Breaking Bad Finale Recap: Poetic Justice

Spoiler alert! If you read the following recap of Breaking Bad‘s mid-season finale, you’re going to find out what happened. So if you’re not caught up, be gone! Everyone else, proceed… 

Tonight’s Breaking Bad episode takes its name from a beautiful Walt Whitman poem. It’s a good fit — both because Leaves of Grass will play a gigantic, incriminating role as the series comes to its end next year and because the final 2012 episode was an incredibly well crafted piece of poetry. So let’s jump right in and review what happened in “Gliding Over All.”

THERE IS NO “WE” IN “ME” | As the episode opens, we see Walter in a pose we see him repeat several more times during the hour: sitting and staring. It’s odd, and it doesn’t get any less so when Todd arrives to tell him that he’s taken care of Mike’s car – cubed at the junkyard, thanks to Old Joe. The car’s previous owner, meanwhile, is unceremoniously being stored in a car’s trunk – “I don’t wanna talk about this. It had to be done,” Walt tells his new assistant, who doesn’t seem to care that a dead coworker is doing his best Samsonite impression just inches away — and before they can liquefy the recently departed ex-cop, Jesse arrives and wants to know what’s up. Mike’s “gone,” Walter informs him, leading his former partner to believe that the old man skipped town. What will “we” do about Mike’s guys, Jesse wants to know? Oh, don’t worry Jesse – Walt’s got a plan. But as White gruffly informs the younger man as he literally shuts the door in his face, he’s going to take care of everything himself.

BRANCHING OUT | Walt-as-Heisenberg meets Lydia in a restaurant, where she wants him to join her in a coffee (“I think this would play better if you would order something.” Ha!) and he wants her to give him the list of Mike’s guys. Squirrelly McTwitchalot may not always be able to put on matching shoes, but she’s no fool: She deduces that Mike isn’t “still a factor” and won’t hand over the roster – which she keeps in her head – until Walt has realized that killing her means missing out on an opportunity for overseas sales. Against his better judgment, Walt is intrigued. And in a masterful bit of acting, Laura Fraser takes Lady Banjo Eyes from frightened to ballsy in the time it takes to sip down a cup of joe. The deal, shorthanded: The Czech Republic has a lot of meth-heads; the product currently sold there is sub-par; and as Madrigal’s logistics goddess, the ability to put Walt’s blue meth in Europe is — for Lydia — “a laptop click away.” Very quickly, he agrees to her idea. She writes out the list, then makes him shake on it. “We’re going to make a lot of money together,” she says confidently before slipping on the Jackie O’s and skulking out of the place. Only then do we see that Walt has the ricin vial on his person. You better start committing lots more stuff to memory, Lyds…

SHIV AND LET DIE | After employing… let’s call them the “consulting services” of Todd’s penal-system-familiar uncle, Walt neutralizes his remaining threat. In a strike that should be studied at Harvard Business School for its planning and efficiency, all of Mike’s guys plus bacon-banana-cookie-baking lawyer Dan are offed in spectacular fashion – within two minutes – to the jaunty strains of “Pick Myself Up.” God, I love a good ironic soundtrack choice. Hank’s dejected at the news, calling the drug lords he chases “monsters.” Walt’s face when his brother-in-law says that, by the way? Orgasmic. Dude really gets off on getting away with actual murder. Is it gross or awesome, Internet nation? I can’t decide. Anyway, we’re soon treated to a tight, beautifully shot, sun-drenched montage of meth-making, exporting and money laundering, backed by Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” We see Skyler! Saul! Money! Meth! Planes! Barrels! Walt showering! It’s all upbeat and slick, which of course immediately makes me think something terrible is about to happen. The feeling lasts when Skyler brings Walt to a storage facility where she’s secretly been stashing all the cash she can’t launder. We’re talking Scrooge McDuck levels of money here. “This is it. This is what you’ve been working for,” says Mrs. White, who seems significantly less cowed by her hubby than in past episodes. She admits she doesn’t know how much is there, because there’s just too much to count. “I just stack it up, keep it dry, spray it for silverfish,” she says, which – ha! The day I have to worry about having so much money laying around that pests think they can make it their home? That will be a good day.

In stark contrast to his threats and bluster from the past few weeks, Walt is speechless. Later, we see Walt go to Jesse’s and try to pass the visit off as mere happenstance. The pair reminisce about their old Bounder RV cookmobile before Walt takes off… and leaves a few duffel bags full of money for his former partner. Jesse has a minor breakdown after; suspicious of Walt’s visit, he’d grabbed a gun before he opened the door. From the amount of shaky breathing he’s doing, I think he really planned to use it. (Side note: Line of the night might be, “Yeah. Yeah. Inertia.”) Back at the White house, Walt simply tells Skyler, “I’m out.” His face goes through about 10 emotions in half as many seconds, and all of a sudden I’m not quite as anti-Walt as I was a few weeks ago. Damn you, Cranston!

THE BIG C | A hint at Walt’s subtle shift away from menacing douchebaggery might come when we see him undergoing an MRI. After, he stares into the mirror – like we saw him do at Vamonos Pest, and in the skeevy motel room, and by the pool – and glances at the towel dispenser still bearing the dents from his punch in Season 2. Might the cancer be back? We don’t find out for sure in this episode; even if it is, though, we know he’ll still be alive – with a full head of hair — roughly a year from now. And for the moment, everything seems hunky-dory for Walt and the fam. At a backyard dinner, we see Walt and Sky chatting easily with Hank and Marie while Walter Jr. plays with Holly.  (Another side note, this time to AMC’s marketing department: If you want to send around Schraderbrau to promote the second half of Season 5, I can assure you it won’t go amiss at the TVLine offices.) Then Hank gets up to use the facilities, and absolutely everything in Walt and Skyler’s life is about to fall apart oh God I’m getting anxious all over again just writing about it! Ahem. In the loo, the DEA chief undoes his belt and sits, then grabs for some reading material… where he finds the copy of Leaves of Grass Gale gave to Walt in Season 4 and which we saw earlier in the ep during one of Walt’s showers oh God oh God oh God. The inscription reads: “To my other favorite W.W. It’s an honour working with you. Fondly G.B.” Hank immediately flashes back to the Season 4 moment when he read the journal belonging to dead Fring chemist Gale, which also mentioned “W.W.,” and teased Walter that the initials were his. In the flashback, Walt playfully puts up his hands and says, “You got me.” Back in the present, Hank is flush with new knowledge. (You didn’t think you were going to get through this whole thing without one bad bathroom pun, did you?)

Now it’s your turn. A line from the poem “Gliding Over All” reads “Death, many deaths I’ll sing.” Could that be a hint that Walter’s got a few more lives left? Or do you think his run from [insert threat here] that we saw in the Season 5 premiere will begin sooner than we thought? Has Skyler’s hope come true – has Walt’s disease returned? So many questions, so much time before anything is resolved! Take our poll below, then hit the comments and let the speculation fly!