Breaking Bad “Live Free or Die” Review

Saul: “You and me, we’re done!”
Walt: “We’re done when I say we’re done.”

Well, it’s back everybody! The one who knocks has returned after over 9 months of being off the air. That’s right, Breaking Bad has returned with the fifth and final season premiere, “Live Free or Die”. Many fans, including myself, were very interested to see just where the show was going to go after last season’s explosive finale. The predominant theory was that Walt would rise to take Gus Fring’s place as the new drug kingpin in Albuquerque, so imagine my surprise when the episode began the way it did.

Breaking Bad has had some very iconic images that spring to mind when you think of their season premieres, (a pair of pants and Jesse’s gun pointing towards the camera spring to mind), so this seasons we get…bacon and eggs! Yup, the first shot of this season is Walt celebrating a very unhappy 52nd birthday at a Denny’s somewhere, and we see that he’s grown out a full beard and a head of hair! He’s then given a new car by some guy played by Jim Beaver from Supernatural, and in the trunk of the car we see a very serious looking gun.

But it turns out that this was all some fancy flash forward, as the next scene is shows us what happened right after Walt’s iconic “I won” phone call to Skyler. Walt Jr. and Skyler return home to Walt, and Skyler is understandably disturbed at what her husband has accomplished. When she leaves Walt alone in the bedroom, Walt springs up and remembers…

The cameras! Yes, those pesky cameras that watched Walt and Jesse’s every move in the superlab were being investigated by Hank and Gomez after Walt and Jesse torched the place, so now Walt is deeply concerned about finding this archived footage and destroying it. When talking about the season four finale to my friends and colleagues, one frequently asked question I heard was “Where do they go from here?” There are very few loose ends to tie up, so what will season five be all about? Well, lots of people were forgetting that Mike is still in the picture, so it was good to see that he’s been at a ranch somewhere recuperating from his injuries and hanging out with some chickens. Upon hearing about Gus’s death, though, he zooms off to find Walt and Jesse and almost runs into them on the road! Mike agrees that the cameras pose a threat, so what was Jesse’s genius idea for removing the laptop and erasing the memory? Magnets!

Out of all of the cockamamy schemes that Walt and Jesse have hatched over the past few seasons, this one might have been the most far fetched. I’m sure some people will complain about the goofiness of this plan, but man did it make for some entertaining television. We also saw the return of Old Joe, played by Larry Hankin of Billy Madison fame, who we haven’t seen since the Season 3 episode “Sunset”.

I am of the humble opinion that the character of Walter White is simply the best character progression of any character on television. Ever. The fact that they’ve transformed this mild mannered high school chemistry teacher into a mass-murdering drug lord over the course of four seasons is absolutely incredible, and I think season five is really going to demonstrate the extent of his hubris. He’s scrapped and clawed his way to the top of the food chain, and with Gus out of the way it’s clear that he feels completely untouchable. His assurance of Mike in the car on the way out of their narrow escape at APD that they won’t recover any evidence is very telling. “I’m just supposed to take that on faith? Why? How do we know?” “Because I say so” replies Walt. It remains to be seen whether the rest of season five will show Walt taking his place as the drug kingpin, or a fall from grace. I have a feeling that seeing Walt on the run with New Hampshire plates is not a good sign.

Oh, and we got confirmation that Ted Beneke is in fact not dead, but he might as well be. The guy is in terrible shape, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking that the one thing he wants to tell Skyler is that he hasn’t said a word. I’ve never been a fan of the whole Skyler/Ted relationship, as I always thought it was a means to an end to disrupt Walt. She seemed to only cheat on Walt with Ted in the first place just to get Walt jealous, and then she took his money away just to bankrupt Walt in last season’s “Crawl Space”. Skyler and Ted as a couple always just comes off as a dynamic to foil Walt, so it’s tough to justify their relationship to the audience. Here’s hoping something a little more substantial comes out of that whole story line, but I’m ready for them to just drop it.

We’ve still got a lot of stuff to look forward to this season! With Walt’s attack on the APD evidence room ironically uncovering more evidence in the form of a secret invoice number behind a picture of Gus and his brother, I would bet money that this refers to the German company that Hank was investigating last season that supplied the equipment for the superlab. We also know that Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights fame will have a major role this season, so I can’t wait to see what comes of that. With Breaking Bad splitting its final season into two eight episode runs, one to air this year and one to air next summer, it seems that they’re skipping the obligatory “slow burn” that begins most seasons of this show. We’re only 45 minutes into this season and we’re already launching a full scale sabotage mission at the APD? If the rest of the season can keep up this pace, I’m sure we’re in for the best season yet. And that’s saying something!

Random Thoughts:

– This marks the second time that Denny’s has been featured heavily on this show. Once was an anomaly, but twice seems like it’s on purpose. Is somebody at Denny’s aware that their restaurant is being prominently shown on a hardboiled TV show about cooking meth?

– What do you guys think about Christopher Cousins being bald as Ted Beneke? Did he really shave his hair, or was that a bald cap? Usually you can tell if somebody actually went for the whole nine yards on the bald head, and this did look pretty legitimate.

– I really want one of those screwdrivers that Mike used to remove the keypad at APD.