After a year of waiting, the other shoe has finally dropped on “Breaking Bad.” Hank Schrader knows that Walter White is the meth kingpin he’s spent years investigating, and the game is finally afoot. Sunday’s premiere episode of season five, part two, “Blood Money” concluded with Hank finally confronting Walt about his secret identity as Heisenberg, and nothing can be the same.
From the beginning of “Breaking Bad,” it appeared obvious that everything would ultimately come down to a battle between Hank and Walt. In the very first episode, Hank was established as the overbearing, alpha-male yin to Walt’s intelligent, emasculated yang. It was clear the two were always set up as foils, and that tensions between the Drug Enforcement Administration agent and the meth producer would eventually come to a head. It’s finally happening, but, five seasons later, fans might be rooting for a different character than they would have at the show’s outset.
As “Breaking Bad” progressed, the roles of Hank and Walt began to flip. Hank became more sympathetic and human after his traumatic experiences in the DEA. He became more intelligent and driven to make a real difference in Albuquerque. In contrast, Walt became more monstrous as his Heisenberg identity slowly consumed his humble family-man identity.
Hank has become an honest, hardworking cop, while Walt is a murderous drug kingpin. Now the two are on more or less equal footing, but they operate in very different moral frameworks. It is not only a more interesting fight, but a more even-sided one as well. In the first season, Hank seemed only to be a physical threat to Walt. Now, he’s an intellectual threat as well. And, as “Blood Money” shows, he is truly a credible threat to Walt’s empire.
As “Blood Money” came to an end, Hank vowed he would lock Walt up, exposing him for the monster he is. From the cold open, we know that at least half of his threat eventually comes true. Like the season premierw of season five, part one, “Blood Money” begins with a flash-forward. This time, a grizzled, bearded Walter White breaks into his old home to retrieve the infamous vial of ricin.
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When Walt breaks into the the dilapidated remains of his old home, he sees the word “Heisenberg” spray-painted on the living-room wall. If that didn’t drive the point home, his neighbor Carol certainly does: Heisenberg’s identity eventually becomes public knowledge. On some level, Hank has won this battle. Walt may not ever wind up behind bars, but he won’t be remembered as a good man, either.
But Walt and Hank aren’t the only major players in “Blood Money.” Jesse Pinkman, Walt’s partner from the beginning, is going through some major changes of his own. After years of Walt’s abuse, Jesse finally appears to realize his mentor isn’t the good man he’d always presented himself to be. Jesse is a broken man at this point, but it seems clear he will play a major part in the episodes to come.
In one of the most bizarre moments of “Blood Money,” Jesse’s friend Badger presented his idea for an episode of “Star Trek.” While passing Talos IV, the crew of the Enterprise engages in a pie-eating contest full of deception and transporter hijinks. It strikes one as comic relief at first, but Brandon Nowalk makes a good point on Twitter:
Breaking Bad: Talos IV is in a Star Trek episode about believing or rejecting illusions. "I need you to believe me."
— Brandon Nowalk (@bnowalk) August 12, 2013
Later in “Blood Money,” Walt attempts to assure Jesse that he didn’t kill Mike (and, of course, we know he’s lying). Jesse nods his head and tells Walt he believes, but it’s clear from his body language that he doesn’t trust Walt anymore. Jesse has stopped believing in the convenient illusion that Walt is a good man, but Walt doesn’t appear to understand. On some level, Walt continues to think Jesse is on his side. That makes Jesse the most dangerous piece on the board right now.
One thing is for sure after this episode: Walt advised Hank to “tread lightly,” and “Breaking Bad” will do anything but. Hank and Walt are set to engage in their final battle. Their roles seem predetermined at this point, but Jesse is still a wild card.