Walter White has become the sort of character that a writer can only dream of creating (thank you Vince Gilligan). Steadfastly complex and impossibly difficult to predict, all you can ever really know for sure is that he’s liable to change just when you think you have him pegged. In the mind-blowing mid-season finale, Hank (Dean Norris) finally puts the pieces of Heisenberg’s identity together after the answer had been glaringly in his face all along. It’s a bit similar to Deb from Dexter at last realizing that her brother is a serial killer: When you’re close to someone, you don’t want to see the obvious fact that he’s a psychopath. In any case, the premiere of the second half of season five (which will consist of eight episodes), did not disappoint in terms of delivering a level intensity you can generally only attain during a rectal exam.
When last we left the White/Schraeder family, they were having a pleasant family meal by the pool at the White residence. Hank excuses himself to go to the bathroom and makes the mistake of trying to read while he takes a shit. It is then that he discovers Gale Boetticher’s (David Costabile) inscribed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Hank’s reaction upon having this revelation of Heisenberg’s true identity is perhaps one of the most controlled, well-acted scenes in recent memory. The build-up to the pinnacle of his reception of this newfound information leads to a full-blown panic attack. After Hank hurriedly excuses himself and Marie (Betsy Brandt) so they can drive home, Marie watches in horror as Hank crashes their car into a fence in a scene that brings new meaning to the term “POV shot.”
Before this occurs, however, we are taken back to a later time period referenced at the beginning of season five. In it, Walt’s hair is lush and brown again as he makes his way to the Whites’ now abandoned home. The pool drained, local skateboarders have taken to using it as their half-pipe. As he makes his way inside to find his old friend, the ricin, he sees the wall has been graffitied in a sinister script that reads simply: “HEISENBERG.” After Walt collects his bounty and leaves, he runs into their old neighbor, Carol, whose only response to his greeting is to drop her bag of groceries in terror. This flash forward into the present gives us some indication that things probably aren’t going to turn out all that well for Walt.
Jesse (Aaron Paul), meanwhile, is going off the deep end in his usual fashion as a result of his guilt over the murder of Drew Sharp, a witness to one of Jesse and Walt’s more massive meth-making jaunts. He also frets over the well-being of Mike Ehrmantraut’s (Jonathan Banks) granddaughter. This prompts him to ask Saul (Bob Odenkirk) to give 2.5 million dollars each (of the total five mill Walt threw his way) to the family of Drew Sharp and Mike’s granddaughter. Saul, always the loyalist to Walt, informs him of Jesse’s presumable crack-up and gets Walt to take the money back to Jesse, who blatantly lies (as usual) and assures him Mike is alive. The helplessness of Jesse’s character reaches its zenith when he starts Robin Hood-ing it by doling out stacks of his cash in a dilapidated neighborhood. What kind of negative attention this will lead to later on in the season remains to be seen.
Hank’s feverish at-home research into the evidence mounting against Walt is given brief pause after Walt discovers Leaves of Grass missing and checks his car out of knowing paranoia to find a tracking device has been placed on it. This leads him to boldly confront Hank about it in the final scene, which then leads Hank to clock him the fuck out. In fact, “Blood Money” is an episode that redeems both Hank and Skyler’s (Anna Gunn) coolness factor on many levels. In Skyler’s case, telling off Lydia (Laura Fraser) when she comes to Walt’s car wash to discreetly beg him to start getting to work again is one of her most memorable character moments throughout the entire series.
As is the Breaking Bad way, the final scene leaves so many fates hanging in the balance and bears the foreboding of an exchange between Hank and Walt in which Hank states, “I don’t even know who I’m talking to,” to which Walt warns, “Then maybe it’s best if you tread lightly.” And so, it promises to be an unforgettable final season from a show that might have been on HBO once upon a time (before it debased itself with Girls).