When I went out to dinner with my friend CB last week we both, naturally, talked of the pending season finale of Breaking Bad.
“There’s only one thing I need to have happen in this Sunday’s episode,” I told him. “Hank needs to find out. Not necessarily do anything. He just needs to have the realization.”
Boy did I get my wish.
I mean really… is there any other way… literally, ANY other way this season could have ended?
Not only does Hank find out, but he finds out on the toilet. After we nearly got a happy ending with the family together and Walt actually quitting the business when he realized, at Skyler’s behest, that perhaps he had made enough money, it ends on a realization that Hank isn’t prepared for, but he now knows is true.
We, the audience, might even have been happy for Walt in that moment by the pool. Everything was going to be OK.
Of course, we would need to forget that Walt thought of murdering Lydia with Chekhov’s ricin before deciding she was more valuable in not only providing him with the list of Mike/Gus’s nine guys, but in also helping taking his business global.
We would also need to forget that he used Todd – who earlier in the season talked of well-connected prison family members – to engineer the deaths of the ten people who could end Walt’s budding meth empire.
And we would need to push aside that while Walt, in a moment of true humility brings Jesse his five million dollars, that Jesse was so afraid in that moment, so afraid that he was yet another loose end for Walt to eliminate, that he had to conceal a weapon as Walt wanted to simply reminisce about the past.
Sure. Push all those things aside and we’re rooting for Walt to get his happy ending… right?
But this being Breaking Bad, of course we won’t get that. We don’t expect it. We don’t want it. Who in that moment, in the audience, wasn’t terrified something awful was about to happen during that pool sequence? Perhaps one last member of Gus’ organization that we didn’t know existed would come out of nowhere and destroy that happy moment?
Instead, it all came crashing down… on the crapper. With a poem book that never should have been held on to.
There were narrative leaps we had to take all season. I still don’t believe that in that moment, Mike would have accepted Walt as the delivery man for his to-go bag, but that doesn’t take away from the powerful performances in that episode, nor the pay-offs in this season finale.
The final eight episode of Breaking Bad, however, may ultimately play out depending on how we open after that moment on the toilet. What will Hank do? And will we, the audience believe in his decision?
That singular moment may define not only the final eight episodes, but the series to-date. Tough call for Vince Gilligan and his crew.
But for now? Let’s bask in that look of horror in Hank’s face and how it will haunt us until the finale set of episodes unspool next year.