Breaking Bad S05E09 Recap: 'Blood Money' [Half-Season Premiere]

At the end of the first half of the final season of Breaking Bad last year, Heisenberg gave us his biohazard suit, his stylish hat, and his meth empire in order to become reliable old Walter White and gain back his family. But one just doesn't simply pack up his Bunsen burners and Erlenmeyer flasks and give up a meth empire. There are people involved that won't necessarily see eye to eye with your decision, others who will be negatively affected, and some who have trouble dealing with all the terrible things that you've done.

With that in mind, it's pretty clear that these final episodes are going to be about all the people and all the loose ends that Walter White left in his wake when he hung his meth hat. I'm not sure if those episodes will feature Walt being brought back into that world, instead of just being subtly pulled by various people such as Lydia (and I'm guessing eventually the likes of Todd and the Czechs), but considering where this show is, and where it's gone over the last five years, I'm not sure that it needs to bring him back in. As "Blood Money" showed, there's still plenty of material left for Vince Gilligan and the writers to wrap up and not much time to do it.

----------
Watch "Blood Money" right now on Amazon.
----------

The return episode made a very interesting choice, a choice that I wholeheartedly agreed with, in simply addressing Hank's revelation as fact, and even revealing it to Walt. The final moment of S05E08 was Hank finally piecing together the case he's been chasing since the beginning, figuring out that Walt was Heisenberg thanks to the Leaves of Grass book he had as bathroom reading. Hank is truly affected by this, that someone under his nose and so close to him could be so nefarious and evil, that he takes off and doesn't leave his house for days.

In the meantime, he's sleuthing, going over old evidence to try and piece together how this could have been. Eventually, Walt heads over to check up on him, fueled at least in part by the tracking device he found underneath his car, and everything comes out. Hank flat out punches him in the face, and tells him he's going to take him down the moment he has solid evidence. Walt counters by saying that it will ruin their family, and that it doesn't matter anyway, because the cancer is back and as hard as he's going to fight it, he's going to be dead in six months time and there won't be anyone left to prosecute.

There's so much to talk about here, so many angles to take, but the most interesting part to me was how two-faced Walt was, not only in his conversation with his brother-in-law, but all throughout the episode. How easily he would go from talking about meth business with Lydia to matter-of-factly hiding the fact that he had set up an operation to work without him to Skyler. How he boldly lied to Jesse about Mike still being alive. And at the end, how he seemed stuck between two half-truths in his conversation with Hank, and how adamant he was about keeping his children.

It's almost unbelievable that this Walter White, the one that's so comfortable with all the bad things he's done and in lying about them, used to be the nice chemistry teacher who was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer to start the series.

Even more compelling might be the fact that Walt decided that this confrontation with Hank was the proper moment to tell anyone that the cancer had come back. Skyler doesn't know, and he probably doesn't want to tell her because things are finally back to normal for him, and he doesn't have a friend in the world otherwise. Why not tell Hank as sort of a taunt. "I'm dying anyway." It's almost like he's telling him to come after him.

And even after all of this, as Hank explains that he doesn't know who he's talking too, Walt simply tells him that maybe he's better off not knowing the whole story. Even though he "knows" about Walt's dirty little secret, he still doesn't know the half of it, and that's what's truly mesmerizing about the final scene. Even though they've revealed that Hank knows about Walt, and Walt knows that he knows, there's still so much to be revealed to all these other characters about what Walter White has truly become.

I don't really know how the rest of this season is going to go, although that first cold open seemed to offer a few hints, and I'm totally fine with that, not only because it's clear that Vince Gilligan has a plan, but also because it's exactly what makes this show so great. You really don't know how things are going to unfold until they happen, and when they do, it's like a moment of clarity. Similarly, it's almost unfathomable how the show and its characters can change in such a small amount of time, making earlier episodes a surprise on every subsequent viewing.

And it comes back to that cold open. Walt arrives at his house, now condemned, with the weapon we saw him buy last year in tow in his trunk. He has hair now, and he looks rather worse for wear. He enters his house, ignoring the kids playing in his old swimming pool, looks over what used to be his home, as well a "Heisenberg" graffiti on the wall, and then goes straight for the ricin that's been in the wall for a long time. You look at all of that and wonder how the hell the show is going to get there. But it will all be clear in less than a couple of weeks.

But if we have to talk about that opening scene, it's still a bit of a leap to get there, but it's pretty clear that whatever happens, either Hank or someone else is going to expose Walt and force him to go on the run, likely changing his identity. Something will eventually force Walt to come back to town to seek vengeance. I can't even begin to guess what any of that might be, but I absolutely can't wait to see it unfold over the next eight weeks.

This was everything we expected from the final, half-season premiere of Breaking Bad, and much more. The first and final scenes will become stuff of legends, and while a lot of it was set up, it's hard to see how it could have been any better. "Blood Money" gets 9.5 vials of ricin out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • That final scene and the conflict building between Walt and Hank took attention here away from Jesse, but I really liked his scenes here, and how he's almost catatonic in trying to deal with everything that's happened and where he is. Hell, the episode is in part named with how he sees his payoff. In the end he decides to spread the money literally around town, throwing it out his window in the middle of the night.
  • Candidate for scene of the series goes to Badger's Star Trek pitch to Skinny Pete. That blueberry pie eating contest episode would have been an instant classic of the original series.
  • Really telling of Skyler's character is how much she's changed since the last episode. She's still a little hesitant in being the good wife, but she jumps at the opportunity when Walt tells her they should buy a second car wash.
  • Add killing Mike to the list of lies Walt is balancing with Jesse, including poisoning Brock and letting Jane die. Gotta wonder how many of these are going to come back to haunt him (and note how I didn't say "if any").
  • Candidate for quote of the series: "If you don't know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."
Comment 1
Shane Brennan's picture

Great episode. Badger's pitch was hilarious but maybe had some real seriousness to it, concluding with "Jesse, you're going to miss the end." Maybe I'm looking to much into it and hopefully that's not foreshadowing Jesse's death.