How would this final season of Breaking Bad have played out if AMC had given series creator Vince Gilligan and company the opportunity to finish off the series with an uninterrupted 16-episode run? You know, instead of this thirsty decision to break it up into eight and eight? (Honestly, it'd only be three episodes longer than a normal season.) We'll never know, but it's hard not to think "What if?" after an episode like last night's pivotal "Say My Name."
Last week, a number of people were surprised at the many plot advancements "Buyout" took, given that a season with more time would have focused solely on Dirt Bike Boy's death at the end of "Dead Freight"; nonetheless, viewers settled in for the entertaining ride. "Say My Name," however, has glaring holes that just can't be ignored, despite the creative team scoring another cinematography win (especially in the final shot).
Walt's Reputation Precedes Him
How many drug lords and otherwise seasoned criminals has Walter (Bryan Cranston) bested now, both mentally and physically? He's gotten plenty of them killed, but it's also interesting how many times he's talked the likes of Gus, Mike (Jonathan Banks), and now Gus's competitor Declan (Louis Ferreira) into deals and arrangements that would seem to defy every sense of logic they possess. This is not a knock on the show—Walter White just believes in his own hype enough to make them believe it.
What is a knock on the show, however, is the need to point out the increasingly contrived means its been taking to get from Point A to Point B. If we're being honest here, the lynchpin in his defeat of Gus—poisoning Brock to get Jesse (Aaron Paul) back on his side—was a bit of a logistic headscratcher, but we were willing to let it ride because, later in season 4, Tio Salamanca detonated a bomb strapped to his wheelchair, dammit. But, unfortunately, the events that led to Mike's demise were mired by one too many issues.
First, let's back-track. In another instant-Heisenberg classic, Walt somehow gets this dude Declan, a guy comfortably running his own business, to demote himself to a 65-35 split because it upgrades his pay. Mike gets to continue with his retirement plan, since Declan is basically taking his position, but Walt is unable to get the same deal for Jesse.
The whole "Say my name" bit is a tad ridiculous just for Heisenberg quotables' sake, but it does tell you where Walt's head is at. Dude seriously believes he's king of the hill at this point. But is he truly about that life?
"When I'm out, I'm out."
Jesse, for his part, definitely isn't about the kingpin life anymore, but stubborn, power-mad Walt isn't willing to accept his resignation. He's successfully manipulated his ex-student before, so why not one more time, right? Well, like most humans, the death of a child at their indirect hands is enough for Jesse to resist Mr. White's silver tongue. Hence, we get the annual Walt-Jesse bro fight, though it's not nearly as nasty as their actual fight last season. We'll have to wait for Jesse's inevitable discovery of Walt's hand in Jane's death and Brock's poisoning to see their relationship come to blows again.
Mike is done with the life as well, but in familiar crime drama trope fashion, as soon as they announce they're out, they get pulled back in—or end up dead. And here's where the episode goes a tad too far off the rails of believability. At episode's start, Mike watches a flick on TCM while Hank (Dean Norris) and the DEA raid his house, comfortably assured that they've got nothing. Then, Hank makes the bright idea to follow Mike's lawyer, and suddenly Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) is walking in on dude during his safety deposit box routine? Suddenly dude is willing to roll on Mike, defying attorney-client privilege? Is any of that actually legal?
Breaking Bad has always taken a measured approach to its storytelling in order to yield the best product, much like Walt and his Coca-Cola pure meth. It's a series that revels in the process, the step-by-step advancement of every single plot development. After four years of that story-approach, it's hard not to get whiplash when Mike is suddenly under pressure to get out of town in the span of ten minutes.
Furthermore we get that Mike wants to protect Jesse, but when would he ever trust Walt to get his trusted getaway bag? We all knew what was coming as soon as Walt laid eyes on that .38, but it's interesting that he snapped and shot Mike out of anger instead of practicality. In Walt's eyes, he's the top dog in town, and yet Mike still doesn't even respect him enough to grant him a simple "thank you." Walt almost looks like Daffy Duck when he angrily strides back to Mike's car after initially walking away, fed up with Bugs' constant disrespect, and fires a fatal shot into Mike's chest.
What are we supposed to glean from Walt's final words, when he realizes that he didn't need to kill Mike? He could have gotten the names of Mike's nine "guys" from good old ball-of-nerves Lydia (Laura Fraser). Will this irrational, childish reaction finally make him reconside his recent courses of action, more so than a kid's death or Jesse's resignation did? Or will Heisenberg just sweep this under an already bulging rug as just another cost of doing business?
Things To Consider
- Walter Jr. Breakfast Report: N/A.
- R.I.P. Michael Ehrmantrout. We will miss your gravel-voiced one-liners, dead-eyed intimidating stares, and general bad-assery during these final nine episodes. At least he was given fitting final words and a gorgeous location in which to die.
- LOL moments: The visual reveal of Todd (Jesse Plemons) as Walt's new sous-chef, the smash cut from another silent Skyler (Anna Gunn) dinner to Walt faux crying in Hank's office, that grating Sticky commercial in the b.g. while Walt and Todd cooked, and more Jesse-Skyler gold.
- Todd's determination to prove himself and earn his keep would be endearing, if he hadn't, you know, shot a pre-teen in the chest two weeks ago.
- Walt suggesting that Jesse would start using again out of retirement boredom: cold.
- Seeing Mike genuinely unnerved and panicked at the park was, well, unnerving.
- Future Theory: is Walter going to machine-gun war with Declan and his crew?