In last week's Breaking Bad recap, I mentioned that I felt a sense of relief at every commercial break – the action on screen was just too intense to handle in anything but relatively short bursts, broken up by a couple minutes to catch my breath. Well, this week's episode, "Confessions," marked the first time this half-season that I didn't feel that way. Sure, plenty was still happening, but I felt more relaxed taking it all in which, given that these final eight episodes were shaping up as a non-stop thrill ride, wasn't necessarily a good thing. Since this is Breaking Bad, though, I should have known that feeling wouldn't last long... and then, sure enough, those last 10 minutes happened. But before we get into those, it's time for the weekly question:
What was the worst thing Walter White did this week?
There are two contenders here that are so strong, I'm listing them both. First: the "confession" that helped give the episode its title. Walt's plan to frame Hank for meth-empire-building was the man at his most devious and downright irredeemable (Hank, as Walt so indignantly reminded Saul last week, is family, but Walt's ready to ruin his life on the back of a lie). However, it was also laced with enough truth – most damningly, that Walt's meth money paid for Hank's treatment after season 3's parking lot shootout left the latter unable to walk – to make it absolutely brilliant. This was a supervillain-level move, a sort of coda to Walt's warning to Hank earlier this season. Tread lightly around Heisenberg... or else he'll do this.
Walt's other lowest moment this week involved someone who isn't technically in his family, but might as well be at this point: Jesse. Walt's "start a new life for yourself, it'll be great" spiel was bad enough, but when Jesse (very satisfyingly) threw it back in his face, rightly noting that Walt had no one's best interest in mind but his own, Walt hugged him. And just kept hugging him, even though Jesse wanted no part of him and looked on the verge of another guilt-riddled breakdown.
With that hug, Walt did the near-impossible and became an even sleazier fake dad than he was two weeks ago when he urged Jesse to keep his meth money because "you've earned it." And the worst part was: it (temporarily) worked. Maybe the hug didn't, but the suggestion that Jesse start a new life seemed to take – he was all ready to take off for Alaska and never look back. Even if reluctantly, he was about to give Walt what he wanted. And then, those last 10 minutes of the episode arrived. Which brings us to...
Thoughts on the episode in general:
Sure, it still had its share of brilliant sequences (Walt's videotaped confession, one of several homages to the show's past tonight*, topping the list), but much of "Confessions" didn't leave me quite as captivated as the previous two episodes did. Arguably, this was by design, and it's possible this feeling will change upon re-watching the episode, but that's what I felt in the moment.
Then the episode's conclusion happened, and now I don't think I even remember what relaxation feels like. Every second from Jesse's roadside realization onward was as tense, as horrified as I've ever felt watching Breaking Bad. The Jesse-Saul confrontation? Extraordinary; I legitimately wasn't sure if Saul would survive the scene. Walt retrieving his gun at the car wash? It takes some standout acting, writing and directing to wring that level of drama out of such a mundane location. And Jesse quite literally setting out to burn Walt's house down? Suffice to say the only notes I could manage to type out during those last few scenes read: "Oh god oh god oh god oh god."
I only wish the preview for next week's episode hadn't appeared to show the Whites' house remaining in livable condition. Otherwise, I might have spent the week thinking the place was destroyed, only to be surprised by this spectacular show yet again. Regardless, I already can't wait for next Sunday. Breaking Bad has spent a good amount of time one-upping itself as it hits its home stretch, and with five episodes to go, there's no reason to think the show won't keep it up.
Bonus: The Most Heartbreaking Jesse Pinkman Moment of the Week
Oh, you know, probably the moment when he realized that a person he once looked to as a father figure not only poisoned a child close to him, but lied to his face about it and then, in order to act on that knowledge, had to ruin what probably really was his best shot at a better life. Man, is Jesse heart-wrenching.
*Another: Todd's recounting of season 5a's train heist in the cold open. Here's the thing about that sequence, though: Todd knew that no one else could ever know the heist happened. He knew it so well, in fact, that he shot a child dead to make sure that was so. Why, then, did he RECOUNT THE ENTIRE CRIME IN DETAIL to his uncle and sidekick? The instructions weren't "no one but your murderous neo-Nazi uncle can ever know about this," they were "no one can ever know about this." Todd is not to be trusted.