The moment after "Blood Money," the first of Breaking Bad's final eight episodes, ended Sunday night, I came across a tweet from SB Nation's Spencer Hall that read simply, "hooooooooboy." Despite the lack of a hashtag or any Breaking Bad identification, I knew without having to see the rest of his live-tweeting: he was talking about "Blood Money." As it so often does, Breaking Bad left us with almost no room to breathe for the episode's full hour, and when that hour was over, no one who watched had the ability to say anything other than:
That was one hell of a way to begin the end, and the usual kudos to showrunner Vince Gilligan, episode writer Peter Gould, and the show's ever-flawless cast for making it so. But before I share any more thoughts on the episode, it's time for my weekly recurring feature ...
What's the worst thing Walter White did this week?
Plenty of contenders to choose from already: hiding the return of his cancer from his family (though one could argue this isn't such a bad thing, since he's trying to save them one more hardship). Trying to lie to Hank (and then guilt trip him with the cancer news) even when he has obviously figured Walt out — and then offering up a thinly-veiled threat when it's clear the jig is up. But for Walt's lowest low of "Blood Money," we're going with another lie: the one to Jesse, about Mike being alive.
Like Hank, Jesse has approximately zero patience for Walt's sea of bull anymore, but that doesn't mean he won't try to spin another pathetic tale to cover his behind. Really, the whole scene could qualify as Walter's lowest moment: he cycles through just about every formation in his sleaze playbook to try to bend Jesse to his will; from the "I'm just as upset as you are" fabrication (feigning despondency at the memory of Drew Sharp, the boy Todd killed when he saw the aftermath of last half-season's train heist) to the "proud father figure" move (telling him to keep his meth money because "You earned it!") — a move so slimy it practically left a trail behind him. Gilligan has said Walt's true superpower is his ability to lie, but the people Walt most needs to believe him are no longer having any of it. And that brings us back around nicely to ...
Thoughts on the episode in general:
They went for it. Right off the bat, Gilligan & Co. went for it. I read as many spoiler-free reviews as I could get my eyes on in advance of the episode, and one of them, from the New York Daily News, contained the line: "["Blood Money's"] biggest plot development ... won’t surprise viewers. Its speed and ferocity might." Well, uh, color me surprised — and also color me very, very satisfied to see a tiny bit of justice visit Walt in the form of Hank's fist. I have no idea how (or even if) the show is going to sustain this kind of tension between the brothers-in-law for seven more episodes, but I already can't wait to see how it plays out.
And while the long-awaited Walt-Hank confrontation stole the show, it shouldn't diminish from what was an extremely strong hour overall. I was so giddy to have Breaking Bad back that in my notes I kept writing characters' names in all caps at the mere sight of them ("LYDIA," "SKINNY PETE AND BADGER," and in an early fit of glee, "IT'S BACK IT'S BACK" about the show in general) "Blood Money" made that kind of passion pay off. It threw all kinds of balls in the air in addition to the White-Schrader showdown (which itself earned an all-caps "GO HANK HELL YES"): another flash forward to 52-year-old, scraggly, post-machine-gun-purchase Walt; an unhappy Lydia wanting Walt to get back in the business; a more-shaken-than-ever Jesse literally throwing his money all over town; Badger's Star Trek spec script (OK, his description did go on a bit long).
Oh yeah, and the cancer's back. Based on "Blood Money," so is Breaking Bad, with a vengeance. If the last seven hours are as tightly scripted, acted, and directed as this one, one of the best shows in TV history will also have itself one of the best swan songs.
Bonus: The Most Heartbreaking Jesse Pinkman Moment Of The Week
So, so much to choose from here, as basically every Jesse scene was a whirlwind of guilt, but I'm going with the moment he first revealed that he wants to give half his meth money to the late Mike's granddaughter, and the other half to the family of Drew Sharp — while Jesse didn't kill Drew directly, the murder is weighing on him more heavily than ever. The fact that his plan to give away all the money like that can't possibly work, as Saul points out in his one (excellent) scene tonight, makes it even tougher to stomach. And the agonizing conversation with Walt? I felt like Hank punched me in the face. I almost don't want to see what kind of emotional pain these last seven episodes will inflict on Jesse. Almost.