The final solution?
Season 5.0 of Breaking Bad began in the wake of Gus Fring’s marvellous death by exploding wheelchair, with Walt, Jesse and Mike sitting victoriously on the smouldering remains of Fring’s empire. Since then, we have seen new characters Todd and Lydia enter the fray, a downright wacky train heist, and more than the usual number of casualties.
The most pivotal of these has to be the downfall of the seemingly invincible Mike, which was an effective, but in my opinion somewhat heavy handed, way of showing how irredeemably vain and merciless Walt has become. Mike’s tough-guy nonchalance to the bullet in his chest may have been a little too theatrical for my tastes, but it certainly got a reaction from the audience. But this was only a grim precursor to the actually quite chilling prison bloodbath that came in episode 8, as Walter stonily eliminates all of his potential snitches.
In domestic affairs, the rift between dutiful mother Skyler and the increasingly reptilian Walt is more gaping than ever, but as ever she is mired too deeply in conspiracy to escape his thrall. Lately though, I have come to find Skyler more endearing as she has transitioned from the self-righteous meddler of the first few seasons into a more conflicted, vulnerable character. Meanwhile “Flynn” continues to clumsily indulge his increasingly unimportant teen angst, but thankfully has been relatively non-contributory to this season.
The main narrative focus of season 5.0 seems to have been on how much of a bastard Walter has become, and the pervasiveness of his Heisenberg persona into his judgements and personal life. Up until this point he has been an ardent survivalist and occasional drug lord, but nevertheless a mostly decent, likeable character. It’s interesting to see how what Walt originally envisioned for his meth enterprise has disintegrated with the fracturing of his family unit, and how as his motivations change, so does his character; he’s not doing it so he can come home to his family and know he hasn't let them down any more, he’s doing it for the glory.
Episode 8 ends with Hank rooting out Walt’s hidden connection to Gale Boetticher by way of a monumentally stupid lapse in criminal mastery on Walt’s part. Knowing that Hank had read Gale’s journal, how could he leave a piece of incriminating evidence lying around like that?
No, it seems much more plausible that Walter White wants to be caught. This self destructive leaning was possibly first alluded to when he shot down Hank’s deduction that Gale was the chemist behind the Heisenberg name. He is quite comfortable with continuing to hide from the spectre of the DEA as long as it means that no one else takes credit for his work, and this tied neatly in with his lingering resentment of his more successful Grey Matter colleagues, whose success he attributes to his own work. Now perhaps, if he thought he didn’t have much time left, he would sabotage himself just so he could live long enough to see himself be recognised for his accomplishments. So my expectation for the finale at this point is that Walt has been hiding the fact that he is no longer recovering from his cancer, and when he deems that Heisenberg’s game is up, he will pop some ricin and die peacefully in custody.
If this is the case, then I would like to see the flash forward from the start of season 5 be the setting of Walt’s standoff and arrest, as it gives him a chance to enjoy a fateful last breakfast (avec poison), and it would show that enough of his floundering conscience remains for him to want to draw the drama away from his family home.
The question remains of what part Jesse will play in all of this, as he seems to be the only character so far who has broken free of his doomed orbit around Walter. After Walt’s sinister puppetry at the end of season 4, and with the truth of Jane’s untimely death still yet to surface, it’s probably best for the two to keep a wide berth, or else the backlash might destroy them both. I can’t have been the only person who was expecting Walt’s doorstep offering to be a ricin soufflé, and so it was a relief to see him at least pretending to make amends.
As for unexplained mysteries, we still don’t know the purpose – if any - of the watch given to Walter by Jesse at the end of season 4, what exactly Todd will turn out to be (and what about the spider in the jar), and what has become of Mike’s corpse, as well as a few more which I have no doubt forgotten.
Breaking Bad season 5.5 airs in summer 2013.