Recap: It’s Walt Vs. Hank in BREAKING BAD “Blood Money” (S5E09)


TV doesn’t get much better than Sunday’s Breaking Bad. And Sunday’s Breaking Bad is a prime example of why this series, now in its final episodes, is one of the greatest in TV history. Nothing big happens, nothing explosive. But there’s an increasingly ominous tone to the entire episode that positions the series, and its characters, for a very dark conclusion.

The episode has four things that happen really. One is a flash forward of Walt returning to his presumably seized home to get a vile of ricin. Then the show moves back to the present and Jesse looks about one bad day away from packing it all in. Hank is overcome by the idea that Walt, his rather docile, Cancer-stricken brother-in-law, is actually the murderous Heisenberg he’s been looking for. And then there’s Skyler, who confronts Lydia Rodarte-Quayle when Lydia tries to pull a now retired Walt back into the meth game. And there are the conflicts in the final episodes, right there, in a nutshell.

Let’s start with Jesse because he’s putting himself in a position to either kill himself or be killed by Walt because he can’t have the liability. Jesse, who in this episode  tries to give away $5 million in “blood money” to Mike Ehremantraut’s granddaughter and the parents of the dead boy on a dirt bike, has always looked like he was ready to crack.

The question is: How much more can he take? We know he’s a reluctant murderer and doesn’t even like to be tangentially related to the act, won’t likely kill Walt, so there’s really only one alternative. Walt, on the other hand, seems to be growing weary of Jesse’s mental instability, and his conversation with Jesse, another attempted pep talk, for the first time seems futile. That’s in part to Aaron Paul’s always spectacular performance of this increasingly unhinged young man.

But when it comes to performances, Dean Norris as Hank wins the day here. Norris, who has at least one of his Emmy episodes for next year, plays the man’s man Hank as someone who can’t balance his machismo with a new reality where his brother-in-law is a murderous drug kingpin. He, unlike Jesse, isn’t supposed to be unhinged.

When punches are thrown and threats are made in the closing confrontation with Walt, the balance of power lies in Walt’s hands and you get another one of the show’s ominous moments where you know this isn’t going to end well for one of the two. Probably Hank, who will either die or be forced to let Walt go, neither of which is a great outcome for a DEA agent that lives for his job.

What the show comes down to now is family. Walt and Skyler are both in the position to protect what they have without going back into the Meth business. There’s talk of college and we see the impact of Walt’s chemo on the people around him again. And Hank, who requests that Walt’s  kids come live with him, hits on something deeply paternal both in him and for Walt.

So does Hank let Walt go? Is that why Walt shocks his neighbor when she sees him returning to his seized home? (It’s more than just middle class morality, that’s for sure.) Is Walt even supposed to be alive when she sees him? Did he get back in the game? Is that why he needs the ricin after all this time? Okay, there are a lot of questions, more than answers, so feel free to share your thoughts below.

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