There are two kinds of next-to-last episodes on television. Some are brilliantly explosive - like last week's episode of Breaking Bad, and the episode before that. Some are quiet, in preparation for the final explosion. last night's penultimate episode of Breaking Bad was on the quiet side, but there's so much pent-up dynamite in this show that there were wrenching explosions nonetheless.
Todd's shooting of Andrea - Brock's mother - was one of the most vicious, matter-of-fact killings we've seen for a while on television. Todd, in his psycho Okie way - as Jesse puts it - is becoming one of the classic soulless killers. First the boy in the dessert whose death still haunts Jesse, now Andrea whose death is designed to keep Jesse in line, fall victim to Todd's almost nonchalant, cold logic of death.
The conversation between Walt and Walt, Jr. also was heart-rending and explosive, as Jr - still sure that his father killed Hank - rejects Walt's apparently last attempt to get money to his family.
But we know from the flash forwards that it's not Walt's last attempt. And this still leaves us with a huge question for next week: how does Walt, so weak he can barely talk, muster the strength to drive out of that New Hampshire cabin? Perhaps Walt, the master deceiver, is not as sick as he makes out to Ed, played by Robert Forster - good to see him, as always, on the screen - in another just brilliant scene in which Walt offers Ed $10,000 for two hours of Ed's time, and Ed bargains Walt down to $10,000 for just one hour. Is it Walt's resolve which will get him back on the road in one final attempt to set things as he wants them, an unbreakable spirit which overcomes his rapidly declining health, or is Walt not that sick? Did Walt play the pathetic part for Ed's benefit, to get the knowledge from Ed that Ed would never get Walt's money to his family after Walt's death? You never know for sure with Walt - even his calling the DEA after his conversation with Jr could have been less on impulse and more of some plan. Come to think of it, Walt indeed deliberately called the Feds - so they would look for him in New Hampshire while he was on his way back to New Mexico.
As I've been saying for weeks, I'm holding out for Walt not being that sick - or, at least, leaving this show alive. But either way, the scene of Walk walking into town in the cold and the snow is once again a testament to his iron spirit and his unwillingness to take what the universe throws in his face - and that's inspiring to see whatever the ultimate outcome.