The final half-season of AMC's acclaimed, obsessed-over, and perhaps overly dissected drug drama/descent into hell Breaking Bad premieres on Sunday, marking the beginning of what we hope is a series of answers and resolutions that will put this marvelous series under the ground satisfactorily. There are lots of questions — spoilers will abound from this point forward — but maybe the biggest one, posed right at the start of the first half of this final season, remains completely mystifying.
Meaning, forget Hank's last-minute discovery or any other loose ends that dangled tantalizingly at the end of last summer's run of episodes. What the heck was happening in the season five premiere? You know, the whole "Live Free or Die" thing with a big gun and a surprising amount of hair. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan frequently uses a flash-forward framing device to shape his seasons — remember the recurring teddy bear eye scenes that culminated in the shattering second season finale episode "ABQ" — but this final tease feels, perhaps just because of its finality, more elusive and intriguing than all the others.
Remember that beginning? It's Walt's 52nd birthday, so it's exactly two years after where the show began at his sad 50th birthday party in the pilot. But this time he's alone — no wife, no son.
He's at a Denny's and, OMG, he has a full head of hair.
But something's off, as something always is on this show. He tells his aggressively friendly waitress that he's from New Hampshire.
Then a suspicious man enters. Is this like the Sopranos finale, with mysterious and unknown characters filling a diner with anxiety?
But then, no, wait, Walt seems to know this guy. Or at least is expecting him.
And sure enough, Walt excuses himself to go to the bathroom and we witness a trade.
Money is exchanged for keys and Walt asks if there's an instruction manuel for whatever lies beyond the lock that those keys fit.
Walt gives the guy money, he gets keys. To a car trunk with New Hampshire plates.
And inside, uh oh!
Is an enormous gun.
What does Walt need this for? Why was he in New Hampshire? We'll begin to find out on Sunday, this teasing opening moment that has yet to be referenced again. Is Walt getting revenge? Is Skyler dead and revenge is in order? What does it all mean??
At the end of the first half of season five (we're still dealing with the same season here, which is a little silly), Walt thinks he's out of the game, he tells Skyler as much, and has a contented, relaxed dinner with Hank and Marie. Then, of course, Hank goes to the bathroom and while doing a little reading, puts two and two together and realizes that the "W.W." inscription he found in a book at Gale's murder scene is, in fact, his brother in law. Hard stop and the season (season-half) ended. So, something happens between the present and that future with the gun in the trunk that both sends Walt fleeing and provokes his return. In last year's run of episodes, Saul tells Walt that he knows people who can make him disappear, go off the grid, if it ever comes to that, and it would seem that Walt has used that man's services, what with the new name and driver's license and all that. The rest of season five will, presumably, show us what happened that made Walt skip town, and what brought him back.
Are you excited? All of the series' previously aired episodes are on Netflix Instant at the moment, so if you need to catch up you have more than 48 hours. Why not join the party. It's a dark, depressing, seriously grim party, but it's still a party!