Holy shit. “Breaking Bad” tied a brick to the gas pedal, threw it in gear, and jumped out of the speeding car. As we race toward the fiery finish, now just five episodes away, plot and action take over after a period of slower character moments. They still left time for the hug heard ’round the world, though. Watching “Confessions,” I felt like a trucker chewing ephedrine watching Albuquerque speeding past my windshield. I barely had time to breathe. Let’s get started.
Bad luck drives into New Mexico on the back of a truck. Todd and company are headed back from their desert coup, blood still wet on Nazi Uncle’s shoes. Todd shares war stories of his train heist with his uncle in a diner far outside of town and his uncle offers Todd his own lab. Compared to meth genius Walter White, Todd is a few grams short of a kilo, but he has proven to be observant if nothing else. On the phone, Todd refers to Walt as Jesse does, “Mr. White.” He’s a lost soul, and like Jesse, young and caught up with the wrong people. Remember that Walt’s original sin was involving Jesse in his first cook. The first cook that led to two deaths and, eventually, all of the horrors now eating away at Jesse’s soul. Todd enters into that same world. Whether the cycle will continue, with Todd and not Jesse, with Nazi Uncle and not Walt is yet to be seen.
In what has to be the most awkward dinner in New Mexican history, Walt and Skyler sit down with Hank and Marie to discuss, oh you know, drug empires. Skyler, in eponymous white, sits across from Marie, dressed in funeral black. Mrs. White offers a small piece of information, that Walt is out of the game, that “the situation is over.” Walt, in a beautifully ironic sentiment, implores Hank not to go after him, in order to keep the White family together. But as Jesse later says, Walt is playing everyone, all the time. I’m not even sure, at this point, if Walt cares about his children as anything more than pawns on his board. Even if he does, it certainly doesn’t exclude them from being pawns. Everyone is in play. Marie, always the more emotional side of Hank, lays it down clod as ice: “Why don’t you kill yourself, Walt?” Skyler, having expressed similar sentiments a few episodes ago, now offers the coldly logical response, “That is not a solution.” Almost like she crunched the numbers and they didn’t quite add up. But Walt has to feel good that only his wife’s sister wants him dead now.
As he asks Hank not to ruin his son’s life, Walt has already recorded a tape framing his brother-in-law for the entire operation. It’s an absolutely genius (and stunning) play, especially once Hank finds out what Walt already knows — that Mr. DEA is inextricably linked to Walt’s crimes via the mass sum of drug money that Marie took for her husband’s rehab. Walt’s “confession” tape is so profoundly evil, so demonstrably terrible, it solidified his place as the show’s primary villain. Gone are any explanations for his behavior (but it was interesting that he laced his giant confessional lie with bits of truth regarding the origin of his operation). He stole, murdered, cooked and sold drugs, and, now, framed his own brother-in-law for the entire operation. Regardless of whether he thinks anyone will actually see it, the fact that he would say those words, on tape, speaks more to his dark heart than anything else he’s done all season.
Jesse becomes Bearded Jesse[ref]Facial hair means bad news on “Breaking Bad.”[/ref] in the interrogation room, finally saying a few words, first and foremost, “Eat me,” to Hank. Jesse agrees to meet Walt way out in the desert, where people go either to exchange drugs or bullets[ref]I hope you noticed the tarantula, a callback to Jesse’s final straw, the dead kid who had just caught a tarantula in a jar.[/ref]. Despite an action-packed episode, writer Gennifer Hutchison left room for one of the most poignant moments in “Breaking Bad” history. Walt pushes Jesse to leave town, to disappear, and Jesse wisely realizes that this is a very long way to say “or else.” Notice, too, that as Walt pitches Jesse on the idea, the camera shoots Walt from below, making him tower. Jesse though, is shot from above, making him look small and inferior to his former teacher and partner. Once Jesse begins to react with a manic sadness, the camera shoots them on equal footing, both from below or behind. Jesse, for a moment, is on Walt’s level. “Just tell me you need this,” he pleads. Beyond lost, Jesse wants some sort of concrete direction, even if it’s a threat on his life. Something definite. Instead, in a crushingly beautiful moment, Walt hugs Jesse. I still think Walt was playing Jesse right then, but I hope that a small part of Walt knew that he was saving his life, that, for a second, he was a teacher giving a troubled student a hug. It works. Jesse relents and agrees to disappear.
And he almost does. Off the map. Out of sight. Alaska maybe. Someplace so far away from the desert, he’ll barely remember what it looks like. And he’s ready and there’s the van to take him away and there’s his hand reaching for his pot. A little weed to take the edge off. But Saul was adamant and Saul doesn’t take chances.[ref] He’s prescient too. Remember when fire rained down from the sky due to the crash of Flight 515? In this episode, Saul is wearing the blue ribbon in remembrance of the event.[/ref] Jesse realizes that Huell, Saul’s giant bodyguard, lifted his pot as he walked out the door. And then Jesse thinks back and realizes that Huell lifted his ricin cigarette like he lifted his pot. And if Huell stole the ricin, then the ricin Jesse found in the Roomba, on Walt’s suggestion, was a fake. Remember what Jesse did right after he found that fake cigarette: he apologized for accusing Walt of poisoning Brock. So Jesse connects the dots, but in the wrong order. Walt did poison Brock, but with Lily of the Valley, not ricin. But Jesse is right about the ends (he confirms them with Saul to be sure), even if he’s wrong about the means. In the final scene, we find out why Walt’s house is bombed out in the flash-forward. Jesse pours gasoline everywhere, cleansing all the sins, all the horror, everything, burning it away. Burning it away so only the ashes of Heisenberg remain.