Breaking Bad S5E11: Confessions

Buckeye: I would just like to remind people that this is the THIRD episode of whatever season of Breaking Bad this is (perhaps you adhere to the nomenclature of the powers that be and go along with their “Season Five Part Two” nonsense), and already the show and its writers have accomplished the dramatic equivalent of whipping their dicks out (and whatever the female equivalent is—Breaking Bad has some excellent female writers, too, including “Confessions” screenwriter Gennifer Hutchison) and reminding everybody who’s boss. As these last episodes approached, we knew that many hammers would soon fall, and fall some of them have—and quickly. Walt discovering Hank knew his criminal identity, and then confronting Hank about it? Shit, that was a warm-up. Skyler going all-in with her devious husband? That was actually your chance to collect your breath. I hope you caught it, because if you thought Walt’s playing the cancer card for his son would be his cruelest deed of the hour, you were sadly mistaken. Whereas both “Blood Money” and “Buried” were tense but quiet, contemplative even, “Confessions” left you little time to ingest the information and misinformation Walt spewed forth. Walt staged his videotape as a confession, though it was nothing of the sort, and if his introduction quoted his harried recording from the pilot, the substance of his words harkened the man who’d previously warned his brother-in-law, now another of his determined enemies, to “tread lightly.” You may have noticed, like kyra and I did, that the title is plural, and there’s much irony in neither of the episode’s two most shocking reveals (the full videotape, which brought me out of my seat, and later Jesse’s realization that Huell had lifted the ricin cigarette as easily as his weed) were not actually confessions, as Walt lied and distorted truths and Jesse discovered another crushing truth without acknowledgment from the perpetrator. kyra, I think you might have noticed some other confessions, though. And what’d you make of Walt’s tape?

kyra: Breaking Bad has always had important, if sometimes cryptic, episode titles. Just this season we had Buried, which referred to the money Walt would hide in the New Mexican desert, and can forget Box Cutter, when Victor met a rather vicious end. When I saw this episode was titled Confessions my first thought was Jesse. We had last left off with Hank about to confront Jesse, and we knew there was no love lost between Jesse and Walt these days. However this was classic misdirection by Gilligan, as Jesse chooses not to use his get out of jail free card. As Buckeye said, the videotape is not a confession, but rather an ingenious scheme. So what was actually confessed this episode? Well for starters, Walt manipulated his son by revealing the return of his cancer at the precise moment where it would help him to do so. There is also Marie, who finally reveals that Hank’s medical bills were paid from Walt’s drug money–the final “nail in the coffin” according to Hank. I’ve been wondering why Hank is so worried about telling the rest of the DEA about Walt, and this actually cleared some things up for me. He’s simply too intertwined with Walt to be believed innocent. It’s not that he would be a laughing stock for having his brother-in-law under his nose the whole time, but rather isn’t everyone going to think he must have been complicit in some way? Walt’s ‘confession’ makes a pretty compelling argument that Hank is the mastermind, and using drug money to pay for his medical bills is the cherry on top.

If last week’s episode belonged to Skyler, then this episode was a series of long speeches from Walter White. There is his talk with Junior, his ‘working’ of Jesse where he says he wishes they could switch places, his suggestions at dinner with Hank and Marie, and of course, the confession tape. That confession was a jaw dropping moment in a show with too many to count. As you hear Walt rattle off every logical step, even down to how he got his black eye, you can’t help but think the man you are watching is pure evil, and now he has the upper hand. Did you have any expectation for what would be on that tape? I thought it was a real confession, but for some reason Hank wouldn’t use it. Also, what did you think of the scene at the Mexican restaurant? THEY MAKE THE GUAC RIGHT AT THE TABLE!

Buckeye: Dark comedy is another of Breaking Bad‘s many storytelling strengths (it helps to have several cast members with a comedic background, whether from sketch comedy like Bob Odenkirk, stand-up like Bill Burr and Lavell Crawford, or sitcom experience like Bryan Cranston), and that restaurant scene was a loaded margarita of awkwardness, real talk, and an annoying waiter with NOT ENOUGH FLAIR. It was shocking enough that Walt and Skyler thought to meet up with Hank and Marie for some Tex-Mex and family drama—it’s not like any of the four of them have embarrassed themselves in public, after all—but in the grander scheme of things I shouldn’t be surprised. We knew ahead of time that Walt was cooking up another scheme, he’d told Skyler that filming a video would be “the only way” to carry out whatever plan he had in mind, and we could probably guess that any scheme would involve Hank, because, well, Hank’s after him. And we knew that Walt’s nominal confession contained in the CD he left on the table wouldn’t contain a confession, as Walt had an opportunity to come clean right there, to Hank’s face, and under these circumstances he would’ve ordered the guac before he spoke the truth. To make a long story short, a true confession from Walt would have surprised me at this stage (remember that Skyler advised him last week to lay low because Hank had little evidence), but I had no idea what Walt had ordered up. His thorough implication of Hank in the parallel universe he constructed made for a significant threat, one on which Hank believes, probably rightly, that Walt is ready to make good. If nothing else, the videotape confirmed Hank’s lowly professional state: not only are Walt’s crimes embarrassing, but why wouldn’t Hank’s people suspect him as a co-conspirator? After all, he’s already taken Walt’s dirty money, as you pointed out.

If the theme of “Confessions” was the line, however thin, between truth and falsehood, then that restaurant scene also expanded on another tangent related to that theme, focusing on the need to actually hear someone actually speak the truth. So many people are fed up with Walt (we’ll get to another one in a second), but Hank and Marie, finding some of their footing after the revelatory shocks of recent days, see through Walt’s dangling his son as potential collateral damage: They know that Walt’s pleas to spare Junior (as an interesting aside, it’s notable that Hank and Marie still use “Flynn”; right now, I’m not sure which name he prefers) are really just pleas to spare himself. Marie, done beating around the bush and hoping that Walt will take her cue and actually be honest, utters one of the episode’s more merciless lines of dialogue when she suggests Walt do everybody a favor and kill himself. It’s a suggestion all the more ruthless because of its honesty; Walt’s suicide could very well be the tidiest resolution to this sizable dilemma.

Of course, Jesse has had enough of Walt’s bluster and bullshit, bullshit with which Walt has peppered him for a year, but true to his character he puts up with more of Walt’s crap than he can handle. For God’s sake, Jesse was ready to take the trip to Alaska rather than risk a trip to Belize after another of Walt’s attempts at manipulation; it was only after Jesse connected the dots between Huell’s surprisingly dexterous dope-lifting and Jesse’s old theory that Huell had pocketed the ricin, too, that he snaps. An unhinged Jesse is a dangerous Jesse, dangerous for anybody, including himself. I’ll be honest, Jesse connected those dots a little more swiftly than me (of course Jesse explained in full his discovery to Saul, and as we’ve written before, Jesse’s a smart kid, just one who was never given a chance), but Aaron Paul played that scene so well that viewers much more astute than me could discern the precise flood of emotions rushing over him as he stood waiting for the getaway car. My “Jesse question” is: What do you think Jesse has in him, now that he’s snapped? Do you think he can actually kill another person, even Walt? (For example, I never thought he’d actually shoot Saul or Huell.) I’m not sure what options he has–he hates Hank, he feels betrayed by Saul—I just fear for his next interaction with Walt. And to circle back to Hank, what kind of options does he have after Walt’s tape?

kyra: Let’s make sure we set the record straight first on Marie’s question of suicide. It’s not just that she hates him and wishes he was dead, but suicide solves the very issue Walt wants to avoid: Hank exposing him as a meth king. Death leaves the false image of Walt intact for Junior, and yet we know Walt doesn’t consider this a viable option.

As for Jesse, he runs the full gamut of emotions this hour. At the beginning, he is catatonic. The two cops interrogating him moves by like a blur, only to be interrupted when Hank comes in and reveals he knows the truth. As you said, he is a smart kid, and was perceptive enough to note that it doesn’t seem like Hank has revealed anything to his fellow DEA agents. He also, in my opinion, accurately assesses why he’s meeting Walt and Saul in the middle of nowhere–either take Walt’s “advice” to start a new life, or end up like Mike (unfortunately not THAT Mike). He emotionally pleads with Walt to be honest with him for once, and Walt responds only by hugging him. Walt definitely does care for Jesse, but at this point Jesse doesn’t want to believe that. Aaron Paul is brilliant in this scene, having been broken down by exposing the best father figure he ever had as a manipulative fraud. He cries. I don’t know if it’s because he knows that he will never get an honest answer out of his former partner, that his life in Albuquerque is over, or something else, but the tears flow and they feel so earned and real. Jesse’s awareness is why I was sold on him putting two and two together when he realized Huell had taken his weed, which sets him off. I think all of us knew he wasn’t making it to Alaska anyway. Next week’s episode is titled Rabid Dog, and one would have to think that refers to Jesse. With the close of this episode he’s just getting started: he assaults Saul to make sure he’s right, and then he beelines straight for the White household to torch it. Could it be him who spray paints ‘Heisenberg’ on the wall? You ask whether Jesse can kill someone, but we already know the answer to that. He killed Gale, a person he had no animosity towards, out of self-preservation. I don’t think he has a second thought right now about killing Walt, although I’m sure he wants to ask him a couple more questions first (perhaps about Jane?). Let’s not forget that when Jesse originally ascertained correctly that Walt poisoned Brock he pointed a gun at Walt’s head, only to be talked down. He’s ready to go on a rampage now that he knows it’s true. As for his next move, I think you make a very good point that he HATES Hank, which is keeping him from going to the police despite how much he hates Walt. We know from the flash forward to open 5B that the house doesn’t burn down, so there has to be some type of confrontation at the White abode right? That’s all I can think of for now, but all i know is I’m enjoying the ride.

As one final random observation since we didn’t really talk about his scene, Todd is loving talking about the train heist. However, it’s worth noting he conveniently omits the pretty big detail of killing Andrew Sharp, which is surprising to me considering I would think his uncle would find that to be both badass and smart.

Lastly, (and don’t worry noble readers, I don’t read other recaps until after we write ours), you should all read Alan Sepinwall’s recap of this episode, which is simply phenomenal. He’s absolutely right in explaining the evolution of Heisenberg as a liar, and it was on full display this episode. He gives both his greatest performance on the confession tape, and one of his worst when he makes up the excuse that he needs to fix the latches on the soda machine (why does he even need to make an excuse at all?). His observation continues to be second to none.

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