Everything has changed and nothing has changed on Breaking Bad.
In many ways, "Blood Money" brings us back to the pilot. Walter White is an unassuming car wash employee with a loving family and lung cancer. Jesse Pinkman is a broken junkie, misspending his potential in a THC haze, in solitude even with friends. Hank is a thwarted DEA agent. Skyler is a content wife and mother (albeit more astute, more powerful than she's ever been before, as her exchange with Lydia demonstrates). Saul is back to representing petty criminals. Marie remains, as ever, blissfully oblivious.
Even the skivvies are back.
But the flash forward that opens the episode (there's that inevitability again, an unstoppable engine propelling us straight to collision) reminds us that this can only be a temporary respite, the peaceful reprieve since Walt quit the game one month ago. Nothing gold can stay, and one month of family dinners and reorganizing air freshener endcaps at the car wash will not suffice as Walt's reparation. Walter White has to pay, and we - the complicit audience - must pay, too.
Shit is going down.
So we know, in part, how this thing will end. Walt and Skyler's house seized by the government, abandoned and tagged, the empty pool used as a skatepark. Walt's trunk an arsenal. His neighbor paralyzed with fear at the sight of him. That capsule of ricin - of course it will end in ricin. For Jesse? For Hank? For Walt himself? I guess we'll see.
But in the meantime, for now, Walt is doing just fine. He and Skyler are planning a trip to Europe. They're thinking of buying a second car wash location. His cancer's returned, but he's keeping it from everyone, fighting back with chemo and determined to spend his final few months in peace with his family. Walt is doing just fine, but those left in his wake are suffering.
Lydia needs the wicked genius of Heisenberg. The quality of Madrigal's product is down 68% and her life is on the line. Walt reminds her that he left a fully functional operation, and none of this is his concern.
Jesse is nearly undone from the guilt. He cannot abide the duffel bags of blood money that Walt left on his porch. He's trying to give it away to anyone, everyone. He wants to send it to the parents of the kid Todd shot in "Dead Freight," to Mike's granddaughter. When Saul refuses to dole out the conspicuous money, when Walt brings the duffel bags back to him, Jesse starts throwing it out the window of his car as he drives through the projects at night. He can't be near it, he can't look at it. Jesse knows in his heart that Walt killed Mike. Walt needs Jesse to believe him that he didn't do it - he says it twice: "I need you to believe me." Jesse doesn't.
And Hank - how is he dealing with the fallout of his revelation that Walt is Heisenberg? He looks as bad as Jesse: red, watery eyes, unshaven, sleepless. They both look worse than the guy with cancer. Hank leaves Walt's bathroom (with Leaves of Grass secreted away) in shock. He has a panic attack on the drive home. He calls in sick to work for a week and orders the Heisenberg files delivered to his garage. He reviews the evidence (a handy reminder for us of everything that's happened so far). He stares at the sketch of Heisenberg with a naked expression on his face, a look that can mean only one thing: "How could I have missed it?"
For much of the episode, we can believe that this is how things will go for now, a shaky status quo. But when Walt discovers one of Hank's tracking devices on his car and realizes Leaves of Grass is missing, he goes to Hank's house. He pretends to be checking up on him, until he can't stand it anymore - he asks about the GPS. And Hank lowers the garage door and knocks the shit out of Walt. He knows, and Walt knows, and how can this dynamic be sustainable for seven more episodes? Walt appeals to Hank's sympathy, telling him the cancer's back and he'll be dead in six months anyway. When that doesn't work ("Good. Rot, you son of a bitch."), he appeals to him on another level.
Nothing has changed, and everything has changed. We have seven more weeks to witness the reckoning of Walter White. As Hank reminds us, Walt blew up a nursing home, had ten people killed, is responsible for the death and pain and addiction of scores. Someone has to pay.
I just hope it isn't Jesse.
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