“I really need you to believe me.”
Walter White has told at least one lie in every episode of Breaking Bad. The blowback from those lies have made the world around Walt shrink until, as evidenced by the flashforwards, there is nothing left but a cornered animal where a man used to be.
In “Blood Money,” one of the most uncomfortable episodes of television I have ever seen, we see what happens when a man has told too many lies.
“I really need you to believe me,” Walt tells Jesse, in the middle of a lie.
Jesse, in all of the loyalty and forgiveness and guilt he embodies, gives Walt the mercy of belief.
Breaking Bad started as a show about a man who wanted desperately to keep his weakness (Cancer) away from his family. Entering the show’s final hours, we’re in the same place we started. The cancer is back. The chemo has started again. And Walt is lying about it.
In fact, the most notable part of “Blood Money” is when Walt tells the truth. And no, I’m not talking about the fistfight he has with Hank in the final minutes. I’m talking about the moment he told Skylar the truth about the woman washing her rental car.
It’s a fast moment, but one of the most important of the series. It’s the first time Walter has told Skylar the truth without having been put into a corner. In that trust, Skylar follows Lydia to her car and scares her away.
Skylar became her own version of Heisenberg, and she enjoyed the power.
Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has often talked about his interest in the themes of power, control, and dominance. What’s interesting about Breaking Bad is that there have always been three major points of power. Walt’s power over Jesse and his own family, Hank’s power over the DEA and his own anxieties, and Skylar’s power over Walt.
In this episode, and by extension, it would seem, this season, we finally get to see these powers converge.
Hank, Walt, and Skylar are no longer operating in different branches. Skylar is intimidating major players in Walt’s meth empire. Hank is physically assaulting Walt and bugging his car. Walt is transforming into Heisenberg right in front of Hank. It’s what we’ve been waiting for since the pilot, and yet all I can feel is discomfort. The kind of discomfort you feel when the roller coaster clicks its way up the first hill.
Most television dramas marinate in their dramatic irony. A show like Mad Men or The Sopranos would keep Hank and Walt away from the truth for several episodes before allowing them to face one another. Breaking Bad gave us about thirty minutes of screentime.
In one of the most surprising twists of the series, Walt tells Hank who he really is, and the emotional fallout is explosive.
Aaron Paul is the most celebrated supporting character of the show, and for good reason, but Dean Norris’s work as Hank is some of the most consistent, empathetic, and disturbing work on television. He uses his whole body when he performs, which, against Bryan Cranston’s chilling eyes, makes for some of the best television ever.
Moving forward, I will be analyzing and editorializing about Breaking Bad as a whole, and speaking less about individual episodes.
Welcome to the beginning of the end of one of the best television series of all time.