Last night was the premiere of the first half of Breaking Bad's final season. Anticipation ran high among the show's devoted fanbase, ourselves included, so how did the episode measure up? Pretty well! It was an exciting, appropriately grim hour, one that almost approached silliness in parts, though they got away with it with the show's signature mordant humor.
The show opened with a teasing flash-forward of sorts, to an unidentified time when Walt is returning to New Mexico after a stint, it would seem, in New Hampshire. It's his 52nd birthday and he's alone at a diner, sporting a full head of darkly dyed hair, using a fake ID, and waiting for something, or someone. It turns out that he was waiting to buy some sort of enormous gun, for mysterious purposes. I suspect this timeline will be carefully developed over the course of the season, much like the teddybear-eyeball thing in season three. After the title sequence, we were back in the show's present, meaning the hours and days after Walter has successfully dispatched his former boss and would-be murderer Gus Fring. Walter is relieved, and even proud, that he ended his troubles with Gus in such decisive fashion, but he's disappointed that Skyler doesn't seem quite as grateful. She's worried, correctly, that it was Walt who organized this murder, and though she's glad to be back in her house safely, Walt still scares her.
The tables turn when Walt finds out about the mess with Ted Beneke. See, Beneke's still alive after his scary accidental fall last season, and there's some worry that he might still go to the IRS to report his, and Skyler's, misdeeds. Walter finds out about this from sleazy Saul Goodman, and is angry at Skyler for not telling him, but really furious, in a growling and threatening way, at sleazy Saul. Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk had an excellent, tense scene last night, one in which we got to see Walt in full bloom as a confident, powerful tough guy.
Speaking of tough guys, Mike is back and rip-roaring angry at Walt for killing his boss. Luckily Jesse intervened, stepping in front of a gun and everything, and convinced Mike that they had bigger problems to deal with collectively. See, Gus had a computer in his office that recorded all of the meth lab activity that was taken into evidence after Gus was killed, and if the feds watch that, well then it's game over for everybody. So how to get this computer out? Well, turns out it didn't need getting out, just destroying. And so in one of the show's delightfully odd set pieces, a giant junkyard magnet was used to scramble the computer. If this moment strained the credibility of the oftentimes starkly realistic show, we can forgive them because it was such a weird, wonderful moment. Best of all was that this wacky plan was Jesse's idea. So Walt becomes the crime world heavy and Jesse the science-minded ideas man. Tables turning indeed.
Of course all is not entirely peachy in old Albuquerque now that Gus has been neutralized. A photo of Gus and his murdered partner (lover?) was damaged during the magnet attack and one of the forensic guys doing inventory of the trashed evidence room noticed that, underneath the photo, which had slipped out of its frame a bit, was the account number for an offshore bank. Might there be some Walt-related connections hidden in that information? We'd guess yes, yes there most certainly could be.
We don't yet know who the season's big villain is going to be, or even if there will be one, but we have yet to meet a female associate of Gus's and whatever character Friday Night Lights's Jesse Plemons is going to play. Really, who knows! That opening was tantalizing and troubling — who is the big gun for? Is Walt getting revenge? Did something bad happen to Skyler or anyone else in the family? And why New Hampshire? These are questions we want answered. Though, really, we're happy to wait to find out. Fifteen more Breaking Bad episodes to go until it's all over, so let's savor each one.