All hail King Walt, for he has returned. Last night’s episode of Breaking Bad, the first in the fifth (and final) season, did not disappoint. We learned a lot about the direction the season is going to take. Without further delay, let’s get into some quick thoughts about the season premiere, named “Live Free or Die”.
It goes without saying that there are spoilers for the first episode of season five.
-Thanks to the opening sequence, we know that on his 52nd birthday a year from now, Walter White will be eating breakfast in a Denny’s under an assumed name. His hair will have grown back, but he’ll be coughing and taking pills most likely for cancer complications. And he’ll purchase a gun.
-The Ted tension went away fast. We went from “he woke up” to “I’ll never tell anyone” in about 15 minutes. It partially bugged me that Skyler went to the hospital to see him. The last person I’d want to be seen speaking to in a hospital is the person I had just threatened and hospitalized. It makes her very vulnerable, and it seemed unrealistic at first. But it’s perfectly within her character. This is the same woman who went to Wikipedia to learn how to launder money.
-Walt’s arrogance is all over the place- the “Because I say so” line to Mike and his condescending forgiveness of Skyler at the end of the episode are the most prominent examples. Having seen the flash forward that opened the episode, Walt’s clearly in for a precipitous fall.
-The scene where Walt, Jesse, and Mike are driving back to retrieve the laptop would’ve been ripe for the show’s trademark humor. That had to be the most uncomfortable car ride in history. A clip showing the trio in dead silence with some crappy 80s love song playing would have been hilarious. I’m actually surprised they didn’t do that.
-Speaking of Mike, I wonder what Wendell the chicken did to curry so much of Mike’s favor.
-Let’s talk about Walt’s breakfast in the flash forward for a second. If you’ll recall, way back in the pilot episode, the entire series began with Walt as a nerdy chemistry teacher celebrating his 50th birthday by regretfully eating veggie bacon. Here we are opening the final season with Walt, once again celebrating a birthday. This time, he’s in a Denny’s instead of at home with his loving family. Not only is his bacon lacking the health benefits of veggie bacon. It’s the greasiest, least healthy bacon you can find on earth, from a greasy spoon diner. A simple script anchor like bacon, of all things, punctuates where Walt was at the beginning of the series and where he is now, at the end.
That’s great writing. It’s simple but it’s important to put anchors into a story to illustrate a character’s growth (or in Walt’s case, his rot). It helps the viewer see the character’s arc from Point A to Point B. It’s Screenwriting 101 stuff, and you can rest assured that Vince Gilligan and his crew will always cross their t’s and dot their i’s.
-How funny was it that everyone was glaring at Jesse when the salvage yard owner was talking about penis jewelry?
-One of the reasons I constantly sing the praises of this show is that nothing is ever forgotten. There are almost no one-offs in the scripts. There were three perfect examples in last night’s episode. Walt’s ricin comes back, buried in Saul’s office. We knew that it had happened and they didn’t HAVE to show it to us, but the writing was so good that it blended seamlessly. The second and third both revolve around the businessmen in Walt’s world- the salvage yard owner from season 3 comes back, and the guy who sold Walt the gun in season 4 (played by Jim Beaver, of Deadwood fame) is the same guy who sold Walt the gun in the flash forward.
That’s one down, seven more to go in this half of season 5. It’s so great that Breaking Bad is back.