Walt has a fake ID that has him hailing from New Hampshire and tells the waitress he’s about 30 hours away from there, and he’s there on business. Albuquerque, where the show is set, is about 37 hours from New Hampshire so let’s assume (since the waitress asked if he was heading towards California) that he’s in one of the states just East of New Mexico which could put him somewhere in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Nebraska. But since we’re not sure if he’s ever actually been to New Hampshire, he might’ve just guessed “30 hours” incorrectly.
Walt’s subtle paranoia as he looks over his shoulder recalls “The Sopranos” finale, where every entering patron has the potential to be something more sinister, but here it appears he is meeting someone. In the bathroom he meets a mystery man -- who fans might remember as the same man who sold Walt a gun last season -- for some heavy artillery in the trunk of a car in the parking lot. The episode’s title “Live Free Or Die” is the New Hampshire state motto featured on the license plate for his Volvo. Ironic, since it’s known for being the “safest” automobile.
While some shows use skipping forward in time to their advantage -- “Mad Men” for example spaces each episode about a month apart on average -- “Breaking Bad” has never been one to skip ahead too far in the story (with the exception of the pink teddy bear mystery in Season 2) so this flash-forward becomes especially noteworthy. It means that there is an entire year left to be covered before we catch up to how Walt ended up here and establishes that he will, in fact, survive another year without cancer or a cartel catching up to him. But at what cost?
One of the first things Walt does is to return home to get rid of the bomb materials he had used to kill Gus and the Lily Of The Valley plant that he used to poison Brock. But that’s not all: Gus also had security cameras posted all over the meth lab which posted their footage to a computer that’s now been confiscated by the DEA, where Hank is back on duty. Revitalized after pinning Gus for a drug kingpin when no one would believe him, it seems he’s closer than ever to Walt’s illicit activities.
Another impending question mark to be resolved is Mike, Gus' loyal and deadly No. 2, who was in a Mexican hospital when he learned of his boss' murder. But that conflict is resolved quickly (if temporarily) when the trio decide they have to work together to destroy the camera footage which could implicate them all if discovered first by the DEA. While Mike and Walt are arguing over how exactly they might break into the police station's evidence lockup, Jesse suggests the more obvious solution: use a magnet. But it’s going to have to be one hell of a powerful magnet to make sure the job gets done. What follows is a thrilling "Mission: Impossible"-style caper for the dysfunctional trio.
After Walt, Jesse and Mike pull off their impossible heist -- using supermagnets to wipe the hard drives clean from their truck in the parking lot -- Jesse celebrates with his typical enthusiasm ("Yeah, BITCH!") while Walt is much more composed. Having thought out all the angles beforehand, he doesn't even flinch when they have to leave behind the truck. Mike has always been a great supporting character (in a show filled with them) and seeing him wedged in-between Walt and Jesse creates another interesting dynamic. But there was one hiccup that wasn’t accounted for because while the police are going through the destroyed evidence, they come across a shattered picture frame of Gus with a Swiss Bank account number behind it. Whose account this is, we’re not sure of yet.
Shortly afterwards, Walt finds out that he's broke. Since Saul was authorized by Skyler to give away his $600,000 to Ted, Walt now must start over. The chance to get away clean isn’t going to stop him or his ego from taking another stab at the meth business, no doubt this time with him positioned at the top of the chain. “All hail the king.” In the final moments, Walt returns home calmly and confronts his wife with an embrace. Skyler tenses up and he unleashes a calm but twistedly ironic closing line, "I forgive you."
Gilligan told the audience at Comic-Con that he’s not even sure what would constitute a happy ending at this point. "Somebody said to me once, 'Is it possible for 'Breaking Bad' to have a happy ending?' And I said, 'Have you been watching?' Perhaps the happy ending would be for him to die. He's become so toxic and cancerous, maybe that's the way it's supposed to go." With only fifteen episodes to go before the saga closes, we’ll all have answers sooner than we hope. But for now, the journey is as intoxicating as it's ever been. [A-]