Breaking Bad: “Gliding Over All”

With typically masterful manipulation, Vince Gilligan and crew wove a season finale with many more questions than answers.

Apologies for the one-day delay; even the season finale of Breaking Bad couldn’t keep your faithful critic from a weekend getaway to a place with no media.

Whew! Another season in the can. The finale once again did a great job of tying together the show’s parallel plotlines of Walt’s self-created role as drug kingpin and his domestic life. It also made explicit one of the questions we’ve all been wondering for a while now: when, if ever, is Walt going to have enough?

When Walt met with Todd’s uncle and his crew of rather sinister ex-cons, it suddenly felt like a whole new show — right up until Walt jumped in with his usual mixture of random thinking-out-loud and threatening authority. The subsequent montage of prison murders was harsh, and the kitschy jazz soundtrack brought the show’s dark irony a step or two over the borders of good taste.

The show’s second montage, showing the newly streamlined business and complete with repeated use of clever graphic matches, was a tour de force for director Michelle MacLaren with the bonus virtue of subtly pointing towards one of Walt’s many flaws: when things are going well, he quickly gets tired of the routine.

It appears, on the surface at least, that Skyler snaps Walt back into reality when she points out that they now have enough money to last “10 lifetimes.” But if there’s one thing we’ve learned this season, it’s that nothing in Walt’s plans is ever as easy as he thinks it will be.

The scene between Walt and Jesse near the end was great, with the two of them awkwardly bantering about their old vehicle. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone in suspecting that Walt probably had evil motives for their meeting, then being surprised when it turned out Jesse was the one packing heat.

To conclude it all, the other shoe finally drops for Hank when he comes across Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass (helpfully foreshadowed earlier in the episode) inscribed by Gale. The scene of banal family banter had definitely been building up towards something dramatic, but I didn’t see that one coming. Should make things interesting.

With typically masterful manipulation, Vince Gilligan and crew wove an episode with many more questions than answers. Other than how the whole situation with Hank is going to play out, we’re also no closer to figuring out what Walt was doing in that New Hampshire diner where the season opened. And can he possibly have been telling the truth when he declared to Skyler that he was “out”? We’ll have to chew on these for an agonizing several months more.


Best lines:

–       Hank to one of Mike’s now-hapless “guys”: “You seem a little confused. This is a buyer’s market.”

–       Skyler on the pile of cash: “I just stack it up, keep it dry, spray it for silverfish.”


Random thoughts:

–      Walt ridicules Lydia for thinking that he would off her right in the restaurant, when in fact he had (at the very least) a backup plan to do exactly that.

–       He may be reinhabiting the role of harmless family man, but Bryan Cranston seems to be employing his perfected look of bare-teethed, reptile-eyed focus more and more.

–       All that aside, and no matter how badass he gets, I love how Walt still wears his nerdy, tucked-in shirts. ■

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