Intense negotiations occurred after season 4 for the final season of the show. AMC, trying to cut costs, wanted a 10 episode final season. Creator Vince Gilligan didn’t feel that was enough space to finish the story and was able to negotiate a 16 episode season 5, split across 2 years. Continuing after the pulse pounding events of the previous season, 5 picked up immediately from there, some what.
If there’s one thing this show has mastered, it’s the cold open. Season 5 starts with Walt, and a full head of hair, at a Denny’s with a New Hampshire license. Through some overt delivery, we learn this is one year later from the story’s present. The scene ends with Walt acquiring a vehicle from the same man he purchased his hand gun from earlier in the show (Supernatural’s Jim Beaver – Bobby). In the trunk is an assault rife, ammo, and who knows what else. I could spend the rest of this post dissecting the implications of this moment alone, but there were too many incredible story lines this season that need to be mentioned.
Walt and Jesse soon realize there was video surveillance recorded on Gus’ confiscated laptop that shows them cooking Meth. With Mike’s reluctant help, they plan a heist to destroy the evidence. Jesse comes up with the idea of using a magnet to destroy the evidence, rather than break into the highly fortified facility where it’s kept. Keeping in line with the previous seasons, the out of the box science approach showcased the smart writing the show is known for. After the heist, we see solid evidence of power corrupting Walt. “Because I say so.”
The train heist was another intense scene, smartly crafted with a bit of lightheartedness added. It wasn’t until the end, with Todd, that everything came crashing back down in the typical Breaking Bad fashion. This was the catalyst for everything that followed. If it wasn’t for this, Jesse would have stayed, and the team wouldn’t have divided.
While the two minute window in the eighth episode was brilliantly executed (pun), it was the setup scene preceding it that I enjoyed. Walt has fully come into power, brandishing his cocky arrogance constantly. He sat in the room with the Aryans, giving them little to no attention, only to tell them how things were going to be done. The creation of this monster is what the show’s been building towards. I’m not saying he hadn’t done despicable things before, it’s only now that he’s become fully realized and self aware. It’s like a train wreck, impossible to look away.
The ending moments with Hank felt a little convoluted. This was the ultimate outcome, it was all a matter of how the destination was reached. On first viewing, I thought this was far reaching, as the scene they referenced happened 2-3 years ago for us. On a second pass, I realized it had only been 3 months for them, and this was something Hank had obsessed over, so how could he not see the pieces in front of him? Still, something didn’t sit right with me about it. At this point it’s irksome and unimportant.
With this half of the season concluding, we’ve entered the end game. All signs point to it being an increasing sprint to the end. Endings are hard to land. If any story has earned my confidence that the trend will be bucked, it’s this.
Mike is still the man.