TV Review: Breaking Bad 5.8, Midseason Finale: "Gliding Over All"

Season five has been all about Walt building his empire.

"GLIDING o'er all, through all, Through Nature, Time, and Space, As a ship on the waters advancing, The voyage of the soul--not life alone, Death, many deaths I'll sing."

Three seasons ago, Walter White calculated that he needed to make $737,000 before he died to leave behind for his family. If he was still alive, then he could exit the drug business and live happily with his family. Two seasons later, Walt had the money but continued making meth because of his hubris. When Gus fired him, instead of just staying with his family, Walt masterminded a plan to kill him. So now that he was safe, Walt once again had an opportunity to leave behind the drug business. But his family, which he did all of this for, was falling apart. All he had left was his business.

Season five has been all about Walt building his empire. It hasn't always been subtle. We've seen references to Scarface and Heat, and plenty of foreboding to death and tragedy. The cold open of the season showed a broken down Walt, one year later, supposedly exiled from home in desperate need of firepower. The entire season seemed to be heading for a point where something bad would happen and Walt would finally get caught.

Breaking Bad has always been known for its unpredictability, but no one could have guessed how much plot tonight's episode covered. In one of two brilliant montages, we spanned three months and saw Walt rise to power as he always wanted thanks to a partnership with Lydia. Now that he was at the top, Walt began to show signs of boredom. Cooking the meth and getting the money from Lydia was an endless cycle. There were no gunfights or crazy twins. Running an empire wasn't much different than running the car wash.

After three months, Marie suggests that Skyler take the kids back. Skyler would love to have the kids home, but doesn't want them anywhere near Walt while he cooks meth. So in a last ditch effort, Skyler takes Walt to a storage unit she's been renting and shows him the fruit of his labor. There is more money than she can count. Walt has no reason to continue cooking meth. He can keep his money and get his family back. All he has to do is quit.

Instead of giving another speech about how great he was, Walt silently listened. And then he quits. We don't get to see how (that'll probably will next year), but Walt tells Skyler the only thing that matters - he's through. He visits Jesse in an incredibly tense scene and remembers the good old days. Jesse, like the audience, is waiting for Walt to do something drastic. But Walt means no harm, and leaves Jesse his buyout money.

In a season that seemed to be heading for doom and destruction, the final scene was the family happily chatting by the pool outside. The scene was overly happy - unnervingly so. Was Holly going to fall in to the pool? Was the house going to blow up? Would zombie Gus appear to exact his revenge?

What happened instead was the biggest revelation in the show's history. Hank leaves the table to use the bathroom, and looks around for some reading material. He finds a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (Gliding Over All is poem 271) and flips through it. In the front, he finds an inscription:

To my other favorite

W.W.

It's an honour

working with you.

Fondly

G.B.

We flashback to a scene in season four's Bullet Points, where Hank read Walt an inscription from Gale's notebook. "W.W. Who could that be - Woodrow Wilson? Willy Wonka? ...Walter White?" Walt coyly responds, "Got me." And as Hank pieces everything together in his mind, he realizes that the man he's been chasing is sitting mere feet away. Much like ASAC Merker, Hank has had the enemy under his nose the entire time. But Hank's enemy wasn't an associate - it was family.

It's probably a good thing Hank was on the toilet.

In a season that's heavily involved loose ends, Walt's undoing comes from him being one. Walt has spent eight episodes trying to cover up his tracks, but all of that was pointless. It's not surprising that Walt finally gets caught immediately after exiting the business. Breaking Bad has always been described by Vince Gilligan as a show about consequences. Walt couldn't just live the rest of his life happy with his family. He's going to have to deal with Hank, and at some point in the future need a M-60.

Where does the show go from here? As usual, I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.

Some thoughts:

Hank still doesn't have everything put together, but that won't take long. What will he do when he exits the bathroom? I'd personally love to see a scene of Walt and Hank just talking everything out, but who knows if things will be that civil. In a scene heavily influenced by The Godfather, Walt paces around his house while Mike's ten guys are executed. The scene was one of my favorite scenes the show has done. It was also the most violent scene the show has done to my memory. I'm surprised some of that was allowed on the air. There were many references to earlier seasons in this episode. My favorite was the recreation of the B&W cold opens from season two. I loved the transition between Walt leaning down in Hank's house and rising up to cook meth. Not a big season for Jesse, but Aaron Paul did great work in all of his scenes. Anna Gunn and Jonathan Banks were the MVPs for the season. Bryan Cranston, as always, was fantastic. No flashbacks to Gus this season. Will we see some next season? I'm working on a season five retrospective. Look for it later this week. That ends Breaking Bad for the year. Thanks for reading these reviews. The next season is rumored for a June release, so see you then!
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Jeremy Sollie hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.