Breaking Bad is starting to wind down this week with its penultimate episode of the year entitled “Say My Name.” Unlike usual Breaking Bad episodes, the purpose behind the title becomes quite evident from the cold opening. Following directly from the ending of last week’s “Buyout”, Walt (Bryan Cranston), Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Mike (Jonathan Banks) ride out into the dessert to have their “business meeting” with drug dealer Declan (Louis Ferreira). Walt reveals the plan that he told Jesse about at the end of last week’s episode: in exchange for keeping the methylamine and paying Mike his $5 million for retirement, Walt will give Declan and his team distribution rights to Blue Sky and 35% of the gross. Declan initially scoffs the offer, stating that it would benefit him more to have Blue Sky off the market, but all of this goes by the wayside the moment Walt demands Declan “say [his] name.” “Heisenberg,” Declan says, revealing Walt’s legendary drug dealer persona. This is a quintessential scene for this episode and for the show in general. It shows how damned determined and cocksure Walt is of himself and how he displays it through his amazing talent for speeches, particularly when he compares his totally pure Blue Sky formula to “Classic Coke” and asks Declan “Do you want to live in a world without Coca Cola?” It also ultimately culminates in Walt’s brazed exclamation of “You’re goddamn right,” after Declan calls him Heisenberg, showing just how far Walt has been willing to buy into his alternate persona and how distant his old identity as Walter White the school teacher has become, which could lead to his eventual undoing.
After getting his $5 million, Mike drives up to the Vamanos Pest Control offices with Walt and Jesse to gather his things and say his goodbyes. Before leaving, Mike warns Jesse that, in order to be totally free of the business, one has to severe all possible ties. Later that day, Jesse and Walt pick up the methylamine tanker from the car wash, where Walt tells Skyler (Anna Gunn) to ignore their actions as they have everything under control. Meanwhile, at a local bank, Mike’s lawyer from “Hazard Pay” Dan Wachsberger (Chris Freihofer) putting money into several different safety deposit boxes, including one rather large one with an envelope that says “To Kaylee on Her 18th Birthday.” The sequence of Dan putting the money away is one of the better stylistic scenes of the season, with some fantastic perspective shots from Dan’s hand while Duke Ellington’s “Overture” plays to make the whole affair look classier, so kudos to episode director Thomas Schnauz for this nice touch. After his job is done, Dan tells Mike that he’ll take the remaining money to the families of the nine holdouts from Gus’ organization.
After tying up some loose ends (such as disposing of his gun arsenal and storing a spare duffle bag in one of his cars), Mike calmly waits at home as Hank (Dean Norris) and the rest of the DEA bust in with a search warrant on his house, only to find nothing to support their case. This leads to DEA big wig Ramey (Todd Terry) telling Hank to close off the case, as it’s sucking up funds and is basically solved from their perspective. He also calls Hank into question as to whether or not this is less about the law and more about Hank trying to hang onto the glory he had from solving the Fring case, which draws many engaging parallels between Walt and Hank, especially since Hank’s pride had been in the gutter following his paralysis in seasons three and four. This is given even more credence when Hank and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) decide to go behind Ramey after Gomez suggests that Wachsberger might be a solid link to Mike.
Elsewhere, Walt is at the Vamanos Pest Control offices preparing to transport his meth equipment. Jesse wanders into Walt’s activities and asks him about when he can get his $5 million and leave the meth trade, which Walt responds with flat out denial, telling Jesse that he needs to continue his work. The back and forth that results from this is yet another testament to how much the characters have evolved since season 1, with Walt’s bitterly vindictive attempts at manipulating Jesse becoming more biting than ever and Jesse’s resistance to Walt’s line of crap being all the more justifiably defiant. It also shows a potential dividing point between the characters, as Jesse notices Walt’s lack of showing concern for the death of the child in “Dead Freight” and Jesse’s eventual refusal to return to the business leads to Walt declaring that he won’t get a penny of his promised $5 million if he walks out. In order to fill Jesse’s place, Walt gets Todd (Jesse Plemons) to help him out, as displayed through another rousing meth-cooking montage set to The Monkees song “Goin Down.” When the batch comes out mediocre, Walt (while disappointed) appreciates Todd for trying his best, though Todd is determined to do it again until he gets it right. This shows a slight but solid progression in Todd’s character, as it’s clear that he was heavily affected by how everyone reacted to his actions in “Dead Freight,” which could potentially set up a longer arc for his character in the final episodes to come.
Things aren’t fairing too well for Mike, either. During a visit to Hank’s office, Walt finds out that they’ve linked Wachsberger to Mike. While visiting the park with his granddaughter Kaylee, Mike gets a call from Wachsberger suspiciously asking to meet him elsewhere immediately. Then, just as soon as he’s hung up, Walt calls to tell Mike that the cops are after him. As Mike hides himself from the cops, Jesse and Walt have told Saul (Bob Odenkirk) about the ordeal at his law firm, where Saul calls Mike to ask if there’s anything they can do to help him out of this situation. Mike says that they need to get the duffle bag he stashed away earlier while he tied up other loose ends to leave the country. After a flat out refusal from Saul and a persistent plea to help from Jesse, Walt decides to volunteer himself. He drives to the airport and unlocks the trunk of a vehicle that has Mike’s duffle bag. Walt takes a peak at the bag and finds a gun with a holster before taking it to Mike.
Mike and Walt meet up at a distant river, where they make the duffle-bag exchange. Before handing the bag over, Walt demands that Mike give him the names of the nine remaining employees from Fring. Mike, with a rising temper, tells Walt off for his egocentric attitude that ended up ruining the Fring operation that benefited everyone and leaves. As Walt clearly goes into a rage, Mike checks the duffle bag, only to find that the gun is missing. Suddenly, Walt approaches Mike’s window and shoots him in the stomach with his gun. Mike starts to drive off before hitting a rock, which causes Walt to transition from an angry look to one of terror as he runs towards the wrecked car only to find that Mike isn’t in it. Following some footprints towards the river, where Mike is sitting on a rock slowly dying from his wounds. Walt tells Mike that he realized that he could have just gotten the names from Lydia, to which Mike simply responds “just shut the fuck up and let me die in peace”, which he promptly does. This is a tremendous send off for Jonathan Banks. This guy has been a character actor in since the 1980s in films like Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, 48 Hours and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, but never really got his due until his masterful work on Breaking Bad. He played the perfect stoic clean up guy for any shifty organization and he remained the stoic badass up until his last appearance here. Plus, Banks is now amongst the select few to say ‘fuck’ on the show and he earns it by telling off Walt in the best way possible.
This is how you do a penultimate episode for the season (or half season); tie up a few loose ends that open enough new ones for the last episode to wrap up. The send off it gives to an essential character is gorgeously done and it provides some great set up for a grand finale. Now we just have to see if next week’s “Gliding Over All” can live up to that promise.