Monday, March 31, 2014

My 100 Favorite Games (Updated)

100. Hitman: Blood Money (IO Interactive, 2006)
99. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (Raven Software, 2003)
98. Roller Coaster Tycoon (Chris Sawyer Productions, 1999)
97. Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996)
96. Alan Wake (Remedy Entertainment, 2010)
95. Quake III: Arena (id Software, 1999)
94. Halo Wars (Ensemble Studios, 2009)
93. StarFox 64 (Nintendo, 1998)
92. DOOM 3 (id Software, 2004)
91. Dead Space 3 (Visceral Games, 2013)
90. Super Smash Brothers (HAL Laboratory, 1999)
89. Half-Life: Opposing Force (Gearbox Software, 1999)
88. Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996)
87. Dead Space (Visceral Games, 2008)
86. Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft, 2009)
85. Fable (Lionhead Studios, 2004)
84. Star Wars Battlefront (Pandemic Studios, 2004)
83. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (KCEJ, 2014)
82. Unreal Tournament (Epic Games, 1999)
81. Dragon Age II (BioWare, 2011)
80. Star Wars: Jedi Knight II (Raven Software, 2002)
79. Final Fantasy X-2 (Square, 2003)
78. Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2004)
77. Gears of War 3 (Epic Games, 2011)
76. Dead Space 2 (Visceral Games, 2011)
75. Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, 2006)
74. Star Wars Battlefront II (Pandemic Studios, 2005)
73. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar, 2002)
72. Lost Odyssey (Mistwalker, 2008)
71. Final Fantasy XIII (SquareEnix, 2010)
70. Gears of War 2 (Epic Games, 2008)
69. Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000)
68. Metroid Prime 2 (Retro Studios, 2004)
67. Gears of War (Epic Games, 2006)
66. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (LucasArts, 1997)
65. System Shock 2 (Irrational Games, 1999)
64. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Bethesda Game Studios, 2002)
63. Grand Theft Auto III (Rockstar, 2001)
62. GoldenEye 007 (Rare, 1997)
61. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996)
60. Final Fantasy VIII (Square, 1999)
59. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos/The Frozen Throne (Blizzard, 2002)
58. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo, 2006)
57. Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software, 2012)
56. Batman: Arkham Origins (WB Games, 2013)
55. Super Smash Brothers: Brawl (HAL Laboratory, 2008)
54. L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, 2011)
53. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Game Studios, 2006)
52. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (Blizzard, 2010)
51. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (KCEJ, 2001)
50. Max Payne (Remedy Entertainment, 2001)
49. BioShock 2 (2k Marin, 2010)
48. Halo 3: ODST (Bungie, 2009)
47. Metal Gear Solid (KCEJ, 1998)
46. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 1998)
45. Final Fantasy IX (Square, 2000)
44. Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare, 2009)
43. Half-Life 2: Episode One (Valve, 2006)
42. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within (Firaxis Games, 2012/2013)
41. Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare, 2011)
40. Jade Empire (BioWare, 2005)
39. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo, 2003)
38. Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios, 2011)
37. Diablo III (Blizzard, 2012)
36. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal, 2011)
35. Starcraft (Blizzard, 1998)
34. The Walking Dead (Telltale Games, 2012-2014)
33. The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe, 2013)
32. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo, 2000)
31. Half-Life 2: Episode Two (Valve, 2007)
30. Halo 4 (343 Industries, 2012)
29. Mass Effect (BioWare, 2007)
28. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios, 2009)
27. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo, 2011)
26. Fallout 3 (Bethesda Game Studios, 2008)
25. Dishonored (Arkane Studios, 2012)
24. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (KCEJ, 2004)
23. Diablo II (Blizzard, 2000)
22. Halo 3 (Bungie, 2007)
21. Grand Theft Auto IV (Rockstar, 2008)
20. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011)
19. BioShock (Irrational Games, 2007)
18. Final Fantasy X (Square, 2001)
17. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (Obsidian Entertainment, 2004)
16. Metroid Prime (Retro Studios, 2002)
15. Halo 2 (Bungie, 2004)
14. BioShock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013)
13. Half-Life (Valve, 1998)
12. Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar, 2010)
11. Mass Effect 3 (BioWare, 2012)
10. Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar, 2013)
9. Shadow of the Colossus (Team Ico, 2005)
8. Super Smash Brothers: Melee (HAL Laboratory, 2001)
7. Portal 2 (Valve, 2011)
6. Final Fantasy VII (Square, 1997)
5. Mass Effect 2 (BioWare, 2010)
4. Portal (Valve, 2007)
3. Halo: Combat Evolved (Bungie, 2001)
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (BioWare, 2003)
1. Half-Life 2 (Valve, 2004)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Shadows Lengthen: On HBO's "True Detective."

"Fine, I'll write about True Detective," I said to myself as I finished watching the finale of HBO's much acclaimed 8 episode mini-series earlier this afternoon.

On first blush, I admit I wasn't too interested in the central concept of True Detective. It sounded like just another too-morose-for-its-own-good cop show in a sea of cop shows. Then, a couple weeks before it debuted, I read an off-hand comment about "all the Lovecraft" stuff in it, and my interest was piqued. Upon further investigation, I found that the show's creator/writer, Nic Pizzolatto, was a former professor of literature. Long have shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, and to a lesser extent Breaking Bad both prospered from and fallen victim to the more literary aspects of dramatic television. Finally, I could see that potentiality seen to its logical extension. A show written and controlled by a novelist. It was both exactly and not at all what I expected.

Sure enough, upon seeing the pilot, I read several comments comparing the show's gothic southern atmosphere to the warped, corrupted South of William Faulkner, and several others compared the show's premise to that of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Sure enough, in a recently published interview with Alan Sepinwall, Pizzolatto highlights Faulkner and Conrad as ideal companion authors for his show, in lieu of the oft mentioned (and rarely understood) The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories from the late 19th century by Robert W. Chambers that famously influenced Howard Phillips Lovecraft, he of Cthulhu fame, who in turn heavily influence such wildly disparate modern authors as Steven King and George R. R. Martin.

Pizzolatto's angst at the endless comparisons to Chambers' stories is understandable, for in all honestly, The King in Yellow isn't all that good. It's interesting, but also something of trash fiction. First off, only the first four stories in the book make any reference to the Yellow King, and only two of those, "The Repairer of Reputations," and "The Yellow Sign," hold any real similarity to the abstract, cosmic horror that Lovecraft would eventually make famous. They are, on the whole, pulp. Good pulp, to be sure, but pulp nonetheless. This is not to disparage The King in Yellow or anyone who likes it (of which, I am one), but merely to illustrate that the fate of True Detective is perhaps fitting given its inspirations. Similarly to its central characters, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart (two of the great neo-noir detective names in existence, to be sure), it seems the show's fanbase got a little too carried away in the specifics of the crime, of who, in fact, the Yellow King was, and how far his influence spread. I won't go as far as to say that they missed the point, but, well, even if Nic Pizzolatto didn't want to, he stayed faithful to the core of Chambers' story more than he did anything by Joseph Conrad or William Faulkner.

Something interesting brought about by True Detective's finale is the concept that, similarly to its literary inspirations, it ended with something of an anti-climax. Rust and Marty both survive and are ostensibly victorious, but nothing really changes. They find their man, and they kill him, but they uncovered only the tip of the Cthulhu. The rest of the conspiracy, whatever it was, remains unknown, buried by time and corruption. The climax of the show is a conversation under the stars, where Rust lets go of some of his guilt and his anger and shows, for the first time, some sense of optimism. As far as literary endings go, its a lot happier than Marlow lying to the horrible specter of Kurtz's fiance in "Heart of Darkness," Darl Bundren laughing maniacally en route to a mental facility in "As I Lay Dying," or any of the King in Yellow stories. It's even a damn sight more positive than The Sopranos' cut to black or the Wire's solemn acknowledgement that nothing ever really changes and that the Marlo Stanfields of the world will continue no matter what we do.

Where True Detective stays in line with the Chambers stories is simple: the eponymous Yellow King never makes an actual appearance. You could argue, in both stories, he does so by proxy (I was under the impression that the killer's father was the actual King, and he was simply following along in his footsteps for lack of purpose). The King's identity, purpose, and motive is not important. It is his actions that define him. In Chambers' work, the King in Yellow's main influence over the story is through a play named in his honor. The play's which is never fully reproduced in the text, is the one common theme linking the characters in the four King in Yellow stories together; upon reading the play's second act, they all go insane, and various calamities befall them. In this way, the actions of the Carcosa cult could be seen as the play, and the video tape Rust shows Marty and Sherrif Garaci are the second act: the contents remain unseen by the audience: the horrified screams of the character doing the viewing are the only evidence we receive. Both Reggie Ledoux and Errol Childress tell Rust that he is "in Carcosa" with them. The knowledge of the tape drives men insane, and Rust has long since passed the point of sanity. There is nothing they can do to hurt him in his madness and his single-minded pursuit. And yet, while he tracks his quarry through the horrifying labyrinth near the finale's conclusion, Rust is visibly afraid. Then, when Errol surprises him with a knife to the abdomen, he tells Rust that it's time to "take off his mask," echoing one of the excerpts we get in Chambers' stories.

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Before getting to ahead of myself and turning this into fan-fiction, I'll conclude by saying that the primary allure of things like these is not in the answers we receive, but in the possibilities. Rust and Marty chase their demons, both personal and professional through a series of darkened shadows, and the fear that hounds the edges of their vision comes not from what they see, but what they don't. The negative spaces in the darkness in which anything could exist. The fifth episode of True Detective ended with Rust inquisitively holding up the devil's traps he found in an abandoned school. After we'd just finally had the potential of Rust being the killer laid out for us, it was meant to be a terrifying image, our favorite nihilist avenger seen in a new light, through the black stars of Carcosa and the dark, endless void of humanity's potential for evil.

"Man is the cruelest animal," posters for True Detective claimed, and where the weird, Lovecraftian horrors suggested by Yellow Kings, lost cities, and dead gods become their most frightening is not in the idea that they might exist, but in the idea of what men might do to one another in service to them. It is in perhaps this concept alone that True Detective rises past its pulpy, exposition-laden origins and stares firmly into the eyes of something beyond itself, an abyss that Kurtz recoils from in horror on his deathbed, where Darl Bundren laughs forever and tall, scarred men do unspeakable things to children in the dark, unmapped recesses of an America we thought we knew, an America that never existed and never went away.

Television is a flat circle.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Every Draft Class Post 2003

The 2003 Draft Class is, unquestionably, the best of the last 15 years or so. Since then, they've been spotty, and there isn't really a consensus #1.

Here are some 15 man squads from every class since, because posting them on twitter is too difficult. My restrictions are thus, the player must have been drafted during the year in question. No undrafted players, no overseas signings, and they must be currently active players, when possible.


2004
Starting Lineup      
C- Dwight Howard
C- Al Jefferson
SF- Luol Deng
SF- Andre Iguodala
PG- Jameer Nelson

Bench
Centers- Anderson Varejao, Emeka Okafor
Forwards- Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza, J.R. Smith
Guards- Kevin Martin, Tony Allen, Ben Gordon, Devin Harris, Shaun Livingston


2005
Staring Lineup
C- Andrew Bogut
PF- David Lee
SF- Danny Granger
PG- Deron Williams
PG- Chris Paul

Bench
Centers- Andrew Bynum, Marcin Gortat
Forwards- Channing Frye, Martell Webster, Ersan Ilyasova, Marvin Williams
Guards- Jarrett Jack, Raymond Felton, Gerald Green, Francisco Garcia


2006
Starting Lineup
C- Andrea Bargnani
PF- LaMarcus Aldridge
SF- Rudy Gay
SG- J.J. Redick
PG- Rajon Rondo

Bench
Centers- Joel Freeland
Forwards- Paul Millsap, P.J. Tucker, Ronnie Brewer
Guards- Kyle Lowry, Thabo Sefolosha, Randy Foye, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Daniel Gibson


2007
Starting Lineup
C- Marc Gasol
C- Al Horford
SF- Kevin Durant
SG- Arron Afflalo
PG- Mike Conley

Bench
Centers- Joakim Noah, Tiago Splitter
Forwards- Thaddeus Young, Carl Landry, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Jared Dudley
Guards- Ramon Sessions, Rodney Stuckey, Marco Belinelli


2008
Starting Lineup
C- Roy Hibbert
PF- Kevin Love
SF- Nicolas Batum
PG- Derrick Rose
PG- Russell Westbrook

Bench
Centers- Brook Lopez, Nikola Pekovic, DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez
Forwards- Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka, Jason Thompson
Guards- Eric Gordon, Goran Dragic


2009
Starting Lineup
C- Jordan Hill
PF- Blake Griffin
SG- James Harden
PG- Jrue Holiday
PG- Stephen Curry

Bench
Centers- N/A
Forwards- Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan, Chase Budinger
Guards- Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Tyreke Evans, Gerald Henderson, Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison, Ricky Rubio


2010
Starting Lineup
C- DeMarcus Cousins
C- Greg Monroe
SF- Paul George
SG- Lance Stephenson
PG- John Wall

Bench
Centers- Larry Sanders
Forwards- Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Patrick Patterson, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu
Guards- Eric Bledsoe, Evan Turner, Avery Bradley, Greivis Vasquez


2011
Starting Lineup
C- Nikola Vucevic
PF- Kenneth Faried
SF- Kawhi Leonard
SG- Klay Thompson
PG- Kyrie Irving

Bench
Centers- Jonas Valanciunas
Forwards- Chandler Parsons, Jimmy Butler, Tristan Thompson, Tobias Harris, Markieff Morris
Guards- Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Alec Burks


2012
Starting Lineup
C- Andre Drummond
PF- Anthony Davis
SF- Maurice Harkless
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- Damian Lillard

Bench
Centers- Miles Plumlee
Forward- John Henson, Draymond Green, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Andrew Nicholson, Harrison Barnes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Guards- Dion Waiters, Evan Fournier


2013
Starting Lineup
C- Steven Adams
SF- Giannis Antetokounmpo
SG- Victor Oladipo
PG- Michael Carter-Williams
PG- Trey Burke

Bench
Centers- Mason Plumlee
Forwards- Andre Roberson, Cody Zeller, Otto Porter, Tony Snell
Guards- Tim Hardaway Jr, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Nate Wolters, Matthew Dellavedova


Looking at this, I'm hard pressed to say that any one class is better than 2011 (or that any one class is worse than 2013. It is early, though)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Respect the Chemistry: A Breaking Bad Recap, Episode 62- Felina

Before I start this, a small preface: in September 2009, whilst playing Halo 3: ODST, the oft-maligned, yet disquieting and occasionally beautiful Halo spin-off, I was introduced to a little show called Breaking Bad by my step-brother. While beating ODST for the first time (which is an experience I won't burden you with, dear reader), I saw the majority of the first season of Breaking Bad, less and less in bits and pieces and more and more directly interfering with my playthrough, which is not something I abide often. Something about it got to me, though. Not the tension, which was palpable. Not the acting, which was grand. Not even the wonderful cinematography and general style, both of which are wholly unique. It was the feeling. The sort of existential dread that permeated every frame of every scene of every episode. It was something I'd only felt watching a show once before, The Sopranos, and that show had entrenched itself in my mind in a way nothing else would or could since. Except Breaking Bad. The feeling I'm describing is less college freshman, angsty existentialism as it is mid-life crisis, standing on the edge of a cliff and not knowing whether to jump or run. A genuine, palpable sense of not knowing where to go or what to do or what's going to happen in the next five minutes.

This show was about many things. In the first season, it was a dark comedy about a milquetoast nobody trying desperately to escape the life he never wanted. Later, it was about how lies seep and fester and destroy everything they're meant to shield. Then it was about power, and absolute corruption. For a little while, in these last episodes, it almost played like a commentary on abusive relationships, with both Jesse and Skyler trapped by someone they couldn't escape from, no matter how they tried.

In the end, this show was about one thing more than any another. It was about the choices we make, or, more importantly, the choices we've already made, and how we use them to construct some sort of meaning or individual agency out of the unknowable muck that is our universe. Every character on this show was bound by how they defined themselves. Walt defined himself as a failure, but not of his own doing. There were people out there who wronged him, who forgot him, and he wanted to be sure that they knew who he was. Jesse defined himself as a loser, as a no one, as a tool to be thrown away, and he spent the entire show searching for someone to accept him. He never found them. Hank defined himself as a cowboy, a lone wolf, and it killed him. Gus defined himself as a professional, beholden to rules of conduct that he himself would break only for the gravest, most important circumstances. Perhaps only Mike (and eventually Skyler) saw past their own definitions into what they really were: whatever they chose to be. Jonathan Banks described Mike on the final Talking Bad as someone who has "already lost his soul, and he knows it," which I feel describes the slight character inconsistencies some saw in this episode perfectly. Walt has finally hit that point. The first few seasons were, at least in plot, about the ascendance of Walter White, drug lord. How thrilling the launch. How breathtaking the apex. Season five was about the fall, about what happens when you try to struggle against force and destiny and end up as something other than another fallen star. If the overarching plot of Breaking Bad was the loss of one man's soul, then the end of "Ozymandias" was the moment where it was finally gone. These last two episodes were merely the epilogue. And a grand epilogue it was.


"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it, and I was...really. I was alive."- Walter White

Picking up, ostensibly, right after Walt slinked out of that dive bar, we see his face through a car window, snow wiped away to reveal an unlocked door. Scrambling inside, Walt pauses for a moment, and begins searching the glovebox for something, anything, to help him get back to New Mexico. Pushing aside a Marty Robbins cassette (because of course people in rural New Hampshire still have cassettes), he finds a screwdriver, and tries to pry his way inside for some Heisenberg hot-wiring action. He fails. His bones are too sore and too cold. He doesn't have much left. Just then, he hears some police chatter. Motionless, he pleads, out loud, for his wish to get home so he can fix all of this. Slowly, eventually, the flashing lights recede, their passage marked by the sound of snow crunched under tires, and Walt breathes again. Then, he looks up to the sun visor, gradually pulling it down with the screwdriver. Almost as if his prayers were answered, the keys fall into his waiting hand. Vince Gilligan commonly referred to the second season finale as proof of a moral, abiding force in the Breaking Bad universe, punishing Walt for his hubris and for his greed by "raining hellfire" down on his house. You can read this key ex machina however you want, all that matters is the facts. Walt found some keys in an unlocked car. A song called "El Paso" started playing. Even if you find it incredibly silly and coincidental that this would happen, even if you don't believe in some sort of moral, guiding force in this or any other universe, it doesn't matter. Walt does. And now he's going home. To fix things, just as he always said he wanted to.

Back in the Land of Enchantment, Walt pulls up to a gas station. It still looks the same. He doesn't. Popping open his trunk, filled with all the money I presume he got from his barrel, he rifles through a duffle bag, grabs a nearly empty bottle of pills and downs a couple. Then, at the other last payphone in the world, he makes a call, pretending to be from the New York Times, asking who I presume is Gretchen and Elliott Schwartzs' PR rep to schedule a proper photo op and interview. Deftly probing if they still live in the same place, Walt gets his information, says his goodbyes, and takes the watch Jesse bought him a year before off and sets it down. At this point, I'm a little stunned that all those doofy predictions about Walt up and deciding to kill his oldest friends and rivals because he saw them on television are coming true, and sure enough, the next scene picks up with Gretchen and Elliott arriving home, waltzing through their front lawn and politely arguing about pizza and Thai food, unaware of the lurking shadow waiting for them. As they walk inside another set of doors, Gretchen re-arms their security system, while Walt surreptitiously closes the front doors behind them. As they continue to discuss their shared erudite liberal existences off screen, Walt waltzes inside, silently appraising their home and inspecting their photographs. They cannot see him yet. He is a ghost, returned from their shared past, but they cannot see him yet. He waits. Patience is not one of Heisenberg's calling cards, but this is not Heisenberg. So he waits.

Eventually, Gretchen wanders out into the foyer and shrieks when she sees him. Elliott runs out to her defense. "Hello Gretchen, " Walt says, greeting her before curtly acknowledging Elliott. "I really like your new house," he says, in a not-entirely sinister tone. They ask what he's doing here, and he responds that he saw them on Charlie Rose. "You looked great," he adds to Gretchen. They both begin stammering out some sort of defense in case he's there to hurt them. "Actually, I'm here to give you something," he says, offering that the three of them walk to it since he couldn't get it past their gate. Understandably shaken, Elliott levels the knife he had been holding while Gretchen hides behind him. Walt is not amused. Adopting his best Mike Ehrmantraut, he tells his best friend that if they're going to go that way, he's going to need a bigger knife. Elliott drops it.

After the break, the three of them return with the last handfuls of money, which Walt explains is $9,720,000. Gretchen demands to know where it came from and why it's there, to which Walt explains that he earned it, and that they're going to give it to his son on his 18th birthday. Gretchen asks why he doesn't just give this money to his son himself. "My wife and son hate me. They won't take my money" he responds, again with the hindsight of a man past due. His children are his victims, just like the people undergoing meth rehab are that Gretchen and Elliott so recently wrote a $28 million check to. Let us not think this is Walter White getting his wings, however. As soon as he lays out the plan, he forbids Gretchen and Elliott from spending a single dime of their own money on this. "They use my money. Never yours." he spits, suggestiung that they shake on it and he leaves. After a couple stilted handshakes, not unlike the disgusted handshake Walt offered up to Uncle Jack so long ago, he turns to leave, but not before asking if he can trust them. Elliott immediately responds yes. Gretchen says nothing. Turning to face the entirely windowed side of the room, Walt gestures flatly, and two laser points appear, one on the chest of each Schwartz. Walt tells them not to move. He tells them that he took $200,000 from his pile and hired the "two best hitmen west of the Mississippi" to keep tabs on Gretchen and Elliott in case it turns out he can't trust them. He tells them that if his children don't get his money, that eventually, when they least expect it, death will come for them. "Darkness," he says, before grabbing each Schwartz by the shoulder and telling them to cheer up. "This is where you get to make it right," he says, the first and only vague reference he makes to the grave, unanswered wrongs he blames them for. Then he leaves. Walt pulls his car to the side of the road and flashes his lights a few times, code for two masked men to stumble out of the wilderness and get into his car. His masked assassins, who are of course Badger and Skinny Pete, the only two people left in New Mexico he knows don't know enough about him to take a job offer. They don't feel great about what they did, "you know, morality wise." Walter pays them to change their feelings, and asks about the Blue Meth still on the market. Confused, Badger and Pete say that they thought it was him. Walt pauses, and utters one word: "Jesse." As Badger and Pete argue over Pete hearing a rumor that Jesse moved to Alaska, Walt peels out and leaves, taking them all back to the ABQ.

After the break, we pick up on a scene Breaking Bad is not known for: an idyllic fairy tale where a clean, serene and peaceful Jesse Pinkman works on a box in a musty, sepia toned studio. This is the same box he talked about in therapy during Season 3's "Kafkaesque," when asked if he'd ever really given his all on anything. He related a story of his shop teaching calmly asking if what the did was "all he had," and responded by putting full effort into what he described as a beautiful tinder box. He smells his priceless creation, and turns to walk away, when the scene abruptly shifts to Jesse in Jack's hangar lab, carrying a different sort of box and chained to the ceiling. He looks scarred and haggard. His hair is too long and his eyes are almost entirely devoid of life. Totally Kafkaesque.

Now, we are finally caught up with the two flash-forwards that started the two halves of this final season. On the morning of Walt's 52nd birthday, he goes into a Dennys and buys an M-60 in the parking lot. Then he sneaks into his house and grabs the fabled ricin capsule, prepared so long ago for Gustavo Fring. We know all this, and there's no reason to go over it again. So we don't. The two scenes whisk by in highlight form, and then we're in the desiccated remains of the White's living room again, where Walt pauses in front of where his television used to be, and remembers Hank telling him that he needs to get a little excitement in his life. "Someday," the neutered shell of Walter White responded. That day has long since come and gone. Walt closes his front door. Without skipping a beat, we pick up behind Lydia as she walks to her favorite table and sits in her favorite seat at her favorite cafe to plan drug deals at. She grabs her favorite packet of Stevia and doesn't notice the disheveled man on the other side of the room. Todd walks in, sits down, and begins complimenting Lydia on her shirt. Walt strides up behind them, grabs a chair, and sits down, begging them for two minutes of their time. He begins a spiel about a new cooking method he has devised, that requires no methylamine. He needs the money, he begs, having spent all of his trying to stay ahead of the police. Lydia inquires how much it would cost. "Nothing short of a million," Walt responds. Lydia says that Jack should hear this. Walt agrees. The waiter arrives and asks what Todd and Walt will have. Lydia insists that Walt was just leaving. So he does, dejectedly. It seems as though he's been defeated. After he leaves, Lydia flatly states that there's no way they're doing business with him, insinuating that they need to kill him. "We'd be doing him a favor," Lydia muses, pouring another packet of Stevia into her tea. The camera lingers a little too long on it, though, and suddenly we remember another white powder Walter White seems to be so fond of, and we know who the ricin was for. Walter White remains a ghost and a whisper. People move in patterns, and Lydia knows Heisenberg as a man of action and fear, and man who cannot resist standing tall and bellowing out his victories. Lydia doesn't know better. Walter White does. And so, he again moves unseen into the periphery, unseen on the edges of life while his foes are looking for him in all the wrong places.

Out in the desert after the break, Walter White puts the finishing touches on the motorized winch he has built and wired to go off when he clicks the starter on his new car. As he leans in to inspect the apparatus as he puts it through its paces for the first time, his ring, still tied to a string around his neck, dangles free. He stops and grasps it, thinking of Skyler. So we cut to her new condo, with those old drawings of Ms. Lambert and her son on the wall, Walter no where to be found. Skyler's answering machine goes off. It's Marie, with "news about Walt." Skyler answers, and Marie tells her that Walt's in town. The widowed Mrs. Schrader, her house seemingly surrounded by DEA agents, tells her sister that the authorities found the car he stole in New Hampshire, and that her old next door neighbor ("what's her name, Becky?") saw him this morning. People have been calling in threats, to, as Marie perhaps correctly surmises, spread the police thin (I'm not unconvinced Walt wouldn't have had Badger and/or Pete do this). Marie reasons that there are agents watching her place, Flynn's high school, and probably Skyler's condo, the three places she assumes Walt would go. "There is no way Walt's getting to you," she states, before calling Walt an asshole and saying that he's not as smart as he thinks he is. They say their goodbyes and Marie wishes her sister well, before Skyler hangs up and puts out her cigarette. "Five minutes," she says, seemingly to herself, before the camera pulls in a little and reveals Walt in her kitchen, previously obscured by a well-placed pillar. Once again, he appears as if from nowhere. "You look terrible," she mutters. "Yeah," Walt agrees, somberly, before adding "but I feel good." Walt says that he needed a better goodbye than their last conversation, before admitting to Skyler that he's not going to the police. They're coming to him. Skyler asks if him being in custody will stop the men who threatened her and the children from coming back. "They're not coming back. Not after tonight," he says. Skyler asks what's going to happen tonight, and he doesn't respond. He takes a step forward, and Skyler insists that they don't want his money. Walt says that he doesn't have any to give, before pulling out the old, crumpled lottery ticket. He tells her that the numbers are coordinates, and that she should call the DEA and tell them that those coordinates are where they'll find Hank and Gomez' bodies. Skyler begins to weep, and Walt briefly reverts to his old persona, saying that that's where the men who stole his money killed Hank and Gomez and buried them. Walt wants her to trade this knowledge for a deal (a deal I'm sure would tell him probably wouldn't come). "All the things that I did," he begins, his old spiel long since defunct, before Skyler cuts him off. "I did it for me," he says. He was good at it, and he was...alive (echoing his own words in the Pilot to Jesse, that he was "awake"). He isn't that anymore. Skyler nods, seemingly relieved to hear him finally admit to his oldest lie, before saying that their son will be home soon. Walt asks to see Holly before he leaves. He rubs her head lovingly, before sharing one last look with his wife and leaving. Walt steals one last look at his actual son, arriving home from school under the watchful eye of the DEA, before leaving, fading out of focus like a wraith, dispelled from the mortal plane. The specter of Heisenberg is at least removed from the hearts of his family.

We return from the final break to Walt pulling up at the gates of Jack's compound, where Kenny strides out to greet him. Kenny appreciates Walt's car, then steps inside, directing Walt to park at the clubhouse. As they pull in, Walt purposefully misunderstands Kenny's directions, parking perpendicularly to the clubhouse instead of directly in front of it. The camera lingers on his remote starter as he and Kenny step out of the car, and Jack's man frisks him, taking his keys and his wallet. Kenny insists they check him for a wire, which they do. Satisfied, they bring him inside, leaving a man outside to watch. When Walt walks in, Jack marvels at his hair, asking if it's real and if Walt shaved before, to which Walt gives perfunctory yes and no answers, while never taking his eye of his discarded keys, laying behind Jack on a pool table. Walt begins trying to walk through his new plan, but Jack isn't buying it. He asks Todd to explain it to Jack, and Todd merely says that he never should have come back, and apologizes. Kenny aims a pistol at Walt's head and asks Jack if this is where he wants to do it. Jack tells them to take it out back and Walt snaps and says that Jack owes him. "For what," he responds incredulously, to which Walt replies that he owed him Jesse Pinkman and that, since they're still cooking, he knows Jesse and Jack are partners. That word, partners, catches Jack's attention and he calls his men off for a minute, determined to prove to Walt that while Jesse might be alive, they are in no way partners. Todd leaves, and soon after returns, marching Jesse to the clubhouse. Walt has managed to position himself where Jack once stood, back to the pool table, where he slowly, without being noticed, manages to grab his keys. Jesse is brought it and Jack urges Walt to look at him to see what sort of "partner" he really is. Walt steps forward, and they lock eyes, Jesse for the first time this having some sort of light in his eyes. Walt rolls the remote starter around in his hand, contemplating killing Jesse with the rest of them when he triggers his trap. Jack, continually mocking Jesse, asks them to hurry it up and make it quick. Walt obliges, tackling Jesse off screen while Kenny starts to raise up the massage chair he's been dicking around with this entire scene. The crew laughs at what they assume if another fight between White and Pinkman, and Jack tells Todd to pull them apart. He leans down to floor level to do so, and that's when Walt spring his trap. His car beeps, the trunk opens, and the M-60 he bought starts firing, chest level, through the walls of the clubhouse, ripping apart the man standing guard and everyone standing at all inside, including Kenny, who takes a round to the forehead for his trouble. Todd scrambles for cover as the bullets keep flying. Walt holds Jesse down, grunting as glass rains down around them. Jack's crew is wasted, and eventually, the bullets stop. The gun mechanism continues spinning. The clubhouse is now deathly quiet. Walt rolls himself off Jesse, while Todd scrambles to the window to see where the bullets came from. He begins to ask Mr. White a question, but is interrupted by Jesse's chains around his neck. They tumble back, bouncing off a table and onto the floor, where Walter stoically watches Jesse choke the life out of his primary tormentor without interfering. As this is happening, Jack begins to stir. Walt slowly, agonizingly leans down to grab a pistol. Meanwhile, Todd's neck breaks with a disturbingly satisfying snap. Jesse has choked the life out of him. Jesse finds Todd's keys and unlocks his cuffs and Walt advances on a slowly moving Jack, who props himself up. Walt raises the gun, and Jack puts up his hand in defense, asking him to wait. Walt, perhaps giving him the same courtesy at gunpoint he himself just received, does so. "You want your money, right?" Jack coughs, putting a cigarette between his lips. "You pull that trigger, you're never gon-" Jack starts, before Walt interrupts him with a bullet, definitely showing Jack the same courtesy at gunpoint Jack showed Hank in the desert.

Walt turns to see Jesse, risen from bondage and pacing nervously. Walt leans down, puts the gun on the floor, and slides it to Jesse, who picks it up and points it at Walt. "Do it," Walt says vacantly, having vanquished his foes and achieved his purpose. "You want this, " Walt urges, to which explodes, much like he did when Walt suggested he move to Alaska. He wants Walt to say that he, himself, wants this, and that nothing's going to happen until Jesse hears him say those words. Walt acquiesces, and Jesse glances down at Mr. White's stomach, a large patch of blood showing and growing through his clothes. He took a bullet in the chaos. Pausing, Jesse reflects for a moment, then casually drops the gun and tells Walt to do it himself. He said before that he's done doing what Walter White wants him to, and he means. He won't be manipulated anymore, even if it's to do the one thing he's wanted to do for half of this season. Jesse turns and leaves, and Todd's cell phone goes off. Walt scoops it up and answers. It's Lydia, looking sick as death, asking if "it's done." "He's gone. They're all gone," Walt says, slowly following Jesse outside. Confused by the voice she hears, Lydia asks who this is, to which Walt tells her. "How are you feeling?" he mockingly asks, wondering if she's feeling under the weather. "That would be the ricin I gave you," he says, before she can respond, revealing that he slipped it into her Stevia. Walt bids her goodbye and hangs up. Lydia is nothing if not a creature of routine, a fact which Walt used to her detriment and to his gain. Of course she would assume he wanted more money, and of course Jack assumed he was a nebbishy, unthreatening nothing. All Jack had ever seen of Heisenberg the schemer was a strange man staring at a hotel painting and ordering ten hits without ever getting his hands dirty. When Gretchen and Elliott reluctantly shook his hand earlier, they did so like they were disgusted to even be breathing the same air as him. Walt did the same thing when made a deal with Jack, but now, Walt understands that you can't succeed in his line of work without getting your hands dirty. This entire series, he'd been trying (and failing miserably) to extricate himself from the seedier, dirtier sides of what it is he did, leaving it to Jesse or Mike or Jack and his men. This is the new Walt. The post-Heisenberg Walt. He lives in the shadows. In the muck, and he has no qualms about killing.

Before Jesse leaves, he turns to look at Walt one last time, this time completely obscured in shadow. They stare at one another wordlessly, and Walt slowly, almost imperceptibly nods at him. The last time he nodded at Jesse, it was to give his consent to selling Jesse into torture and bondage at Jack and Todd's hands. This time, it's as something of a tacit approval to run, and to live. So Jesse runs. Flying out of the compound in Kenny's car, he blasts through the gates that had stopped his last escape attempt and speeds off into the night. The last image we see of Jesse Pinkman is him crying, then laughing, then screaming. Some have criticized this all as being too neat an ending, and maybe it is, but nothing about Jesse's life will ever be neat again. He'll carry the scar tissue from his two year tutelage with the Great Heisenberg for the rest of his days, wherever they take him. Maybe he'll finally get to Alaska and be one of those Ice Road Truckers he likes so much.

This leaves us with Walt. After he watches Jesse go, he slowly opens his jacket, wincing at the bloody wound now spilling out of his abdomen. Gingerly, he limps towards the hangar/lab. Striding around, he takes a look at Todd and Jack's setup, admiring the giant chemistry set he created. His legacy. As police sirens echo around behind him, he stops, and as Badfinger's "Baby Blue" begins, he lovingly cradles a gas mask, not unlike the ones he and Jesse used and left in the To'hajilee desert so long ago. Limping away again as police cruisers become visible in the distance, he brings himself in front of a giant mixing tub, patting it tenderly, a small smile crossing his face. Through the reflection on the tub, we see Walt collapse. His hand leaves behind a streak of blood. The camera focuses on Walt's face, life already gone from his eyes, and begins to pan up just like it did in Crawl Space, when he cackled the last bits of his soul into the nothing and emerged as a new sort of monster, ready to duel with Gus Fring and build an empire. The camera continues panning, up and up into the rafters. The police move in, guns at the ready, ready to apprehend Walter White. But Walter White is gone, and in the end, he respected the chemistry.

Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Respect the Chemistry: A Breaking Bad Recap, Episode 61- Granite State

"Whatever he became...the sweet, kind, brilliant man that we once knew, long ago...he's gone."- Gretchen Schwartz

We pick up at Saul's vacuum repair guy's store. He pulls his van up, gets out, unlocks his garage, and reveals himself to be...character actor Robert Forster (of Jackie Brown fame). His character is apparently named Ed, so that's what I'll refer to him as for the duration. Anyways, Ed pulls his van into his shop, opens the door, and tells his passenger that they can come out. Saul Goodman removes a few suitcases from the van and steps out. Saul bemusedly comments that he can't believe that Ed actually runs a vacuum repair store, obviously thinking it a clever euphemism. Ed asks him to step up to a blue screen, where he takes a picture for Saul's new Nebraska ID. Ed explains to Saul that since he hasn't had time to set up his new life, Saul will have to stay in the basement for a few days. Ed explains that, unfortunately, Saul will have a bunkmate, whom Saul of course knows is Walt. Saul asks how his former client is holding up. "You be the judge," Ed states flatly, revealing a television with a live feed of Walt, stalking around a small basement room.

Back from the break, we join a shell-shocked Marie, being driven home by a DEA agent, who tells her that they're going to find Hank and Gomez. That they're out there, somewhere. Before he can say anything else, his subordinate gets his attention, revealing a trashed and ransacked Schrader home. The agent orders the driver to call it in and get Marie out of there, and makes his way inside. With a voiceover from Jesse Pinkman's confession, they find nothing but a destroyed camera missing an SD card. We join Jesse's voiceover to see Uncle Jack and his goons watching Jesse's tape and mocking the tears he shed during its recording. Kenny is less amused, having apparently seen it before. He fast forwards to Jesse's recitation of the Drew Sharp murder, and Todd gets visibly nervous. After he recounts Todd's (whose last name is apparently Hellquist) "Opie, dead eye" murder, Jack heads off to kill him. Todd heads him off and asks him not to kill Jesse for "ratting him out", reasoning that they can still get a few cooks out of him. Jack is nonplussed, but eventually falls in the face of Todd's "why not make more" logic. Jack assumes correctly that Todd is doing this for "that Lydia woman," which elicits some more jokes from the crew. "The heart wants what the heart wants," Jack reasons, again coming across very Charlie Manson-like. As they trod off to watch more of Jesse's tape, Jesse himself stares at the picture of Brock and Andrea, eventually grabbing the paper clip from it and fashioning it into a lockpick.

Back at Ed's shop, Saul watches as Walt scribbles frantically on a notepad. Walt asks Saul to make himself useful and give him a list of hitmen, to which Saul is predictably curious. Walt tells him their target is Jack Welker and his crew, to which Saul is apprehensive. He gives Walt some advice: not to leave town. That he's essentially leaving Skyler high and dry, and that without him around, the feds are going to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law. Walter reasons that his charade at the end of "Ozymandias" is enough to recuse her from blame, but Saul presses on, nailing home the fact that Skyler will almost certainly be RICO'd and all their assets will be frozen. There's almost no way for Walt to get the $11 million Jack left him to his family (after all, if Mike couldn't do it, Walt certainly can't). If Walt stays in the ABQ and faces the music, the feds might go easier on Skyler. Walt angrily states that what he does, he does for his family, and that his family is going to get all of his money. Every last penny. As Ed walks in and tells Saul he's good to go, Walt demands that Saul come with him. Saul is understandably not with this plan, and when Walt states that he's still a part of this, Saul flatly denies. Walt starts to posture up, backing Saul to the wall and reminding him that it's not over until he says it is. Before he can deliver his threat, he starts a coughing fit, falling down on his bed and looking as pathetic as he ever has. "It's over," Saul states flatly, grabbing his bags and leaving without another word.

Back from the break, Skyler gets a thousand yard stare of her own, this on taking place in an office, where she is being accosted by the authorities. She's reasons that they will do everything they can to come after her and the children unless she gives them Walt, but she doesn't have any idea where he is. Very quickly cutting to a night scene outside the White's house, which is under constant surveillance, we see Skyler solemnly smoking on the couch, when Holly's gentle cry arouses her. She goes to check on her baby, only to be accosted by Todd and some of Jack's men in balaclavas. Todd politely asks if anyone else is home, to which Skyler shakes her head no. He asks if when her captor removes his hand, she'll scream, to which Skyler shakes her head no. When released, she says that Flynn is at a friend's house. Todd cuts her off, telling her that he's got a lot of respect for her husband. They know she's been talking to the police, and they're fine with that. He wants to know if she's said anything about Lydia, the woman who came into the car wash. She says no. She swears not to say anything about her, ever. Todd accepts this and leaves, but not before threatening baby Holly if Skyler ever changes her mind. We cut again to Todd, dressed in his Sunday best, waiting to meet his black haired woman in the same diner she used to meet with Heisenberg in. She sits at the table behind him, and when he moves to get up, she objects. Of course Todd blindly accepts the rules Mike Ehrmantraut found so hilarious and paranoid. Jesse gives a report on his mission to the White's house, which "went really good." Lydia is not convinced, despite Todd's assurances, and Lydia tells him that they're going to have to take a break. Todd has product ready to go. 92% pure product. Lydia is confused, and Todd reveals that they've got Jesse. The authorities won't find him. "I just think we work together...good," Todd awkwardly blurts out, now staring directly at Lydia and picking some lint off her jacket.

Cut to a panel of light illuminating a dark barrel of some kind, which Walter White rolls out of, into the blinding, snow covered oasis that is New Hampshire. Ed addresses him as Mr. Lambert and welcomes him to his new home, a tiny shack in the middle of nowhere. After a short break, Mr. Lambert gets a full tour of the facilities, which is stocked with a month's worth of food, a generator that should last the winter, a woodburner, which Walt can cook on, and a small TV with bad reception, and some DVDs (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium). Ed tells him if there's anything else he needs, to put in on a list, which he'll pick up when he stops by with supplies in a month's time. Walter scoffs, but Ed relates to him the dangers involved by him still keeping up contact, and just how risky this is. There's no phone, internet, satellite, car, or news source of any real kind. Walt says that he has business to conduct, to which Ed states that his business is keeping Walt, now the subject of a nation-wide manhunt, out of custody. Walt asks what's keeping him from walking out the gate, to which Ed freely admits: nothing. There's a small town eight miles away. Ed reiterates that if Walt leaves, he will sever all contact, and Walt will be on his own. Ed gets in his truck and leaves, but not before impressing upon Walt how beautiful the scenery is, and how he might find some solace here, but Walt isn't listening. Almost immediately, he begins removing handfulls of bills from his barrel in preparation for his trek. Eventually, he stops in front of one of his emptied bags, and removes his signature hat. The Heisenberg theme begins in earnest, and the camera cuts to a close up, behind the head view of Walt donning his superhero armor. As he opens the gate and stares down the long, virgin snowed path ahead of him, he has second thoughts. "Tomorrow," he says to himself as he closes the gate.

Back in Jesse's hellhole, he's stacked up everything he can in an attempt to reach the gate. He hears voices, and leaps down, covering his tracks. Todd approaches, removes the tarp, and begins lowering a bucket of Ben and Jerry's, his version of payment for the great batch of meth Jesse cooked up. This one was 96% pure. They sit in silence for a few moments, and when Todd goes to leave, Jesse asks if he can leave the tarp off for the night. "I just want to see the stars," Jesse says in the saddest voice he can muster, and Todd relents. Once Todd leaves, Jesse goes to work, unlocked his cuffs, stacking his escape tower, and stretching with everything he has in an attempt to reach his freedom. After a few tense moments, he musters a mighty vertical leap and grabs ahold of the bars, hanging with one hand for a few seconds. Summoning up everything he has, he inches his way over towards the gate, managing to unlock the bolt after a few tries. Sprinting for his freedom, he fails to notice a camera mounted on one of the corners of the hangar, and when he tries climbing the barbed wire fence, Jack's goons arrive from behind. Defeated, Jesse yells at them to do it, because there's no way he's doing another cook for them. We cut to Todd stalking his way down a darkened street, ringing poor Andrea's door and telling her that he's a friend of Jesse's. Andrea, her interest piqued, asks if Jesse is ok, to which Todd responds that he brought Jesse with him. Todd points out the creepy, unmarked van Jesse is currently gagged and screaming in, and Todd, after checking to see if Brock can see him, pulls out a pistol, tells Andrea it isn't personal, and shoots her in the back of the head. Jesse's world goes numb, and after Jack calms him down, he reminds Jesse that "there's still the kid."

Somehow, we come back from the break to a fully bearded Walter White, staring down the same virgin snow, waiting for Ed to arrive. There have been many tomorrows without an attempt to leave. Walt has a full head of hair, now. They head inside, and Walt begins voraciously reading the Albuquerque news. He can barely read it, so Ed provides a pack of various reading glasses. While he tries them on, Walt asks what's become of Skyler. Ed relays that while there's no court date yet, her public defender has been on TV looking like a deer in the headlights. She's been doing taxi dispatch under her maiden name. Their old house has a fence around it, due to the neighbors' complaints about local kids using it as a tourist attraction. Ed sets up Walt's treatment, saying that it should go better than last time, since he's watched a couple of youtube videos on how to find a vein. Ed gets up to leave, and Walt asks him to stay a little longer, desperate for human contact. He asks for two hours, saying that he'll pay another $10,000. Ed agrees, but only for one hour. He grabs a pack of cards and starts to shuffle. "One of these days, when you come up here, I'll be dead," Walt says, matter of factly, asking if Ed will give the money that's left to Skyler after that happens. "If I said yes, would you believe me?" Ed responds, essentially asking if Walter is willing to lie to himself, the one thing he's done since the day this show started. Walter doesn't respond, and when Ed asks if he wants to cut the deck, he declines. So begins the saddest seven-card stud game in recorded history. Later that night, Walt is stirred awake by a coughing fit. His wedding ring slides off his finger due to the weight loss. He gets up, grabs the rings, and fashions himself into a regular Frodo Baggins with a piece of string. Grabbing the box of Ensure Ed brought for him, he packs it full of money and goes to leave the next morning. Upon reaching the gate, he sees that thehe snow is no longer virgin, having been tread the previous day by Ed's tires. And so Walter White trudges off into the wilderness, determined to leave at least something for his family. That's what this all was for, right?

Suddenly, we're at Flynn's high school, where his name is called over the PA and Principal Carmen, returning gloriously from three seasons in exile, tells him that his Aunt Marie has a very important message from him. On the other end, an unknown woman in a bar tells him to hold on sec, taking some money from Walt, who greets his son and begs him not to hand up or tell anyone. Confused, Flynn agrees. Walt tries to stammer out some sort of apology, saying that he never intended for the thing that happened to happen. Flynn listens, dutifully, and Walt asks him if his friend Louis still lives at the same address. Flynn says yes, and Walt tells him that he's sending Louis a package of $100,000, and that it's for him and his mother and Holly. Breaking down into tears, Walt tells him that he wanted to give them so much more, but this is all he can do. Flynn pauses, and immediately rips into his father, accusing him of killing Hank, calling him an asshole for doing what he did to Skyler. "I don't want anything from you," Flynn roars over Walt's protestations, saying he doesn't give a shit about Walt anymore. Walt pleads with his son to listen, and Flynn asks why he's still alive, why he won't just die already. Flynn hangs up. Walt pauses for a moment, and then inserts a few more coins. He makes another call, this one to the Albuquerque DEA. He asks to speak to the agent in charge of the Walter White case. When asked who is calling, he simply responds "Walter White," essentially giving himself up. He then drops the phone ,walks to the bar and orders a drink.

As he sips what seems to be his last drink as a free man, the bartender begins flipping through stations on the television. Walt's eyes light up as a man's voice talks about science being first. He asks the bartender to go back, eventually landing on the Charlie Rose show, where Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz emerge from the first season and back into the forefront of Walt's mind. Charlie Rose accuses their recent spree of donations to drug abuse treatments centers in the southwest as some sort of publicity recompense for their past association with Walter White. Elliott is glad that this topic was brought up, stating that investing public needs to know that Walter White had "virtually nothing to do with the creation of the company," which perks Walt's disbelief. When Rose asks what, if anything, was Walt's contribution, Gretchen steps in an relays the story of Gray Matter Technologies' name, relaying the old story Walt and Elliott regaled all his rich friends with back in Season 1. "As far as I'm concerned, his contribution begins and ends right there," Elliott states, and Walt clenches his fist. Charlie Rose states that the blue meth is still being encountered, with some reports coming from Europe. He asks, flatly, if Walter White still out there. "No, he's not," Gretchen answers, saying that she can't speak to the Heisenberg persona (which she can, being one of the first people to witness it in action), saying that the brilliant man they once knew is gone, and has been gone for a long time.

Long ago, back when his cancer was his primary threat and his family was his primary concern, the dark depths of Walt's ego, of Heisenberg, was stoked by a perceived slight from Gretchen and Elliot. Now, nearly two years later, when cancer is his only threat and his family wants nothing to do with him, another slight from the two biggest ghosts of Walt's past stoke that same fire into a quiet inferno. As Gretchen continues to talk about the death of Walter White, the show's theme song creeps into the background, for the first time playing in full during something other than the credits. Walt furrows his brow in rage. A squad of sheriffs arrive, guns drawn, no doubt called in by the DEA. They bust into the bar, demanding everyone inside surrender. They pass where Walt sat, at the bar. Only a half empty glass and a tip remain. Walt is gone. Heisenberg is all that's left, and he's no quite done yet. He's got to see a man in a Denny's about an M-60. Some have posited that Walt's targets will be Gretchen and Elliott, but I don't think so. He's still going to after Jack and his crew, but not to protect his family. He's going to back to make sure that everyone knows who he is. That Heisenberg isn't just a name to whisper out of shadows, a cautionary tale to tell your kids. He's going back so that everyone, from Elliott Schwartz to Jack Welker, from Saul Goodman to Carol the neighbor remembers his name.

One more. We've come so far. What's one more?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Respect the Chemistry: A Breaking Bad Recap, Episode 60- Ozymandias

"I warned you for a solid year: you cross me, there will be consequences."- Walter White

We open with a meth cook in an RV. Walter and Jesse are there, different than they are now. They don't look quite right. Was Walt's hairline really that far up (probably not, but the wig doesn't detract. It actually makes everything more surreal). After what we've been through the last few weeks, it's hard to tell if this is a welcome retreat or a terrifying one. This is their first cook. Jesse asks Walt what's next. Walt begins to teach him chemistry. Jesse lights up a cigarette and Walt scolds him. Everything is as it was back when things weren't so insane. Walt begins to go over what he'll say to Skyler as he dresses himself. He leaves his pants behind and calls Skyler. She picks up the phone while wrapping a package at the island in the White's kitchen, next to the knives. He gives her his spiel. She believes him, because she has no reason not to. She asks him to bring back some pizza and regales him with her tales of eBay profits. Then she asks him about Holly as a name for the baby. "It's a frontrunner for sure," he admits. They make plans for "family time" that weekend and he hangs up with a little smile on his face. Slowly, he fades out of screen. Then Jesse, then the RV.

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

We cut to the same shot, of the same desert, gunfire ringing out all around. We can't see anything. After the last echo rings out across the barren desert, Jack and Hank's cars fade into view. Hank and Gomey's last stand is done. Jack and his crew wait, guns at the ready. Hank clutches a bleeding leg. His gun is spent. Gomez lies motionless in the dust. Hank stars crawling towards Gomey's shotgun. Jack reaches it first. Todd checks out Walt's car and reports that he can't find Jesse Pinkman. Jack sends a couple guys to look for him down in the gully. Kenny checks Gomez's corpse and reports that they are, in fact, DEA. Jack cocks his pistol and Walt springs into action, pounding on the shattered window. One of his men lets him out, where he immediately starts begging him not to kill Hank. Walt insists that he's family, and Jack wonders why this particular familial bond was never brought up. Walt says that they weren't supposed to be here. Jack asserts that it doesn't matter now, and that he wants to know what went on. Walt tells him that it's between the two of them. Jack asks if the cavalry is coming. Walt says no. Hank says yes. Walt begins pleading with Hank, telling him that while nothing can change what happened, he can still walk out of here alive. Neither Jack or Hank seem to think much of that idea, and Walt busts out the big guns. He tells Jack that there are 80 million dollars buried in this desert, which certainly gives Jack pause. Walt tries to sell Jack on what he can do with that much money, and all he has to do is let Hank go. "What do you think, fed? Would you take that deal?" he quips to his captive, to which Walt adamantly states that his name is Hank. "My name is ASAC Schrader," Hank snarls. "And you can go fuck yourself." Walt again pleads with Hank to work this out. Hank, not yet defeated, scoffs at the idea. "You're the smartest guy I've ever met, and you're too stupid to see: he made up his mind ten minutes ago." He looks up to Jack, nods, and begins to tell him to do what he's gonna do before he's interrupted by a bullet. Hank always wanted to be a cowboy, and he went out like every cowboy should. One final gunshot echoes through the desert. Walt collapses. 

Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command

As Jack holsters his gun, he remarks at how specific Walt's directions were. He has Kenny use his "fancy phone" to pinpoint the exact location, and they use the shovel Hank and Gomez brought to dig up Walt's treasure. After a bit, they uncover their booty, and Jack allows himself a little smirk. Time passes. The barrels are gone, removed from their hole, and in their place, Gomez and Hank's bodies go, swallowed by the desert sands. Walt looks on, still stunned and handcuffed. As he stirs a bit, he stares under his car, seemingly fixated on something in the darkness. Todd and Jack commiserate, and Jack orders his guys to take one of the barrels off and put in Walt's car. Jack snaps his fingers in Walt's face and tells him they're leaving it for him. Todd uncuffs Walt and stoically apologizes for his loss. Jack explains that since Todd respects his former boss, Jack's willing to let him go with at least some of his money. Walt hesitantly shakes his hand, and as Jack walks away, Walt utters a single word. "Pinkman," he says. "You still owe me Pinkman." Jack agrees and tells Walt that if he can find Pinkman, they'll kill him. "Found him," Walt creaks, as the camera pans in on Jesse, hiding underneath Walt's car. Jack's men pull him out, kicking and screaming, pat him down, and put him on his knees. Jack levels his pistol and asks if Walt is "good to go." Walt nods, and Jesse prepares to die. But not yet. Todd intervenes, explaining that if Jesse was working with the feds, maybe they should check and see what he told them, and that he, himself, could get it out of Jesse. "We've got history," he says ominously. Jack's fine with it, and so is Walt. Jack's man drags Jesse away, and Walt tells him to wait. Leveling himself to face his former protege, Walt tells him the last thing I ever thought he'd say. The thing that he very nearly came to say in the first episode Rian Johnson, the director of this episode, ever participated in. That he watched Jane die. His face is concerned, almost fatherly at first, and as he explains the story, that he was there, and he could have saved her, his face twists into something more animal and terrifying. He's lashing out at Jesse for his role in this, for bringing Hank there to die, and for stepping out of line and not just going away like he was supposed to. The men take Jesse away, and they leave, he stares out of the back window at Walt, who is now alone in the shifting sands.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.

After the break, Walt gets in his car and goes to leave, but not before training his rear-view mirror on the spot where Hank, Gomez, and all his hopes of getting out of this peacefully now lie. He starts his car and pulls away. Soon after, his car starts acting up and beeping. It's out of gas. He parks, gets out, and checks underneath. Fuel is dripping. There's a bullethole in the gas tank. Looking around, with no one in sight, Walt makes a decision. He's not about to leave this money behind. Cut to Walt keeled over his barrel, the last evidence of his glorious empire, rolling and rolling and rolling it like Sisyphus through the same desert where the empire was born. Sure enough, almost as if on cue, he passes a discarded pair of khakis. No particular attention is brought to them, but they're almost certainly the same pair he never put on in the pilot, the same pair from the very first image of the show. Soon after, we cut to a frontal shot of an old Indian man, watching Walt roll his barrel up to the edge of a fence. Walt says hello. The old man responds in kind. Walt asks if the pickup truck belongs to him, and then asks if he can buy it. The man responds that it's not for sale, and Walt pulls out a stack of bills.

I met a traveler in an antique land 
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert

At the carwash, Skyler calls Walt's phone while Marie walks in and says hello to her nephew, who's working the counter. Marie wants to talk. In Skyler's office, Marie tells her sister that Hank arrested Walt three hours ago, with the help of Jesse Pinkman. Marie doesn't know if she can ever trust Skyler again, but she remembers how upset Skyler was, and that "whatever he did to you can be undone." She asserts that they are still sisters, and that she'll support her, with conditions. First, that Skyler give her every single copy of the video she and Walt made. Skyler agrees. Second, that she tells Walt Jr everything. Skyler refuses, but Marie pushes on. "He needs to know, and he needs to know," she demands, pushing her advantage and doing the first decent thing anyone's done in this entire episode. Suddenly, we cut to concrete hole in the ground, where Jesse Pinkman lays battered, bloody, and chained. He hears footsteps coming and starts scrambling for somewhere to hide. A ladder is lowered down. Jesse starts pleading. He gave them what they wanted. "I told you where to find the tape," he says, trying to defend himself from blows that never come. Instead, Todd pulls him up the ladder and drags him to the cook warehouse. He pulls a lock, hanging from the ceiling over and latches it to the chain around Jesse's torso. Then he unlocks one of Jesse's cuffs and walks away. Jesse, stunned, starts wandering around, before the lock he's attached to catches on the dog run it's connected to on the ceiling. Pulling his prison with him, Jesse makes his way to a post at the other side of the makeshift lab, where a picture has been clipped. A picture of Brock and Andrea. The rabid dog has been chained. Todd emerges from the shadows, donning a hazmat suit. "Let's cook," he says, almost amused. Todd really is a sociopath. 

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things

After the break, we return to the carwash, where Flynn is not taking the news we've been waiting two seasons for him to hear as well as his mother would have hoped. First he accuses them of lying, then he asks what might be the most mature and pertinent question anyone on this show could have asked: why did you go along with it? "I'll be asking myself that for the rest of my life," Skyler responds, tearfully. He calls her a liar, and when Marie tells him to calm down, he storms out. Marie tells Skyler to go home, and that she'll stop by later. Cutting to the aforementioned home, Walter has arrived and is throwing whatever clothes he can find into whatever suitcases he can find. Cut to Skyler and kids in her car. Walt Junior thinks that if his mother knew about Walt this whole time and did nothing about it, she's as bad as he is. Another astute observation. Skyler and the children arrive, unsure who the strange pickup truck in the driveway belongs to. Before they can wonder, Walt appears, telling them to come inside and pack. As his son insists to know what's going on, Walter demands that they pack whatever is important, and that he'll explain on the way. Skyler asks to know he's here. Hank just wouldn't let him go. Walt begins to stammer an excuse about negotiating his release. When she asks what that means, he says that it means they're fine, but that they need to leave now. They keep asking questions. Skyler demands to know where Hank is. Walt says that he has eleven million dollars, and that they can have a fresh start if they leave right now. "You killed him," she whispers. Walt adamantly denies it, yelling that he tried to save him. Junior is understandably apoplectic, and follows his father down the hall after Walt again demands that they leave now. The camera shifts to the same kitchen island and the same phone Skyler answered in the flashback in the cold open, complete with the same set of knives. She grabs one. As Walter passes her, with Junior still on his heels, she stops her son, and brandishes the knife at Walt, telling him to get out. Walt, exhausted and seemingly not in the mood, approaches her. She swings the knife at him, slicing his hand and stunning him into the first action he's taken all episode. Walt and Skyler begin wrestling over the knife, and Holly starts screaming. Junior begs them to stop. They fall to the floor, and Walt eventually pries the weapon from his wife's hand, pinning her to the ground and staring at her. Before he can do (or not do) anything, his son tackles him from behind and throws her aside, putting himself in front of his mother. Walt scampers to his feet and begins screaming. "We're a family," he bellows, even if he knows that's not the case anymore. Junior pulls his phone out and dials 911, telling them that his father attacked his mother and may have killed someone. Flynn, now Walter White in name only, was the last one. The last person who believed the bullshit that spewed from Walter White's mouth. Throughout the entire series, Flynn always had his dad's back, defending him from his mother's unfair, cold judgement. Five minutes after officially meeting Heisenberg, he turned his back on his dad, showing himself to be twice the man than the man whose name he shares. Flynn tells the dispatcher that his dad's still in the house, and Walt bolts, but not before scooping baby Holly out of her crib. Skyler chases him outside and pounds on his car window as he starts up and backs through her car, out of driveway and down the street, and all she can do is fall to her knees.

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

Somehow, we come back from the break, where Walt is changing his now hostage daughter. And he coos at her and smiles, she says one word. "Mama." She keeps saying it, and the smile disappears from his face. He knows he can't keep her. Sadly, almost ruefully, he holds her close and rubs her with the hand he's now duct-taped. We cut to the White's living room, where a cadre of police officers are confirming what is now an Amber Alert. Marie is there, shell shocked and muttering about how Hank had him in handcuffs. The phone rings, and as it goes to voicemail, Walt begins droning about how he knows she's there. The police tell her to pick after they begin a trace. She demands to know where Holly is. Walt wants to know if there are any police there. Skyler says no, and again demands to know where Holly is. Suddenly, almost as if on cue, Walt begins snarling about Skyler not being able to do "one thing." At first, I think he's upset about her not doing as he asked and packing their things, which is actually sort of understandable if he really thinks they might be in danger. "This is your fault. This is what comes of your disrespect" he sneers. Skyler, stunned, demands he bring Holly back, but by this point, Walt's in full rant mode. He accuses Skyler of never believing in him, of always whining and complaining about "how he makes his money," while he does everything. After angrily saying that he told her to keep their son in the dark, he calls her a stupid bitch. "How dare you," he mutters, as though he's waiting for a response. The camera cuts to a frontal view of a Walter White much less enraged and haughty than he sounds on the phone. Skyler meekly apologizes, and Walt composes himself, saying she has no right to discuss what he does. He built this, him alone. Nobody else. He warns her to toe the line, or else she'll wind up just like Hank. Walt, fighting back tears, snarls that they're never going to see Hank again. Marie breaks down. "He crossed me," Walt warns, and Skyler composes herself enough to ask for Holly back, for him to come home. "I've still got things left to do," he snaps, hanging up and snapping his phone in two. The longer this scene went on, the more it seemed as though Walt was trying to paint himself as a dangerous psychopath and his family as innocent. Once Skyler told him there weren't any police, he launched into his spiel. Obviously, what he said came from a place of truth, from an entire marriage worth of frustrations, but by this point, I think even Walter White knows who's responsible for Walter White's problems. As he reaches into the pickup and grabs Holly, the camera pans over to show where exactly he is: outside a fire station. Inside the fire station, one of the firefighters points out the lights flashing on one of their trucks. He turns it off, and hears a whine. Holly is in the passenger's seat. Cut to Walt, sitting in the same spot Jesse sat a few episodes ago, waiting for Saul's guy to arrive and take him away. He loads his bags and his money, and the van leaves. A stray dog crosses the street behind them.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Respect the Chemistry: A Breaking Bad Recap, Episode 59- To'hajiilee

"Don't you know me by now?"- Walter White

A day in the life of Todd: watch your puke-colored, milky meth drizzle out in front of your Neo-Nazi uncle and his perpetually-stuck-in-1982-henchman. Get psyched about the marginal increase in quality over the "dude who looked like Wolverine" you just helped murder. Stammer sheepishly when questioned. Say nothing while the bankroll of the operation is failingly assuaged about the quality of your quality. Admit that you "might have just cooked the color right out of it." Let said bankroll, Lydia, know that perhaps you could have your uncle "smoothe things over" with her buyers while you bring her tea. Touch her shoulder and creep her out while doing this. Creepily watch Lydia leave and wipe the residue of her lipstick off with your thumb, also creepily. Answer your cellphone when your awesome ringtone goes off (Lydia obviously blinds Todd with something a little simpler than science, but it works). Listen to Walt anchor this scene in the timeline when he tells you that he has another job for your uncle.

Post intro, we jump in with Hank and Gomez meeting up at an underpass to discuss what's next after their failed scheme with Jesse. Gomey supposes that all they can do now is book Jesse and hope Walt doesn't take him out. Hank retorts that the kid has an idea, and convinces his partner to hear him out. Jesse's plan is to go after the one piece of evidence Walt will never get rid of completely: his money. He doesn't know where Walt's keeping it, but he knows someone who might. Cut again to Hank's house, where Gomez returns talking about an asset he picked up, one who they have in a safehouse without actually filling in the rest of the DEA. Gomez expresses reservations that their as yet un-revealed friend will lawyer up, and Hank assures him that it won't happen, and then opens what appears to be the brain of some animal bought from a meat market, splashes it on his floor, smears it around and tells Jesse that "he's up."

Cut to Huell (whose last name is apparently Babineaux), our newly revealed friend in hiding, being met by Hank and being told he's under protection from Walt, who has gone on a loose-end tightening spree. Hank tells a nervous but still unsure Huell that Saul rolled on him and that Kuby (whose first name is Patrick!) has gone missing and that Jesse Pinkman is already dead, which he proves with a cell phone picture of Jesse with his brains blown out (or Jesse laying next to a pile of brains on Hank's kitchen floor). Huell freaks out and tells them everything he knows, which isn't all that much, aside from the fact that he and Kuby rented a van for Walt, filled it up with his money, and washed it when he brought it back and it was covered with dirt. Hank goes to leave, and a still incredulous Huell asks how long it'll be. "As long as it takes to keep you safe," smirks pretend hero cop Hank, who leaves just as quickly as he came.

Now, we're with Walt, who is meeting with Uncle Jack, Kenny, and Todd to discuss killing Jesse Pinkman. Jack assumes that Jesse has flipped on him, to which Walt flatly denies, saying yet again that Jesse "won't listen to reason," and that he's angry. Jack asks if this isn't something Walter would do himself, to which Mr. White again responds that Jesse is like family. He might have changed his mind about killing Jesse, but he's still vouching for his former protege's character. Walt wants it to be quick and painless, which Jack says he respects, saying that there's "too many savages out there." When Walt asks about a price, Jack laughs and says that their price is for him to cook for them, mainly to help Todd get his feet under him. Walt vehemently denies, and Jack, seeing that he's starting to push the right buttons, pushes harder. Walt relents to one cook, after the job is done. They quickly shake hands, Walt clearly uncomfortable with the caliber of men he's dealing with, still apparently believing that he's morally above working with men like Jack. When Jack asks where to find Mr. Pinkman, Walt doesn't know, but he knows how to find him (paralleling what Jesse said about Walt's money. They know one another too well).

Back from the break, we see, even if we already knew, just how Walt means to draw Jesse out, picking up in Andrea and Brock's kitchen when a knock comes on the door. It's Jesse's friend, Mr. White, here to talk about Jesse! Andrea welcomes him inside. He says hello to Brock, who is either stereotypically uninterested or curiously distant from his surrogate father's surrogate father. Walt tells Andrea that he hasn't heard from Jesse in a while, that Jesse's using, and that he has a bad feeling about it. Saul Goodman was able to verify that Jesse wasn't in prison. He eventually convinces her that since they recently had an argument and to call Jesse (at his new number which Walt conveniently has) to leave a message for him, which she does. Walt thanks her, says his goodbyes and leaves, where two of Jack's men are waiting for Jesse to take the bait.

Thankfully, Hank is still in possession of Jesse's swag Hello Kitty phone, and when he listens to the message, he sees it for what it is (while also using Jesse's "nice try, asshole"). He heads inside to tell Gomez and Jesse his findings at the rental place, which are disappointing. There is no GPS on their cars after it was removed six months before after a suit from the ACLU. While Gomez is ready to give up, Hank is not so sure Walt knows that there was no GPS on his van (I was thinking that this would surely be something he asked about before I remembered that Huell said he and Kuby were the ones who rented it).

After a brief but hilarious interlude with Flynn taking his turn giving everyone an A-1 day and meeting local celebrity Saul Goodman, Walt commiserates with his lawyer about the sudden disappearance of Huell. Saul, bracketed by a giant billboard with his face on it, tells Walt that he thinks Jesse is killing the whole gang, and that Jesse's not as stupid as Walt thinks he is. Walt asserts that it's him Jesse wants. "It's just me, " he says, echoing similar concerns he had with Gus in Season 4. As Walt surveys his A-1 kingdom, he gets a message on his phone, a picture of an uncovered barrel filled with money. A call follows. "Got my photo, bitch?" Jesse asks, saying he has six more just like it. Walt tears out of the carwash without a single word to Skyler or Junior.

Flying down the freeway, Walt listens while Jesse tells him about the GPS on the rental van. When Walt, stammering, asks him what his plans are, Jesse calls him Walt and tells him that he has gasoline and a lighter. Jesse tells him to get there as fast as he can, and that if Walt hangs up or loses the call for any reason, he'll burn it all. "Don't you touch my money!" Walt barks, eventually revealing that he's dying, and that the money isn't for him, but for his family. To his children. Jesse scoffs at Walt, that he'd dare talk about children, which sets off Walt's frenzied rationalizations about what he did with Brock. Walt shrieks that he did what he did for Jesse's sake, just like he did when he ran over those gangbangers and killed Emilio and Krazy-8, an awfully forthcoming thing for him to say into a phone line that's very likely being tapped (though Walt has no way of knowing this, I suppose). Soon enough, Jesse stops responding, just as Walt arrives at his destination. Terrified that the call dropped, he quickly gets out and looks around, realizing that there's no one there. Putting the dots together, he stares at his phone and looks mutters under his breath and dismantles his phone.

Walt clambers to the top of a nearby mesa, presumably to watch over the area, and starts hacking up a lung. Soon after, he sees a car approaching. In what we find out later is the very same place he and Jesse cooked at in the Pilot, Walt prepares again for an armed showdown with unknown assailants. Panicking yet again, he slides down the mesa and puts his phone back together, calling Jack for support. Walt tells him that Jesse's coming for him and that he doesn't know how many men he has with him. Walt pulls out Chekhov's lottery ticket and reads off the coordinates. He tells Jack he sees three men. He recognizes them as Hank, Gomez, and Jesse, and starts to have a breakdown. The entire reason he's still in this mess is because he refuses to kill Hank, and now that decision is the only thing standing between him and prison. Agonizing, he eventually calls it off and tells Jack not to come. Leaning against a rock, hidden from sight, Walt loses focus.

After the break, we cut to Hank's perspective, as he calls for Walt and tells him it's over. Soon enough, Walt steps out, holding his gun. Hank tells him to drop it, which he does. Hank tells him to put his hands up, which he does. Hank tells him to walk towards them slowly, then to turn around, then to put his hands behind his head, then to get on his knees, all of which he does. Walt seems to be resigned to his fate. Hank cuffs his man, picks him up, and spins him around, asking Walt if he likes the photo they staged to get his attention. Walt, barely listening, transfixes his glare on Jesse, who confirms that this mesa is the legendary "cow house" from their first cook. Hank reads Walt his Miranda Rights. Jesse stares on, almost in disbelief. Surely, the mighty Heisenberg has something up his sleeve? Walt turns to Jesse and calls him a coward, presumably for going to the police. Or perhaps simply for turning to Hank. Jesse steps up and spits in his tormentor's face, and Hank separates them. Hank sits Walter down in his car and tells Gomez to take Jesse. He calls Marie and tells her that he has Walt "dead to rights." He waves to Walt for her, and tells her that things will be rough for awhile, but they'll get better after that. He tells her that "it may be a while before I get home," an almost unbearably cliche thing for a police man to say to his wife on a show where police men get shot. As he turns to get into his car, the silhouette of three vehicles appears on the horizon.

Gomez wonders if they're the tribal police, but Walt knows. It's Jack and his boys, loaded for bear. Walt begins screaming at Jack not to do it, but Jack's well beyond listening to anyone at this point. He wants to make as much money as he can, and Walt can make him a lot of money. Hank and Gomez tell them to stand down, and Jack retaliates by telling them to show some badges, which they don't do. Jesse's eyes go wide and he slowly opens up the door, trying to sneak away. We don't see him again for the duration. Walt continues screaming. Things go quiet. Jack shares a look with Kenny, who sights up and starts firing. Hank and Gomez, partners til the end, take cover behind Walt's car and start returning fire. Walt dives for cover, getting as low as he can as bullets fly through the car. The camera cuts, back and forth, from Hank to Gomez to Jack to Kenny and even to Todd, mirthlessly firing a pistol. Before anything really happens, Vince Gilligan's name looms out of the darkness.

Rather than pontificate about what might happen in seven day's time, I'll go in depth a little on why I wasn't fully in love with where this episode went. Surely, it's not my least favorite episode ever, and surely I don't mind how predictable the last 15 minutes or so were. One of this show's great strokes is making even the predictable elements nothing short of murderous. The tension that built, more and more, as Hank made his arrest was nearly unbearable. Instead, I'll point my squabbles to what I'm calling "Dexter syndrome," wherein every character is briefly stricken with absolute and unbending stupidity in favor of advancing the plot. This show is too well written for this to be a recurring thing, and in all honesty, even tonight's offense was relatively minor. I don't mean Walt screaming his sins over a telephone. As far as he knows, Jesse is making this a one-mar war. It's Hank and Gomez not immediately leaving, or calling in reinforcements, or doing anything other than gloating for five minutes and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Generally, I try not to judge a character's actions with information I have and they don't, because that's incredibly unfair. This was more like a horror movie, where a pretty white actress goes through a door everyone knows hides a horribly disfigured killer. Granted, this can be very entertaining if executed correctly, which tonight's finale certainly was, but it's something I'm not sure needed to be done. Still, if they had cut when Kenny started to fire, or even right before, it might have been better served.

Still, we've only got three episodes left, and we only know Walt survives, though I imagine Jesse did, too. As for Hank and Gomez, well, at least they went out on top.