Review: Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias” (Season 5, Episode 14)

The art of cinematography has often escaped me. I could never properly frame a shot. Rarely was I able to use camera movement for maximum effect. For me, vision never accurately translated into my style. For all of those reasons, I relied on my director of photography in ways only those entrenched in years of matrimony could entirely understand.

Breaking Bad has benefited from the art of the frame on many occasions. In fact, everything from the iconic extreme closeup at the beginning of almost every episode to the slow camera moves which pepper the series have become as important to the show as any of the actors.

I make predictions — some of them are right, some are wrong. No series has made me eat my own words as often as Breaking Bad, and it’s not going to stop this late in the game. In my review of the previous episode, I may have hastily predicted Hank would live until the end of the episode; I was wrong. On the upside, I predicted Gomez would be dead, and I was right (how morbid), but I still wasn’t prepared for what actually happened. Gomez had been killed off-screen between episodes. His body appeared in the background, but his face was never shown. Gomez’s death was, at most, a consequence, and, at worst, a non-issue.

Now that I have spent more time on Gomez’s death than the writers did, we can get to the actual episode. Hank struggles toward the shotgun of his fallen partner. Unfortunately, the team of assassins get there first. Walt pleads for Hank’s life, but, as Hank points out, they were going to kill him regardless — and they do.

Jesse must have gotten away, because he’s nowhere to be found. Finally he gets a break — until Walt decides to blame Hank’s death on Jesse and point out his hiding spot. The pure hatred on Walt’s face while ratting out his ex-partner reflects the contempt we found on Hector Salamanca’s face during his scene of final revenge. While Jesse screams and cries for his life, Walt unleashes his last secret, a venomous bite — “I watched Jane die.” With those words, Jesse crumples.

After the crew of gunmen decide that forcing Jesse to cook for them is better than killing him, and taking Walt’s money is better than making their own. The gunmen have some scruples, though, because they leave a barrel of cash with Walt. They also give him a car, but a bullet in the fuel tank leads to a much shorter trip than Walt planned.

With all of this happening so quickly, I am apt to forget Hank’s family. Marie reminds the audience why her character is often the least liked by all but bragging to her sister that Hank might have just effectively ended Walt’s life. Marie’s mistake did nothing to reinforce my negative feelings towards her, but feelings of sadness and pity for the unknowing widow flooded to the forefront of my mind. Since Skylar had been informed of her husband’s downfall, she has her own emotions to deal with, but can offer up no defense. In fact, Skylar can’t even bring herself to lie, or provide defense, to Walt Jr.; he’s not taking it very well, either.

Since happiness can only be a distant memory at this point, we are brought back to Jesse’s problems, which are growing worse by the day. True to their word, Jesse is being kept alive — albeit, badly beaten and chained to the ceiling — to cook meth. A broken shell of a man, like Jesse, needs some serious motivation, though. Nothing says “cook or else” like a photo of Brock and Andrea taped to the wall in front of him.

With his family under the impression Hank is returning from the desert with Walt in custody, Skylar and Flynn (Walt Jr.) are a little worried to find Walt return without Hank. Skipping over how they got there, Walt goes on the run with no one but his baby daughter. From the road, Walt realizes he’s destroyed the one thing he’s been adamant about preserving: family. Walt calls the house, which have several detectives there, to perform the most selfless act we’ve seen throughout the entire series — he exonerates Skylar through an implicit phone conversation. Both subtle and beautiful, I can not help but forget every death Walt has caused and every person he has hurt. In that moment, Walt not only exonerated his wife from his crimes, but himself from my scrutiny. Like a shamed man, Walt decides to clean his slate, and takes Saul’s earlier offer of fleeing the state. Before he leaves, though, he reminds us he’s “still got things [he’s] got to do.”

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