On July 15th 2012, this coming Sunday, the fifth and final season of Breaking Bad will begin its first eight episode run, the second run will conclude in the summer of 2013. Much like House, it will be sad to see one of the best written shows end. We’ve followed Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, as he has slowly delved deeper and deeper into the world of drug manufacture and distribution. It was extremely interesting to see the man who said he was the cook becoming directly involved with selling his product and how that changed his personality.
Walter White has always seemed like a man who has gone unappreciated for his greatness. At the start of the series, when we met Walt, we’re stepping in on the point where the straw has broke the camel’s back. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, he sets out to make sure his family are provided for after his eventual demise. As a high school science teacher and a talented chemist, who helped found Grey Matter Technologies in universe, he decides that the best way to make a large amount of money in a short space of time is to ‘cook’ methamphetamine. And in doing so, the character enters a dark and dangerous world, one that threatens to twist him and cost him all that he sought to preserve in the first place.
Here we are, four seasons later, and Walter White is a changed man. He shows little or no remorse for any of his actions, including killing a man with his car and refuses to apologise to his wife for everything he’s put his family through. To be fair, Skylar White, his wife, played by Anna Gunn, can be a bitch even at the best of times, but Walter is no longer willing to accept that the lengths he went to in order to provide for his family were wrong. And for the most part of the series, Walter White has been somewhat sympathetic and the lesser of other evils. Tuco, played by Raymond Cruz, was out and out psychopathic while Gus, played by Giancarlo Esposito, was on a revenge mission against the Cartel. But Walt has survived both men and as we come to season five, he’s standing on the edge of a power vacuum.
With Gus dead and the Cartel severely crippled by Gus’ actions earlier in season four, there is now an absence of a major distributer of meth in Albuquerque. Once again, Walter White is faced with the choice to quit and get out of the business while he still can or stay in the game and try to become a major player. It’s like an extremely dangerous and disturbing game show. And twice in the show, once in season two and once in season three, Walter White did manage to stop cooking and go back to a normal life. In both situations, he beaome dissatisfied with his family life and his life as a brilliant chemist forced to teach high school science to a bunch of kids who laugh at him behind his back. The problem for Walt is that he knows he can do better than that. One has to wonder what might have become of Walter White had he not left Grey Matter Technologies? Would he still be the horribly insecure man looking for danger in order to make him feel alive? That would require some kind of alternate universe episode, which would feel slightly out of place in this show. But it’s interesting to consider.
Unlike many of the other times when Walt has been able to leave and get out of the game, there is little doubt about whether Walt will stay or go in Season five. Following his manic breakdown in the crawlspace and his statement to Skylar that ‘I won’, it seems like Walt is primed to take this job as far as it will go now. He is no longer the lesser evil, especially if the hints of the final episode are revealed to be true. One of the biggest questions of the final season has to be whether his partner Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, will find out about everything Walt has done in secret that Jesse has blamed himself or others for? The more major secret isn’t even the possible manipulation in season four, but Jane’s death at the end of season two. Jesse blamed himself for giving her the drugs and it was because of her death that the plane exploded above Albuquerque. Walt has been the cause of countless deaths and the suffering of innocents as he has strived to carve a place for himself in the drug world. Tensions between Walt and Jesse have often fluctuated between bitter resentment to a rather chummy father-son relationship. But, if any of these secrets come to light, those tensions could be reignited. And it may very well be Jesse is the one who finally takes down Heisenberg, Walter’s criminal alter-ego.
Of course, it would be unwise to count out Walter’s DEA agent brother –in-law, Hank Schrader, played by Dean Norris. For the past four seasons, Hank has been chasing Heisenberg and the blue meth, often coming close but never quite succeeding. Walt has gotten away with his activities under Hank’s radar so far, but with Gus gone and all other possible suspects eliminated Hank may just close in on Walter’s shady other life. If Walt is looking to make himself the new kingpin of meth manufacture and distribution he’ll become especially highlighted. Perhaps Jesse might even rat him out or tip off Hank when everything is revealed. However, Hank and Walt have grown close in four seasons, so will he even be able to bring down Heisenberg once he finds out it’s his own brother –in-law?
In any case, the fifth season looks and sounds like it’s going to be a great ride. There are so many possibilities in the way that this show could go from here that’ll it’ll be of great interest to watch it unfold. And given Vince Gilligan’s track record, both on this show and The X-Files, I think it is safe to say that the execution will be superb. Now, let’s just hope the word ‘execution’ doesn’t turn out to be a prophesy.