For five seasons we have watched as the kindly chemistry teacher, Walter White, (Bryan Cranston) slowly transformed into Scarface. Though he may have started as a sympathetic character, it has been a long time since I’ve had any sympathy for him – mass prison murders, barrels of acid and cooking meth will do that to a person. But after what was Hank’s (Dean Norris) finest hour, the sight of Walt (Bryan Cranston) in handcuffs still managed to leave a sour taste. As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for.
When Hank’s previous plan to incriminate Walt failed, it was Jesse (Aaron Paul) who had a flash of brilliance and saw a way to use Walt’s one true weakness against him: his money. Believing Jesse to have unearthed his giant stash, Walt raced out into the desert, too blinded by fury to see that it was all a ploy and that all that was waiting for him was a set of handcuffs. You could write essays (and I’m sure people will) about the audience’s relationship with Walt and how even despite all the horrible, malicious things he’s done, seeing him brought to justice like that was oddly hollow; it just didn’t feel right.
That feeling, coupled with the intense moments of victory for the other characters, made it a very difficult scene to watch. Seeing Hank read Walt his rights was incredibly satisfying, as was the look on Jesse’s face as Walt was placed in handcuffs; you could see the moment where he thinks he’s done it, that he’s finally free from the evil Heisenberg. But of course, we know he’s not.
The strong sense of dread only intensified when Hank made a triumphant phone call to Marie (Betsy Brandt) telling her that Walt was under arrest. It was just too good to be true. Although this conversation was a lovely moment for a couple who’ve had a rough time of things recently, it did feel incredibly like a ‘last phone call’ and the writers being unable to off Hank without giving him a chance to say goodbye. Of course I may be speaking prematurely, but with the arrival of Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) neo-Nazi friends, it seems that things can only end badly for Hank and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada).
The stand-off that followed was incredibly tense, and made all the more tragic by Walt’s desperate attempts to call Uncle Jack off, but it was all for nothing. The episode cut to black amid a hail of gunfire and when we come back next week, there are sure to be some bodies on the ground.
It’s been said over and over that you can never predict where Breaking Bad is going, but with an ending as downbeat and seemingly decisive as that, it’s hard to see another way out. Of course, I’m happy to be proved wrong.