Synopsis: Walt asks Jack to assassinate Jesse. The price: one cook with Todd. Meanwhile Hank has Huell taken into custody and convinces him that Walt is going to kill him. Huell tells them about the barrels of money and Jesse pretends that he is about to set them on fire. Walt drives out to the site to stop him and soon discovers that he’s been duped. He calls Jack for help but when he sees that it’s Hank he calls him off.
The Good: I had a number of problems with this. It was still highly entertaining and tense. However the execution left a lot to be desired. Most of this episode will land in the Unknown but let’s be clear that this was still high quality stuff even if I think it could have been even better.
The Bad: The one part of this I feel comfortable placing in “The Bad” was the abduction of Huell. As far as I understand it Huell knows that Jesse is out to hurt Walt and that Hank is on his case. So he should be suspicious of any story he hears from the two of them. I also feel like Huell has been working with Saul for long enough to know to be on guard against police tactics and perhaps to demand to talk to Saul on the phone to see if this story has any validity to it. It just didn’t feel like a clever enough scam to get him to spill as much information as he did in such a short amount of time.
What really set off my spider-sense though was the tone of the scene. Not only was it quick but it was played for laughs. The writers tried to squeeze a smile out of us as Hank assured Huell that all of this was for his protection. That brevity sucked a lot of the tension out of the first half of the episode. I thought “if they want us to think Jesse’s life is in danger then they wouldn’t be joking around now.” Particularly when Huell gags at the silly phone snap of Jesse’s brains sprayed on the floor. I guess Jesse’s absence from much of the episode was a tip off too.
The whole use of Huell felt like a contrived B in an A to C story rather than something organic or clever which could bring Walter White down. Once you realise that this was the key detail that got Walt to drop his guard and get captured it definitely feels like a major letdown.
The Unknown: The second part of the plan sounds solid on paper. Walt doesn’t think Jesse would rat him out and so falls quickly for the idea that Jesse is acting alone and threatening his money. It makes a lot of sense from Walt’s perspective because all he knows is that Jesse didn’t burn down his house, called him to threaten his true home and is now holding his children’s legacy in his hands.
I know some of you will dismiss this instantly but it bothered me that I couldn’t hear any distortion or sound effects on Jesse’s end of the line. His sound was crisp, almost in a vacuum and his performance was too rational for my liking. If an emotional Jesse were standing out in the desert shouldn’t the call have sounded different? Wind noise, the sound of burning cash, the sound of Jesse moving about as he yelled into empty air all his pain and anger. That’s what Walt would have expected to hear and again I felt like Hank and Jesse should have been smart enough to simulate that. Instead Jesse would have been sitting in the back of Hank’s car. So Walt presumably would have heard the sound of an engine and the dull sound of an enclosed space. Or the car horns of other vehicles. It was the lack of effort that rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not saying Walt wouldn’t have fallen for it. I’m just saying we’ve spent five seasons with excruciating detail and now suddenly we get a couple of fairly flippant set pieces to get the great Heisenberg to confess all down his phone.
Where was Hank’s legendary thoroughness and patience? Was he tracking Walt’s phone? Because once he’d got the location he could have called for teams to come back him up or saved the coordinates and sent them somewhere just in case Walt decided to drive away. Once he had the barrels of money he could make the case against Walt stick. Again I can accept the situation as presented. Hank is too determined to do it himself and so goes alone and has to feel those handcuffs going on to feel satisfied.
Of course by that point it was all pretty much white noise. As soon as the call went out to Jack we knew what was about to happen. Instantly I put together the rest of the story. Hank and Gomez get murdered. Jack has Walt over a barrel (intended) and takes Jesse as payment because he can deliver the higher quality meth. With Hank dead Walt takes his family into hiding but returns in a few months, machine gun in hand to free Jesse and prove that he really does care about “family.” This was good. This was tense. The sight of Walt being arrested and the conversation with Marie were just the last moments of Hank’s life. It was all going to be very sad and dark but understandable. It had the air of that episode of Game of Thrones but without the hammer blow suddenness.
But then they fluffed the ending. First off I thought the impending doom would be signalled by a puff of distant smoke just as Hank’s arrival had been. Or perhaps with distant engine noise like the fire trucks in the pilot. Instead the cars just rolled up like Jack and his crew had never heard of stealth. Then the standoff, which was fine, but I was just waiting for Hank and Gomez to be blown away. I did appreciate Walt still trying to call it all off, true to his word that Hank was family.
But once the shots fired Hank and Gomez survived. How? There were six guns trained on them and nothing blocking the path of the bullets. Are these guys the worst shots in history? Then the episode faded to black. Are Hank and Gomez going to survive? Seriously? Or are their deaths being saved to make the start of the next episode more dramatic? I thought it was a bizarre choice that felt frustrating. But how can I place it anywhere but the Unknown when I don’t know what comes next.
When you leave an episode frustrated and not intrigued it’s generally bad storytelling. I’d like to be proven wrong. Sadly though this episode felt very much like the result of a thirteen episode story being told in eight parts or just the result of a rare slip in creativity. Forcing Huell to give up information and having Walt make a confession down the phone felt like lazy plot points but at least they set up a tragic massacre. Except...they didn’t.
I still think in general the story is good and makes sense. Walt thought he could kill off one set of adversaries and escape. But to wipe out Mike’s crew he had to enlist the help of the worst kind of people. They will now control him rather than the other way around. So he will employ a machine gun to wipe them out and bring some justice to the horrific mess he’s made. But if that is where we’re going this was a less than ideal way to get there.
What was with Todd’s weird come-on to Lydia? Is he meant to be a bit naive?
Best Moment: The tension from Walt’s phone call to the final shot was very high. I was definitely in the moment and expecting something memorable. It hasn’t appeared yet though.
The Bottom Line: We will have to wait and see if there is a twist I don’t perceive yet. Otherwise this was worryingly disappointing.
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