Tonight is the beginning of the end. It seems to have taken an age to get here, but finally part B of Breaking Bad’s fifth season has arrived. While I am so ready to see what Vince Gilligan has in store for the final eight episodes, I am so not ready for it to end. Understandably, Gilligan wants to end the show before it becomes irrelevant and the story of Walter White is tarnished. It is better for the show to end now and allow the character to pass into the realm of TV legends. But the show has been incredible over the past four and a half seasons and I am not quite ready to see it go.
One reason why the story of Walter White has been engaging and continues to draw drones of fans back year after year is because of the character’s transformation. Rarely in television do the viewers get to experience the development of a character as they challenge their own morality and legacy. Plenty of characters change over time but it generally more subtle and less overarching. Spike, a vampire in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, slowly became a force of good rather than evil as that series progressed, but he still loved fighting, especially for a passionate cause. The only real distinction that can be made is that he once fought for lust (Drusilla), but eventually fought for love (Buffy).
Walter White takes the literary concept of character development to an entirely different level. It is difficult to believe sometimes that the same meek, bungling science teacher who had to moonlight as a car wash attendee is the man who became the manipulative, murderous emperor of meth. And really they aren’t the same character. It was a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde arrangement, where Walter would don the hat and the name Heisenberg whenever he had something dangerous and immoral to perform. Slowly, over the seasons however, the Heisenberg persona has seeped into the man who was Walter White. Even when he is playing himself, Walter is often still playing a role. He is nowhere near as awkward as he once was and had graduated onto manipulating and misleading his own family members. The question that remains is ‘does he even know how to be Walter White anymore?’
The answer to that question will likely be addressed in the upcoming season, as Walter’s brother-in-law, Hank now knows who the elusive Heisenberg is. Hank has spent the entire series tracking the man known as Heisenberg and trying to stomp out the powerful blue meth. But every time he has gotten close, Walter has found a way to not only escape but to make his empire even bigger. And everyone around him has suffered the consequences while Walter has evaded punishment. Jesse Pinkman, his partner in crime, was brutally beaten and held at gun point numerous times, Gale Boetticher was killed, Gus Fring was blown up, Combo was shot and most recently Mike Ehrmantraut suffered a gunshot wound to the gut and bled out. Even Hank himself was nearly crippled as a result of Walter’s actions. Whatever sympathy or understanding Hank has for Walt will likely go out the window as soon as remembers that little connection.
There is one spanner in the works for Hank though. He may have the book and he may know that Walter White is Heisenberg but he can’t prove it. All the evidence surrounding the blue meth has been accumulated and there has never been any mention of a Walter White. The closest that they came was Gus’ laptop but Jesse’s big ass magnet idea put an end to that swiftly enough. Hank has already come under fire from his superiors for wasting resources in regards to Mike, and at least Mike’s name was related to the case. Using police resources to tail his own brother-in-law likely won’t go down well with the DEA, and, possibly, Hank may be reluctant to involve the authorities where his own family is involved.
He may also find it difficult to gather any new evidence given that both Walt and Jesse are out of the business now. We have all heard that before. Walt briefly quit in the third season before being coerced back into cooking by Jesse and Gus and also considered stopping in the second season before he found his normal life unfulfilling. It is slightly more believable that Jesse would actually stop because he has actually lost more. In the course of the series, he has lost friends and loved ones. Not to mention, last time Jesse was on screen he was absolutely terrified of Walt. For Jesse, the meth business was always a means to make money and in the beginning that coincided with Walt’s desire to care for his family after his death. Maybe Jesse will go back to cooking but I would be surprised.
So what is the fate of Walter White to be? Even if he is out, there will likely be some opposition from Lydia and Declan, who were profiting from his scheme. Saul Goodman will be relieved, however. If he manages to free himself from those deals unscathed, and this is Walter White so anything is possible, the most probable outcome is that Hank will find some kind of evidence against him. Knowing Walter though, if the DEA come for him he won’t be taken alive. That said, there are a few revelations that have still to come out, such as ‘how did Jane really die’ and ‘who knows how to poison children with Lily of the Valley’. If the answers to those questions come to light, even Heisenberg may not be able to appease the wrath of Jesse.
Whatever the outcome, these final eight episodes are going to be an awesome ride. Gilligan has created an absolute classic story that was brought to life fantastically by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Dean Norris. All three of those actors deserve all the awards that could possibly be thrown at them.