Tuesday, 27 August 2013

BREAKING BAD, 5.11 – 'Confessions'


written by Gennifer Hutchison | directed by Michael Slovis

I loved how this episode's title, "Confessions", led you to believe it would be Jesse (Aaron Paul) squealing to Hank (Dean Norris) about his role in Walter White's (Bryan Cranston) drug empire, but the truth of the matter was more complicated. The great thing about this final batch of episodes has been how the story twists and turns, finding unexpected ways to deliver what in retrospect seems inevitable. However, the one thing I simply didn't see coming was Walt's master-stroke in keeping Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) at a safe distance and unable to act, after a face-to-face meeting on neutral ground at a restaurant didn't do the trick: with Walt handing Hank a video confession, which turned out to pin the blame entirely on Hank. If Hank makes a move on Walt, this DVD will undoubtedly find its way to the DEA—and, at face-value, given how everyone still perceives Walt as a milquetoast chemistry teacher and lung cancer survivor, it's hard to see people refusing to believe Walt's account of the year's events.

That really was a genius move on Walt's part. Right up until the moment Walt started talking on the Schrader's television, I expected it to be a risky way to make Hank take pity on him by hearing his side of the story, but it was much more manipulative and insidious. And this episode was all about manipulation, which is Walt's core strength as a criminal mastermind. I loved how his taped "confession" (frame job) included kernels of truth, too; such as the fact he secretly paid Hank's $177,000 medical bill with Marie's blessing. This truly sucked the wind from Hank's sails, just when it was beginning to feel like an inevitability he'd convict his brother-in-law.

The rest of the episode was dedicated to catatonic Jesse, whose residual sense of camaraderie for Walt prevented him telling Hank much of anything before Saul (Bob Odenkirk) stepped in to put the kibosh on Hank's effort to secure a damning testimony. Aaron Paul hasn't spoken more than a few words since season 5 resumed, but this was definitely his hour to break his silence and shine in the process. The scene where Saul drove Jesse to the desert to meet Walt, who suggested he leave Albuquerque under a new identity to start afresh somewhere else, was a magnificent scene for the two leads. I can't help feeling Walt still has genuine feelings for Jesse (or else he'd just kill him as he did Mike), but it's clear that his top priority is his own family now. Jesse didn't fall for the fatherly speech Walt gave and called him out on his selfish manipulation, but Walt knew exactly which button to press and secured Jesse's obedience with a simple hug. And even though their embrace was a little one-sided, it was enough to secure an emotional breakthrough.

From there, it almost seemed guaranteed Jesse would be leaving the show via Saul's contact, to start a new life in far away Alaska, and yet Breaking Bad never walks a storyline down the easiest path. It would have been too much of an anticlimax to see Jesse escape the situation for an unseen happy ending on the other side of the country, so inevitably there was a wrinkle in the tale. A twist that again puts the relationship between Jesse and Walt under considerable stress. In fact, it's irreparable. Waiting for Saul's men to arrive and take him away from this whole mess, Jesse had an epiphany concerning how easily Huell (Lavell Crawford) was able to pickpocket marijuana from his cigarettes upon leaving Saul's office—realising the same thing could have happened to his ricin cigarette, which he thinks Walt used to poison his girlfriend's son last season. I'm not entirely convinced Jesse would have made that connection in that moment (it was a stretch), but the story kind of demanded it. I just wonder if Jesse will also come to realise Walt let his girlfriend Jane choke on her own vomit; as that's one of the show's great acts of villainy Walt perpetrated.

"Confessions" ended with Jesse beating Saul senseless in his office, forcing him to admit his part in stealing the ricin for Walt, before driving back over to the White residence and pouring gasoline all over their furniture. Is this how Walt and Skyler's home will come to be a dilapidated wreck in the flash-forwards? (Maybe not, as I don't believe there were signs of fire damage.) Saul's managed to get word to Walt that Jesse knows the truth about Brock, so Walt's retrieved a revolver he has stashed in a vending machine at the Car Wash, but will he ever use it against Jesse? Has it come to that now? It's hard to say, because I still think Walt thinks of Jesse as a son and wouldn't want to harm him, so it may just be a precaution for self-defence. Or maybe Jesse's too much of a problem now and, chillingly, he was right in his assumption Walt had Saul drive him to the desert so he could kill him if he refused to take the escape route offered?

The only other storyline of note was gaining confirmation from the teaser that Todd (Jesse Plemons) is going to cook meth for his uncle Jack (Michael Bowen), and is most definitely Mr White's No1 fan—having taken great delight in telling his uncle about his role in the methylene train heist earlier this season. Todd's reached out to Walt by phone, clearly hoping he'll return to work now the drug business is out of Declan's hands, but that's still see no reason for Walt to resume cooking meth... unless Todd and his uncles do an atrocious job (which seems inevitable because they're so sloppy) and Lydia is forced to blackmail Walt into coming back.

Overall, "Confessions" was another amazing episode that threw two curveball into the story regarding Hank and Jesse's next moves. I'm not entirely sure what Hank will do next, now Walt's made a fake but very believable confession that incriminates him as Heisenberg, but I'm guessing Jesse will be more than happy to work with Hank towards sending Walt down for his crimes. But would Jesse's side of the story override Walt's false account? I'm not so sure, because Walt could claim Jesse's being manipulated into siding with Hank, and Walt presumably has the support of Skyler (a more credible person to have on your side, compared to a junkie).

As we move into Breaking Bad's final five episodes, I'm now giddy with anticipation for what's to come.

25 August 2013 | AMC
  • This review was amended to reflect the fact Jesse only thinks Walt used ricin to poison his girlfriend's son last season, when in actual fact Walt used a poisonous plant growing in his garden.
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