Breaking Bad is back from its hiatus, and I am so happy to see its return. While in many ways this episode is just setting the stage for what's to come, it did take a couple of serious leaps forward in the overall plot, and I am more excited than ever to see how Walt's journey will end in just a few short weeks.
We start with a flash-forward. Walter's house is completely abandoned. The pool has been covered, and kids are skateboarding on the cement. The word "Heisenberg" is sprayed on the wall. He retrieves some ricin from a hiding place in a light switch. His old neighbor, apparently named Carol, seems very frightened to see him. From all of that, we can safely assume that something big is going to go down at that house, and I must say I am very excited to see how it goes.
Then, we go back to right where we left off before the hiatus. Hank has just discovered that Walt is Heisenberg, and he does not appear to be taking the news very well. He manages to stumble his way through a goodbye, and then he and Marie leave the party. It was so eerie to see Walt's normal behavior; the way he holds his daughter and talks to Hank and Marie just proves how good he has gotten at living the lie. Hank is in a state of total panic. He nearly crashes the car on the way home and is taken to the emergency room. They determine that nothing is wrong with him.
Hank spends the rest of the episode pouring over old papers and trying to prove that Walt is indeed the drug lord he's been hunting for all this time.
Meanwhile, Skyler and Walt discuss the possibility of starting another car wash, when Lydia shows up. She's upset that the quality of product has gone down since Walt left the meth business. Walt turns her down cold, and she is sent away. Skyler tells her, quite harshly, to never show her face again. I enjoyed this scene for several reasons. It once again juxtaposes the ordinary with the extraordinary. Walt casually discusses things like money laundering right after he suggests rearranging the car fresheners. I also like this continued theme of Walter's honesty with Skyler. He doesn't even try to lie about Lydia. Obviously, their marriage is an impossibly challenging one, but at this point at least, Walt is willing to be honest with his wife.
And then we've got Jesse. The poor dear has been drowning in feelings of guilt for all that has happened. It what has to be one of the funniest moments in all of Breaking Bad, Jesse's friends discuss a Star Trek related dream that includes a pie eating contest between Kirk, Spock, and Chekov. I was laughing through the whole description, but it's important to note that Jesse was not amused. He goes to Saul and wants to give his five million dollars away to Mike's granddaughter and to Drew Sharp's parents. (Drew was the boy that Jesse and Walt killed in the last season, for those that need a refresher course). Saul is concerned by Jesse's behavior, and of course knows that there is no practical way to deliver the money as Jesse has asked. He calls Walt, who comes over to talk to Jesse.
Their scene was another highlight of the episode for me. It just goes to show that while Bryan Cranston certainly deserves the awards he's won for his role, Breaking Bad is carried by the other amazing actors as well. Aaron Paul's performance as Jesse was very intense. Jesse still seems to be scared and resentful of Walt (and for good reason). He clearly doesn't believe Walt's lies about Mike, and his guilt was palpable.
Briefly, I'll mention Walter Jr., Marie, and Saul, who all got very short appearances in this episode. I was actually okay with this, since Walt, Hank, and Jesse all needed some extra time in the limelight to sort through their chaotic lives. It was good to see everyone back, though, after such a long hiatus. Walt Jr. is basically just a representation of Walter's regular life, and we see how that juxtaposes to the very scary realization that Walt's cancer is back. Marie acts as a counterpoint to Hank. She keeps on worrying about the regular world as Hank's entire universe collapses around him. And Saul... Saul serves as a reminder of how easy it would be for Walt to slip back in to old habits. All it took was a phone call from his old lawyer and he was running to Jesse.
And then of course I must end this review by talking about the end of the episode. Again, I applaud the acting strength of this entire cast. Dean Norris (Hank) did such an amazing job with this scene. The first part of their conversation was full of awkward small talk, but the second the garage door was closed, all the pretense went away, and Walt and Hank became Heisenberg and the man hunting him. Norris' acting was incredible - he seemed angry and yet soul-crushingly sad all at the same time. Some of the dialogue was actually haunting: "I don't know who you are. I don't even know who I'm talking to," Hank says, to which Walter replies: "If that's true, if you don't know who I am, then... maybe your best course would be to tread lightly." I got chills.
In all, this episode lacked the heart-pounding thrills that we get in most Breaking Bad episodes. But actually, I think it was exactly what we needed. It grounded us in the world we now exist in with these characters. It reminded us where everyone is and it set the stage for a lot of big changes coming up. Now that Walt's cancer is back and now that Hank knows the truth, nothing will ever be the same for their family. I, for one, can't wait to watch the fallout.