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Recap: 'Breaking Bad,' Season Five, Episode 13 'To'hajiilee'

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist September 9, 2013 at 9:30AM

Last week's episode, the sublimely conflicted "Rabid Dogs," ended with a pair of calls: Jesse (Aaron Paul), consumed with paranoia, dialed Walt (Bryan Cranston) with a promise: he'd be coming for him where it really mattered. Moments later, Walt, made a call of his own, to Todd (Jesse Plemons), informing him that the services of his skuzzy Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen), co-architect of last season's massive prison murder, would be needed once more. This week's "To'hajiilee," written by longtime "Breaking Bad" principle George Mastras (who penned last season's crackerjack "Dead Freight" episode), picked up on the other side of one of those calls.
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Breaking Bad

But it's not that getaway sequence or the things that Jesse was saying over the phone (When Walter, ever the misguided egomaniac, says that the money is for his family, Jesse shoots back: "Oh you're going to talk about kids?") that people are going to be talking about; it's what happens in the desert.

Walt, realizing he's been conned and beyond desperate, makes a frantic phone call to Uncle Jack: get out there as soon as he cans. He retrieves the lotto ticket that he used to hide the money's location and told them to rush, thinking that Jesse would be alone. Of course, Jesse and Hank and Gomez show up while Walt is on the phone with Uncle Jack. Walt tells them to stand down, even though they've all got their automatic weapons and cool, military-style bulletproof vests on. Walt, resigned, slowly gives himself up.

From this moment until the end of the episode, it's a tour de force of televised suspense, with the little fragments adding tremendously to the whole. There's Walt welling up, still unwilling, even after all the evil he's perpetrated, to do more damage to the family by killing his brother-in-law. There's the time that Hank takes in processing Walt, at one point asking Gomez if he'd like to do the honors of reading him his rights (Gomez defers to Hank). Most tellingly, though, as a harbinger of doom, is the phone call Hank places to Marie (Betsy Brandt). The conversation starts out as darkly humorous, with Marie asking Hank why there is brain in their kitchen trash can, but soon turns poignant. Hank tells her that he's got Walt, and then Marie says how much better she feels because of it. The groundwork is also laid in this scene for what's to follow; if you listen carefully during their phone conversation, you can hear the low rumble of an approaching car.

Almost as soon as Hank finishes his conversation with Marie, the fuck-you crew of Neo Nazis has shown up and everything goes all Sam Peckinpah. For a while, it seemed like the episode would halt there, without a single bullet fired, just luxuriating in the tension between Gomez and Hank, guns drawn, with the skinheads and their off-brand automatic weapons. But instead, Mastras and MacLaren give in… Just a little bit. A hail of gunfire pierces through cars and sends Jesse scrambling (Walt, handcuffed in the back of Hank's truck, ducks), before the episode cuts to black. Quite frankly, by the end of the episode we were sweating like Brando.

Our bet is that both Hank and Gomez will have bought the farm by the first few minutes of next week's episode (directed by "Looper" filmmaker Rian Johnson) and that Jesse will be left alive. So much of "Breaking Bad" has been about fate and destiny and coincidence, how these things can align for unscrupulous purposes that let bad men ascend triumphantly. The massacre in the desert will give Walt his ultimate nemesis, the lone survivor of all the evil he's perpetrated. It will set-up a showdown that will unfold over the last few episodes and hopefully into the future, where the bearded, bedraggled Walt, his home vandalized and his trunk full of powerful weapons, waits in a Denny's. 

What was ultimately so striking about the final shootout, equal parts Cormac McCarthy and old school western (a motif reinforced by its dusty setting on an Indian reservation), is the fact that Walt calls out to Hank, trying to warn him of the carnage to follow. It's Walt who spots the approaching cars first in the truck's rear-view mirror, while Hank is still on the phone with Marie. And while we don't really know Hank's fate (or, quite frankly, the fate of Gomez or Jesse and where has little baby Holly been all this time?), the poignancy of Hank's chat with Marie suggests it's their last. What is crystal clear however, is that the man in the handcuffs wasn't Heisenberg, it was Walter White, high school science teacher who wanted to save his family from financial ruin by cooking drugs. This episode will be remembered for its pulse-pounding suspense, but it's the little moments that make the episode great, like Walt calling out to Hank, or the look that Brock gives Walt, or that awkwardly sexual predatory moment between Todd and Lydia or, maybe the single greatest moment of the entire episode: when Walt, Jr. stares star-struck at Saul, still black and blue from Jesse's beat down. A familiar thought to any longtime "Breaking Bad" fanatic crossed our minds once more: If you only knew… [A]

This article is related to: Breaking Bad, Television, Reviews, Review, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk


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