Breaking Bad Review: “To’hajiilee” (Season 5 Episode 13)

Breaking Bad has always, at its core, been a show about consequence. A series less about the act of transgressing – though much of its best material in the early years did revolve around how Walt was brought to the point of committing crimes – than the actual results of those wrongdoings, and how one transgressive act always, without fail, begets more.

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Perfect.

Absolutely, unequivocally perfect. 

Breaking Bad has always, at its core, been a show about consequence. A series less about the act of transgressing – though much of its best material in the early years did revolve around how Walt was brought to the point of committing crimes – than the actual results of those wrongdoings, and how one transgressive act always, without fail, begets more. From cleaning up dead bodies and cook sites to killing enemies (both potential and immediate) to burying money and getting in bed with neo-Nazis, the story of Walter White – and, by extension, the arc of Breaking Bad – has from the beginning been a tale of crime and violence spawning more, increasingly deadly crime and violence. Whether the show played Walt’s wrongdoings as comical mishap – the hydrofluoric acid melting through Jesse’s second-story ceiling, pretty much anything with Saul, etc. – or as deadly serious tragedy – Walt having to strangle Emilio, Hank being attacked by the cousins, Walt’s season-long war against Gus, and so on – the source of Breaking Bad’s dramatic power and thematic heft has consistently lain in the way it explores the aftermath of crime and the subsequent inescapability of transgression.

“To’hajiilee” is not the series finale – three more weeks until we reach that point – but as an absolute culmination of those major ideas, it sure feels like it could have been one, and I for one would have had no complaints. In depicting the moment at which Walter White’s many crimes come crashing down upon him, and how powerless he is to stop the runaway freight train of violence he himself set into motion, “To’hajiilee” was a veritable master class of pay-off, bringing five-plus years of storytelling to a head in the most satisfying way imaginable, and then igniting the collected powder-keg under circumstances that are absolutely true to both the themes and style of this great, great show.

All season long I have been talking about how many of the big, long-anticipated moments Vince Gilligan and company have nailed; from Walt and Hank confronting each other directly, to Skyler going all in supporting Walt’s criminal actions, to Jesse finding about Brock being poisoned, Breaking Bad has not shied away from pushing its story and characters as far as possible this year, and “To’hajiilee” is easily the most extreme example of this creative ethos so far.

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Author
Jonathan R. Lack
With ten years of experience writing about movies and television, including an ongoing weekly column in The Denver Post's YourHub section, Jonathan R. Lack is a passionate voice in the field of film criticism. Writing is his favorite hobby, closely followed by watching movies and TV (which makes this his ideal gig), and is working on his first film-focused book.