Since the beginning of this final part of the series Hank and Walt have been locked in a race to pick up any loose ends that could mean the end of everything. For Hank failure would mean a ruined career and knowledge that the head of one of the biggest meth distribution networks was his own brother-in-law. For Walt failure could mean losing everything. His morality, his family, his life, and everything he's gone through since it all began. This battle for loose ends hadn't been going Hank's way and even after turning Jesse to try and stop Walt, nothing was working out. Until Jesse came up with a better way to get Walt, through Walt's money.
Walt has always made rash and urgent decisions. Realizing that Jesse wasn't going to come back into the fold like he wanted Walt concedes that Jesse needs to be killed. What seems at first as Walt reluctantly doing what he logically should do, as a criminal trying to cover his tracks, soon gives way to the mad man Walt may never escape from being. Walt tries to flush Jesse out into the open by visiting Andrea and Brock. The ruse is now an old trick no one, even the viewer, doesn't fall for. It's a horrifying low but one we've all seen before.
As Walt frets over the whereabouts of Jesse and learns that Huell, Saul's bodyguard, maybe be a victim of an out of control Jesse, we almost see the old Walt. For just a moment Heisenberg may have completely washed away as a glimmer of Walt's family together brings a brief moment of happiness. He has spent all this time and effort in hopes of giving them a better life once his cancer killed him and all he really has done is sold his soul only to watch it all burn.
Jesse sends Walt a picture of found cash seemingly buried in the desert. Under the fake story that the rented van Walt used to hide the cash had a GPS device on it, Jesse is able to convince Walt to race out to it's hiding place. There Walt realizes his mistake. Having stayed on the phone the entire trip Walt readies himself for a standoff with Jesse. And then Hank shows up with Jesse. Walt is caught, handcuffed, and arrested. It's over. But just like with Walt's inability to escape from Heisenberg, his demon's won't release him just yet. Todd and his Neo-Nazi uncle show up ready to dispense with Jesse. After a short standoff Hank and Gomez are seemingly pinned down by the overwhelming arsenal brought by the uncle's associates. Walt is trapped in a bullet ridden car, Hank and Gomez return fire the best they can, and Jesse contemplates a quick escape. All while you realize Hank still hasn't told anyone about Walt and the only three people who know who Heisenberg really is and want him behind bars are being shot at.
Really great endings always make me wonder what to lead with. Do you go with the the cliffhanger? Because anyone reading this will have seen the episode and of course would want to start there. I ascribe to the idea that it isn’t about the destination but the journey that matters. So how did Walter White journey to the sight of his first cook with Jesse, get arrested, and involved in shootout with white supremacists? A text message. A phone call. And fear lots. Lots of fear.
Walter White might be the Devil in the eyes of many but he is still man. He was always going to be his own undoing. It’s too rich a vein not to tap. That vein just so happens to be situated around a whole bunch of other veins like: a man doing bad for the good of his family and dramatic irony. All of whose milkshake are drank while tapping the vein that is Walter being his own undoing.
Hank ascribes greed to Walters instantaneous jump at the false picture of his money barrel. He needs it to be as simple and evil like that. It’s a bit more complicated, Walter is a greedy man for sure, but it’s a greed driven by providing for his family. The money in the desert would have been his final gift to that family. What would you do, bitch? A man on the other end is claiming to burn 10 grand a minute and it all if the call even drops it all goes up. It’s enough to make you angry. Angered, we tend to do a lot of stupid things. In Walts case he admits to literally every act of murder/attempted murder he’s ever committed. He might of left a few out but what does it matter.
Breaking Bad has always done a great job of just keeping tight focus on it’s actors faces. The majority of whom emote rather well facially. Cranston’s acting throughout that entire standoff was sublime. He gets out of the car and is utterly dumbstruck by the lack of Jesse. Not even noticing the distinct lack of displaced earth. It slowly begins to hit him. We get to see the wheels start turning, conclusions are being formed. Conclusions that are half right. Yes, Jesse lied about the money in order to lure Walt out there. He doesn't realize that Jesse is working with Hank when he calls Todd. Setting a ball in motion that he had little hope of controlling. Once the Uncle wrote the GPS coordinates down it was only a matter of “when” they would show up not “if”.
With the internet culture that surrounds television these days along with the sheer quality of the medium, it’s best practices and tropes are well known. All of which are then dissected and expected by the reverb chamber of fandom. It’s that last part that writers have any real control over: expectation. When will X happen. In the case of the standoff in the desert; when would Todd’s gang show up. Something episode scribe George Mastras must be aware of. That knowledge just fills that scene with immense dread by the viewer. For a good while I expected Agent Gomez to be taken out by a sniper bullet or something of the like. Something quick and sudden to just cut the tension and let us just deal with the ensuing chaos. A chaotic gun fight is far easier to process than hanging on and dreading every single frame of a scene.
Agent Gomez isn’t taken out suddenly. Todd’s crew pulls up armed to the teeth ready to clean up whatever mess Walter White has gotten himself into. Ever the law men Hank and Gomez stand their ground guns drawn. All of its western/standoff imagery had previously been allusions. So it was about time we actually got one. The shoot out form Heat this is not. Still with plenty of temporal and sound play, further elongating the tension (and make for some rather nice high def imagery) that was a damn good shoot out.
Hank finally got is man. Walter White has fallen. Both of these things are true for the moment. With how this show works the hail of bullets will at least catch Gomez. Hank told his wife “I love you” also. Which is right up there with saying “I’ve only got 3 days to retirement.” Going in I’d thought Jsse would be the one to make it out “alright” (whatever that means). Now I’m fairly certain he’ll make it out in a body bag. Maybe that’s for the best.