Darkness in the “White House”: A Breaking Bad Review of Season Five [Episode 5.07 Trailer]

Reviewing a weekly episode is a bit like evaluating a chapter in a novel.Some book chapters function very well on their own—take, for example, “Battle Royal” from Ralph Ellison’s seminal novel Invisible Man. That first chapter works as a stand-alone short story; however, it is designed to introduce to the protagonist and foreshadow his search for identity.

Some chapters need to be reviewed within the context of the whole. The next chapter in the novel, for example, does not work quite as well as an independent story. The same applies to many TV series. While some may not have enjoyed the season opener “Fifty-One, ” as it flash forwards a year into the future, I bet that when viewed within the context of the entire fifth season and the entire show’s run, it will work extremely well.

With only two episodes left before a year hiatus to see what happens to Heisenberg and his band of “forced” partners, it might be fun to speculate as to the future of story, since we don’t have the luxury of skipping ahead to read the last chapter. These are merely speculations:

The ostensible reason Walt gotten into the “meth” business was money. He was a chemistry teacher, who worked at a car wash to make financial ends meet. The humility of it all, a man of his intellect and import shinning tires for his lazy and boorish students. Oh, how Walt has “advanced” in a little over a year. He owns the car wash now. But “advanced” is not strictly accurate.

Into The Darkness: Walt, as I have suggested, is long gone. His alter-ego, Heisenberg, is now his main ego, while Walt seems all but dead. Consider that with Walt killing Gus last season and working to take over his empire, Walt has lost all that he purported to care about: his wife and family.

Twice—once by Marie and once by Hank— comments has been made that Baby Holly is going to remain with the Schraders. This makes some sense for the story’s resolution. The Whites cannot raise a family, as their house is too dark.

If Breaking Bad was a different type of show, then perhaps we could believe that Baby Holly and Flynn are going to be safely tucked away with the Schraders as the show ends in what any sensible viewer knows will end with many deaths. However, I think something more sinister awaits the White family.

Season five as been dark—both literally and figuratively. Notice how dark the White’s house is and how it seems to get darker and darker. It is all shadows. This perhaps reflects the breakdown and disintegration of the family itself. Darkness is often associated with the absence of life.

The White household is sterile, hostile, devoid of life. Lighting, or the lack of it, has always been a key feature of the series, and used expertly but in this season it almost seems like a character onto itself. And so what does it forebode for the White’s progeny? What does it forebode for Skylar or Heisenberg? Or does the darkness merely symbolize the progress of the family’s slow death? Also consider the stark contrast: White v. Dark. The family name juxtaposed with the family destiny.

The naked contempt and outright hostility that Skylar maintains for her husband casts a dark pall in the home and as such makes the White household incapable of nurturing life—it is a barren wasteland, that Jesse has the misfortune of experiencing in “Buyout.” The darkness can also be seen as a reflection of Walt’s Kafkaesque metamorphosis.

However, the analogy works only so far, as Gregor Samsa finds himself transformed into a giant bug in the first sentence of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” Walt’s metamorphosis, on the other hand, takes more time and reflects something completely different. Samsa’s change symbolizes his station in life as an impotent and unimportant man, a mere bug, but Walt’s change suggests the opposite. A mere innocuous bug transformed into something far more important and dangerous. At least in his mind, Heisenberg is powerful, virile and important. He needs his male ego massaged.

The Walt Love? What will it take to finally get viewers actively rooting against Walt? For me, the time has already come—he’s evil and must be destroyed. How can he be defended at this point? He elicits no pathos. But, and here is pure speculation, I predict Heisenberg will do something so heinous, so repellent, so vile, that we will have no other choice but to actively delight in his destruction. He will descend deeper into darkness, as it were.

As the fifth season begins Heisenberg is undercover, disheveled and illegally buying an M60 machine gun. What has he done to get himself in this position? Something terrible no doubt like killing someone close to him? All speculation on my part, but surely he will threaten or even destroy the thing that he allegedly cares most about—his family. You could argue that the threat from his business has already done that, but I think it might be more direct. Heisenberg will have blood literally on his hands by the end of this half-season, and we will see him as pure evil with no redeeming qualities.

Tonight’s episode titled “Say My Name,” was referenced in the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast (if you enjoy listening to the various elements that goes into making the show, I strongly recommend it). The show’s creator Vince Gilligan suggested that episodes 5 and 7 will “blow people’s minds.” Episode 5, “Dead Freight” was a jaw dropper. So this week’s show should do the same. The preview suggests something big is afoot. Heisenberg’s empire grows. However, all of season five has been excellent; there has not been one poor episode—not one. So I wait for the last two season episodes to illuminate my speculations.

Review by Ron Peltier

Watch the trailer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.