Let It Burn: Recapping Breaking Bad "Confessions" (Season 5, Episode 11)

Let It Burn: Recapping Breaking Bad "Confessions" (Season 5, Episode 11)

Todd has a supportive family; Walt makes his confession; and Jesse has to let it burn.

On last night's Breaking Bad, entitled "Confessions," we saw two family meals, both tense in their own ways. The episode opening with Todd having coffee in a greasy spoon with his uncle and his uncle's partner-in-crime. Just a couple of white supremecists taking in a story from their good-natured ward. Here's a functioning family business, with two supportive adults and the kid they're watching take his first steps toward becoming a proper meth cook. The adults let the kid tell a story in which he commits an act of bravery but is ultimately in awe of his mentor; then they go into the bathroom to talk some business, partner-to-partner. Todd's uncle wipes blood from his shoe, flushes it.

The scene was tense as a viewer because these men are terrifying (see: the swastika tats coupled with the way they check out the waitress) and also because it's tough to fit this action into the larger context of the season. Why are we spending so much time with them? What should we be paying attention to? Like an unresolved chord, episode writer Gennifer Hutchison concludes the scene without answering these questions. Instead, we go back to the show's other family, where things aren't going smoothly.

After turning off the camera in the interrogation room, Hank makes Jesse aware that he knows the identity of Heisenberg, but he's unsuccesful at stimulating productive conversation. "Eat me," Jesse tells him.

In an episode full of parallels and callbacks, Walt applies eye makeup to his bruised face—just like Jesse did in the first season—before greeting Walt Jr. for the first time since his confrontation with Hank. Putting on his best performance, Walt Sr. chalks the eye injury up to a chemo-related injury. There isn't enough to say about the grace and care of RJ Mitte's performance in this moment and across the series. The show has never used him for sympathy in the obvious ways, and has instead earned every moment of drama with his gifts as an actor. His face quivers at the knowledge that his dad is facing death again. Walt's chummy way with this news is hard to stomach.

As the show circles tighter and tighter around its conclusion, another moment from the first season returns, asking you to consider how much has changed since this story began. Walt records his "Confessions Pt. II"  with the help of Sklyer, a far cry from the original in the pilot. Gilligan and his team delay the revelation of the tape until after the second family meal of the evening. At a chintzy Mexican restaurant, Skyler and Walt meet with Hank and Marie. Moving between dark comedy and talks of suicide, the conversation is periodically interrupted by the server, who must be working on some kind of table-side guac commission. No one wants guac? The server skitters away so that Marie can suggest to Walt that he eat a gun instead. Wouldn't that solve this problem?, she wonders aloud. There's no ending this family feud. Walt and Sklyer leave a DVD with the Schraders and then depart.

Hank and Marie, standing still and apart, like islands, in their unlit living room, watch the confession. You have to hand it to Walt. He's a genius, and he makes his next move his best move. He confesses to cooking meth under the tyrannical watch of DEA agent Hank Schrader, who was working in cahoots with the infamous Gus Fring. Walt had no choice; Hank threatened his family. He had to cook meth. He had to build the bomb that killed Gus. He's a coward, and has not had the courage to kill himself, though he really wants to. Delivering this message in suburban dad regalia on a flowered bedspread—it's hard to argue with that.

Just like the eye makeup asks you to think about how Walt's story has progressed, and consider him in contrast to Jesse, the confession forces you to observe the parallel paths of Walt and Hank, two men who have risen to the tops of their fields through hard work and smarts. If only Walt had excelled at something that wasn't cooking meth.

The second father/son interaction of the night was the most heartfelt and moving. Jesse meets Saul and Walt in the desert. He dishes on his interrogation, speculates about what Hank knows. This gets Walt going on a 25th-Hour-esque fantasy speech about what Jesse might do if he got a new identity and traveled far away from New Mexico. Jesse knows bullshit, knows Walt. He breaks down, wakes up from his catatonic state like we've all needed him to do, and shouts at Walt. "Tell me you need this," he yells like the son who just wants his dad to be straight with him. Walt goes to him, embraces him.

This will be the last father/son moment the two ever share, because Jesse soon figures out the rest. In Saul's office, preparing to disappear himself, he lights up a joint. Saul scolds him, tells him the fixer won't work with him if he's high and carrying. Jesse puts out the joint but pockets the baggie. At the side of the road, where he's to be picked up, he realizes its gone, frantically pats himself up and down, raids his pockets, comes up only with the pack of ciagarettes. And now he gets it. In what felt like a reach on first viewing, Jesse realizes that Walt must've had Saul lift the ricin cigarette from him, confirming what he once knew but forced himself to forget—that Mr. White is the devil.

After roughing up Saul for a confession—the realest of the night— he heads to the White residence with a can of gas. He's got to let it burn. Walter knows he's coming, and gets his frozen gun from the vending machine. Fire and ice.

Prediction for next week: Jesse's not going to torch the house because Walt Jr.'s inside. But he's going to have a talk with Walt Jr. about his dad. That's gonna hurt for all parties involved.

Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
GIFs via UproxxConan O'Fallon, Nicolle Emily, 6tFoot

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