Breaking Bad: S5E09 “Blood Money”

9 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
Cinematography: 8/10

Attention to detail, Aaron Paul's acting, anticipation, solid direction

Weird montage music, Can I just sleep until next Sunday?

When a show gains anticipation to the degree of “Breaking Bad,” we sometimes overlook the details we’re anticipating.

After a year of waiting for Hank to finish taking a shit (both literally and figuratively) it’s easy to be blind sighted by the sole anticipation of a Hank vs. Walt showdown.

We miss certain characters, and frankly, even after a half-season, we need some time to get reacquainted with whom we’re dealing with. It goes without saying that Hank, Marie, Skyler, Walt Jr., Jesse and Walter were missed. Their presence and subtle nuances make up the framework for the show. The same way Albuquerque, N.M., acts as a character rather than mere setting, with its blatant blue skies and judgmental landscape, so do other unsuspecting characters like breakfast, the color purple, or more important to this episode, the White residence.

When the second half of the show’s final season premiered, it took me a while to process that this was the White residence now: tagged with graffiti, boarded up and vandalized. It’s a harrowing scene. Witnessing Holly’s destroyed room, a nonexistent kitchen and the word Heisenberg tagged on the paneled walls bring the reality of veiled dark world, using the former middle-class suburban beacon of normalcy and turning it into a place to idolize an urban legend.

Breaking Bad ep 509, shot on 12/6/12 by Ursula CoyoteThis is not a home for a family, which began as Walter’s no. 1 priority, but now it’s evident that there is no family. Walter is alone with his metaphorical and physical illness. He’s reached the point where consequences don’t exist, as he readies himself for one final showdown.

Rewind to the past, where Hank (bless his heart) is still on the toilet, still looping Walt’s joke confession, “You got me.”

Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter in the series, also directed this episode. According to an interview conducted by Vulture with Dean Norris (Hank), the bathroom scene was reshot in order to build up the anticipation further. The camera creeps up to the door, and gratifyingly so, we don’t get an angry Hank running out of the bathroom to strangle his brother-in-law. Instead, he pockets the book; there’s still a part of him that must be in disbelief. On the drive home, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which emerged directly or in directly from Heisenberg-related events, returns, and he crashes into someone’s front lawn.

He spends the week holed up in his garage, pouring over case files and linking them together. “Breaking Bad” likes its montages just as much as it likes point-of-view camera shots and time-lapse photography. The song was a little too poppy for me, but it did what it was supposed to, which was to build up the anticipation in a hyper-fast rate and quickly tie in events from all five seasons in under two minutes. Every bit of evidence could be covered up to reveal it’s not Walter, except for the wonky Heisenberg sketch drawn by Tuco’s twin cousins in the Season 3 episode, “No Mas.”

I’ve been reading a lot of bloggers and interviewers ask, “How did Hank not see that Walt was this huge meth cook?” That isn’t even a question for me. Besides Hank being blind-sighted by the fact that Walter was family and generally a timid loser to him, all the evidence was encrypted, never pointing a single finger at Walt. The closest thing we got to said finger was “W.W.” in Gale’s lab notes, but that could still go for Walt Whitman. “Leaves of Grass,” in Walter’s possession was the ultimate evidence, and frankly, the only evidence available for Hank to discover whom his brother-in-law really was. Pair this with the sketch and the events of Walt purposefully crashing the car or lying to Hank about Marie being in the hospital, and Hank has got his Heisenberg.

Walter, in the meantime, has quit the drug business; he’s been out for about a month now, he says. He returns to the car wash, where things seem good, but not perfect, between him and Skyler. They are both dressed in white or cream colors, which is a departure from the heavy use of black in the first half of Season 5. This is the costume department’s attempt to portray levity, purity and peace in the White’s lives. Of course, Lydia and her neurosis show up wanting to wash a rental car, and in her choppy speech, asks Walter to come back. Skyler takes matters into her own hands and threatens her to never show her face near her family again. Lydia’s a bit of a nervous nutball, so of course this won’t happen. Next episode, she might be dressed in Los Pollo Hermanos’ mascot costume to ask again.

Jesse is in a familiar place for viewers. We’ve frequently seen him zoned out on in his living room, like a ghost behind his friends or acquaintances. He goes through periods of clarity and destruction. Destruction comes when he does something truly damaging that affects his psyche. Despite Jesse being the first one in the meth business  (“Captain Cook”), he has a good heart. Unlike Walter, he is not inherently bad, so when he kills someone, like Gale for example, he follows a pattern of mindless self-indulgence masking self-destruction. Aaron Paul is a great actor, and it’s easy to see how he scored three Emmys. Most of his pain is evoked without words, but through choked up tears refusing to come out and forced, deadpan eyes to numb his memory.

Jesse quickly realizes that Mike is dead, despite Walter’s assurance he is alive and well. Not to mention that Jesse has always had a soft spot for kids (Season 2, Episode 6 “Peekaboo”), he takes his cut of the “blood money” and orders his lawyer, Saul Goodman, to distribute $2.5 million each to Mike’s granddaughter and to the parents of the boy Tod killed in last year’s “Dead Freight.” Since Saul won’t do it and Walter continues to lie, Jesse goes around at night and literally throws away his money. This is the one time he’s allowed himself to cry, and his hate for himself is not only heartbreaking, but also grave. We know Jesse won’t come out of this bout of depression easily, if not ever.

Everyone’s acting was perfect this episode, but no scene compares to the temporary showdown between Walter and Hank in Hank’s garage. Walter’s pride has always been his Achilles’ heel, and upon finding out that Hank installed a GPS tracking device on his car, he goes and confronts him. This was the moment many fans have been waiting for, if not trying to avoid. Hank punches Walter and grabs him by the neck saying, “It was you.” It’s not just the fact that Walter was at the forefront of a drug empire, it’s the fact that he destroyed Hank’s life in the process. This all came from somebody who he loved and trusted and considered a brother for over 20 years. Walter shifts back and forth between denial and confession, ultimately confessing that the cancer has returned. “I’m a dying man who runs a car wash. My right hand to God, that is all that I am,” he says. “What’s the point?”

Instead of playing the scene in a standoffish manner, both Hank and Walt portray exhaustion and force. While Walt never explicitly confesses, there is an unspoken understanding between the two that this is the situation. All the pieces fell perfectly in place leading up to this moment. While watching this scene, I thought of Alfred Hitchcock’s ending to “Dial M for Murder,” in which all the cards were perfectly dealt, the bad guy was caught, but there was no dramatic getaway planned. This episode’s ending wasn’t exactly like the movie, but it was refreshing to see the pain behind both characters, as Hank says, “I don’t even know who I’m talking to anymore.”

Walter could have played that scene like he did in the episode titled “Say My Name,” but his character has 20 years of unrevealed history with Hank. Instead, he balances a sadness for those words, as if saying “You do know me, I’m the same guy you’ve always known.” Then Heisenberg comes out, gently this time.

“Tread lightly.”


After thoughts:

My Hispanic roots undoubtedly came out in this episode when it was revealed that Walter’s cancer had returned. I immediately thought Sklyer was up in some brujeria (witchcraft) after saying that she was waiting for it to come back.

Do you believe in  brujeria? Who wants to give Jesse a hug? How many more breakfast scenes are left before the house gets destroyed?

Tweet me @claudiacmarina all things “Breaking Bad,” which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on AMC. 


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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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