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!Follow @kimroots