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Breaking Bad - Episode 5.09 - Blood Money - Review by Rob McClelland


Breaking Bad returned to our screens on Sunday night to kick off its final run of eight episodes that will bring this incredible drama to an end. And what a triumphant return it was! With just the right blend of pay-off for long time fans of the series and a brilliant set-up for what is sure to be an incredible end of the show. Not to mention amazing performances by the cast, particularly Cranston and Paul, who both killed it.

In typical style, the episode starts with a flash-forward – seemingly back to the day we flashed forward to in the season 5 premiere – Walt’s 52nd birthday. He arrives at the White family home, only it’s completely unrecognisable both inside and out. The house is completely dilapidated and gutted. The whole yard is fenced off with “No trespassing” signs, the garden completely dead with only the graffiti covering the exterior of the home adding any colour to the otherwise bleak scene. The pool is empty, except for some teenage skateboarders who clearly ignored the signs.

The interior is even more destroyed. It’s completely empty with no furniture or signs of the family who once lived there. The spray painted “Heisenberg” across the living room wall clearly shows that Walt’s secret identity is not a secret for much longer.

We then see Walt’s motivation to return to the house. Not to reminisce or look for signs of his family, rather to collect the ricin he hid inside the power socket. As he leaves, he caught a glimpse of himself in a broken mirror. He seems surprised at his own image, and stares at himself as if wondering where it all went wrong.

The flash-forward leaves us with multiple questions, but two in particular. First of all, where is Skyler and the kids? They clearly haven’t lived there in quite some time yet, at most, the scene is less than a year in the future. Are they in hiding? Some sort of witness protection? Maybe they’re staying with Hank and Marie. Or has something more sinister happened? Judging by the state of the house and, in particular, the reaction of Carol the neighbour, I fear it might be the latter.

Secondly, what is the ricin for? Or more to the point, ‘who’ is it for? One of the great things about Breaking Bad is that they never show a single frame or scene by accident, so you can bet we will catch up to the flash forward where the ricin, and the weapons in Walt’s boot, will come into play. Whether he plans to use it on Lydia, Hank, Jesse, or maybe even Skyler would be a complete guess at this point.

We then return to the present day, right where we left off in 5x08 with Hank in the White’s bathroom having just had an epiphany. His brother-in-law and friend, the former chemistry teacher, is the man he’s been chasing – Heisenberg. It took some help from Gale and Walt Whitman, but once he’s realises it he can’t believe it’s been in front of him the whole time.

His first reaction can only be described as stunned disbelief. He stumbles out of the bathroom, but before returning to the family, he smuggles Leaves of Grass into his bag. He then feigns feeling sick as an excuse for he and Marie to leave. On the drive home, his stunned disbelief suddenly turns into rage and, ultimately, a panic attack. He nearly crashes the car but tells Marie he’s fine.

Once home, he immediately compares the hand writing of the message Gale left Walt in Leaves of grass to Gale’s notebook the police confiscated from his home. It’s an exact match and Hank’s worst fears are confirmed.
Hank then sets about having his DEA colleagues bring the Heisenberg files to his home. We are then treated to a montage of all of the DEA’s evidence, reminding us of some past moments and characters of the series, as Hank gets to work.

Meanwhile, Walt has returned to work at the car wash, and as he talks enthusiastically about pine scented air-fresheners, you can’t help feel he no longer belongs in this blue-collar world. But as he tries to stay out of his old meth-cooking life, Lydia arrives to have her rental car washed. Her real motivation is, however, to convince Walt to come back, at least to give a tutorial. It turns out, whoever picked up Walt’s operation sucks at making meth and the purity has dropped to 68%. In her usual neurotic self, Lydia talks about all of the ‘moving parts’ – implying that there are stakeholders who are unhappy and they won’t tolerate it much longer. Clearly she’s scared, but Walt coldly responds that it’s not his problem anymore and she leaves. And despite a parting warning from Skyler to never return, the storyline with Lydia and the ongoing meth operation is a big part of what’s to come.

Now, I can never do justice describing the epic-ness of the next scene as Skinny Pete and Badger sit in Jesse’s living room discussing Star Trek while drinking beer, eating pizza and smoking. Skinny Pete is arguing that when characters teleport using the transporter, they actually die and that a ‘colour Xerox’ copy of them materialises at the other end... which Badger strongly denies. But Skinny Pete seems to win the argument with the line “Dude, why do you think McCoy didn’t like to beam nowhere? Cause he’s a doctor, b*tch!.Look it up, it’s science!”.

Badger changes topic to discuss his idea for a Star Trek screenplay. All I can say is I want to see it. These two need their own spin-off after the series ends.

Jesse, who by now is obviously using again, is listening to the whole conversation in a drug induced state. But you can tell the conversation isn’t entertaining him as much as me. He clearly has other things on his mind. So he gets up, grabs the bags of cash Walt left him, and walks out without a word.

He takes the cash to Saul and instructs him to split the five million evenly between the parents of Drew Sharp – the boy Todd shot and killed, and to Kaylee Ehrmantraut – Mike’s granddaughter.

It’s clear now that the title of the episode “Blood money” is a reference to Jesse’s guilt. He is literally a millionaire but, to him, it’s all tainted. And try as he might, he can’t, in good conscious, keep the money as it has the blood of countless on it, figuratively speaking. Obviously Jesse is harbouring a huge burden of guilt over killing Gale, and the death of Drew, Mike, Jane and many others that started the day he agreed to start making meth with his old high school teacher, Mr White.

Unfortunately for Jesse, Saul – quite rightly – points out that police are all over the Drew Sharp case and are likely staking out Mike’s family, so not only will it draw unwanted attention, but they’d never be allowed to keep the money. Reluctantly, Saul calls Walt and fills him in on Jesse’s plan.
As it turns out, Walt was in the middle of a Chemo treatment, confirming his lung cancer has returned - a suspicion the audience has had since we saw him have scans in 5x08. Walt tells Saul to do nothing with the cash, and to leave Jesse to him.

Walt pays Jesse a visit, returning the cash in the process. He can see immediately that Jesse is stricken with guilt. He tries to convince Jesse that he has to move on with his life. He tells him that he’s out of the business and getting on with his life, so Jesse needs to do the same. I think Walt genuinely cares about Jesse – perhaps like a son more than just a former partner. He can see he’s struggling and wants to help him.
But, as always, Walt – the great manipulator – has another motive as well. At this point, Walt, knowing the answer before he even asks, asks Jesse “Why Kaylee Ehrmantraut?”. Jesse says she deserves to have someone looking out for her, as he knows Walt killed Mike. After all, after killing Mike’s men in prison, Walt must have killed Mike too otherwise leaving that loose end would have him forever looking over his shoulder – something the great Heisenberg would never do.

In response, Walt lies to Jesse cold. He swears Mike is alive and on the run where he can look after both himself and Kaylee. It’s a good lie. Walt is quite convincing. But Jesse knows who he’s dealing with and doesn’t really buy it.

He makes a point of saying “Jesse, I need you to believe me”. It’s unclear why. Obviously he wants Jesse to not dig into Mike’s disappearance and not to worry about leaving money for Kaylee. But maybe Walt was trying to convince himself he’s not completely evil as well. And if he can somehow convince Jesse, his one true friend, maybe he’ll believe it too. Or maybe he fears he’ll have to eliminate Jesse as well if he won’t drop it. But I’m sure he doesn’t want that - as I say, Walt genuinely cares about Jesse.

In the end, Jesse at least pretends to believe Walt. He wants to believe it, but maybe he’s scared of what Walt might do as well. Either way, it doesn’t absolve Jesse of his guilt, or the blood money.
What is clear is that Aaron Paul kills it in this scene, as does Cranston. May just manage to score another Emmy, or two, out of these great characters yet.

That night, while Jesse for some reason is sleeping in his car - next to five million in cash! – he is approached by a homeless man for some change. He really asked the right guy. Jesse quickly realises is could just give the money away. So he drives around the neighbourhood throwing a bundle of cash at every house like a delivery boy delivering newspapers.

One way or another, Jesse will get rid of the blood money. Whether the guilt goes with it or not remains to be seen. But perhaps the good deed will be the first on Jesse’s path to redemption.

Over dinner that night with Skyler and the kids, Walt feels the effect of his treatments and excuses himself to go to the bathroom. Clearly they don’t know the cancer is back. It’s no wonder. After Skyler coldly told Walter she was just waiting and hoping for his cancer to return, he won’t want to give her the satisfaction. And he never really liked the pity he got from everyone when he was sick the first time. Pride, after all, is Walt’s biggest sin.

As he knells over the toilet bowl, he notices Leaves of Grass is missing. While concerned, he doesn’t fully understand the repercussions straight away. But as he gets up to take a walk in the middle of the night, the seriousness dawns on him as his great mind finally puts the pieces together. Hank has the book, and the inscription in the front is pretty damning evidence.

Somehow, he immediately thinks to look under his car where he finds a tracking device – confirming his suspicion. He recognises the device as the one Hank had him attach to Gus’s car. So there’s no doubt Hank is behind it, or at least the DEA.

He wastes no time visiting Hank the next day. He approaches Hank in his garage surrounded by the Heisenberg case files. At first the conversation is cordial, feigning interest in Hank’s health. Hanks coyly asks about the carwash.

He tries to get a read on Hank to see what he knows. Not wanting to give anything away himself, he goes to leave. But something, maybe that pride, makes Walt turn back to Hank and ask about the tracking device.
Hank says absolutely nothing. He calmly closes the garage door using the remote. The scene gets pretty tense, pretty quickly. As soon as the door closes, and they are alone, Hank strikes his brother-in-law with a big right cross. It is the culmination of the anger and betrayal that Hank has built up in the days since he realised the truth about Walt’s extracurricular activities.

I expected him to just keep punching, but to his credit, he stops. He pins Walt to the wall saying “It was you. All along, it was you!”. He continues to unload everything he knows about what Walt/Heisenberg has done, with the anger oozing out of him with every word.

Walt doesn’t admit it, but doesn’t deny it either, picking his words carefully. He admits his cancer is back, hoping Hank would back off if he knew he wouldn’t be around to prosecute. Instead Hank flatly days “Good. Rot, you son of a b*tch!”.

“I’m a dying man, who runs a car wash. My right hand to God that is all that I am. What’s the point?” Walt pleads. Hank says he should have Skyler bring the kids to his house, then they’ll talk. Clearly he is concerned for their safety. It’s a small olive branch in negotiating what happens next, but Walt quickly refuses with “That is not going to happen!”.
In response to Hank’s remark about not knowing who Walt is anymore, the episode ends with a not-so-subtle threat from Walt, “If that’s true. If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly”.

So where to from here? The episode set up the final run home beautifully. But exactly how it unfolds is anybody’s guess.

Do Hank and Walt fight it out? Does the cancer win? To what lengths will Lydia go to get Walt back cooking? And how do we get from here to the flash-forward? And beyond that? We’ll have to wait to find out, but all will be known in the next seven weeks.
Hit the comments with your theories.

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