So BREAKING BAD returns after what felt like an interminable 360-month hiatus, with fans foaming at the mouth to see Hank confront Walt with the evidence that he’s been Heisenberg the whole time — and what does the show do? It gives audiences the showdown we’ve been waiting for, right there in the premiere of the final eight episodes.
Most other shows would have teased viewers for weeks by dangling the prospect of that faceoff, but this is BREAKING BAD, a show that is nothing if not in your face — and that’s just where Hank (Dean Norris) punched Walt (Bryan Cranston): right in the face.
But not right away, of course. (Creator/show-runner Vince Gilligan isn’t that silly.) Instead, we open with an odd scene we assume is from the future, because it depicts Walt — complete with a full head of hair and a thick beard — visiting his abandoned and boarded-up home to retrieve his hidden vial of ricin and scares the Jebus out of neighbor Carol, causing her to drop her bag of groceries, spilling out a bunch of oranges. In the Godfather movies, oranges symbolize impending death. So… that doesn’t bode well for… someone…
We see how Hank’s toilet-riding epiphany affected him: He suffered an anxiety attack on the ride home. Having your entire family and world turned upside-down and shat on will do that to a guy. Hank heads home and reviews the entire Heisenberg case in his garage, putting all the disparate pieces together to confirm that his bald brother-in-law is, indeed, the meth kingpin of the Southwest. Meanwhile, the erstwhile Heisenberg is doing his best to become the carwash king of the Southwest, suggesting to Skylar (Anna Gunn) that they expand to another site — and, incidentally, it would help launder the drug money more quickly. When Lydia (Laura Fraser) shows up, begging Walt to come back and give her cooks a refresher course in making meth, he turns her down flat. And Skylar warns her that she better not show her face around Walt again — and not have an A1 day!
Jesse (Aaron Paul), meanwhile, is depressed over his ill-gotten fortune, and when he asks Saul (Bob Odenkirk) to give it away, Saul calls Walt, who talks Jesse out of his latest scheme — even if he cannot convince his young partner that Mike is still alive. Jesse resolves to give to the poor — by literally throwing packs of $100 bills on doorsteps in the poor part of town. But what will happen when Jesse inevitably realizes that a lot of those people will use the cash windfall to… buy meth? He’s facilitating the drug trade all over again.
When Walt finds a tracker on his car, he confronts Hank, who calmly closes the garage door and faces him down. When Walt doesn’t deny being Heisenberg, Hank punches him in the head and they tussle. Walt reveals that his cancer is back and he’ll be dead in six months, so even if Hank does convince anyone that he’s Heisenberg he’ll never see the inside of a prison cell, so does Hank want to destroy the family for that?
Hank finally growls that he doesn’t know who Walt is anymore. In response, Walt points out that since Hank really doesn’t know whom he’s dealing with, he would do well to “tread lightly.” After that chilling challenge, can there be any doubt about precisely who Walt is?
And can there be any doubt how powerful and compelling BREAKING BAD is? Sure, last night’s entry — directed, by the way, by Cranston himself — played it largely low-key, with even a downplayed sense of lurking menace, but the episode was working its way up to the Walt/Hank throwdown. It was a slow burn, and it was worth the build.
It’s sad that there are only seven episodes remaining now, but it looks like they are going to be seven balls-to-the-wall episodes.