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Breaking Bad: “Ozymandias” recap

Breaking Bad: “Ozymandias” recap
Special to The Prospector

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” beautifully depicts the remnants of a once-powerful empire and its leader. It’s extremely fitting that this episode is titled after the poem’s character, since Walter’s life has basically taken a turn for the horrific in this masterful hour of television.

Where to even begin? “Ozymandias” was simply put–perfect; it was not only one of “Breaking Bad’s” finest episodes, but a seminal TV episode in general. With the incredible script by Moira Walley Beckett, of acclaimed episodes like “Fly” and “Gliding over All,” to Rian Johnson’s direction, returning to the director’s chair after his last DGA-winning “Fifty-One,” this in a lot of ways resolved a lot of story arcs, but also sets up the final two hours.

It begins with a flashback, a look back at Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) first cook in the desert, which meditates on how much things have changed over the course of the series. Walter calls Skyler (Anna Gunn) to discuss his troubles at the car wash, unaware that things will be much different later on, especially during a truly terrifying phone call between Walter and Skyler.

The resolution to last week’s standoff is paid off, it seemed inevitable given the many players that Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) had; we find out that Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) has been shot and killed and Hank (Dean Norris, who has been spectacular this entire season) is cornered to surrender. But still the moment when Hank gets shot, not before calling out Walt on how smart yet stupid he is, was as heartbreaking and powerful as one could imagine. It’s such a devastating moment because we had seen him in the past episode at his most triumphant, finally capturing Walter, and in just a couple of seconds all that is destroyed. Walter is absolutely broken, falling to the ground, and the slow motion reaction was pitch- perfect in every way. Him at this most almost vulnerable and then switch to him at his most monstrous was incredible. Just the way he sold out Jesse, Paul’s performance as he shrieked “no” was appropriately powerful, and the nail in the coffin really is the way that Walt tells him how he watched Jane (Krysten Ritter) die all the way back in season two. Just the sheer coldness and nasty way in which he delivers it, plus Jesse’s expression as he is dragged to be tortured, just illustrated how much Heisenberg has kind of taken Walter over.

Now, Jesse is cooking, as Todd’s (Jesse Plemons) prisoner, and with no choice either way since he is shown a photo of Andrea (Emily Rios) and Brock, which indicates that they’ve been watching them.

As if things weren’t bad enough, things progress to an even worse state, as Marie (Betsy Brandt) takes the news of Walt’s capture directly to Skyler and Jr. aka Flynn (RJ Mitte). It’s a great moment of dramatic irony because as Marie is telling her sister that Hank has captured Walt, it is all over now and of course it’s just the opposite as she orders Skyler to tell her son everything. It was a moment that was bound to happen sooner or later, when Jr. learns the hard truth about his father, and it is painful for him since he has always held his father in such high regard. This moment was suitably emotional and just uncomfortable to watch as things got more and more heated between the family members.

Somehow, after all the terrible things that have happened in this episode, and Walt being at his most malicious, the scene when Skyler and Jr. arrive at their house and encounter Walter, who’s ready from them to all leave because of the events that have happened, was without a doubt one of the high-points of the entire series. This entire sequence, in which Johnson and Walley-Beckett show the destruction of the White family, is operatic in nature and absolutely mesmerizing to watch. The performances were incredible (worthy of Emmy consideration), and the tense build up of the scene as Walter tries to explain what happened to Hank and his plan to start a new life, all leads up to a confrontation between each them that was so well executed. Little touches such as the framing of Skyler’s two options, knife or telephone, and which one she grabs to her pulse-pounding confrontation with Walter, and finally, Jr.’s protection of his mother and him calling the cops on his dad was almost like a mini-horror film.

So if Walt’s actions that were shown in this episode weren’t bad enough, he steals Holly and the audience wonders if he’ll use her as his only family connection now or as ransom. Ultimately he lets her go, at a fire station, after sharing a genuinely moving bonding moment with her daughter. It’s definitely a haunting tragic moment in which he has to let go of his daughter for her to be safe, separate from everything that he’s involved with. But not before he makes a final call to Skyler… this conversation is certainly very interesting. In it, Walt and Skyler have this intense conversation, he starts threatening her just like Hank and it gets ugly pretty quickly, in which one could argue there is ambiguity as to whether or not he meant all those terrible things or is just removing himself from his family because he is the danger. After all, the police were listening on the conversation, so it’s possible that he could’ve known–since he even got rid of his cell phone after it, or maybe that really is his final goodbye. The way that speech is delivered though and Cranston’s performance again is just riveting–it’s a Walter at his most monstrous and terrifying, in a similar fashion as to how he was interacting with Jesse earlier on. It’s something to look forward to and see how it plays out during next week’s episode. But it’s definitely a very full-circle moment–contrasting the opening scene call to the one here and it’s a completely different dynamic, again it just shows how much each relationship has changed, how far these characters and the show have come.

By the end, Walter is on a new journey, one with a new alias and we instantly recognize that this will lead to the flash forwards we’ve been seeing since the start of season five, and his whole empire has been destroyed–much like the remnants described in “Ozymandias.”

Only two episodes remain and “Ozymandias” proved that “Breaking Bad” definitely wants to go out on a high note. It was a perfect hour of television, paying off story threads and delivering them in phenomenal fashion, and one that was absolutely fearless in how it continued the trajectory of the show. Fantastically scripted, intensely directed and ferociously performed, “Ozymandias” is a masterpiece, one that shows TV storytelling at its finest.

Oscar Garza may be reached at [email protected].

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Breaking Bad: “Ozymandias” recap