All bad things must come to an end.
So AMC has teased as the tagline for the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad Season 5.
But based on "Blood Money" - an hour of television on par with everything viewers have come to expect from arguably the greatest drama in television history - the network was not simply referring to this series itself. It was also referencing the meth-dealing, empire-building alter ego of Walter White.
At least in Walt's mind, the era of Heisenberg is over. If only Hank and other outside forces would allow that to actually be the case.
The episode opened on a positively enthralling teaser.
We were taken a year-plus into the future again, proving that Walt seemingly beat his cancer and showing us a hairy, dirty version of a man who has lost everything, who has been outed as Heisenberg, whose previously threatening moniker has been reduced to a piece of graffiti, whose mere presence scares the groceries out of his neighbor's hands.
And who needs that hidden Ricin pack for some unknown, dangerous reason.
From there, it was back to the scene of the discovered crime, as Hank broke down over the inscription in that Whitman book and Walt made it clear he really was a changed man.
Or not a changed man as much as a man able to compartmentalize. His drug days were in the past, his future lay in organizing air fresheners and opening new car washes. He was honest with Skyler about his "business associate" and as dishonest as he could be with Jesse about Mike.
But Walt was clearly talking to himself in that scene far more than his former protege. He needs to believe that he didn't kill Mike, he needs to keep saying that enough times to somehow make it true, to convince himself that a bright future is somehow possible even with all the debris and dead bodies in the past. Walter White has always been nothing if not a liar, more to himself than anyone else.
Until the tail end of last season, that is. Say my name, Walt told associates and enemies at the time. He had fully embraced his identity. He was Heisenberg and he wanted everyone to know it, to fear the man in charge.
But not here. Not anymore. He didn't utter that name, he didn't wear that hat, he didn't even actually admit to all Hank accused him of in the showdown fans have been clamoring for.
Hand to God, he told Hank, I am a dying man who runs a car wash. He spent the episode actually acting that way, too. Take away Lydia and take away Hank and take away a catatonic, unstable Jesse and it almost seems as if Walt was being sincere for once. He was Heisenberg, now he's back to being Walter and that's that. His mind can actually work that way.
Of course, we all know that is far from being that, starting most prominently with his brother-in-law. Should we talk about that concluding scene now?
Just... wow. A lesser series would have dragged out the Hank vs. Walt dynamic for weeks, culminating in some dramatic season finale confrontation. But we got it right away, just two men inside a garage, having it out. The tension was truly unbearable. You had no idea what either would say or do - and now we have no idea what either will say or do moving forward.
Tread lightly, Walt finally warned Hank, slipping back into Heisenberg mode because... what choice does he have? There's no talking or cajoling his way out of this one. There is only threatening, and that is what comes most naturally to Walt at this point anyway.
Is the Ricin for Hank? For some other antagonist we'll meet down the line? Who knows? Who even cares? The beauty of Breaking Bad lies not in trying to make any kind of prediction, but in sitting back and enjoying the performances... the suspense... the intensity... and the laser focus of Vince Gilligan and company, who have been taking us down this dark path for years now, eyes always on the disturbing prize of a chemistry teacher who has turned into Scarface.
It's the story of one man who has become one very different man. And it's sadly heading toward its conclusion. Enjoy it while you can, TV Fanatics. Television doesn't get any better than this.
Want more Breaking Bad?
Sign up for our daily newsletter and receive the latest tv news delivered to your inbox for free!