Breaking Bad 5.14 – “Ozymandias”

Vince Gilligan might be a man who avoids spoilers at all costs, but by naming this week’s episode “Ozymandias,” he tipped his hand at least a little bit…if, that is, you’re familiar with a certain poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I won’t waste your time or mine by quoting it – you’re free to read it here at your discretion – but suffice it to say that there was little question that we’d be seeing Walt’s downfall continuing in earnest.


Rather than leaping right back into the fray where things left off last week, we’re instead treated to a flashback to Walt and Jesse’s first cook. If this were another show, you might call it a sentimental gesture, given that it ties in to the fact that the big battle is taking place in the very same location, but it’s actually a scene that’s designed to spotlight the precise moment when Walt first began lying to Skyler.

Oh, sure, it’s also nice to see Walt and Jesse during happier times, to get the back story on how “Holly” came into contention as a name for the White’s daughter, and to hear the name “Bogdan” uttered again. (It also reminded me just how long it’s been since I watched the first season of the show: I’d completely forgotten that, at the very beginning, Skyler was also selling stuff to bring in extra income.) But it’s the lie that really matters. If it hadn’t been for that lie, which set up a scenario that necessitated more lies, then Walt might still have a family.

Instead, he has nothing.

Well, you know, except for about 11 million dollars. But that’s hardly a substitute for a wife and kids, now, is it?

Trying to cover this episode in my traditional let’s-discuss-every-single-moment manner seems wholly unnecessary, since I spent most of the hour with my jaw on the floor, trying to decide which were “holy shit” moments and which were “holy fuck” moments, so even though it goes against my natural tendencies, I’m just going to do some stream-of-consciousness discussion and hope for the best.


Just when I think Walt’s crossed a line where I’ll never, ever see him as a sympathetic character again, he goes and says or does something that just barely manages to bring me back from the abyss. Last week, when he tried to use Andrea and Brock as bait to draw out Jesse, I thought he’d crossed that line, but this week he offered to give up all of his money to save Hank’s life. It didn’t work, of course, nor was it ever going to work, as Hank announced moments before uttering the next-to-last sentence of his life (“You’re the smartest guy I ever met, and you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago”), but it was still a gesture I wouldn’t have thought Walt capable of making. In short order, however, he backpedaled right back into despicability by confronting Jesse and, in an effort to extract some vague semblance of revenge for Hank’s death, finally unleashed the secret he’d been holding onto for several seasons: that he’d watched Jane die, and even though he could’ve saved her, he didn’t. Once again, I hated Walt, because revealing that information was just an act of spite, plain and simple. By the end of the episode, though, he’d started to win me back over again…but we’ll get to that.

Watching Walt have to roll a barrel full of money through the desert until he’s able to buy a beat-up old pickup truck from an elderly Navaho gentleman was pretty pitiful, but it didn’t come anywhere near hitting the levels of sadness inspired by Marie’s speech to Skyler, knowing that everything she was telling Skyler about Walt’s fate had not, in fact, come to pass, and that her husband and his partner were actually dead and buried in an unmarked grave. I admit to surprise that Skyler was even willing to sit still long enough to discover why Marie had come to talk to her in the first place, but going that direction with their reunion…wow, that was incredible stuff.


And so, of course, was the experience of watching Walt. Jr. – oh, sorry, I mean Flynn (notice how, after Marie makes a point of calling him that, everyone else does as well, doubtlessly in an effort to avoid reminding themselves who he’s named after) – finally find out what his father’s been doing for lo these many seasons. Watching Walt’s world fall down around him when his son, effectively the only person who still believed him to be a real swell guy, realized what an awful human being he actually was… Well, it’s not like we didn’t know it was coming, but it was still rough. You can’t blame Skyler for threatening Walt with a knife when she found out that Hank was dead, and it’s hard not to hate Walt for ending his battle with his wife and son by grabbing Holly and making a run for it, but it makes sense: by virtue of not having any idea what’s going on with anyone anywhere, she’s really the only one left who still loves him…except just not as much as she loves her mama. Look, these are things that happen when you spend more time making meth than making memories with your kids…

Meanwhile, Walt’s surrogate son – once upon a time, anyway – is still hanging on, if only just barely, thanks to Walt bringing down the hammer by revealing Jesse’s hiding place under the car and giving Todd’s uncle a cursory nod to seal his former partner’s fate. Of all people to save Jesse from being executed, who would’ve thought it’d be Todd? I still think we’re destined to see a showdown between the two of them before it’s all over, though, and my money’s still on Jesse, if only because he really, really wants to get back at Walt now.


And what of Walt? Well, having come to his senses and dropped Holly at the nearest fire station, he’s finally taken advantage of Saul’s “guy” and hopped in a van with his luggage and his money, heading off to…New Hampshire, is it? (Man, the beginning of Season 5 seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?) A buddy of mine said that he would’ve been quite happy with the series ending with this episode, as Walt heads off into the sunset. I can’t entirely get behind that – sorry, I need closure on Jesse’s story – but I get where he’s coming from: we’ve still got two episodes left, and I don’t know about you, but I’m scared to death about what’s yet to come.