Breaking Bad: S5E11 “Confessions”

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

Jesse and Walt's performances | Never-ending surprise factor | Movie-like cinematography

Ricin epiphany was still missing a link, came out of left-field

If there were two perfect but completely different examples for the expression “performance of a lifetime,” it would be Jesse and Walter’s respective performances in this episode.

Walter’s performance was an elaborate show filmed on tape, with the façade-intentions of having the world see it, but knowing that if those involved were smart, such a tape would never be made public. A spectacle in the form of a confession needs time to perfect. Bryan Cranston played Walter acting as an innocent man, and treading the fine line between B.S. and a full on threat is a difficult thing to do.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 4.20.15 PMI’ve known our protagonist has been the very definition of an anti-hero for a longtime, but it wasn’t until the complete surprise of this episode’s confession that made me realize he truly is an evil genius. An evil genius would take all the facts and turn them over to make our antagonist hero, Hank, look bad. Every single lie was supported by some fact that could cement Heisenberg’s identity to Hank, and the best part is that it wasn’t even premeditated. All the cards fell perfectly into place, but it took a lot of work and deliberation from Bonnie and Clyde. I imagine Skyler and Walter mapping out every single detail and the different possible ways all signals lead to Hank. Walter would forget one detail, and Skyler would remind him and think of some genius ploy, like the carwash idea. Skyler and Walt are intellectual equals, and while I have no doubt that Skyler is facing inner turmoil, her act of breaking bad makes Walt stronger and secures their family. She plainly says that there is no danger, taking the words right out of Walter’s mouth in Season 4, and with that tape, she insinuates she, too, is the danger.

Walter’s performance was delicate, even shedding a tear and showing false remorse. Is Walter a sociopath? I don’t like to throw around the “S” word a lot in film and TV, but ultimately I say no. Despite his deliberate manipulations, I think he still very much cares but struggles with that care in his alter ego. I believe he truly loves his family, even though his cancer has manifested itself in personal, evil ways, which have caused estrangement. He still believes in his idea of a family, but his problem is that he doesn’t know when to stop. He passed that point a long time ago, and the show became about Heisenberg and Heisenberg only. Walter White had recessed into a messy abyss. He is only now returning, but he needs Heisenberg’s help to dig him out.

Instead of a desperate attempt to remain undercover, there’s a sort of stone-cold resilience to protecting his family now that Heisenberg’s identity is matched to Walter. He knows he wont ever let himself be caught and continually repeats and emphasizes the “if,” if he ever gets arrested.

What I love about “Breaking Bad” are the surprises. Walt had an upper hand this week, but having watched this tug-and-pull between good and evil for 5 seasons, I’m expecting Hank to retaliate in a big way. There is, after all, the Ricin.

Ricin has been hanging on to the show since the first episode in Season 2. Writers wouldn’t waste so much time on a plot device, often putting it on the back burner between seasons, if it weren’t going to be used in a big way. “Breaking Bad” is a special show that requires attention to detail. It’s an intelligent show that won’t spoon-feed its audience verbalized epiphanies. It’s a little detail that happened 12 episodes ago in Season 4’s “End Game,” when Huell lifted the Ricin cigarette from Jesse before Brock was poisoned that we, as an audience, have to think back on in order to make the connection to why Jesse didn’t skip town when he had the chance.

Walter has always played the manipulation game exceptionally well, and his easiest target has to be Jesse.  He knows exactly what to say to appear on good terms and get the guilt churning in Jesse’s mind. Jesse caught on to Walter’s game with the disappearance of Mike, but it was heart wrenching seeing him admit the “good dad/bad dad” trick Walter likes to use on him. Jesse is a Lost Boy. This explains his special connection with children and innocence. It wasn’t until his parents abandoned him, and he realized they really didn’t want anything to do with him, that he had no other option than to leave them alone. Since the show’s first season, he’s tried to find some sort of family, and for a long time that was drugs. He found Jane, and Walter allowed her to be taken away from him. He lost his friend Combo to gang violence; he lost himself to mindless self-indulgence. He found a new girlfriend and Walter continued to act as a puppeteer to Jesse, poisoning her child in order to flip the tables and have Jesse on his side again. Walter never directly hit Jesse because he know the importance of his role as a father figure to him. Walter is the kind of hypocrite who, in mean-girl terms, talks shit about everybody and still wants to be seen as your BFF. The good side of him is true, but he’s become so bad and has landed in the middle of an identity crisis because of it.

Aaron Paul’s blood-rushing performance as Jesse, in the final minutes of the episode, was incredible. Let’s just say it: Jesse cries a lot on this show, but it always feels genuine, and that’s why there hasn’t been an Internet meme out of it yet. Jesse’s rage in “Confessions” is his character turning point. Once he realized that Walt poisoned Brock, all the fear and shame and floating around his character was known for within the parameters of “Breaking Bad” disappeared. Jesse needs some sort of statement, and it comes bottled in a gas tank.


  • The cinematography on the show is always great, but it was especially impressive in “Confessions.” Jesse’s rage was really driven home with the point-of-view shot from the gas can. Other impressive scenes that made you stop and think about how and why cinematographer Michael Slovis chose to shoot a scene this way were the scenes between Hank and Marie while watching the confession DVD at home and the bathroom scene at the diner in the beginning of the episode with Todd’s new business partners.
  • Well, Todd is just going to fuck it up for everyone. Todd, I’m squinting HARD at you.
  • Judging by next episode’s preview, the house doesn’t seem burned down, which makes me think that he runs into someone who will make him stop. Knowing his soft spot for kids, my bet is on Walter Jr.
  • Marie is wearing BLACK?!!!! Or is that a really dark purple? I can’t tell anymore.
  • “Confessions” produced some strange emotions in me. Particularly strange, if like me, you find yourself channeling Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” but instead of yelling “Stellaaaaaaa,” you yell “Jesseeeeeee!” hoping he’d hear you.
  • P.S. Aaron Paul, I’m still patiently waiting for that phone call.
  • Jesse, this one’s for you.

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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