How much does one man need?
It’s the question Skyler poses to Walter, standing in a storage unit in front of a literal mountain of cash. An honest question; after all, Walt has achieved everything he set out to—he has more money than their family could spend in a lifetime, a thriving drug manufacturing business and the security of knowing he’s the best, and only, game in town.
At first, it seemed that murdering Mike opened a floodgate: Walter swiftly and decisively dispatches Mike’s ten associates, exponentially increasing his body count. Now, officially, a mass murderer, he wastes no time jumping onto Fring’s Madrigal deal and moves forward to sell in the Czech Republic. One would think that the last thing Walt wants is to get in bed with another partner – but as far as partnerships go, Lydia’s the best kind: perceptive, neurotic, thorough, smart and paranoid.
Over the course of the last 8 episodes, Skyler, Jesse and even Mike have essentially all asked him the same thing: How much is enough? Reaching the midseason finale, Walter White finally asks himself. To get here, he’s risked everything –his family, his freedom, his soul—and miraculously, has lost nothing. At least, not yet.
In short, Walter reaches a plateau. He’s gone as bad as any character could go – while deftly maneuvering every obstacle he’s come across.
As months rush by in a fleeting montage, we find Walter taking stock. When Hank bottoms out following the deaths of Mike’s crew, Walter, satisfyingly, is the witness. For once present to see the after-shocks of his handiwork, Walt finally enjoys the fruits of his efforts. At the same time, he and Skyler reach a tenuous civility just as he discovers that, like everything else, meth cooking can easily become a grind.
There are still a few hanging participles: the ricin makes a return—a gentle reminder of the danger that still lurks in the White home – and the results of Walt’s ride through the CAT scan are kept secret (but we know that in 9 short months, Walt has a full head of hair, meaning either the cancer has not returned or, conversely, it returned with such vengeance that Walt chose not to treat it).
If episode 7 was Heisenberg’s coming out party, this episode seems focused on the re-emergence of Walter White, good guy. He seems intent on turning over a new leaf, getting his family back together and, after the fireworks of the dissolution of his partnership with Jesse, making things right with the one guy who helped him get here.
Walt is quickly becoming a Jekyll and Hyde conundrum: terrifying and powerful one minute, sympathetic the next. He starts off the episode on a bender – an embodiment of evil so complete that both Lydia and Jesse assume their every interaction with him will end in their own murder at his hands (and, in Lydia’s case, it nearly does).
It’s hard to believe months have sped by without so much as a coincidental interaction between Jesse and Walt, but it’s apparent that Jesse has been avoiding him at all costs when Walt shows up at his doorstep. Walt’s unexpected magnanimity takes everyone by surprise, most especially Jesse (who handles Walt’s spontaneous walk down memory lane with taut, circumspect aplomb). Leaving $5 million on Jesse’s doorstep like so much unattended luggage, Walt takes back every threat Heisenberg posed in episode 7. He turns over Jesse’s rightful share. He quits the game.
Despite this ostensibly earnest effort to go straight, it might be too late for Walt. After all, some crimes can’t be eradicated by good behavior. Walt’s recent past is littered with landmines, just one of which could blow apart his cobbled-together peace.
The bomb Hank happens upon is, of course, the most innocuous – a personalized gift from Walt’s former protégé and mid-series victim, Gale Boetticher. And with his freakish ability to recall even the most trivial of details, everything clicks into place for Hank.
With Hank’s discovery, a slew of possibilities open up for the next season. The tables are turned on Walt, his fate balances on the tip of a knife, Hank’s zeal to punish Heisenberg the determining factor.
Ultimately, the debate on the table during this hiatus is whether or not Breaking Bad is a show that will allow for redemption. It’s taken five seasons to transform a man into a monster. Can he turn back in 8 episodes? What will it mean if he does?
Let the theories begin.