Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 9 – “Blood Money”
This is an episode recap by Thought Pollution writers Colin Neagle and Liam Green.
*** SPOILER ALERT *** #DEALWITHIT
Hank punched Walt in the face, and it was awesome. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. It’s in keeping with Breaking Bad’s themes, though – that Hank would freak out over this sudden revelation and Walt would confront him about it. A few other factors are still open to interpretation.
Think back to that “Ozymandias” clip AMC released as a teaser for the new season. Now that we’ve seen “HEISENBERG” tagged across Walt’s living room wall nine months in the future, it’s clear that Walt ends up embodying the irony of that poem’s central figure. He built an empire for an empire’s sake, only to leave his name upon the unremarkable ruins of everything he built.
This explains Walter’s decision to hide his cancer from his family. After his initial diagnosis in the show’s pilot episode, Walt told Jesse that he wanted to cook crystal meth because he was suddenly “awake,” referring to the realization of his role as a provider for his family. The knowledge of his cancer’s return may have brought about a new realization. Walter has already built his name as the self-described best crystal meth cook in the nation. He won his family back by leaving that all behind. With the cancer, he could die gracefully knowing that generations of Walter Juniors will eat expensive, satisfying breakfasts. His legacy would remain intact.
At this point, Walt has left Heisenberg behind, which is why he grimaced when he turned his back and reluctantly put on his Heisenberg face before confronting Hank. He had been Walter White for the past episode and change, bouncing a baby on his knee, bullshitting during a family cookout, wishing car-wash customers an “A1 day.” When Walt realizes that something has to be done to protect him from what Heisenberg did, he recalls Heisenberg to do it. That fuels the “tread lightly” threat to Hank.
The specific path to Walter’s demise and the Ozymandian irony of the “Heisenberg” tag on his abandoned home remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Hank seems to be suddenly realizing the pickle he’s gotten himself into.
Hank has three reasons not to publicly blow the whistle on Walt. The first is embarrassment. After Gus Fring’s death, Hank’s boss at the time lost his job for letting Gus get so close to the DEA. Hank, who took over his former boss’ job, definitely isn’t eager to let his colleagues know that his brother in-law had Fring’d him too. Then there’s the pressure from his boss, who warned Hank that he may lose his new job if he continues to investigate the Gus Fring case at all. If he were to pitch another far-flung hunch, especially with such flimsy evidence, he’d probably get fired. That’s why he has to hide out and investigate the connections in his garage.
Although it hasn’t been brought up yet, Hank has a more important reason to keep his mouth shut – he may be considered an accomplice to Walt’s crimes. Walt paid for Hank’s rehab treatments after he was shot and almost killed by cartel assassins. If that comes up in court – and it would – Hank would look suspicious. It wouldn’t be difficult for Saul Goodman to make the case that Hank was a dirty agent the whole time. Accepting drug money may make Hank a worse criminal than Walt in the eyes of some.
That’s the ultimate irony. While Hank blindly investigated Heisenberg, Walter unwittingly led him into a trap that may prevent Hank from ever bringing down his bête noire.
Somebody will, eventually, bring down Heisenberg. But I don’t think it will be Hank. As many have pointed out, the term “breaking bad,” which means to suddenly turn one’s life down an immoral path, doesn’t necessarily apply to Walter alone. Skyler and Jesse have both unwillingly ended up in far worse situations than they ever deserved, and they’re both worse off for it. If her behavior in this week’s episode is any indicator, Skyler has embraced her role as a money-launderer simply because covering up her husband’s past crimes seems better than living with his current ones. Just a week ago, she couldn’t speak to Walt without trembling. Now she’s bullying a drug distributor off her property. Jesse, meanwhile, is showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and is one troubled brunette away from a heroin relapse.
I think Hank will fall into Heisenberg’s wake with them, only to suffer the same consequences when the empire comes crumbling down.
CRAZY-ASS THEORIES: In this section, Colin and Liam throw around some crazy theories just for the hell of it
Colin: I browsed the IMDb pages for the remaining episodes of Breaking Bad, and it opened up some questions.
First, what’s up with the sixth episode? It’s titled “Ozymandias,” so I’m guessing that’s the one with the aforementioned reading of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” as its cold opening. But more interesting is the cast: Mike, Gale, Tuco, Krazy-8, and Jane are all listed as making appearances. They’re all dead. Some haven’t been mentioned in a long time. Krazy-8 died in the series’ second episode, for example, and Jane had nothing to do with the crystal meth business.
Is that a clip show? Do Walt and Jesse come across an old box of photos of the people they’ve murdered, and just start reminiscing?
Liam: I’m thinking more along the lines of something where Walt reflects – possibly with the aid of booze or hallucinogens or cancer drugs (bear with me) – on those he’s murdered or let die. Maybe he straight-up sees them as ghosts, that’d be an intriguing detour into magic realism. Or they could just do flashbacks, but I’m hoping my first idea is true.
Colin: Another interesting tidbit from IMDb is a character identified only as “Jack’s Man.” He shows up in the third episode of the season and apparently appears in every episode after that except for one. He’s even in the finale. Jack’s Man is played by a debut actor, Matthew T. Metzler, whose IMDb headshot is pretty intimidating. It could be nothing, or it could be everything. He could just be a strange recurring role character, like Huell or Skinny Pete, or he could be introduced alongside an entirely new dynamic in the show. But the main question is who is Jack and why do we only meet his man?
Liam: Issue solved, also via IMDb. We did already meet Jack – he was Todd’s Aryan Brotherhood uncle, played by Michael Bowen in “Gliding Over All.” I can only assume Jack now oversees the meth empire. Jack’s Man looks scarier than a motherfucker. I’m guessing he comes after Walt somehow or has another substantial role to play.
Colin: Damn, I did some digging for a prior Jack and came up short. I hereby recognize your superior IMDB skills. On to more important things – IMDB tells me that Badger makes an appearance in the finale. With any hope, he gets to act out his Star Trek pie-eating contest. It would be much more satisfying than this animated version. That’s the best way this show could go out.
Liam: Man, that makes me think, if Badger or Skinny Pete got aced, I think I’d freak the fuck out almost worse than if Jesse died. Because they never deserved that shit. That said, as both Unforgiven and The Wire have said, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
My crazy theory: Walt’s death will be random and ignominious. Not in an accident or something ridiculous, but that if he were to be murdered, it’d be by some pawn – as happened to several major characters on The Wire – rather than by Jesse, Hank or Skyler. Going out in a blaze of glory would give Walt the lasting notoriety that he’d grin smugly about in hell.
Colin: I don’t even want to imagine bad things happening to Badger, or Skinny Pete, just by association. I see what you’re saying about Walt, but I just don’t see the show ending that way. I think it might come down to Walt and Jesse, in one way or another. Either Jesse finds out that Walt murdered Mike and decides to give him up, or Jesse ends up in some kind of trouble and Walt takes it upon himself to bail him out.