been excited to see is the realization of Walt as a king pin, before his inevitable fall. We basically got one (albeit lovely) montage of the empire he built before the show was forced to move on with the confrontation with Hank. It feels like they are squeezing two full season into one long one, which is a shame.

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For some reason it still came as a bit of a surprise to me: Probably because after four and a half seasons, I'd gotten completely conditioned to expect that Hank would always get close, but never quite figure it out.

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it's Czech Republic, and not Czech Republican - dummy.

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the backing song at the end of the show- when they were all sitting around at the pool, was Squeeze's "Up The Junction"- which is a song about domestic bliss gone bad.

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The ricen(whatever its called) that he keeps tucking away in the outlet. that is what he will use on himself, after the huge automatic fails to do whatever he bought it for.

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Matt: thanks for clearing that up about the dispenser. I had forgotten Walt's surprise at seeing it again. So we really don't know if the cancer's back - he takes it as an omen that it might be. (What crazy-ass hospital wouldn't have budgeted the money to replace it after all this time?)