Breaking Bad ended the first half of its season five last Sunday, and if you haven’t checked out the recap and our weekly power rankings, now’s the time to do so. However, as we take a breather for the next ten months, there’s a lot to digest, mull over, and consider as we head into the final eight episodes. Some have suggested that Sunday’s episode could’ve doubled as a satisfying series finale, but I think there were too many open questions that still need to be answered. I doubt that Gilligan will answer ALL of the nagging questions remaining, but these 9 open ones seem like the most important to consider over the break.
The Vial of Ricin — The ricin, still unused, re-appeared in Sunday night’s episode, and was nearly used to take out Lydia before she hatched a plan to distribute the meth in Czechoslovakia. It’s not gone yet, though. Walter put it back behind the electrical socket, and it will no doubt reappear next season. Who will be the recipient? Early odds are on Hank.
Jesse’s Gun — A literal Chekhov’s gun, in the final scene with Jesse, he slid a gun across the floor after a meeting with Walt in which he feared he might need to use it. A close-up on a gun like the one employed in this episode wouldn’t be by accident. Not in Vince Gilligan’s world. The gun will certainly come back into play, but who will be its victim? Walt? Hank? Todd?
What’s Up with Todd — Speaking of Todd, we were given no indication of how he dealt with Walt retiring from the meth business. There are four people at the moment, who could really do Walt in: Jesse, Skyler, Lydia, and Todd. Todd is easily the more expendable of the four, and the one most likely to disappear without raising any eyebrows, although at this point, his uncle (and Devil from “Justified”) could connect the potential death of Todd back to Hank, should they want to do so.
What’s Jesse’s Role — Meanwhile, Jesse has a gun, two duffel bags worth of money, and a lot of free time on his hands. Walt is the centerpiece of the show, but Jesse is Breaking Bad’s most dynamic character. How does he fit in to the second half of the season? Hank’s pursuit of Heisenberg, it seems, is the only thing that could bring the two back together. Will Jesse turn on Walt? After all, Jesse is in the midst of a deep crisis of consciousness, he’s terrified of Walt, and he doesn’t appear to have a lot to live for. Will he sacrifice himself to take out Walt? I think Jesse could ultimately end up the hero of Breaking Bad.
Is He Really Out — There were a lot of questions surrounding whether Walt is actually out of the meth business, and it’s hard to believe that he could’ve gotten out so cleanly, not without putting himself in danger with his new distribution partners, nor raising the eye of Lydia and Todd. Surely, those two have enough money to remain content, but I seriously doubt Walt’s new stateside and international partners would so easily allow him out of the game, not unless he left the keys to Todd, who has taken over the business.
Walt’s Cancer — Then again, it’s very obvious that Walt’s cancer has returned from the MRI scene, and from what we know from the flash-forward, which saw Walt coughing and taking pills. One recapper (who I can’t recall) also suggested that the the montage sequence with the fumigation tents was also a metaphor for the spread of Walt’s cancer. Knowing that his life is about to end is reason enough to get out of the business, so maybe he has left?
Marie’s Shirt — Everyone has picked up on the fact that Marie — who is always seen wearing purple — was seen wearing a yellow shirt in the scene out by the pool. What does it mean? What is the symbolism of yellow? Considering that it’s also the color that Walt and Jesse wear while making meth, that it’s one of the colors of the fumigation tents, that it was a color often worn by Gus, and that it is the color of Hazard signs, it’s reasonable to believe that Marie is now a threat to Walt. Will she be the one that helps Hank to connect the dots?
Leaves of Grass — Whether or not he’s gotten out of the meth trade, the biggest question remaining is why was Leaves of Grass sitting on his toilet? One argument says it was a silly, accidental mistake, but the other says that it was intentional. That Walt — who is dying — wants to be caught. He wants credit for making millions. He built an empire. He killed a lot of people. He was in it as much for the power as for the money. Would his ego allow him to disappear quietly? Walt is a meticulous man who never makes a mistake. I think he would rather be found out than die anonymously. His ego is too big. I also think the money to Jesse was not just a peace offering, but a message to Jesse to split. Get out of town. Things are about to go pear shaped.
Will Walt Find Redemption — On a personal level, this is the most important open question to me. Will Walt find redemption? Will he continue piling up bodies, grabbing power, and adding to his coffers, or will the virtuous chemistry teacher who only wanted to ensure that his family lived comfortably after his death return?
Whether or not you believe that Walt is wearing a wire in the flash-forward sequence, I do believe that he’s working with the Hank and the DEA. The specter of death can have a profound effect on even the most evil of people. The fact that he’s grown back his hair, distancing himself from Heisenberg (and apparently, giving up on chemotherapy treatments) suggests to me that, in the end, he’ll deliver on his promise to Skyler that she will like him again before it’s all over. I think he’ll want to not only ensure his legend remains intact, but that he’ll want to do right by his family. He certainly feels a lot of love for Walt Jr. and Holly, and I think he’s going to want to do something to gain their respect, especially if Walt Jr. finds out the truth about him.
I believe Walt’s story is one of a anti-hero turned villain turned tragic hero, a man felled by his own hubris. But I do think that Vince Gilligan will pull off a narrative feat by making us feel compassion for him before again before it’s all over. We’ll find out next summer.