Breaking Bad: "Crawl Space" - Down in a hole and I don't know if I can be saved

I had started jotting down notes while watching “Crawl Space,” as usual. I don’t remember exactly at what point I stopped—it might’ve been right around the time Ted Beneke took a header into the wall—but stop I had to, in order to try and process the rapidly escalating insanity. With two episodes remaining, we’ve hit the point in the season where Breaking Bad doesn’t step on the gas so much as it floods the engines.

You don’t need me to tell you at this point how loaded this episode was with great material—not just the harrowing, masterful climax with Bryan Cranston channeling Arkham Asylum-levels of mad terror, and not just stomach-churning “holy shit!” moments like Walt kamikaze-ing the Aztec or Tyrus appearing out of nowhere to Tase the crap out of him, but also the slow burn of Gus rubbing every inch of his vengeance in Tio’s quivering, ruined face.

Since I’m forced to keep things brief this week, I want to focus on the one thing that’s been turning over in my head: Is there a version of Walt that somehow, someway, decides to seek atonement? A version that can keep his family alive long enough to see the error of his ways—and not just the drug dealing and casual murder, but the genuine darkness in him that manifests in so many quotidian asshole ways? And, in the course of trying to salvage some shred of his soul in the very winter of his life, only then meeting the wretched fate that he’s been beckoning ever closer for the last year?

Walter White has been driven by craven self-preservation basically from the start, but he takes a massive and unnecessary risk in alerting the DEA to Gus’s threat to Hank. Gus is pretty explicitly prepared to let Walter live, at least for a little while, in order to keep Jesse happy (about which more later), and even if Walter believes that he’s only received a stay of execution, he doesn’t have any reason to fear for his family’s lives…unless, as Gus said, he interferes with the hit on Hank.

And yet he does. Immediately. Yes, Walt knows he’s got Saul’s disappearance-expert in his back pocket, but that’s still an enormous risk and an enormous expense. All for the glimmer of a chance that he could save Hank’s life. From a purely calculating, self-preserving perspective, an end to Hank’s lone wolf investigation would have some benefits for Walter—how much time has he spent this season just trying to throw sand in Hank’s wheels, after all?

He still can’t do it, on a gut level. Maybe that’s from brother-in-law-ly affection, or wanting to spare Skyler and Walt, Jr. the pain of that loss, or hoping to avoid any further emotional severance from his wife (who would certainly go to her grave blaming him). Like almost every instance of human selflessness, all of that is a species of selfishness as well. But it’s closer to a semblance of humanity than Walter has shown in a long, long time.

Could the remorse he bared to Walt, Jr. last week be more deep-seated than we thought? And if it is, would it be somehow more tragic if the final season gave us a Walter White desperate to reclaim his decency, only to get cut down on his road to Damascus?


Other notes: 

  • Man, Jesse. Dragging Mike’s bloody carcass into the surgery room, defending the life of a man he continues to regard with nothing but vitriol, wincing in pity for even the likes of Tio. Within the twisted moral framework of the life he’s got, he really does try to do the right thing. Returning to that state of mind is, in itself, something of a victory, considering the hollow shell he began the season as. Look, you take the bright sides where you can find them in this show.
  • “If Pinkman is gone, I’m done. Do you understand? I quit.” Walt rediscovering his loyalty, or playing the unity angle as a bluff?
  • “It ain’t supermodels and Speedos, y’know?”
  • “I’m done explaining myself. To you or anyone else.”
  • In Breaking Bad’s Cosmo Kramer moment, we find out that Mike has a last name! Which I had to pause the DVR for like 15 seconds to transcribe! It’s “Ehrmantraut.”
  • “I kinda liked the plane.”
  • “When did ‘wrong’ suddenly become a problem for you?”
  • “Now the Salamanca name dies with you.”
  • “Look at you. You lose your hair, you go on a couple stakeouts, all of the sudden you’re Kojak?”
  • “Kinda feels like one of those cones they put on dogs so they don’t lick their own balls.”
  • “Yeah, it’s gonna be fine. I’ve got my A-team on it.”
  • “Hewell, you happy?” “Reasonably.”
  • “Does the laundry have to be dirty?” “…Nope.”
  • “Last I time I asked for your help, you said ‘I hope you end up buried in a barrel in the Mexican desert.’”
  • “What’d you expect, ‘Hadji’s Quick-Vanish’?!”
  • “Can’t say it’s been a pleasure, but—“

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