There are a couple of reasons that I have not been attempting to do episodic reviews of the final eight installments of Breaking Bad: firstly, it is the type of show that I want to enjoy the episode without thinking about what I am going to say about it afterwards; and I am trying not to remind anybody that I failed to write anything about the final two hours of the most recent season of Mad Men. However, as we enter the final five weeks of Breaking Bad, it has hit heights this season that for me, make it very secure in its spot of the second best show in the history of television, behind only The Wire. The advantage that Vince Gilligan’s series does have over David Simon’s piece is the number of people watching live – the midseason premiere of Breaking Bad drew over five million viewers, whereas the final season of The Wire had ratings under one million. I was one of the many that watched The Wire after it had aired, plowing through all sixty episodes in a month and being completely blown away by it, but it did not give me any chance to reflect over the course a week as to what I thought was going to happen next (which was usually heartbreaking devastation, but once in a while, someone would walk up the stairs to a dinner table and it would be more resonant than anyone who has not yet watched the show could imagine). With Breaking Bad – everybody has a prediction as to what might happen and – after the jump, to avoid spoiling it for anybody who might not yet be caught up – I am going to offer my theory as to where the next five hours are taking us.
At the end of last week’s episode (the third of eight in this final run) we see Jesse Pinkman dousing the White residence with gasoline, as he is distraught to have realized that he was played by Walt back at the end of season four. By realizing that Huell was an adept pick-pocketer who had taken not only his weed, but also replaced his cigarette packet to remove the ricin laced one, finally Jesse has worked out one of the two key betrayals that the “asshole Mr. White” has done to him – he poisoned Brock (whether he ever discovers his partner’s involvement in Jane’s death remains to be seen). While we feel for Pinkman, who has been the clear heart of the show since the episode “Peekaboo” in season two, we also know that his attempts to burn down the White house (the one in Albuquerque, with an occasional pizza on the roof, rather than the one in Washington D.C., with snipers on top) will fail, since we know that around his 52nd birthday, Walter White/Lambert will walk into it and retrieve the hidden ricin cigarette. There has been speculation that this poison, or the M80 that Walter bought off the guy who ended up marrying Alma Garrett after working on her gold claim in Deadwood, then he ended up being Drew Thompson in Justified, are going to be used against Jesse and his death could be the ultimate heartbreak for fans of Breaking Bad.
But what if Gilligan has something much more devastating than simply dying at Walt’s hands in store for Jesse? What if Pinkman does something that even he could not forgive himself for? What if the gasoline he is pouring into the house does set a fire that does not burn it to the ground, but it kills one or both of Walt Jr. and Holly? The one thing that Jesse has stood for in the whole series is that children should not be harmed: starting from his rescuing of the little boy from his meth-head parents in “Peekaboo”; the death of the kid who killed Combo; the poisoning of Brock; and the murder of Drew Sharp after the train heist by Todd. Could Breaking Bad do something as heart breaking as have Jesse commit the one action he has railed against for the whole time, albeit by accident? We know that Gilligan has not been afraid to have children die on his show – unlike most dramas (The Wire was also willing to go there, cf. season two episode “Stray Rounds”) and there has already been a threat made against Holly by Gus, so perhaps he would be willing to take this one more, gut-punching step.
One other note – there has been another theory floating around that Walter takes on the traits of people he has killed: taking the crusts off his sandwich as was the preference of Crazy 8; drives a Volvo and uses a towel under his knees when vomiting, a la Gus Fring; and asks for his whiskey on the rocks after disposing of Mike Ehrmantraut. In the flash forwards, we see him arranging his bacon into his age – is Skyler doomed?! – and wearing a jacket that many think looks like something Jesse would wear. However, in last week’s episode, during the scene in which Todd is relaying the events of the heist, in the manner of the Mr. Orange telling his Commode Story in Reservoir Dogs – he is wearing a coat that looks very similar to the one that we see Walt wearing in the “flash forward”. If Walt does end up killing Todd, it could explain his need for an M80, since the guy’s Uncle and his gang do not seem like someone who can be taken out with just a ricing cigarette.
At this point, what are we viewers rooting for? Redemption for Jesse in the form of killing Walter? For Hank to finally catch Heisenberg and get him convicted? Goodman to continue survive when people put a gun to his head so that we can get the spinoff of “Better Call Saul”? All I really want is to keep on being surprised and enthralled through the final five weeks – when Hank and Marie watched the DVD last week (which did not feature Brian Cranston roller skating, unfortunately), I was blown away by the brilliance of the move by Walt and by the show to push Schrader into a position where he may not who Heisenberg is, but he risks his own career by going after him. If I can guess what is going to happen, then I will be slightly disappointed – I want to keep being shocked and hope Breaking Bad can continue this ferocious trajectory it has been taking this year. On September 29th, when the final credits role, it may not have taken top spot in my all time rankings, but it will be a strong second and has the chance of putting in the greatest ever final season of a show.