In novel writing, there’s something called the “temporary triumph.” In screenwriting, Syd Field calls it, for lack of a better word I guess, the “midpoint.” Whatever you name it, it happens in the middle of Act II in a three act structure, essentially the middle of the book or movie, the tip top of the mountain on the story map. Things are going super great and well for our main character. And then the denouement happens and everything turns to shit.
Last night’s episode marked the official midpoint of the final season of Breaking Bad, the time when we know this is as good as it’s going to get for Walter White before things turn to shit. Fittingly, the episode ended with the literal shit that could bring down Heisenberg once and for all.
All told, for an episode of Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All” was surprisingly positive and serene. I mean, sure, there was that little montage with all of Mike’s guys in prison getting hit with shivs made out of toothbrushes and getting doused with flammable…something… Did they sneak gasoline into the building under the guise of bottled water? If not, how do prisoners have such ready access to gallons of liquid that light up like the sun with one match? It doesn’t really matter, of course. I’m just wondering, logistically. It’s good information to have.
But other than that, we had Walt in a tender-ish moment with both Skyler and Jesse. Skyler had a moment of levity with both Marie and Holly. I would’ve included Junior in that, but he’s back to being “Flynn” and acting like a petulant teenager again. We had a really stellar montage set to “Crystal Blue Persuasion” in which we were treated to several days (spread out over several months) in the life of the smooth-running Heisenberg meth operation.
But there were cracks. There were little moments where you just knew all was not about to be well. At the end of every day in the montage, there was a shot of Walt looking more tired and more haggard. There was the shot of Walt in the shower that also made sure to show us that he’s using Gale’s Leaves of Grass book as toilet reading material. As you do. After not coffee with Lydia, there was the shot — zoinks! — of the back of Walt’s head as he slid on his glasses that made sure to focus squarely on the area directly behind Walt’s right ear. As someone who has been on the alert for this kind of brain tumor theory affirmation since the first episode of the season, this was like Christmas morning for me. Obviously I was right and I would have confirmation by the end of the episode.
Well, not quite. But we did have pretty clear confirmation that the cancer is back. Walt has his family back and he has a storage unit full of cash money and his cancer is back. He has all of these things, plus Hank is clogging up his toilet with his monster DEA dookies and he’s actually reading Walt’s bathroom books. And now, because of Walt Whitman and Gale and and the initials WW and the fact that Skyler’s cooking goes through you like a freight train, Hank suspects things. Terrible things.
Odds and Ends:
- I loved the fly showing up in Heisenberg and Associates offices. That bug shows up whenever shit’s about to get real. Prediction: The entire series ends with Walt either in jail or a hospital bed watching a fly flit around the room.
- Poor Mike got hydrofluoric acid-ed. He deserved better.
- The ricin cigarette popped up again. Walt brought it to coffee with Lydia…just in case. And then he put it back in the wall. Methinks this is certainly not the last time this little prop will pop up. Baseless prediction: Hank starts investigating Walt. Finds out about Skyler’s involvement. Offers her a deal for cooperation (Hank is not about to let a witness/snitch go without getting all the goods up front, not after he lost all of Mike’s men in the prison massacre). He tells her she won’t serve time and she can be safe with her children while Walt is locked up forever. That bargain is appealing to Skyler. But maybe not. Maybe she’s feeling better about Walt or pitying him about his cancer and she’s not going to turn him in. Either way, Walt finds out and hands her the ricin cigarette.
- But. Did anyone else see a more pathetic, reticent Walt this episode? I mean, aside from all the shivs? He and Skyler even had a moment together. Nothing big, just friendly. And she saved all his money for him, even spraying it to keep away the silverfish. Would this new Walt really kill his wife? I suppose these are questions for the next section.
- It was nice to see them let Holly out of the crib a few times this episode.
- So, what about Jesse? Walt left him all that money and he tossed away a gun. Did he have the gun before Walt showed up at his door? Was he about to kill himself? We saw him hide a bong when Walt came in. Is he also back to using meth as Walter predicted?
- I loved that moment between Jesse and Walt. In the whole world, the two of them, really, only have each other. Yet circumstances are pulling them apart. It’s like the most depressing rom-com ever. And maybe their relationship will end with Walt running to the airport to stop Jesse from heading to the Czech Republic to become a transcontinental drug mule. Stranger things have happened.
- Marie is taking prenatal vitamins to keep her hair shiny. This is information you need.
Questions and Loose Ends for the Final 8 Episodes:
- It wasn’t actually stated, but it was implied by the busted towel dispenser in the men’s bathroom: Walt’s cancer is back. What kind of cancer? (Hint: BRAIN TUMOR) What would you guess is his prognosis? (I’m going with, “not good.” We saw him in the first episode with a full head of hair and a pack of pills. I guess that he’s taking them for pain management.)
- OK, so if Walt is, in fact, dying, what is his new motivation for living/going out on the lam with a giant gun and 365 driver’s licenses, all with different birthdays for free Denny’s breakfasts?
- Money, which was his original reason for cooking meth is, at this point, not a factor. He has a giant storage garage full of bills. Bills galore. So. Either something else will be motivating him or something will happen to the money. Fire? Theft? Does Hank link the money to the Heisenberg case and it becomes evidence? I think, somehow, he has to lose his money. Money drives him. Money is what started this whole thing.
- Walt’s other big reason for cooking the meth and making the money was to support his family and pay for his treatment. He also has a fierce desire to protect his family. Now that Gus and the cartel and Mike are gone, who is left to threaten the safety of Walter Junior “Flynn” White? (Walt doesn’t give two figs about Skyler, and Holly barely registers as a person)
- Threats to Walt’s family’s personal safety: Landry and uncle. They know lots of things. Walt made the rookie mistake of getting rid of 10 guys his guy had paid off by hiring a bunch of Nazis. (The irony of the whole thing is that Walt could’ve bought and sold those guys ten times over with all the cash in the storage garage and still had $37 trillion dollars left over.) Also, Landry has proven himself to be a bit of a whacko, killing a child without batting an eye. What motivation would they have for turning on Walt? Perhaps with him quitting the meth business, Landry’s upset about the money no longer rolling in?
- Jesse: Jesse has told us time and again that he does not like harming children. But if he finds out about Walt poisoning his girlfriend’s son and he’s distraught enough and if he’s on enough drugs and if he has a gun that he was almost willing to turn on himself, maybe he would be just out of his mind enough to threaten Flynn’s safety.
- Lydia. She also serves to lose money if Heisenberg quits making Czech meth. But, to this point, she’s seemed like to much of a nervous Nellie to do anything about it. But maybe the nerves were all an act and she was the real brains behind Gus Fring’s ring. Not.
- The Arizona boys.
- Some other we haven’t met yet and who we’d better meet fast since we have only 8 episodes to get to know the new villain in Walt’s life.
- Another question: How sick is Walt? It takes away some of the tension if he’s terminal. If he’s going to be dead anyway in a few months, why is he so intent on hiding his identity and procuring WMDs?
What did you think? What are your predictions for the final eight episodes?