Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere Recap: The Power of Attraction

The following recap, by the very definition of the word “recap,” contains spoilers from the Breaking Bad season premiere.

Breaking Bad’s Season 5 premiere is titled “Live Free or Die,” and based solely on what happens in the first hour of the series’ final run, it looks like Walt soon may be forced to choose between the two. If you haven’t re-watched the series’ pilot in some time, I highly recommend doing so; it’ll drive home just how much our anti-hero has changed as he hurtles toward his inevitable end.

In the meantime, hide your duffel bags of cash, don your gas masks and let’s review the episode’s major developments.

MISSED A SPOT | We start the episode in the future, on the morning of Walt’s birthday. He sits at a Denny’s counter and crumbles his (non-soy) bacon until it forms a “52” on his plate. He’s got a full head of hair, thick-frame glasses and a fake ID that says he’s from New Hampshire – whose state motto serves as the episode’s title. He appears to be on the run; a quick exchange leaves him with keys to a new car and a large automatic gun and ammo. It’s sad and weird and puzzling…  and then we’re back in present day.

We see Walt’s “I won” phone call to Skyler following Gus’ murder, and while she and her family are still at Hank’s place, Walt returns to the White house to clean up his mess. He fills a garbage bag with various chemistry paraphernalia and the Lily of the Valley plant we now know he used to poison Brock. It all goes into the trunk of his car, and he sips a victory drink as Walter Jr., Skyler and Holly come home.  Walt Jr. is all, “Can you believe how cool Uncle Hank is?;” apparently, in light of Gus’ death, Hank has filled everyone in on his investigation. “When this hits the news, Uncle Hank’s gonna be a hero, even more so than before,” the teen gushes. You just know Walt wants credit for being a bigger badass than his DEA agent brother-in-law, but he swallows it and tails Skyler into the bedroom instead. Though she’s relieved he’s alive, she tells him she’s also scared – of him. Right there with ya, sister. Though I cringed when Skyler would railroad her milquetoast husband in Seasons 1 and 2, I really don’t like to see her cower in his presence. It makes me afraid. And anxious. (And you could apply both of those sentences to pretty much any scene of any episode of this series, by the way.)

Walt’s got a little anxiety going on, too, when he realizes that he and Jesse forgot to do anything about the security camera when they destroyed Gus’ superlab. Meanwhile, Hank and Gomez tour the scene and notice the crispy camera….

TEAM WORK | An on-the-mend Mike is feeding chickens when he hears about Gus’ death. He’s in the car and barreling down the dusty road in a flash, and he nearly collides with Jesse and Walt before pulling a gun on the elder chemist. Walt and Jesse outline the problem: The security camera will implicate them all, and they need to find where Gus stashed the footage. Well, turns out it’s on a laptop in Gus’ office, and Mike pretends to be a postal inspector (Dave Clark Five shout-out!) to confirm that the computer’s now in the evidence lock-up at the Albuquerque PD. As Mike and Walt argue about how/whether to try to destroy the hard drive, Jesse repeatedly tosses an idea from the papasan chair: magnets. (Side notes: 1. Remember when Jesse was the hothead and Walt was the purveyor of reason? 2. While watching Breaking Bad, I often find myself laughing really hard at jokes like the magnets gag. Are they just really amusing, or is it because the tension is so high that the release seems that much more welcome? Discuss.)

Fortunately, Old Joe of the junkyard is willing to sell them an industrial-strength magnet, which they stuff into an old rental truck. With Mike’s help, the meth-makers drive up alongside the evidence room and crank the magnet’s power so high that it knocks over everything in the lock-up and (hopefully) erases the security footage from Gus’ laptop. But the magnet-tude also tips the truck on an angle, and Walt and Jesse only get away because Mike is there as wheelman. In the back seat, the chemistry teacher gloats. Mike wants to know why he should believe that the plan worked. Walt channels Gus as he calmly, pointedly, menacingly says, “Because I say so.” You might wanna check that hubris, Walt: The magnet also toppled one of Gus’ picture frames in the evidence room, and the broken frame revealed a bunch of offshore bank account numbers stashed behind the photo. So yes, you destroyed some key evidence… and in the process gave the cops even more.

TED’S NOT DEAD | Skyler visits Ted in the hospital – he survived the accident that happened when Kuby and Huell forced him to write the IRS check, but he’s got screws in his head and doesn’t look so hot. Skyler almost cries when she sees him. She pulls it together when he starts doing the kind of scrambling verbal crabwalk Walt often did in front of Gus. “I haven’t said anything to anyone. I told them it was an accident. I tripped and fell. That’s all they know,” he promises, adding that he won’t say a word to anyone. “Good,” she replies. But will it be enough for her hell-bent husband?

At Saul’s office, we get confirmation that the lawyer poisoned Brock on Walt’s orders, and Walter learns that the money he needed to relocate his family at the end of last season actually went to pay Ted’s debts. The whole thing’s getting too seedy for Saul, which… well, marvel at that concept. “You and me, we’re done!” Saul announces, but changes his mind moments later when Walt steps around the desk and gets up in the J.D.’s grill. “We’re done,” Walt growls, “when I say we’re done.” At home, Walt finds Skyler in the bedroom once more and gives her a tense hug that looks (and I’d bet, feels) more like a slow-motion strangle. “I forgive you,” he whispers in her ear. It’s terrible and icky and awesome, because remember when this guy couldn’t get respect from a room full of snotty teenagers? That’s character development, kids, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the season brings.

Now it’s your turn. Did you want more Jesse in this episode? What was your favorite quip? How much longer, do you think, before Walter Jr. discovers what his dad’s really up to? Press PLAY on the video below to check out the top five moments from the episode, and then hit the comments and sound off!

Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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41 Comments
  1. CR says:

    I found myself laughing as well well Jesse kept saying magnets repeatedly in the corner, and almost any time Mike was telling Jesse to run, I do think mainly because the show is so dark, you kind of have to make the best with comic relief. The most I laughed in the episode had to have been when the truck tipped over. As soon as Jesse pulled up on that bump, you knew the truck was never going to make it out of there. For 2 amateur criminals, they always seem to pull themselves out of trouble, but they are always clumsy about it and there is when comedy ensues(I think one of my favorites was when they were stealing methylamine.)

    • Lo says:

      I thought the same thing when I saw Jesse drive over the bump: amateur hour!! As far as the comedy goes, I don’t think it’s made funnier by contrast to how dark it is. I think the writing is just. that. good. Any writing team that can write such macabre humor (half dissolved bodies falling through ceilings, ricin vs. rice and beans, carrying a bomb in a diaper bag and getting its magnet stuck to the elevator door of a pediatric unit) deserves their kudos, we should not shrug it off as an incidental to the show’s otherwise tense ambiance. And I say Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston are two of the finest actors I’ve ever seen to make two characters like this come alive and have them be so layered and complex without reducing them to caricatures. It is truly the best show in a very long time. AMC needs to keep up the quality programming

  2. AJ says:

    If this show doesn’t win the Emmy for best drama this year I will set my TV on fire in protest. Then go buy a bigger newer one to watch Breaking Bad.

  3. Pat D. says:

    The oddest thing about this show is the character of Walter White—he tries to act all tough and badass, yet he has yet to win a fistfight with anybody (even stoner Jesse beat the snot out of him last year) and is constantly getting owned and begging for his life from real tough guys. Now, this season he’s acting all pompous after the magnet missions “because I said so”, and he’s apparently going to get owned yet again (the evidence found in the picture frame). LOL…just a funny observation. Great season opener, though.

    • phoenix says:

      “Why is the rabbit not afraid of the panther?”

    • TigerNightmare says:

      Walter might not be great at hand-to-hand melee, but he’s ruthless with tools at his disposal. He ran over two drug dealers and shot the surviving one in the head. He then held a henchman at gunpoint in the freight elevator and then killed him and the guy guarding Jesse. Don’t forget the season 1 genius with the fake exploding meth in Tuco’s office. Walter is diabolical.

      • Pat D. says:

        He is diabolical—possibly because he pompously believes he is smarter than everybody, but you see what happens when the going gets tough—he folds “like superman on laundry day”. Its not bashing the show or Cranston—it just adds another fascinating layer to the character. Gus and Mike, OTOH….those guys are/were ruthless. For example: Walt’s famous “I AM THE DANGER” scene, followed up by him on his knees begging for his life a few episodes later (Crawl Space, i think). He’s like a “fair-weather fan” in sports, if that makes sense.

    • AJ says:

      I doubt Gus ever won a lot of fights, but he was still the boss. He did slash that one guy’ throat, and then poison himself lol, but otherwise he seemed to employ others to do his dirty work.

      • Pat D. says:

        True, but you never saw Gus last season on his knees pleading for his life like Walt has done a bunch of times. Walt tries to act ruthless, and by the way Sky is scared of him now, may be getting there, but more often than not in the past, when things start getting physical, or his ruthlessness is exposed he turns into a wimpy little baby, LOL. Mike and Gus…those guys are/were hardcore.

      • Bino says:

        That’s the whole point. When you reach the level that Gus had attained, you dont have to get your hands dirty anymore. He simply chose to do so in the ‘box cutter’ epi. The King does what the King wants…till he gets whacked.

  4. Bob Zentrails says:

    It’s true that they keep getting out of trouble, but part of that is rhetorical license. Any competent real life DEA agent would have considered Walt a meth suspect from the minute it was discovered that glassware was stolen from his school, from his chemistry storage area.

    It’s certainly not anything like all these reality shows. If it were, no one would be rooting for Walt.

    • Jake says:

      Yes that’s why every dea agent has caught every drug dealer.

    • Sara says:

      I’ve thought for a while that it was a bit ridiculous that Hank hasn’t figured it out yet… He’s had a lot of hints:

      1) the equipment from Walt’s lab and Walt’s chemistry expertise generally
      2) the massive amounts of money Walt suddenly has (which he explains with an implausible gambling story that Hank never really presses him on)
      3) Walt’s connection to Pinkman (who Hank knows is connected to the blue meth)
      4) Walt just happening to show up to distract the DEA when Badger was doing his little sting operation to nab the fake Heisenberg on the bench in Season 2
      5) the WW on Gale’s notes (though Walt’s explanation for this was pretty good and plausible)
      6) Walt wanting to go on the ride-along and see the meth lab in Season 1
      7) The name Heisenberg is taken from a famous scientist, which sounds like something a slightly nerdy chemist would do
      8) Walt’s erratic behavior generally, including the car accident he caused when driving Hank around
      9) He knows Walt and Gus have met (crossed paths in various places, including the hospital)

      (sorry, these are in no particular order)

      I guess Hank is just blinded by his prior experience with Walt and can’t even contemplate that Walt might be involved.

      • Lyndsey says:

        How willingly would you consider suspecting your brother-in-law of being a “drug lord”? It’s easy for us to point out all of the clues Hank’s been given but at the end of the day it’s very hard to change your initial impression of someone, especially when they are family. For years, Hank has seen Walt as a mild-mannered, hen-pecked husband who’s never been involved in anything remotely shady. I think Hank’s instincts are blaring that something’s not quite right but then Walt’s family so he can easily accept other explanations for what’s been happening. If your brother-in-law showed up with a huge influx of money which would you be more likely to believe: his story that he won it gambling or that he was involved in criminal activity? I think everyone (whose brothers-in-law don’t have criminal backgrounds) would be inclined towards the former.

  5. MG says:

    A great note was to see that Walt was now sitting like Gus in Saul’s office. It’s the little things in the show that make it great.

  6. edacrowe says:

    what *exactly* was in the bag that Saul had in his office, I’m guessing the lily of the valley poison, but what *was* it? and how exactly did the poison get administered to Brock?

    • Alyssa says:

      Not sure, but I thought that was the ricin cigarette that Huell stole from Jesse. How they managed to poison Brock is something that hasn’t been made clear yet

      • edacrowe says:

        I thought the ricin cigarette had a brown filter. what was in the bag did not. and it looked bigger than a cigarette to me. like a drinking straw or something like that.

    • CR says:

      I believe that Saul had gotten back the cigarette with the Ricin in it that was intended for Gus.

      • tim says:

        Yes, it clearly was the ricin cigarette that was taken to further convince jesse that gus tried to poison his gf’s son.

  7. tim says:

    Is this considered season 5 and next season will be season 6? I guess this is the path that this show is meant to be on, I guess I had hoped for a different path

    • AJ says:

      Officially, all 16 episodes are considered to be part of season 5. They just split it up so people would keep AMC for another year i guess. Kinda like what they did with the last season of the Sopranos.

      • AJ says:

        AMC is not a pay channel like HBO. If you opted not to keep it then you would be opting out of that entire tier of cable service. Not even close to the same thing.

      • Britta Unfiltered says:

        I thought I had read somewhere it might have something to do with getting certain tax breaks from New Mexico by filming there…it was the best way to take advantage of their tax system…something like that.

  8. AJ says:

    The guy who sold Walt the magnet, did he play mr. Heckles on Friends?

  9. Jessica says:

    I’m pretty sure we can now see that Skylar was “railroading her milquetoast husband” because he is an unthoughtful, ego-driven nightmare of a man. Based on things Vince Gilligan has said about the show I wouldn’t call Walt’s journey character development so much as character devolution. We know that his former chemistry partners still value him and wanted to pay for his treatment: they certainly didn’t seem like people who “stole his ideas” as he claimed and yet he ended up a high school teacher. More and more I’m convinced that between the way Walt makes his decisions too brashly, the way he wants credit for every thing even if it would put his family in danger of being caught and the way she was able to pull out a lie about Walt secretly gambling so quickly, that when Skylar said she was “protecting this family from the man who protects this family,” she wasn’t just talking about his meth cooking as a first time offense. I get the feeling that without Skylar telling him what to do sometimes, Walt’s ego problems and latent sociopathy would have destroyed him years ago.

  10. SK says:

    Live streamed it from AMC as a Dishtv customer and loved! Thanks AMC! Cancelled Dishtv today.

  11. Karen says:

    Great to have Breaking Bad back! But yeah, I wanted more Jesse Pinkman than I got – I loved the ‘magnets’ repeat, and Mike and Walt’s reaction to it was even better. And that final hug between Walt and Skylar was sooo terrifying.
    I’m really looking forward to when Jesse is told about what Walt did to Brock (it HAS to happen).
    And I love Mike trying to look after Jesse – those two make for the best BFF’s… haha

  12. Mína says:

    F*&K YEAH, MAGNETS!
    I’m certainly glad Mike is back since I’ve missed the Mike/Jesse relationship even more than Walt/Jesse. In a show of such hard-heartedness, it was touching to see Mike offering genuine words of wisdom to the misguided kid and, as I’ve grown fond of his character, it tore me up to know he will in all likelihood never take that advice. Praying that, from the season’s opening minutes, Walt’s amateur vanishing act has more to do with police suspicion and nothing at all to do with, as I fear, a fatal run-in with either Mike, Jesse or a family member. Judging only by the look in his eyes, something seemed off.
    First thing I thought upon seeing Ted: How long until Skyler, Saul, Marie and Jr. go bald as well?

  13. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I was so so surprised Ted wasn’t dead…and not even a vegetable. That hit looked pretty bad last season. It looked like a devastating brain injury. it made me wonder if at the time they were planning on killing him off an then changed their minds in between seasons.
    .
    It’s such a good show, I was so glad to have it back. Even Skylar I’m glad to see. I know a lot of people really hate that character, and she was definitely not my favorite person the first couple of seasons, but after watching the series a second time through, I’ve come to realize she’s actually the catalyst for the whole show. There wold be no Breaking Bad without Skylar. She is the entire reason Walt has done the things he’s done and become the way he has. If not for her, he just would have let the cancer kill him in the first season. And her constant emasculation and control of him over their whole marriage sort of drove him to the “I am the danger” kind of man he is today. He wanted to finally feel like a big, powerful man. Walt terrifies me now. There’s a lot of tension under that surface just begging to blow. And I do think Walter Jr. is going to learn about his dad at some point in this 1st part of the last season. Walter will tell him in the hopes of looking like a hero to his kid. He’ll want his son to see what a big, bad man he is.

    • tripoli says:

      You’ve made some excellent points but I still can’t stand Skyler. I’d really love to see her offed this season. As terrible as that sounds, she just irks me to no end!

  14. Anna says:

    Hi did the cigarette with the rasen end up with Sual?

  15. Kacey says:

    why did saul have a ricen ciggarette?

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