As the summer comes to a close, so does Breaking Bad Season 5, Part 1 with its final episode of 2012 “Gliding Over All”. The episode starts in the offices of Vamanos Pest Control, just as Todd (Jesse Plemons) is walking in. He eventually finds Walt (Bryan Cranston) sitting in the unlit offices searching by him. Todd (through his more simplistic nature) tells him that he dropped of Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) car via junkyard trash compactor. Walt and Todd go to the garage area of the offices and open Walt’s trunk to reveal the stagnant body of Mike, for which they are preparing of the acid tub. Just before they can accomplish the foul deed, Jesse (Aaron Paul) opens the garage door walks into the offices. With just enough time to close the trunk without him seeing, Jesse walks up to Walt and asks if Mike got away. Walt simply responds, “He’s gone.” Jesse then asks how they’re going to deal with things from here, which Walt retorts with the fact that Jesse left the business and now it’s only up to him to deal with things and promptly closes the garage door on him. This whole scene is crushing, showing how Jesse has lost both of the father figures he had in his life to give him direction, one (Mike) from a sudden disappearance and the other (Walt) from total abandonment and even replacement in the form of Todd. Plus, it’s made even worse knowing that Mike’s body is just a few feet away from Jesse and is being prepared to dissolve into nonexistence in a few moments. It even slightly implies that Walt has a symbolic “If I Can’t Have Him, No One Can” complex with Jesse that puts their relationship into a slightly different perspective.
The episode marches forward as Hank (Dean Norris) is meeting the local prison with former Fring associate Dennis Markowski (Mike Batayeh), who we last saw talking with Mike in this season’s “Hazard Pay”. Dennis and his lawyer bring up an ultimatum to Hank and his lawyer; if Dennis gets legal immunity, he’ll tell Hank everything he wants to know. Hank, thinking that the demands are far too high, simply leaves the cell, telling Dennis that he has eight other prisoners within the same prison that he can get to squeal for far less. Meanwhile, Walt is about to get an ultimatum of his own in a local coffee shop. Walt is at the coffee shop in order to get the ten names (nine Fring associates and Dan Waschberg (Chris Freihofer), the lawyer who handled Mike’s hush money for the other nine) from Lydia (Laura Fraser), which she flat out refuses to do. Despite attempts to prod from Walt, Lydia still refuses, stating that she knows her life will be in danger the moment she gives up that list. In order to change Walt’s mind, Lydia tells him about her attempt to bring Gus Fring’s operation in on a meth trade in the Czech Republic before Walt killed him. She offers to have Walt’s meth production take Fring’s place as both a future business venture from which she’ll keep 35% and a degree of leverage to stay alive. Walt agrees on these conditions and gets his list from Lydia. This is such a damn impressive interplay between these two characters, as it shows one of the very few times that Walt has been bested in his usual game of words. Plus, it gives Lydia a damn great character moment, as she’s fully developed from the pensive trembling woman we saw earlier this season into becoming a force that Walt should treat seriously. Laura Fraser manages to play this in a very believable way by managing to sound intimidating without ever forgetting that slight trembling verbal tic. It also ends up saving her life, as it’s revealed that Walt had the ricin cigarette prepped and ready to use on Lydia.
In order to pull off the murders of those nine men in prison, Walt procures the services of Todd’s ex-con uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) and his seedy associates to pull some strings in the prison. Jack claims that the job can be done, but says Walt’s plan to have all ten prisoners murdered within a two-minute time span is impossible to accomplish. Walt, without a hint of caving in, demands that the job be done his way since he’s paying them to do his dirty work. Jack concedes and takes the plan into action the next day. What follows is a montage that will live on in the pantheon of Breaking Bad moments, as all of the prisoners are shanked, strangled or (in Markowski’s case) burned alive to the tune of “Pick Yourself Up” by Nat King Cole. The images of these grisly murders are so short and visceral, yet the Nat King Cole song manages to make the whole affair somewhat peppy and even fun to a certain extent. Plus, the episode continuously cuts back to Walt staring at his watch and fretting about whether his plan worked or not, before getting a call that quells his fears. To celebrate, we see Walt at Hank and Marie’s (Betsy Baker) house playing with his daughter Holly before Hank returns home, clearly devastated by the news of the prison riots. He and Walt share a drink as Hank intimately talks to Walt about his newfound doubts with his skills as a DEA agent and considers leaving the futile pursuit of “chasing monsters.” This is one of the few genuine moments of vulnerability Hank has had over the series’ run and Dean Norris really pulls it off in spades through a very subtle and realistic tone in his confession. It also serves as a confidence booster for Walt’s slimy mission to continue his meth production with Lydia.
Speaking of which, the episode cuts to yet another fine example of a cooking montage as Walt and Todd produce Blue Sky meth over the course of three months, with Lydia shipping it off to Czech, Skylar (Anna Gunn) continuing to launder the excessive amounts of cash, and Saul (Bob Odenkirk) keeping all the books in check. The montage in of itself is the typical high-spirited meth producing montage we’ve all come to love from the show, but there’s an extra bit of genius with the song choice of “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Nice touch. Anyway, after months of continued sales, Skylar is playing with Holly at Marie’s house, where Marie asks her if she might want to consider bringing the kids back to the house. Later that night, Skylar takes Walt for a drive. They end up in a storage unit Skylar has been renting where she reveals a stockpile of cash so huge that Skylar claims became impossible to accurately count. As Walt stands there dumbfounded by the money, Skylar confronts him about the cash, asking if this stockpile is finally enough for him to retire on so that their lives can finally go back to normal. This is one of the rare Skylar/Walt scenes that actually has them on an even emotional playing field and its strangely touching to see the two of them finally being civil after all the turmoil of the previous episodes from this season.
Following an MRI scan the next day, Walt visits Jesse at his house. Jesse is cautious of Walt’s presence, asking him what ulterior motive he has for coming to him after his outbursts from the last time they encountered each other. Then, in a bizarre moment of nostalgia, Walt tells Jesse about seeing a RV that reminded him of the “Crystal Ship” he and Jesse used to cook meth in. This is probably the most genuine and touching moment Walt and Jesse have had shared in quite some time, with Walt showing legitimate fondness for Jesse in a way that isn’t at all related to work, even if it is a very brief moment. Walt then takes his leave, telling Jesse that he “left something” for him on the porch. Jesse finds two duffle bags out front and opens them in his house, revealing that they’re packed to the gills with the $5 million share Jesse was denied in last week’s “Say My Name”. Relieved, Jesse nearly starts to weep as he takes a pistol out of his pants and switches on the safety. Back at home, Walt tells Skylar that he’s out of the meth trade, which brings the hugest smile to Skylar’s face.
Later that weekend, the kids are moved back in and the Whites have Marie and Hank over for an idyllic family lunch. In the middle of small talk, Hank excuses himself to the restroom. As he takes a seat on the toilet, Hank browses through the bathroom reading material before stumbling upon a copy of “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. Hank opens to the inside cover and finds a handwritten message from ‘G.B.’ that say “To my other favorite W.W, It’s an honor working with you.” After a flashback to the season 4 episode “Bullet Points” where Hank jokingly muses that the initials W.W. in Gale Boetticher’s (Walt’s temporary lab assistant replacement for Jesse back in season 3) notes could stand for Walter White, Hanks has a sudden look of revelation on his face as the episode closes. Now, while this ending isn’t that unpredictable (because there’s no way in hell the White’s happiness would be anything but fleeting with eight more episodes to go), but it still does feel like an earned moment as we finally get the moment we’ve been waiting for from Hank since the start of the series as he literally finally checks under his damn nose to find out the true identity of Heisenberg. Plus, the use of the Walt Whitman book is a clever call back to references made about the poet in relation to Walter White as well as the title for this episode, which comes from one of Whitman’s poems.
So, that’s it for Breaking Bad in 2012. Season 5 had a damn great act to follow with season 4, but it looks like the creative team really gave it their all, crafting new engaging plot threads while wrapping up most of the old ones. Plus, there’s a lot of nice small callbacks to previous episodes, from Walt watching as a fly buzzes around the Vamanos Pest Control offices (a la the season 3 bottle episode “The Fly”) to Walt running across the paper towel dispenser at the cancer center that he severely dented while punching it at the end of the season 2 episode “4 Days Out”. Now, it looks like series creator Vince Gilligan will continue to have people on the edge of their seats for another couple of months, leaving fans to posit all sorts of questions. How is Hank going to drudge up the evidence to smear his brother in law? Will he be able to link Jesse and Walt together? How is the family going to function after such a heavy revelation? Are Lydia and Todd loose threads that will crack the secret? And how does this all lead up to the haggard looking Walt that we saw in the one year flash forward cold opening from this season’s premiere episode “Live Free or Die”? Well, there’s no point in pondering that stuff right now. We’ve got a whole year to speculate and ruminate about how the legend of Heisenberg will end.