The last three episodes of Breaking Bad have been action packed. Walt’s turn toward the simple life has been met by the return of his cancer and Hank’s revelation. In episode 8, the audience learns Hank knows. Episode 9 is all about Walt knowing Hank knows. Episode 10 keeps it up, as—and try to stay with me here—Hank learns Skyler knows, Marie learns that Skyler knows (and about Hank), and Skyler learns about Hank and Marie knowing. Not to mention, Hank lets slip to Skyler that Walt’s cancer has returned. And Walt learns that Skyler now knows. It’s a wonder that the next episode is going to be called “Confessions.”
The episode starts, though, with a classic TV trope: diffuse a tense situation by the week-long break. Of course it’s just as tense when Walt walks out of the garage. In fact, it’s a veritable Wild West showdown. Just look at the way those trigger fingers move. Both are going for the kill—but instead of a six shooter, Walt might just be coming back with a M60. But that’s later. For now, the focus is Skyler. Hank thinks he can turn her, protect her, and most importantly, use her in his campaign against Walt.1
Hank reaches Skyler first, but he takes the wrong approach. In his mission to take down Walt, he treats Skyler as Walt’s puppet, the target of intimidation. “You’re done being the victim,” he says. What he doesn’t know is that Skyler hates being the victim more than anything. Throughout the series, she’s been fighting—to Walt, to Saul, to Ted—to prove that she’s a competent agent in a show otherwise dominated by men. And she understands Hank’s motivation here completely: “What you want is to get Walt…at all costs,” not to help her. So she requests to talk to a lawyer first in what is the first of Hank’s surely many roadblocks to getting the proper evidence against Heisenberg.
Meanwhile, unable to contact Skyler, Walt goes into emergency mode. He gets Saul’s men to load his storage locker fortune (from episode 8) into barrels2, and he leaves to bury it in the desert. Of course, while he is hiding the evidence of his drug earnings3, Hank continues lobbying Skyler—this time with the help of Marie. Marie, of course, is horrified to hear the extent of Skyler’s collusion with Walt, slaps her, and tries to steal Holly. Old habits die hard.
This extends the familiar showdown: White v. Schrader, Schrader v. White. When Marie gets into the car with Hank (having abandoned Holly), she insists to Hank that “you have to get him.” And Hank seems equally determined, knowing that he’ll lose his job as soon as he brings this information—that his brother-in-law has been a drug kingpin—to his DEA colleagues4. Skyler and Walt, on the other hand, are closer than maybe ever. She knows about Walt’s cancer and still defends him, and he hides the money and offers to turn himself in, as long as the family gets to keep the money. It’s rather touching, however ironic, that the couples are at their strongest when facing off against each other.
Family drama alone could not make a legitimate Breaking Bad episode—definitely not in the final season. So we’re treated to Lydia meeting with Declan; the other drug kingpin that Walt, Jesse, and Mike were going to sell their methylamine. You see, there’s been a problem. Specifically, as Lydia mentioned to Walt last episode, there’s been a quality drop down to 68% purity. And for Lydia and her Czech buyer, that’s unacceptable. So she “teams up with” Todd’s neo-Nazi crew to take over the market (she actually just hides underground while Todd’s friends do all the killing). This officially ends all Declan-as-plot speculation that was running around, and solidifies just how desperate Lydia is for a return to quality meth. Last episode, when she said she was backed into a corner, it’s clear she meant it.
During this scene, Todd is the consummate gentleman, helping a squeamish Lydia avoid seeing the carnage. Which is interesting to note: he was involved with this slaughter, yet can show remarkable courtesy. In that way he’s a perfect counterpart to Jesse, who’s far too scrupulous for this business and lacks basic politeness. Similarly, Lydia is unable to face the carnage she ordered—unlike Heisenberg, “the one who knocks,” the one who will relish pulling the trigger.
I would expect that Walt and Jesse could face off with this new operation, but Jesse has gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble. Throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars out his car window and then hanging around the neighborhood’s park is a sure-fire way to get arrested. Indeed Jesse looks like he wants to punish himself. And Hank will happily help along his contrition [note], with the episode ending on Hank walking into Jesse’s interrogation room. Jesse, as a matter of fact, didn’t say a word all episode, leaving the door open for plenty of talking in episode 11, “Confessions.”5
1I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong, and my prediction that the yellow RV car was not run over. It’s a running theory that yellow symbolizes impending death or danger in the series, so Walt almost running it over was probably a tip off about the color motif.
2Funniest moment of the episode is Huell going full Scrooge McDuck on the cash.
3Coincidentally in the same spot that he went to cook with Jesse in the first episode.
4And the award for best supporting mustache goes to…
5Reminds me of some wise words from a first season enemy.