The year long wait for the final eight episodes is over! After the brilliant cliffhanger to Season 5 part 1 finale with Hank literally taking a dump that could dethrone Heisenberg, “Blood Money” follows up with a well paced, methodically plotted episode that delivers the confrontation fans have been anticipating since Season 1.
Continue Reading for my spoiler filled thoughts and reaction to Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 9 “Blood Money”.
It’s a great surprise for Walt to face off against Hank in the part 2 premiere instead of prolonging their confrontation; a sign that the writers have mapped out many more big developments in the remaining seven episodes. When Walt turns around to confront Hank about the tracking device and the garage door closes behind them, it’s a wonderfully suspenseful moment just before the shit hits the fan.
Aside from the much needed punch to the face, the scene is not overtly explosive rather it raises the stakes from cloak and dagger intrigue to a finger on the trigger showdown. It’s incredibly effective in demonstrating how fast Walt is thinking on the fly as he continually comes up with reasons for Hank to stop the prosecution: first for the sake of his family, then the futility in bringing a dying man to justice, and finally a thinly veiled threat, all without incriminating himself. “Maybe your best course would be to tread lightly” in Heisenberg speak roughly translates to, “come after me and you’re signing your own death warrant.” It’s a threat that Hank is well aware Walt is capable of following through on.
Although Hank has a knack for putting pieces together, he’s always been a step or two behind in identifying the real Heisenberg until now. On one hand it would have been interesting to flip the dynamic for a couple of episodes where Hank has the upper hand, i.e. gathering evidence to put away Heisenberg unbeknownst to Walt. However, from a character perspective the writer’s probably did not want to undermine Walt’s superiority by having the audience know something crucial that he didn’t. Further, a continual strength in Breaking Bad’s storytelling is how it draws tension from taking Walt to the edge of the proverbial cliff, only to see him outwit and outplay his opponents time and again.
The difference this time around is that many fans are no longer rooting for villainous Walt. I’m personally not rooting for either Hank or Walt, I’m more interested in watching how it all unfolds. But there’s a small part of me that still wants to see Walt overcome his obstacles. Because the writer’s have taken the audience on Walt’s transformation from a terminally ill high school teacher to mastermind king pin, it’s imparted an empathy that would not have been present if we were initially introduced to a full fledged Scarface.
But can New Mexico’s most dangerous criminal take the quiet life as a car wash proprietor? Walt’s car wash is a front to launder his meth money, not exactly a “clean business”, but he does seem sincere in staying out of the drug trade when Lydia pays a visit. Walt tells Skyler the truth that Lydia is his former associate because he doesn’t want to get caught in an obvious lie but more importantly he genuinely wants to rebuild his relationship with his wife, which also means honoring the agreement to give up the meth cooking. Of course, the “moving parts” that Lydia alluded to will inevitably pull Walt back into the fold but at what cost?
Although Walt lacks a moral conscience, it’s that very thing which is debilitating Jesse. Giving away the blood money can’t wash his hands clean, but if there’s one character that I want to triumph at the end, maybe even be the one that’s bests Walt at his own game it’s Jesse. When Jesse speaks to Walt, the first thing he says is “Mike is dead” and by the end of their conversation he basically says “Mike is alive”. He hasn’t changed his beliefs, but to openly go against Walt at this point means his demise.
Skyler once wished cancer upon Walt and as fate would have it, her wish came true. Coming back full circle with the cancer relapse is fitting, as it’s a strong metaphor for Walt’s out of control corruption and is an impetus for many plot advancements, including in this episode when throwing up in the toilet due to chemo makes Walt realize his book is missing. As seen in the flash forward, does Walt’s full head of hair in the future means he’s beaten cancer again or only that he’s stopped chemo treatment?
Breaking Bad receives many accolades for its air-tight narrative but another aspect that also deserves praise is the story telling without dialogue or exposition. There are several great moments in the cold open that inform major plot points to come and the specific time period it is taking place from the camera panning out to reveal the skateboarders are in the White’s empty swimming pool, to the machine gun in the trunk which signifies it takes place after the Season 5 premiere’s flash forward, and Heisenberg written across the wall which suggests Walt’s alter ego is public knowledge. And who is the ricin for? This is all done without a single word of dialogue or on-screen notation i.e. “six months from now …” until the very end of the cold open when Walt’s greets his former and scared shit-less neighbor “Hello Carole”.
Was it worth the wait? What do you think of the direction of the final episodes? Who would you give the ricin too?