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Breaking Bad: "Over"

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For every question, there is an answer, even though it might not be the one we want.  Last week Walter found out that he was going to live beyond the next few weeks.  We knew then that the question of his life had changed, from "how can I provide for my family?" to "what am I going to do with the rest of my life?"  This week Walter starts trying to answer that question.  At the same time, and almost as affectingly, Skylar finds out that she has to answer it as well.  And there's a hint that Walt Jr. isn't immune to the existential crisis either.  While there's nothing surprising about the eventual answer Walter discovers, almost against his will — it's still deeply embedded in the show's premise, after all — the road he took to get there, and the drama of the one-eighty that the One True Answer represents, left me laughing and gasping in equal measure.

Tonight's theme — appropriately Sartrean — is nothing.  What does a man do when he is left at home with strict orders to do nothing?  Well, first he calls his partner in the meth business and arranges a meetup in some anonymous eatery.  Why?  He's got money to collect and news to impart.  True to the personal bond established by their ordeal in the desert, Jesse is thrilled about Walter's remission — far more thrilled, as it turns out, than Walter himself, who tentatively tries out the idea that he's "done" with the meth business.  Back at home being feted by family and friends, he throws cold water on the celebration by observing that when he got the good news about the tumor's shrinkage, he said the same thing to himself as he did after the initial diagnosis: "why me?"  ("Wow, inspirational," Hank mutters to himself.)  Angry at the world for no good reason, and in no mood to care about propriety or morality, Walter almost comes to blows with Hank over the double shots of tequila he keeps pouring into Walt Jr.'s plastic cup.


What purpose suggests itself to a convalescent homeowner with a lot of cash?  Why, home improvement.  A leaky hot water heater sends Walter shopping for a new one, and realizing that he can use his drug proceeds to upgrade, he splurges on a top-of-the-line tankless model.  No installation needed; the aimless man needs a project, after all.  And a rotten floorboard in the utlity closet provides a nearly unlimited one.  "You've got to cut it all out," he explains to Walt Jr., who finds him waging an aggressive war against fungus in the crawl space below their house.  And it's not long before Skylar changes her tune: "Are you going to work today?" she pleads as Walter clangs, bangs, and grunts.  Her escape — at first unconscious perhaps, but by the end of the hour transparently calculated — is the boss at her new job, who takes her hand when she bursts into tears while contemplating the good news that's turned into a inexplicable burden.

As Walter and Skylar drift further apart without acknowledging it, Jesse is trying to show Jane how much he cares by preparing breakfast in bed and showing her his old superhero sketches.  (My favorite was Joey, sidekick of Kanga-Man: "He rides around in his pouch and fights crime.")  But when Jane's dad shows up at her front door, Jesse has his heart broken all over again when she refuses to acknowledge their relationship, or even a friendship.  Jesse's maturing attachments — to Jane and to Walter — make his brief segments this week into emotional notes almost as shattering as Walter's.  Time will tell whether Jane's olive branch, a drawing of her super-powered alter ego shedding a tear labelled "Apology Girl," signifies that she really understands Jesse's pain, or whether their emotional balance is hopelessly lopsided.


What we do know is that there's no such thing as life in moderation for Walter.  In the episode's chilling coda, he recognizes a fellow meth cooker's shopping cart of supplies at the local lumber superstore.  His initial urge to school the slack-jawed druggie in proper acquisition technique gives way, as he stands in line with the other mundane suburbanites, to a different urge to educate.  "Stay out of my territory," he growls at his competitors — a slacker and a bald man driving a camper, alternate-universe versions of the Heisenberg crew.  Looks like Walter's made his choice.  Answers — and two body bags in his driveway — are sure to follow.

Grade: A

Stray observations:

- "Over" is a perfect example of what impresses me so much about BB.  Not only can the show create intensity in a self-contained package, such as last week's "4 Days Out," but it can weave together quieter character moments into a devastating mosaic that propels the story forward just as surely.  Nothing's out of place, and nothing's without meaning.


- Creeping crud is everywhere in this episode: brown water sputtering out of the tap, wood turned to dust by fungus, bloodstains on a bill Walter pulls out for the cashier.  Everything he touches is rusty, rotted, or tainted.  The cancer may not be eating up his insides anymore, but it's started in on his environment.

- Walter clearly needs a visit from Rewindo, the superhero that can make things go backwards, so everything can be the way it was before the big C.


- Jane's dad is John De Lancie, aka Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

- Walter turns to tequila when he's down.  Jesse turns to freebasing cocaine.  And Walt Jr. believes his worth is proved by "keeping up" with his dad and uncle while they drink.  Classy, one and all.


- "Options is the word they keep bandying about."

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