Breaking Bad Season Finale Review: “Gliding Over All” (Season 5, Episode 8)

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The other brilliant match cut shows Walt and Todd going through some major meth production resulting in a lot of money being brought in. This is our first indication for Walt that his heart is no longer in this business anymore.

All the murder, all the lies and all the pain brought to his family has caught up with him. When Skyler takes him to a storage unit and shows him all the money he has made (a bravura set piece), he realises that he’s finally made more money than they can possibly deal with.

Just as it is described in the Whitman poem above, where the episode gets its title from, Walt has become a lost soul who has courted death and lived an experience that is closer to death than it is to life. His legacy is one of murder, where he has had to kill to get where he wants so that he isn’t caught.

And unnervingly, this journey isn’t over yet. The contemplative nature of this episode is one which grows on you with reflection but never feels like something we can call a classic Breaking Bad episode. We don’t really get anything truly inspired until the ending.

MacLaren and writer Moira Walley-Beckett save the real narrative fireworks for a spectacular cliffhanger that tees up exactly where Breaking Bad might finish next summer. Hank’s discovery about who Walt truly is comes seemingly out of nowhere, but it is a scene that perfectly encapsulates the familial dysfunction at the heart of the show.

In the end Walt reconciles with Jesse and declares himself out. Whether this is actually true and how he managed to wriggle his way out of his business deals with Lydia, Declan, Saul and Vamanos Pest are left notably unclear. But something tells me that Walt is finally out and out for good.

With this, his relationship with Skyler has drastically improved (nothing will ever be the same but it is better than it has been throughout this season) and the family are all together at dinner.

The mise en scene here suggests that everything has returned to normal, we get shots of the dripping hosepipe and the hanging ornament which we haven’t seen since Season 2 when all was still right with the White family unit. The overlapping Altmanesque dialogue at the outside dining table also suggests that within the family talks and reparations have been made.

Interrupting the normality is Hank, who takes a leave to the bathroom, where he finds the Leaves of Grass poetry book which was gifted to Walt from Gale. The scene then flashes back to Season 4 where Hank and Walt went through Gale’s notebook, reading over the laudatory note about W.W., which nearly matches the book’s inscription. And then, suddenly everything is stunningly clear to Hank, he has found his Heisenberg.

It’s a great Breaking Bad touch, a reminder that the writing is so tightly structured and so brilliant that the writers don’t have to add to the narrative in order to finish the story they created. This episode will perhaps take a couple more viewings to truly appreciate the quiet power of it, but the end result is that I wanted to see more and criminally, we won’t get more for at least 11 months.

Before we finish up, there’s just a few more things to note. In a scene reasonably close to the end, Walt goes back to the hospital for an MRI scan. The results of the scan are left deliberately in the dark but if Walt declares himself out of the meth business so readily then one can assume that his cancer is making a very fatal return.

Also, disappointingly, we don’t revisit the “Walt at 52” scene we saw right at the start of this season, this was expected though as Vince Gilligan himself said we wouldn’t see anymore of that until the back end of the series, but it still would have been nice to get an extra glimpse of that.

Presumably, the events following Hank’s discovery will lead to Walt going on the run and changing his identity. The answer to how he ends up on the run and why he needs the massive gun will be revealed in time but once again, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

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