TV Episode Review: “Breaking Bad” “To’hajiilee” (05.13, 2013)

Written by George Mastras (Previous Episodes: “Crazy Handful of Nothin’,” “Grilled,” “Mandala,” “I.F.T.,” “Kafkaesque,” “Thirty-Eight Snub,” “Hermanos,” “Crawl Space,” and “Dead Freight”)

Directed by Michelle MacLaren (Previous Episodes: “4 Days Out,” “I.F.T.,” “One Minute,” “Abiquiu,” “Thirty-Eight Snub,” “Shotgun,” “Salud,” “Madrigal,” “Gliding over All,” and “Buried”)

Tension doesn’t always mean not knowing the result, and that may never have been better exemplified than the standoff at To’hajiilee at the climax of this episode. We know that Walt is alive and not in prison in a year, so we know the essentials of what has to happen in that sequence, but there is still tension rivaling anything outside of “Box Cutter” (04.01, 2011) in watching Hank arresting Walt, knowing that the neo-Nazis are going to be coming in. The only question was whether Jesse would survive, and Gilligan and company of course leave that as the unanswered question going into next week.

Watching Walt literally brought to his knees before Hank and Jesse, two people he has consistently out-thought and manipulated to his own purposes ever since his criminal career began, it was impossible not to see the resentment, resignation, and humiliation on Bryan Cranston’s face and the mixture of fear and joy on Aaron Paul’s, a moment that has to remind the viewer of the duo whose chemistry was so often at the center of this show. They have been completely torn apart at this point, and that’s without Jesse even knowing that Walt essentially killed Jane way back in season two. And for the first time, Jesse seems to have won. But of course, as we already know has to happen, the neo-nazis show up, stopping Jesse from winning and continuing Heisenberg’s consistent good luck even when he has resigned himself to failure.

The episode actually began with more of the Continuing Adventures of Todd, Weird Boy, as he completed a cook at a purity of 76% in front of his uncle and Lydia but it came out not blue and then he used his connection to his uncle to apparently hit on Lydia, who was perfectly willing to use his attraction even if she was going to turn down the offer. I’ve said that Todd is a psychopath and also just plain weird, but probably the most clear case of both things we’ve seen is his hitting on Lydia by suggesting that he could have his uncle “smooth things over” with her buyers. Lydia seems to know what’s going on and is manipulative enough not to run away even though she does not want what Todd is offering (either textually or subtextually). It’s a sequence that continues to build both characters, something the show has desperately needed to do for some time. At this point, I feel like I have a handle on Todd but that he’s a rather simplistic character, but Lydia still feels rather enigmatic. She’s obviously very intelligent and she’s a willing manipulator, but it’s difficult to pinpoint much else about her.

Next up, Walt explains his plans to the neo-Nazis, who agree to kill Jesse but want payment in the form of Heisenberg cooking to teach Todd. Walt reluctantly agrees, but the really important thing from this scene is that we learn that he not only doesn’t know that Jesse is working with Hank at this point but seems offended at the very suggestion that Jesse could be a “rat.” In the end, what finally allowed the law to catch up to Heisenberg was his trust of Jesse Pinkman.

Then, Jesse’s phrase (“I’m going to get you where you really live.”) from last week turns out to mean exactly what I first thought–the money. His plan is to get Huell to flip and tell them where the money is, but Walt already planned for that and kept that knowledge from Huell. Hank then takes a picture of a barrell of money and has Jesse call about it, claiming to have found the money and be burning it. The plan works and lures Heisenberg out of Walt and into the desert, plus gets him to angrily admit to a number of crimes on the phone with Jesse.

Michelle MacLaren, as always, does a beautiful job. The wonderful mix of low-key lighting and red coloring in the scene between the neo-Nazis and Walt is an excellent visual that emphasizes the dark deeds going on and perhaps even emphasizes the Nazi connections by using their flag’s colors as the dominant colors for the scene. The red-hued Todd looking down into the darkness, a willing participant in blood but not a true member of the evil, is an image any film would be proud of, let alone a television show.

There wasn’t really much that happened this episode. In fact, it felt a bit drawn out to me. However, it’s a little difficult to complain about an episode with such a tense climax. It’s a worthy episode, though honestly perhaps the weakest of this amazing final half-season so far.

Notes

  • “Timmy Dipshit” is a great insult.
  • Why does Skyler give Saul back a ten and five fives? Really, she doesn’t have any twenties and only has one ten? At a car wash where the typical wash seems to be $14.95? Weird. However, I love that Walter Jr. knows the commercials and is excited to meet “the lawyer guy” from them. A great moment of levity in an episode that was otherwise (understandably) light on it.
  • Hank says the van didn’t have GPS, “But Walt doesn’t know that.” Did anyone else immediately think, “Walt would know that?”
  • Say goodbye to Jesse Pinkman, folks. His exit has been drawn out long enough, and I don’t see how Gilligan & co. take it any further. Take a bow for one of the all-time great television performances over the life of this series, Aaron Paul, and then exit stage right.
  • So, he’s heading to Haji’s Quick Vanish to get away from the neo-Nazis, it seems, but what brings Walt back to town, needing a machine gun in the trunk and a vial of ricin, seems more difficult to figure out than ever.
  • Calling Marie felt like it was just added to fill time. The exchange with Saul similarly felt like filler. Especially for an episode written and directed by two of the strongest veterans on the show’s staff, there seemed to be a lot of filler time in this one.
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8 thoughts on “TV Episode Review: “Breaking Bad” “To’hajiilee” (05.13, 2013)

  1. Good recap. I liked this episode more than last week’s, which seemed to have more filler and drag on a bit.

    The final 20 minutes were outstanding. My predictions are worthless, so here they are:

    — Gomez has to die. I would say the same about Hank, but I’m a little surprised they didn’t kill him to end the episode. Wouldn’t it be odd to have Hank be shot dead in the first 5 seconds of the next episode?

    I don’t know how, but I’m thinking maybe Hank escapes. Otherwise, I just don’t know why they didn’t have the neo-Nazis shoot them both dead and end the episode all silent clock style.

    — I think Jesse might escape.

    — The ricin is for Todd.

    — I would say the machine gun is for the neo-Nazis, but I don’t know how Walt plans on gunning them all down. Walt isn’t the machine gun type, so who knows.

    • I actually feel like there are a ton of directions for that scene to end up, but I think they may want to kill off all other storylines so that we get two solid hours of Walt’s finale.* Since I think that’s going to be Walt vs. Todd/Lydia (ricin for Lydia; gun for Todd/neo-Nazis), that means the end of Jesse and Hank/DEA now.
      Certainly all of your thoughts are valid, though.

      *I’m betting the next episode spends a considerable amount of time either with Future Walt or with Lydia at the beginning before it gets to the end of that shootout, so little of the episode will actually be spent on Walt’s finale.

  2. Good post. I have a few responses:

    -I think Jesse may survive til the end. He’s Walt’s most worthy adversary. And I like him. I think a lot of people do. When he’s eliminated – will the audience be as riveted?

    -I had the same thought you did about the GPS. I think if they’d excluded that bit entirely and simply tricked Walt with the money barrel photo, it would have worked. Walt acted as hastily as he did because the threat of losing everything horrified him. His rationality was out the door.

    -I interpreted the phone call with Marie as a teaser for Hank’s victory. He was so ready to pat himself on the back that he lost focus of his goal. Doesn’t he know that sentimentality is often punished in this show?

    Can’t wait for the next episode.

    • People definitely like Jesse.

      I think that his death will be what finally turns the entire audience against Walter White. There have always been holdouts who actively root for him, some of whom even claim that he’s not a bad guy, but killing Jesse (by his own hand or someone else’s) will be the end of that. It will make them angry, which I suspect is the reason it didn’t happen in this episode, but they will watch to see Walt finally get his comeuppance.

      I think the phone call was as much as anything a way to keep Hank there long enough for Jack and his crew to get there, but it was also a typically Breaking Bad moment of punishing hubris, since as you say he was so happy to pat himself on the back that he quit paying attention. It just felt to me like it was just unnecessary, a bit out of character for Hank, and thus was really padding for the episode. It also was probably meant as the heartbreaking goodbye moment for Marie, as she says she feels better now and then her husband is going to die.

    • I just finally listened to this, and I think Dan Fienberg does a better job of explaining what I didn’t like about calling Marie in this podcast: http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/firewall-iceberg-podcast-episode-200-sons-of-anarchy-breaking-bad-more

      I thought I would go ahead and share that. Their discussion is excellent on this one, so it’s worth a listen. Obviously I’m closer to Fienberg’s position than Sepinwall’s, but I also care more about visual aspects than either of them and this episode was certainly well-done enough visually to make up for a lot of its narrative shortcomings.

  3. Great review. Well, I used to like Jesse till he ratted out on Walt. I hate him and there should be no mercy for that. And to top that he spitted on Walt, that is just a no no, Coward, Bitch!!! I wish that the neo-nazis kill Hank and Jesse both there. I almost cried when Walt cried after feeling helpless in the desert. I am 100% with Walt.

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