An Imagined Victory: Breaking Bad 05×13 ‘To’hajiilee’ Review

I bet your greedy ass would be so worked up about the prospect of losing your cash you wouldn’t catch it” – Hank Schrader ‘To’hajiilee

The conventions of TV can sometimes be frustrating; the majority of shows work in a certain way and thus become predictable.

With its final season Breaking Bad is both living by these unwritten rules and defying them. It is incredible to watch because you feel fairly confident what is going to happen as conventions dictate it and then more often than not what the audience anticipates happening doesn’t play out in the way we expect to and in the case of Breaking Bad everything goes insane.

Lesser series may have saved the Walter vs. Hank showdown of Blood Money until much later in the season, same with Skyler vs. Hank and Jesse finding out about Brock and deciding to go after Walter. All of these storylines could have played out in much slower time but there is a sense of real urgency in these final episodes as all the plotlines and characters converge towards something spectacular

So with TV conventions in mind watching the final ten minutes of To’hajiilee should have been frustrating because with time to go in the episode and the season as a whole there was no way Walter was going to be dragged off to the DEA and formally charged. No way was this going to end happily because we have been trained to know when bad things are going to happen and when Hank calls Marie in a lovely scene (which makes me cry knowing it is most likely their last moment together) the alarm bells start ringing. Danger is coming.

Yet with Breaking Bad even when the last minute cavalry arrived, when we realised that yes another 3 episodes are still left and they can’t allow Walter to be killed off or sent away this early on it wasn’t frustrating or a letdown because it was the most tense scene the show has ever done.  We get a beautifully filmed shoot out scene between Hank and Steve versus Uncle Jack and the Nazis in which I found it hard to breathe. I screamed like Walter screamed at Jack not to go through with it. I looked on in horror like a stunned Jesse does. I tried to in those final minutes make peace with the fact that no way those DEA agents were going to survive this and that my fear and theory that Walter White is not going to be brought down by the law is definitely the case now.

Then just as I said my goodbyes to Hank, to loyal friend and partner Steve the episode ends not in a dramatic shot of Hank being gunned down or Steve having his brains blown out no Breaking Bad messed with us once again by giving us no clear conclusion and leaving the fates of everyone up in the air for another week. Damn you Breaking Bad you magnificent bastard.

To’hajiilee sets up a moment I’ve personally been longing for since the end of S2 and that is Hank and Jesse getting their victory over Walter White.  It has been a long time coming and what makes To’hajiilee such a brilliant episode is watching how Hank and Jesse with help from Steve outsmart Walter. Not only do they take his money they exactly do something way worse to the man they prove he isn’t the infallible genius he likes to think he is – a double blow to the giant ego of Heisenberg.

Both Hank and Jesse are smarter than they are given credit for, yes Hank may have spent a year not realising who his Brother-in-Law is and he made some mistakes when dealing with the fallout of that revelation but he also figured out what the deal was with Gus Fringe and there is a reason he got promoted in the DEA – he is good at his job. Jesse meanwhile has had plenty of great ideas (magnets anyone?) and when given the chance and the proper motivation (and damn revenge is great for that) he is more than up to the task.  From the moment they managed to convince Huell to tell them what he knows, to the brilliant money photo fake out and then Jesse’s sneering phone call to Walter as he rushes to save his money and legacy it is a non-stop thrilling ride.

Walter loses a whole lot in this episode and the chief reason why is because underestimates everyone. He doesn’t think Jesse would ever truly betray him and rat him out and he was wrong – again Walter thinks he is the good guy and if Jesse could just understand that then everything would be fine. The idea of a Hank and Jesse team-up never crosses his mind and again he is wrong.  He thinks his money plan is safe and probably very clever because he is after all a genius but he is wrong.

Yet the biggest mistake he makes is focussing on the dangers of Hank and Jesse when the real problem and surely the last great enemy he will face comes in the form of Todd and Jack.  They are the most dangerous opponents yet because they will not listen to reason. Hank wants to bring Walt down the right way and even Jesse realises he can hurt him more by taking the money not his life. These new foes will not play by the rules Walter is used to. We have seen how unstable Todd is and how easily he kills, his Uncle and his gang are an unknown chaos. Whilst Walter has been fantastic at manipulating those he knows, like the audience he doesn’t know a whole lot about Jack and that means getting him to do what he wants will be a near impossible task.

Walter though only has his self to blame by bringing Todd into the fold he brought an unstable element into the mix and the results were one dead child and start of Walter’s rift with Jesse. Then Walter used Todd’s connection to solve his prison problem and maybe even then he could have been okay  if he hadn’t initiated contact again. Walter calls Jesse a coward but really Walter’s inability to do the deed himself means he is now in league with a truly terrifying bunch of people and it won’t end well for anyone.

Three episodes left and a whole lot of chaos to come.

Further observations

+ To’hajiilee continues the terrific streak the show has been on since its return this summer – and at this rate Breaking Bad may well have crafted the best final season since The Shield . I’ve longed wondered if Walter will get a Vic Mackey style fate. BTW if you haven’t watched that show then you really should.

+ Jesse got to be happy, it didn’t last very long but he got it. Now it is all downhill from now

+ Walter giving up and resigning himself to his fate shows was kind of touching in a way, I mean he might have been plotting a new scheme whilst he waited in the car but really I think he knew he had in that moment been beaten.

+ Loved the shout out to the pilot and Walter choosing the very first placed he cooked in to hide the money.

+ If Hank is indeed dead then that phone call to Marie is one of the most soul destroying moments the show has done. Her relief at Walter getting served justice and how she feels better now was a brilliant piece of work by Betsy Brandt who is really getting a chance to shine this season. I hate to think what her reaction will be if her husband is dead – I could see her breaking bad big time.

+ Skyler hasn’t been doing a whole lot in recent episodes but I’m not too worried I expect she will get some great moments soon. Still loved her teaching Walt, Jr about the carwash and the ‘Have an A1 Day’ catchphrase is still brilliant in its cheesiness.

+ Theory corner:  Jack forces Walter to cook again (Walter manages to convince them to take Jesse as well). Sometime in the future Walter fakes his death and then in the flash-forward is heading towards a showdown with Jack and Co in order to save Jesse – his final shot of some kind of redemption.  How Skyler and the kids fit in I don’t know. But I’m really mad at Walter for telling Jack where Andrea and Brock lives – this is the kind of leverage they can use against Jesse!

+ Comedy highlight: Walt, Jr meeting Saul was hilarious especially as he is such a fan of the “Better Call Saul” adverts. Hey the seedy lawyer needs a new bodyguard how about Walt, Jr?

+ Turn in the spotlight: Huell gets his moment this week and it was rather touching how upset he was when shown the blown out brains of Jesse. I love Huell I hope he becomes friends with the DEA Agent and they hook up with Badger, Skinny Pete and Kurby for a wacky crazy sitcom.

+ Death Watch: Well technically no one but I uttered a rest in peace to both Hank and Steve during those final moments.

+ Todd Watch: Todd always so polite and now incredibly creepy towards Lydia. I fear for her life but maybe she will have a badass moment and kill Todd when he inevitably tries sometimes and she rejects him. Someone has to kill him!

 

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