I watch a lot of television, folks. But in 2010, nothing was as good as last night’s episode of “Breaking Bad.” The show has been slow to heat up this season, even while it’s been as absorbing as always. There haven’t been a lot of high-impact moments (save for Skyler’s wicked confession to Walt that she was fucking her boss). But last night’s episode went in with one, and then turned right around blew the holy hell out of high-impactness at the end.
That was good fucking TV.
Momentum has been incremental this season. As far as the characters go, they are essentially where they began the season at: Walt and Skylar are still separated. Walt and Pinkman are still separated. And Hank is still teetering on the edge of that breakdown. Two things changed in that respect last night: Hank finally had his meltdown, and Walt and Jessie are reunited, at last. To what end, however, is still unknown.
The episode kicked off with Hank — still fuming because he believed that Jesse Pinkman had duped him into believing that his wife had been airlifted to a hospital and was in critical condition in order to escape search of the RV — busting down Jesse’s door and beating the holy mess out of him. Laid up in the hospital, Jesse promises to press charges and drive Hank to suicide while also ruining Walt. Meanwhile, the bad-ass Mexican cousins (do they even have names?) have fingered Hank as Tucow’s real killer and are out to seek their revenge. That also sets up one of the greatest comedic scenes of the season, when the cousins buy bullet-proof vests from a fast-talking hillbilly played by the always incredible Sean Whalen (someone get this man a series! He may be my favorite television “that guy”) and decide to test the vest on Whalen first (his survival leaves open a small glimmer of hope that he might reprise his role).
After Skylar pleads with Walt to do something about getting Pinkman to drop the charges, Hank takes it out on his poor lab assistant (David Costabile, who is another great “that guy,” and is either a bad guy (“Damages”) or a weak-willed one, depending on his facial hair). Walt eventually fires his lab assistant, swallows his pride, and asks Jesse to be his partner again, sealing the deal by telling Jesse that his meth is as good as his. That’s all poor Jesse wanted to hear. Reunited, folks. And it feels so good. Keeping those two apart has fueled much of this season’s anxiety.
Jesse, in turn, drops the charges against Hank, and the vice temporarily loses its grip on Hank, but only for as long as it takes to walk from the flower shop to his SUV, which the cousins are approaching with the intention of blowing Hank’s brains out. Gunfire rains. Cousin #1 gets pinned between the SUV and another car. Cousin #2 takes five rounds in the chest and, unfazed (thanks to the bulletproof vest), puts two in Hank’s stomach before deciding to fetch an ax to finish the job. However, before he can drop the ax on him, a bloodied Hank puts one through the back of Cousin #2’s head. Kerplat.
Where does the show go from here? Presumably, Cousin #1 survived, which means that both Hank and Walt still have targets on their head. But Hank — who is pursuing both Walt and Jesse — now sort of owes them one, since it looks like Hank will get his job back (assuming he does survive those bullet holes). And while Jesse is reunited with Walt, it’s not entirely certain that Jesse’s intentions are good. The great thing about “Breaking Bad” is that no one’s morality is certain. None of the characters’ actions are particularly likable, but they all manage to remain sympathetic. That’s the genius of showrunner Vince Gillian.
There are still six episodes left this season, folks. I’m excited to see where it goes after last night.