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Breaking Bad: Confessions (S5E11)

August 30th, 2013 1:00pm EDT

Breaking Bad I have been complaining the last few weeks about a lack of Jesse in these episodes. Let me tell you - this episode made up for that in spades. This episode gave every single central character a lot of screen time and a lot of room to grow and explore. It was honestly the episode I had been waiting for these past weeks, since it brought our entire cast of characters together and pushed things forward in a big way.
That being said, it was not flawless. Due to time constraints in my own busy life, this review will be rather brief, especially for such a meaty episode. Let's go through each character's journey in this episode and talk about what went well and what did not.
First of all: Walter Jr. He didn't have the biggest plot arc in this episode, nor has he had a lot to do this entire season. However, I really enjoyed the little of him that we did get. Walt sits down with his son to be "honest" with him, telling him that his cancer has come back. This scene broke my heart because Jr. looked so devastated at the thought of losing his father, but he has no idea about the rest of what is going on. Walt's subtle manipulation was actually really hard to watch, since Jr. clearly cares so much for a man he knows nothing about. I hope we get to really explore more of Jr's role in events as the season continues.
Then there's Skyler, Hank, and Marie. Their dinner scene with Walt was one of the highlights of the episode. I enjoyed the awkwardness of the waiter trying to take their order while they discussed things. Hank and Marie are unrepentant in their attempts to get Walt to confess. Marie even suggests that Walt just kill himself. This was shocking and dark to hear, but Hank says that Walt doesn't deserve to get off that easy. The dynamic between these four in-laws is extremely intense - Marie's attempts to take Holly and Jr. coupled with Skyler's loyalty to her her husband makes for a very strained relationship between the sisters, and that really showed in this restaurant scene.
Hank has other things going on as well, of course, as he tells Marie that he hasn't turned in Walt yet. Marie is concerned about this, but Hank is playing things more under-handed, talking to Jesse and attempting to get the younger man to give up his partner. This scene was intense, as it brought back earlier plot points such as Hank's attack on Jesse. He's also got to deal with Walt's latest deviousness, in the form of a "confession" tape where Walt says that Hank is the mastermind behind the meth empire.

I find myself very sympathetic to Hank and Marie's situation. Hank is a bit too black and white about Walt, as I mentioned in last week's review. However, he now knows definitively just how manipulative and horrible Walt can be. Even worse, Marie realizes that Sky is condoning this behavior, and even allowing her kids to be around it.
Then there's Saul. I've always loved this character, and this episode showcased exactly why. He is devious and willing to do whatever is necessary for his clients, because he loves money and he loves himself. But on the other side of this, he seems to have a bit of genuine affection for Jesse, which comes out in his worry about his behavior, and in the furious way he storms into the interrogation room where Jesse is being held at the start of the episode. He also gets to be an awkward witness to Jesse and Walt's emotional exchange in the desert, and I love the way he manages to be unobtrusive but still present at the same time.
Jesse was the strongest part of this episode for me. His refusal to betray Walt was really touching, and of course the desert confrontation was ridiculously intense. That hug. Man, I thought I was gonna cry. Jesse never actually hugs back, but just leans into Walt like he can't help himself. It was so touching, especially in the wake of all of Jesse's insecurities and fears about what Walt is truly capable of.
And then - Jesse discovers the truth about the ricin, and how Walt poisoned Brock. To be honest, I had forgotten about some of that stuff, since this show has spread out over so many months. Probably the biggest weakness in the episode for me was how unclear Jesse's discovery was. I had to go back and read episode summaries to remember everything that had happened with the stolen cigarettes and Brock and all of that, so some of the shock of realization was lost to me. Maybe it was just me - other people may have remembered just fine.
However, that being said, Aaron Paul's acting was superb. He was so emotionally gutted at Walt's request for him to leave, and so upset and vulnerable during the hug. Then, his fury knew no bounds when he realized he had been duped all along. The last shot of the episode shows Jesse furiously dousing Walt's house in gasoline. This should be interesting...
And I've saved Walter for last. I felt like the main theme of this episode was really Walt's insanely manipulative nature. We see him manipulate his son so as to prevent him from going to Marie. We see him manipulate Hank and Marie by meeting them in a public venue and by recording that confession. He manipulates Skyler by lying to her as he leaves the car wash at the end of the episode, presumably to go track down Jesse. He manipulates Jesse by trying to convince him that leaving is for his own good - and when that doesn't work, he hugs him, furthering his manipulation. We are even reminded of his earlier manipulation of Saul, since the lawyer was genuinely unaware of Walt's plans for the ricin until Saul had already had it stolen for Walt.
All of this builds up to paint a very ugly picture of Walter White. There is very little left in this man to be redeemed, but it is so interesting to watch him fall into the pit of bad deeds with every episode that goes by.
A few other odds and ends to mention:
No Lydia this week, and only a brief mention of the meth empire as it is currently. I'm okay with this, because there are a lot of other things to focus on. On the other hand, I hope we either cut out the meth empire entirely, or we get to see it in more detail. In a sick sort of way, I miss the politics of the meth business and the way that Walt brilliantly (if evilly) maneuvered them.
Hank finding out that Marie let the Whites pay for his care was another good callback to old plot points - it also reveals how twisted their lives have become. Hank can't turn Walt in now without implicating himself.
Marie calling Walt Jr. "Flynn" is another good way of showing her disgust for Walt and Sky's actions.
Okay! That review got a bit more detailed than I initially planned on. I hope it still made sense... this show makes me feel so much anxiety and excitement, and I'm already looking ahead in anticipation to the next episode.

9/10

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