Breaking Bad – Ozymandias


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Spoilers ahead.

“Sorry for your loss.”

Opening the episode at the To’hajiilee reservation with Walt and Jesse on their first cook was sweetly nostalgic. It showed Walt at his father and teacher’s best, wanting to fight his cancer by cooking, but also trying to teach Jesse the science behind things. It was a much simpler time for all involved, with Walt just telling little white lies and Jesse very much a somewhat lazy character. Walt and Skylar’s relationship was still in its heyday and Walt hadn’t yet gone down the road of darkness he would eventually find his way towards.

While the past was a bit more idyllic, the present is less serene. Hank and Gomez are mired in a shootout with some individuals who want Walt’s abilities and are willing to take them by whatever means necessary–including a confrontation that really escalates quickly. The irony of it all is that Walt genuinely tried to save Hank, offering Jack his entire fortune of $80 million; this despite Hank being ready and willing to take Walt in for his crimes. Walt has always been about family and that shined very brightly with Hank. All of that pales in comparison to the choices Walt made in the span of about five minutes.

Despite Jack’s “generosity” in offering Walt some of his money instead of taking it all, Walt still felt that he’s owed Jesse’s life, considering that was the original deal. Jack is fine with that, offering to finish the job if Walt can find Jesse. Conveniently enough, Walt knows exactly where Jesse is and has him dragged out for his execution, an execution spared only by Todd’s suggestion to interrogate Jesse first. Todd continues to be a relatively smart gangster in training, but later in the episode it’s shown why exactly he wanted to spare Jesse. A silent nod from Walt is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling on that front, but that’s not even the cruelest part of the whole scene.

The relative calm with which Walt admitted watching Jane die was heartless and devastating. It wasn’t enough that Walt just condemned Jesse to a likely brutal demise; he had to admit to Jesse that his one true love after getting straightened out in a sense died of an overdoes and Walt could have saved her if he wanted to. That’s something that would surely send Jesse to his fate shattered, yet Todd still managed to twist the knife in a whole new way by forcing Jesse to cook. The premise behind the original deal Walt made to off Jesse was that Walt teaches Todd how to cook. That presumably Todd had the idea to have their cake and eat it too is quite a fascinating turn for him.

The gang left with upwards of $70 million, but why stop there if you’ve got someone almost as good as Heisenberg to do your cooking for you? These guys may be violent and short, but they’re not idiots, realizing that perfecting the blue will give them a continuous income stream. Todd’s character has definitely undergone a transformation, finding a new level of thinking for whatever reason. It’s likely he’s going to such great lengths to impress Lydia, someone he clearly evidenced a very strange attraction to. If he can get really good product going, his likely hope is that Lydia will fall for him, something of a twisted view of his relationship with her.

Marie has returned to being the devious woman that she was. Leveraging Hank’s phone call into essentially blackmailing Skylar was very bold on her move. And man, was Marie almost as cold as Hank in forcing Skylar to tell Walt Jr. everything about the Heisenberg empire. Her revelations to Walt Jr. framed what was quite possibly one of the most memorable scenes of the entire series: the White family fight. You’d be hard-pressed to find another five minutes of television that was so intense and riveting in any other show. Guaranteed. It was as much heartbreaking as it was revolting, showing Walt clinging to what last vestiges of control he had.

Walt’s phone call with Skylar at the end of the episode was heartwrenching on so many levels. His tears were real and weren’t seen by Skylar, who only heard his power trip to instill fear in her. He came to the realization though that his life will never be normal again, a sad fact when he’s holding his young daughter Holly in the changing room of a gas station. Walt started out doing everything for his family, but as time went on he enjoyed the power and thirsted for more. By the end of it all though, his wife pulled a knife on him, his son threw him aside to protect his mom and his young daughter doesn’t even really recognize Walt.

The title of the episode is “Ozymandias,” a reference to the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem of the same name. It’s a testament to the futility of humans building empires in that no matter what they do time will win in the end. It boasts one famous line in “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” that speaks to the hubris of man and their realms. Walt became a god in his own mind, ordering the death of individuals at will, getting his way in every relationship and lording over mountains of spoils. Walt’s world has finally crumbled to the ground, leaving nothing behind but charred ashes of his previous, innocent life.

The episode was so emotionally exhausting, yet so fantastic at the same time. Walt’s life as it was is no more, as he’s “disappeared.” His wife and son despise him, his sister-in-law just discovered he played a part in her husband’s death and he’s got little money left of all his cooking. There are two episodes left and Walt is a man without direction or home, struggling to find out where he goes next. Whether or not the law or cancer catches up to him first is anyone’s guess. What’s definite though is that “Ozymandias” was one of the most gutting episodes of the series and the show continues to astound as a clinic in storytelling.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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