Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 9: Tread Lightly
Photo courtesy of AMC. Jesse Pinkman, despondent.
The second half of Breaking Bad's final season premiered last night which means if you haven't been watching or don't care for the show, you'll only have to endure 8 more weeks of people publicly shaming you for neglecting the best show on television.
The season premiere starts in the present day, with a bunch of skate punks practicing in the now abandoned and graffiti-covered White residence. They make skate videos in the empty swimming pool, which is a sad sight indeed. This is where a scorched pink teddy bear fell after Walt let Jesse's girlfriend choke on her own vomit and her air traffic controller dad was so devastated that he caused a plane crash! It's where Skyler jumps in fully-clothed after realizing she's married to a despotic drug kingpin! Memories, man.
It looks like Walt feels a bit nostalgic as well when he rolls up to the house, now with hair, thick-rimmed eyeglasses, and an army jacket. Apparently, he's been hiding out in the Bay Area. Upon entering the house, he sees a giant yellow "Heisenberg" spray-painted on the wall which perhaps reminds him that he should go retrieve that homemade ricin that he squirreled away in a light socket.
We jump back to where the first half of season 5 left off, with Hank getting off the pot in the Whites' bathroom after realizing that the "W.W." inscription in Walt's copy of Leaves of Grass is from our dear departed karaoke king Gale Boetticher. Hank tells everyone he's not feeling well and has to go home, discreetly taking Leaves of Grass with him. He has a panic attack on the road and ends up crashing into someone's front yard but once he's home, he immediately opens his old files on Gale.
Walt's old associate Lydia, high-strung as ever, shows up to the car wash. She tells Walt that her current batch of meth is only clocking in at 68% in purity and asks him for his help. Walt says it's not his concern, even when Lydia hints at being in imminent danger if she doesn't deliver. As Lydia leaves, Skyler asks Walt why she's getting a rental car washed. Lydia was never good with the details. She clearly learned nothing from Mike on how to act natural when talking about global drug trafficking in quaint public places. Walt tells Skyler that Lydia wants him to go back to cooking but that he turned her down. Skyler tracks Lydia down outside and tells her to leave and never come back. She doesn't even let the car care professional finish drying Lydia's car! I can't tell is Skyler is actually trying to salvage their marriage or if she's just waiting patiently until she can contribute to her husband's downfall but, nevertheless, I'm excited to see the outcome.
At Hank's, our favorite DEA agent sets up shop in his garage as his underlings drop off boxes and boxes of files. Hank pulls out info on Gus, Hector, and Gale, downing coffee and potato chips as he tries to piece everything together. The shot of Hank's home-brewed beer "Schraderbrau" was just one of those thoughtful details that I'll miss dearly when the series ends. While rifling through the files, he comes upon the hand drawing of Heisenberg which of course has an entirely new significance to him now.
We then go to Jesse's house, where Sir Pinkman is slipping deeper into his depression and PTSD from the unbelievable amount of death he has witnessed and been responsible for in the past five years or so. Underneath his Affliction hoody is some actual affliction, yo. Jesse can't even enjoy the amazing conversation Badger and Skinny Pete are having about Badger's Star Trek script idea involving an intergalactic pie-eating contest. Jesse takes off, leaving his papasan chair and psychedelic TV screensaver behind. If you've ever wondered where Spencer's Gifts are still operating, you might want to try Albuquerque.
Jesse heads over to Saul's office and asks him to deliver about 5 million dollars to Mike's granddaughter and to the parents of Drew Sharp, the boy who was cruelly shot and killed by Todd (Jesse Plemons), their former partner in the fumigation business. I never quite recovered from seeing Landry from Friday Night Lights murder a child, so I think I should get a cut of that money as well. After Jesse leaves, Saul calls Walt for advice and Walt says he'll handle it. We see that Walt's in a clinic hooked up to an IV, as he's started chemo again.
Walt shows up to Jesse's house with the money Jesse had given Saul, telling him this is a bad idea and that he shouldn't focus on his harrowing past but instead try to live a decent life from this point forward. Easy peasy. He even tells Jesse that he's quit the drug game as well. Jesse says that he thinks Mike is dead and believes that Walt already knows it. Walt denies killing Mike, but Jesse doesn't think things are adding up. Walt stresses how important it is for Jesse to believe him and Jesse feigns that Mike must be alive then.
Back at the White home, Skyler casually mentions that Hank has been out of work for a week because of a stomach bug. Walt has his own stomach issues from the chemo and runs to the bathroom to throw up. When getting up from the toilet, he notices that Leaves of Grass is gone. Why you'd leave a book given to you buy your former meth cooking assistant who you had murdered on top of your toilet is beyond me, but perhaps it shows how cavalier Walt has become. An absent Hank and the missing book get him anxious and later that night, he steps outside in his requisite white Hanes briefs and an adobe-colored robe that I imagine you'd buy off the side of a freeway in New Mexico. He suddenly walks over to his car and starts feeling around until he finds a tracking device similar to the one that he helped Hank install on Gus Fring's car.
Meanwhile, Jesse is sleeping in his car outside of a hot dog restaurant, which is perhaps the truest sign that you're in a state of complete emotional despair. A homeless man knocks on his window to ask for spare change. Jesse gives him a stack of cash instead and then drives through the downtrodden neighborhood, indiscriminately throwing money into people's yards whilst sobbing. I know it may run counter to gritty television writing, but dear god, I hope we cut Jesse a break at some point this season. Can we at least get him a puppy? One that won't get shot or accidentally overdose on drugs?
Hank is still toiling away in his garage when Walt rolls up. They make small talk for a bit before Walt asks Hank about the tracking device found on his car. Hank closes the automatic garage door and once they're enclosed, he punches Walt in the face. Hank has developed from a bro-y lughead to a complex character with keen investigative skills as Walt has transformed into a violent megalomaniac, so this punch is quite satisfying.
Hank confronts him about killing witnesses, blowing up the nursing home, et cetera and says he's going to put Walt away. Walt reveals that his cancer is back and that even if Hank could prove that he's Heisenberg, he'll likely be dead before ever spending a day in prison. Hank tells him to bring Skyler and the kids to his house and then they'll talk, but Walt refuses. Hank tells him he doesn't even know who Walt is anymore. And in a final line that's just so perfect you wonder if it can be topped anywhere in the next 7 episodes, Walt says: "If you don't know who I am, maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."
Someone get me a Schraderbrau.
Breaking Bad airs on Sunday nights at 9:00 pm on AMC.