This week's episode is titled "Ozymandias," after the Shelley sonnet. I mentioned the sonnet when Breaking Bad used it as a promotional piece with Bryan Cranston intoning the lines - click here for that - and the Wanna Cook? guide will have a brief discussion of it to go with the episode. Spoilers aplenty. Deal.
In what very well may be the absolute best cold open of the show, we see how far Walt has descended and just what he's lost - and our first image is of water coming to a boil. The joy is gone and there are no exultant cheers of "Chemistry! Science! Yay!" What began as a highly stupid, pissant criminal enterprise intended to create a nest egg for Walt's family (a loving, caring family, as the cold open points out) has vanished into the blank, bleak desert. It vanished one lie at a time and the winds of change swept away the footprints so Walt can't even see where he began, although we know it was in this very place. But the trackless desert has no memory.
Honestly, I've been reeling ever since I watched this one. I've seen other amazing dramatic episodes of television that left me breathless, but "Ozymandias" is different. It's more gut-wrenching, more horrifying, and if anyone remains convinced that Walt is somehow to be emulated and sympathized with - seek help. Several diagnoses in the current version of the DSM apply and none of them are good. Sure, his rant to Skyler very well may be his attempt to get her off the hook for her involvement, but so what? That doesn't make up for a teenth of the bone-headed, petty, and just plain mean things he's done and said. And nothing, nothing justifies that chilling line to Jesse regarding Jane.
Walt's lost. He's not noble, he's not heroic, he's a man whose choices have caused him to lose every single thing he once held as precious and valued. So he hooks up with Saul's guy out by the spillway with his one remaining barrel and makes tracks. In his wake are bodies, despair, cruelty, and blood.
I've often been amazed at how Breaking Bad ratchets up the tension and then keeps doing it! It's like some sort of crazed Jack-in-the-Box that never quite manages to pop, instead going&going&going while your nerves fray under the tension.
So let's talk about Jack. Not the one in the box; rather, let's talk about the one in the desert. I'm not sure there's a better example of just how much control Walt doesn't have than his use of Jack. Walt thinks he can tell Jack to "jump" and Jack will simply ask, "How high, Walt?" Not happening. Even Todd, who appeared to be a fairly dim bulb, turns out to have a strong streak of family loyalty to Uncle Jack, to the point of committing wholesale murder, enslavement, and just generally being a waste of human skin. Walt has not just brushed up against evil, he made a deal - and shook on it. Might as well of signed the contract in blood, Walt. Preferably your own, but Walt gets squeamish that-a-way.
So Walt's in the wind. Hank's in the ground, as in Gomez. Jesse's chained like a beaten dog on a backyard run. Todd's got help in the meth kitchen to up the purity in order to impress his heartless Lady Love, who probably won't like seeing Jesse beaten and enslaved, but hey, it's for the good of the brand. Jack's rolling in stolen cash. Holly's safe at an ABQ firehouse. Skyler and Marie are pulling together. And Flynn became the man of the house.
Two to go.
For more, read my co-author's blog. And also this one, which happens to be written by my good friend and editor. Both posts brilliantly discuss this episode.