Monday, September 3, 2012

Breaking Bad Review: Season Five, Episode Eight - Gliding Over All

By Geddy Cahoon

Hello everybody, Geddy Cahoon here with the final NWC Breaking Bad Review (Ramble?) of 2012. Last night's episode? Gliding Over All.

It was an episode that was simultaneously slow moving and very tense, ending with a cliffhanger that we all should have seen coming but was in no way less flooring due to that fact.

Hit the jump to read the final analysis of Breaking Bad for the year, my review of Gliding Over All!

This week's episode kicked off with Walt sitting in the Vamonos office. He's watching some sort of bug crawl around, and Todd enters with a report about the destruction of Mike's car. Walt says that they need to take care of the next thing, and we see that he has Mike's body in his trunk. They're about to dissolve it in acid when Jesse appears, wanting to know if Mike made it out okay.

Walt doesn't lie... But he doesn't exactly tell the truth either. He simply says Mike is "Gone." Jesse asks what they're going to do about the nine names on Lydia's list, and Walt tells him he'll handle it before closing the door in Jesse's face to go dispose of Mike's corpse.

I very much enjoyed this cold opening, as I am wont to do. Somehow, seeing Mike's body in Walter's trunk seemed even more brutal than the actual killing last week. It really shocked me more than upset me, and all I could really muster was a loud "Wow!" I also picked up on the fact that Todd is to Heisenberg as Mike was to Gustavo Fring. Todd will do whatever dirty thing Walter needs, and I really like the fact that that dynamic kind of progressed very subtly over the course of the last few episodes.

Pictured: Mike Ehrmantraut

I also find Walt's coldness to Jesse to be humorous in a way. He kind of shuts him out the very same way Skyler would shut Walt out in season two. The two obviously are incapable of hating each other; there's just a slight roadblock in their "friendship," and we'll see later in the episode that Walt absolutely harbors no malice towards Monsieur Pinkman. The one thing I didn't really "get" about this cold open was the bug thing. Obviously it was meant to show that Walt was having serious internal issues about the killing of Mike, but I felt that him looking at the bug poster was supposed to show something more. The only thing I can think of is way too simplistic and kind of ridiculous. Thus, not worth mentioning here.

It was a dark, funny, interesting cold open. It didn't try to do anything too flashy or groundbreaking. Just set up the story we'd be seeing over the next 50 minutes, and it did that quite well.

Back from commercial, we see Lydia sitting in a restaurant, and Walt shows up in full Heisenberg garb. They chat for a while, with Walt wanting the list of nine names - Which is actually ten because our good friend Dan Wachsberger needs to be offed as well. Lydia is reluctant to give Walter the list, as she is worried that he'll kill her once he has it - She doesn't want to be a loose end. Walt argues that her life is worth LESS if she doesn't give him the list.

And we all know what a life is worth to Walter White to begin with...

Lydia also wants to talk business, revealing that she was integral in Gus' meth distribution network, and offers to get Walt's Blue Sky all the way to the Czech Republic, once the ten men are out of the way. Walt agrees, not putting much thought into it. He gets the names, and it's revealed that he brought the vial of ricin with him to the meeting, assumedly to poison Lydia if she was unwilling to hand the names over.

Pictured: Walt looking at his vial in a goofy manner. Unrelated to the current topic.

This was a pretty solid scene. I've been singing the praises of Laura Fraser since I started doing these reviews. She was as solid as ever in this scene, doing her perfect blend of nervousness and confidence. The cavalier way Walter accepted Lydia's offer of distribution struck me as odd. As we see throughout the rest of the episode, Walter is really beginning to tie up loose ends and wind down a bit.

 It could be because he considers Mike's killing "senseless" compared to some of the stuff he's done, and is, like Jesse, getting fed up with the bloodshed. Just a theory. The reveal of the ricin vial in his hat really caught me off guard, but showed that regardless of how much Walter may be reconsidering himself, Heisenberg is still there, ready to kill when necessary. We would see Walt's Heisenberg side resurface for perhaps the last time later on in the episode. Noteworthy is perhaps the fact that Walter removed his Heisenberg "outfit" before speaking to Lydia. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it enforces the idea that we really don't see "Heisenberg" many times in this episode.

One of the really striking things about this scene to me however, was how much more convenient things are without Mike around. I loved the guy, don't get me wrong. But now Walter can pretty much do whatever he wants, and Lydia regained her confidence almost as soon as Walt confirmed Mike's death. The aftermath of Mike's death and the ensuing freedom it allowed Walter was certainly a focal point of this episode. Or rather, the gravity of what Walter has done over the past year begins to set in for him, and I don't think it's inaccurate to say that his feelings about Mike's killing were something of a preview of the mentality he'd display and decisions he would make later in the episode.

Dead or not, he's relevant dammit!

At an unspecified location, Walter is meeting with Todd's uncle and his group of skinhead associates. Walter needs the ten men from Lydia's list to be murdered all at once in the span of two minutes. The only issue is that they're in three different prisons. The group leader tells him it can't be done how he wants it. Walt had been strangely transfixed on a painting hanging on the wall, and snaps out of it momentarily to tell Todd's uncle that it can be done "Exactly how I want it." He wants them to figure it out because that's what he's paying them for.

I honestly found this scene to be incredibly shocking, as well as unbearably tense. Well first of all, I found the detail that Todd's uncle and his associates were skinheads to be... Odd. Not that it's unwelcome or stupid or anything... They just didn't really dwell on it and it seemed like a pointlessly subtle detail. Arbitrary nazism aside, I was waiting for something insane to happen when the leader of the criminals snapped his fingers in Walter's face. The last time somebody talked down to Walter like that, he got shot.

Pictured: The aftermath of someone talking down to Walter White

However, I think Walter's non-reaction was the point. Last time somebody "talked down to him," he overreacted and somebody died. He's exercising some degree of restraint now, but that didn't make the possibility of him flipping out any less terrifying. The fact that he was so stuck on the poster was strange, but I guess just served to enforce the central idea of the episode, which is: Walter is out of it, mentally. He's rethinking everything he's done, and is essentially now just going through the motions, trying to tie up as much as he can.

In the next scene though, we see that regardless of his zoned-out state, Walt's horrific deeds are far from through. He paces around his living room skittishly, looking at his watch. One of Breaking Bad's staple scenes then kicks in: Cheery music over a montage of brutal or criminal acts. Walt stands at his window looking at his watch as we cut between the ten men on Lydia's list being shanked, choked, or burned alive. After the two minutes are up, he receives a call from one of the members of Todd's uncle's gang: "It's done."

This was absolutely brutal. There really is no other word for it. I almost want to say it's the most brutal scene this show has ever featured. Pretty much every second and gory detail of these ten guys being slaughtered was shown, and the fact that it was all at the hands of Walter adds even more weight to how disturbing it was. It was almost comedic at times, due to the music in the background, but in the back of my head the entire time, all I could think about was "These are guys with wives, kids, mothers, and etc. This is insane." The craziest part? The total number of people that have either been killed or had hits ordered by Walter White: 22.

At Hank and Marie's, Walt is visiting to play with his kids. He coddles Holly while a news report of the prison killings plays in the background. Hank arrives home in a terrible mood, obviously due to the hits orchestrated by Walter. They sit down and have a drink and Hank, in a rare moment, opens up to Walter, telling him about a carefree Summer job he once had, and how he's thinking about that job more and more, as it's better than "Chasing monsters" for a living. Walt apathetically tells him that he used to love camping.

First off, I absolutely loved the fact that Walter was playing with his infant daughter while a news report about ten killings he orchestrated played in the background. He didn't falter, he didn't stop to look at the TV, didn't think twice. Again, as much as Walter has been rethinking himself this episode, this is how far the man has come. I also loved Hank's speech. It was a much more heartfelt, melancholy type of scene than we typically see from Hank, and I found something to be oddly beautiful about it. But more prominently, I found important the fact that Walter has really broken Hank over the course of the series.

Hank was originally put up this Super Cop facade - He was respected by his family, his friends, his coworkers. Of course, we've seen over the course of the series that that's all it was - A facade (And really, the gradual reveal that Hank isn't the man everyone wants him to be, at least not in the way they think, is probably my favorite subplot of the series). However, he always managed to find some type of gratification in and dedication to his work. Now Walter has killed so many people and put so many roadblocks in Hank's path that he doesn't even know if he wants to be a cop anymore. I've got to say, as much as I love Hank, it IS somewhat gratifying to see Walter "win" in a roundabout way here. Hank didn't exactly have a ton of respect for Walter as a man, and he's feeling the effects of that.

A montage is then shown in which three months pass. Todd and Walt cook up 15 batches of Blue Sky and Lydia sends it to the Czech Republic while Saul watches wires and Declan distributes. Skyler is then shown meeting with Marie, who tells her that it may be time to take the kids back. She and Hank are worried that they may be "enabling" Skyler at this point. Skyler, realizing she has no choice but to bring the kids back now, asks Walt to go for a drive. They go to a storage locker, which contains a massive block of money. Skyler can no longer launder it, and she asks Walt when enough will be enough.

Wow. It's astounding that this show after so many years can still shock me to this degree, but seeing that freaking CUBE of money was almost too much. This, I think, is the precise moment in the episode where Walt realizes the full gravity of his situation. He has achieved exactly what he set out to a year ago, and then some. He has alienated his family, slaughtered nearly two dozen people, been complicit in even more deaths, manufactured poison for sale in the streets, trapped his wife in her own home, and completely destroyed the life of a kid who really cared a lot about him. And he did it all for a massive cube of money. The only thing he can muster is "How much is it." Skyler doesn't know. He has made more money than he even realizes.

And that causes him to realize that he doesn't need to make any more. This really was a highly emotional scene. It is the culmination of everything. Cranston pulls it off wonderfully without even really saying anything, and Skyler's plea to Walt to return her life was massively upsetting. These are two people that still love each other in some damaged way, that much is clear. ANY type of life would be better than their current situation, and even Walter White, in his prideful, murderous glory, recognizes that.

At the hospital, Walt gets his routine MRI, in a scene that mimics the MRI from the pilot episode. Walt then goes into the bathroom and sees the paper towel dispenser that he punched in season two when he found out that he was going to live. He then goes to visit the Jesse, and the two have a tense exchange, but eventually reminisce somewhat fondly about the old RV. Walt says he left something for Jesse - Two bags full of money to be exact. Jesse brings them inside and begins to cry, throwing a gun that he had picked up after Walt arrived to the floor.

These two scenes really were phenomenal. I loved Walt's MRI mirroring the diagnosis scene in the first episode, and the look on his face when he saw the dispenser he had mangled was fantastic as well. This episode is, at the core, about Walt taking it all in, realizing what he's done, etc. He's gone through so many phases and emotions and mentalities regarding his situation over the year the show took place, and now that he's truly been presented with them, he's not entirely sure how to feel.

I found his exchange with Jesse to be somewhat heartbreaking, quite honestly. Through all of the doubts and fights and violence, at the core, Walter and Jesse are partners. They always looked out for each other, and cared about each other, even with guns pointed in their faces. Conversely however, Walt has done so many awful, unspeakable things to foster that relationship, and many of them will probably never come to light. One could argue that Jesse really had no choice but to care about Walter. Who else did he have? But the noteworthy thing is that Walter felt genuine remorse for how Jesse ended up. That's why he left him the money. He realized that he harmed Jesse or treated him unfairly many many times, and repaid him without really saying it by giving him his money, effectively saying a final goodbye.

Walt arrives home, and tells Skyler he's out. He means it. Skyler can have the kids back, and the Whites and the Schraders gather out back by the pool, having a small family get together. Walter Jr. plays with Holly while the four adults chat at the table. Skyler smiles at Walt, seemingly as a way of saying that he's forgiven. Hank excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and leafs through the magazines stacked on the toilet. Unfortunately, one of the books is the copy of Leaves of Grass, dedicated from "G.B." to "W.W." Hank flashes back to a conversation from season four, realizing that Walter White is his Heisenberg.

Okay, so based on the cold opening from the premiere episode of the season, we all knew that something of this nature was going to happen in this episode. That made for basically, the most intense family dinner I've ever seen. The whole time everyone sat at the table and talked, and Jr. played with Holly, I was waiting for SOMETHING to happen. Only Breaking Bad can make a family dinner possibly the most tense thing I've seen on television all year. Of course, the fact that Walt and Skyler had seemingly reconciled only made this reveal even more heartbreaking. Things were really looking great for the White family, and Walter had tied up every conceivable loose end. Then he leaves this piece of evidence just sitting out. Jeez. The look on Hank's face when he comes to his realization is priceless. It's a perfect mixture of pure shock, but at the same time a hint of unbearable malice. Dean Norris nailed it, delivering a perfect final scene of 2012.

The worst part about this scene though? We have to wait until 2013 to see where it goes.


This was a pretty fantastic finale (Or half-finale) when you get right down to it. It featured a perfect blend of tense action and the amazing dialogue that BB is known for. And it really was a pulse-pounding episode. Every single time Walter met with someone, I really did think he was going to "tie up loose ends." I half-expected him to kill Jesse when they met at his house. But that may be the episode's greatest strength: It completely flips around the central idea of the show, which is that you shouldn't underestimate what those around you are capable of. 

We all assume Walter will be doing horrible things. In this episode he does his share of horrible shit, sure, but there were times when it seemed like he was going to go "Heisenberg" and he just... Didn't. There's more to Walter White than Heisenberg. There exists a soul, a conscience, regardless of how deeply it was buried. And Walt was willing to let that conscience take effect. But unfortunately, he can't escape his sins due to the sheer volume of them.

Most intriguing though, is where we go from here. Walt and Hank have always had a subtly adversarial relationship, but now they are straight up contending against each other, on opposite sides of the law. Sadly, Walter will lose his family now, which is pretty much the one thing he was setting out to avoid. Ultimately, that's what this episode was about. Walter realizing what he's done, attempting to set it right, and failing. Gliding Over All was a fantastic, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking finale, with all of the actors on top of their game, ending on a perfect hook, and expertly setting up the final eight episodes of what is arguably the greatest TV series ever.

That's it for this year! I hope you enjoyed my Breaking Bad reviews over the past month, I really enjoyed writing them! Leave a comment or like the NWC Facebook Page to tell me what you thought! This season of Breaking Bad was pretty fantastic, but would you expect anything less? Tune in next...... Year, for more overly verbose analyses of Breaking Bad! Thanks for reading!

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