Breaking Bad Review: “Fifty One”

This has been my favorite season of Breaking Bad in a few years now, I think. Why? Because I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

Each year before this, there’s always been a bad guy. A wall to climb, a hurdle to jump, and surely Walt, our hero, would do it. But now? He is the villain, and everyone else must climb over him. But that couldn’t possibly happen, could it?

The lack of an outside villain is something new for the show, and may go against traditional models of TV plotlines by making the hero the bad guy. What it does however is create a sense of tension where you can’t possibly predict what happens next.

Further still, the conflict that does exist doesn’t even seem to really be in Walt’s business. He and Jesse are on the best terms they’ve ever been on. He and Mike don’t see eye to eye, but they’re not sparring with each other in a dangerous way.

Pride before a fall.

Rather, Walt’s battles are now twofold. He has to deal with Hank’s investigation which is closing a noose tighter around Madrigal’s neck in a way that could probably lead back to him. I thought that was going to manifest itself with the tracker found on the methylamine, but that was explained away by the end of the show as a ploy. But even with that, Walt presses on.

The main conflict is now Walt vs. Skylar, and I can’t say that’s something I ever saw coming. She was onboard with the whole meth thing after a little while, and seemed like she was going to be an asset to his business. But now after realizing the kind of danger that the drugs bring, and what Walt is capable of doing, it’s scared her straight.

Her behavior has been downright bizarre the last few weeks. She’s been borderline comatose since the season began, but she finally snapped out of it long enough to tell Walt what she really thinks. I think part of it was real shock, but events like her pool episode were orchestrated to try and get the kids away. But when Walt presses her (in a really great scene incidentally), she breaks and admits she doesn’t actually have a plan. She can’t outsmart Walt.

Fact: It’s impossible for you to drown yourself (without weights tying you down). Your body simply will not let you.

But let’s not forget that Walt is being unreasonably stupid these days. He’s always been careful to fault, but now that he’s killed Gus, the confidence fairy has sprinkled her dust on him and he feels invincible. The first five minutes of the show were a dubstep scored Chrysler ad where he leases the brand’s entire SRT class so he can look more like a badass drug dealer. Because that’s a good idea. And promising Skylar that there’s never going to be any danger again now that Gus is dead? Yeah, I’m sure being a meth kingpin will never have any downside to it. You didn’t think if you started pumping out blue meth again that wouldn’t attract some attention?

I didn’t realize that these past five seasons of the show have taken place over the course of a single year. As they said in the show, it seems way longer than that, but I guess if we looked back over the timeline of events it would all add up.

What happens next? I forgot about the first few minutes of the season where we saw Walt with hair toting a light machine gun. What the hell is going to happen from now until then where things are going to escalate to that point? I thought throughout this season we were going to be seeing more scenes from the future, but I guess not.

And what’s the deal? Are there seriously only two more episodes in this season? I hate, hate, hate when shows do this. Air all your episodes, in a row. Especially if you’re a cable show with 10 or 12 episode seasons. I believe Breaking Bad is stopping at eight eps for now, but I have no idea when it’s coming back after that, which is exceedingly lame. I know it’s 16 episodes for this final season, but there’s no good reason they couldn’t have aired them all in a row.

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  1. Also, it gives AMC more time to find a replacement. With BB and Mad Men almost over, what’s left? Walking Dead is a ratings beast but not really a marquee show. None of their other shows are really worth talking about.

  2. Corrections because I love you, Paul :DD The episode was titled “Fifty One” for Walt’s bday…it’s the fourth episode of the season which means there are four left until the long break, not just two.

    You must have swapped the name and position of this one with another episode.

    I was STUNNED at the last second when the clock reached 60 and the gun cocked because my imagination told me that Skyler was putting a gun in her mouth as Walt went restfully to sleep. But I don’t think they’d kill Skyler in between episodes x( Did anyone else think the gun cocking sound was more than symbolic? That somewhere, at that moment, someone was getting shot (if not Skyler). Could be Mike going for Lydia….Probably only symbolic but the tension in the White house was too high to dismiss it.

  3. Upon re-viewing the last minute of the episode, I noticed that Skylar’s mug (the scene right before Walt goes to bed, and Sky is smoking) reads “51”. Not sure if it’s a coincidence.

  4. Wife and discussed this last night, it’s incredibly implausible that only one year in real time has gone by. Let’s recap the number of significant events that have taken place that need to fit into a 365 day calendar.

    1. Walt finds out he has cancer, and begins treatment.
    2. Walt’s initial ride with Hank and the Jesse confrontation that leads to their partnership.
    2. Killing of Jesse’s old partner in his basement.
    3. Tuco and his posse and the creation of “Heisenberg”
    4. Badger gets arrested.
    5. Combo gets killed.
    6. Jesse meets and falls in love with his Landlord.
    7. Jesse looks for revenge, Walt saves him by running over and killing Combo’s killers.
    8. Jesse’s landlord/girlfriend dies from inhaling vomit, as Walt watches.
    9. Jesse goes into rehab.
    10. Plane crashes into Walt’s neighborhood because Jesse’s girlfriend/landlord was the daughter of ATC agent.
    11. Saul get’s hired.
    12. Walt and Skyler break up.
    13. Walt kills Tuco, and Saul introduces him to Gus.
    14. Walt meets Gayle.
    15. Walt fires Gayle and gets Jesse in the operation.
    16. Gus begins war with the Cartel.
    17. The Cartel sends twins to kill Gus and Hank.
    18. Jesse kills Gayle.
    19. Walt decides to try and escape from Gus’s wrath repeatedly.

    That’s not even including the Ted Beneke arc with Skyler, Hank’s rehab, Walt’s remission, the trip to Mexico for Jesse, Mike and Gus.

    I mean, there isn’t any way for things to have been resolved on the legal front for all the arrests, let alone the chemo, rehab, blah blah blah, in a single year.

    Only nit about the show is how uncharacteristically poorly they have observed the passage of time.

  5. I think that if you exhaled all of your air and sank to the bottom as long as you could you might be able to drown yourself. No doubt difficult but impossible? No.

  6. Paul, the reason why the last season was split into two half-seasons, at least according to Vince Gilligan, was so that they could spend more time crafting each episode.

    I’ll have to track down the interview I read, but if I recall correctly they’ve gone from two weeks per ep (once you factor in writing and filming) to four-six weeks per ep.

    And I personally think it shows. The writing and performances have been tight as hell, and the callbacks and connectivity of the episodes have been amazing. There have been no filler episodes this season so far, something which bugged me (and you, I think) in the last season or so. In season 5, each and every scene in each and every episode gets full attention.

    Basically, the reason why this has been your favourite season so far is BECAUSE they split the season, giving them more time to make it great. Yes, it absolutely sucks that we’ll have to wait a short while for the final episodes (summer 2013). But when it’s all wrapped up, and we buy the DVD/Blu Ray box sets, I reckon we’ll appreciate that they didn’t rush their final season.

    They could have just aired the lot in 2013. But that would have given a two year gap between seasons, which I’m not sure I could have taken.

  7. That Skyler scene was INSANE, the whole time she was standing by the pool I didn’t take my eyes off of her. Secondly, throughout this whole season I’ve been shaking my head at Walter just sinking lower and lower and lower. If I were Skyler I’d go to the cops SO FAST! She wants to protect her children, she’s just gonna have to bite the bullet and bare the shame. DAMN this show is good. I just wonder what’s gonna happen when Walter hits 52.

  8. @Ugo Strange

    Shame and jail time. She’s been laundering drug money in the car wash for weeks or months at that point. If she went to the cops and gave up the kingpin, she would face charges of her own and couldn’t guarantee that the kids are taken care of.

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