No matter how long you search, you are unlikely to ever see a better or more depressing episode of television drama. After five seasons of incredible twists and turns in the story of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, it comes as no surprise that the final mini-season of Breaking Bad is sprinkled with stardust. But the episode entitled ‘Ozymandias’ (a reference to Shelley’s poem about the inevitable decline of all leaders), took all our expectations and destroyed them, just like it destroyed the lives of its characters in a never-ending spiral of awfulness.
As the screw turned harder and harder on family man/cancer sufferer/meth kingpin Walter White, the man of science surely would have appreciated Newton’s third law of motion coming to the fore, as every one of his actions appears to have had an equal (and primarily opposite) reaction. The chickens were coming home to roost, Heisenberg was getting his comeuppance – but as we’ve always suspected, no one was going to come out of this well. Being innocent will certainly not save you from the fallout of Walter White’s life disintegrating – no, to have ever been touched by Heisenberg means you have been infected by a form of evil just as pure as his blue meth.
This is immediately rammed home as we see the Gomez lying dead in the desert, shortly followed into the ground by Walt’s brother in law ASAC Hank Shrader of the DEA, whose refusal to do a deal with criminals (despite the belated attempts of Walt to save him) meant that he too must be terminated. This incident alone could have been enough to frame an entire episode, but this is Breaking Bad…nothing is that simple.
After suffering the indignity of shaking hands with the killer of his brother in law, Walt is still able to summon enough mental strength to give Jesse away. He would have seen him killed, but when its suggested he should be tortured too, Heisenberg doesn’t blink. No, instead he tells Jesse to his face that he watched Jane die: he could have helped her, but he didn’t. Even when he appears to have done his worst, Walter White always has more in the tank.
You might think Walt Jr’s day couldn’t get any worse after finding out his dad is a mastermind drug dealer and psycho. But there is more. He has to watch his parents grapple on the floor in a knife fight, whilst listening to his baby sister scream. When he intervenes to protect his mother, his father grabs the innocent child and takes her on the run. The look on the faces of everyone at this moment sums up just how desperate and chilling things have become.
And then there’s the phone call. Five seasons of watching Walter, but in that one phone call – Heisenberg speaks. Acting, directing and writing combine to make for one of the most compelling scenes in television history. You need to see it to believe it.
He is the reason Jesse is chained up like an animal cooking meth for Uncle Jack. He is the reason Andrea and Brock will remain in mortal danger. He is the reason Holly and Walt Jr will grow up without a father or an uncle. He is the reason Agent Gomez is dead. He is the reason Jane is dead. He is the reason countless innocent people will never find happiness. He is the danger… and he always will be until he ends up in the same hole in the desert where his dirty money once hid.
This is a moral tale. Evil people will get what’s coming to them. There’s no doubt that the final two episodes will see no redemption for Walter White, there is nothing to redeem. But unlike the sugar-coated stories that often pass across our television screens, there is no hope in this tale. The good have not been protected; the innocent will not be saved. Just like the terrible corrupting drug that he once cooked, Heisenberg has spread his poison far and wide.
As the marketing messages for the final episodes have constantly reminded us, “all bad things must come to an end” – but did anyone really imagine it could be this bad?
Breaking Bad continues on Netflix