Photo: © 2013 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.
“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand / Half sunk, a shattered visage lies…” – Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Everything changes now, and you have got to prepare yourself” – Marie Schrader, Ozymandias.
The desert. It’s where everything begins and it’s looking more and more likely it’s where it all ends – at least, for some folk.
After last week’s trip out to look at some buried treasure alongside a few avast-ing scoundrels, we return to the past for a spell of pre-titles joy: Walt and Jesse doing what they do best; Walt prepping to phone Skyler with a web of lies, Jesse taking a smoke break and practicing sword fighting. Their hopes for the future. Their sheer love of the craft. Their humble beginnings. It’s a simpler, happier time. And yet, as soon as we find our comfortable slippers, the ground shifts to the almost-present, before Walt’s big 5-2, and he and Jesse are back in the desert – under less hospitable circumstances.
We’ve heard many gunshots during the whole series but few have rung as loudly and hit so hard as this one. The bullet travels such a small distance, but its effects are so widespread. It’s telling that in Episode 14, the credits don’t begin until 20 minutes in. Unlike any other show that would offer the big moment as a cliff-hanger to tease you into the following week, Breaking Bad un-teased completely with an unceremoniously quick ending. Now, the ramifications are dumped at our door, as frank as can be, reminding us that Walter White is not the hero. And boy, is he not a hero in this episode.
Walter dipped into Heisenberg for a brief spell last week to give Jesse a revelation we’ve waited for a long time. Rather than any offering any kind of catharsis, it simply twisted a knife into the back of a man already full of blade wounds. Now, Todd is having his way with Pinkman and given the look of the poor kid, the next two hours are not going to be easy.
Jesse’s face always bears the brunt of brutality but Todd and his uncle’s cronies really do a number on him. Todd should, in any realm of television, get what’s coming to him, but this isn’t TV anymore; this is Breaking Bad. It wouldn’t be surprising if Todd ultimately destroyed Jesse, awaiting only Walter’s nod to bring about his end.
But hey, let’s stop talking about the depressing parts of Breaking Bad! How are things going with that wacky son Walter Jr.? He’s been working his first day at the car wash for two weeks now. We bet he’s up to all kinds of classic hijinks! No, he’s being told some home truths. We are two episodes from the end and finally ickle Walt knows everything. That poor kid now has to live with never being ignorant of it all: his father, his mother, the whole last two years. That’s got to be really tough for him. Immediately, then, when the man of the house comes home, Walt Jr. steps up.
And so Walter White is off the show for a while, but never fear: with the next two episodes, we shall see how this new fellow, Mr. Lambert, fares in the world. The New Hampshire resident seems like an above board fellow, even if he only just appeared on the horizon. We’re sure his medical history shows no signs of lung cancer and is entirely different to that Walter White chap, even if his penchant for revenge and destruction may lead us down an even darker path – one which will clearly involve a police operation, the lives of the White family being destroyed forever, and anyone else who knows who Heisenberg put firmly into the firing line.
Ozymandias is a fascinating slice of television, one that takes a few key characters out of the equation and leaves a gaping hole behind – a reminder that while the show can be dark, it never overwhelms the fact that a connection to a character is more important than anything else. Seeing them let off the leash like this is a devastating thing and the shock on Walt’s face at the start of the episode more than sums up the reaction for any fan of the show. Much like Gustavo Fring’s final moments, it is a face that will haunt nightmares.
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains.”
Breaking Bad is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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