Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Top 10 Questions That Need to Be Answered In Season 5 of Breaking Bad

The fifth (and apparently final) season of Breaking Bad - the best show on television, shut up about Big Bang Theory or The Walking Dead or whatever the hell film waste you think is on its level - begins tonight. And if you're a fan of the show, odds are it's all you've been able to think about or talk about for the past two weeks at least.

That's because the story so far of Walter White's transformation into Heisenberg, the ruthless meth kingpin, has left us with a whole mess of unanswered questions. And Breaking Bad is a show that pretty much never introduces a story thread without resolving it. I mean, this is a show that had Walt spend a good portion of Season 2 building a crawl space in the family utility closet pretty much just so we could have this great shot in the third to last episode of Season 4. 

And let's not forget the other slow-burning gems that paid off big in the end, like the pink teddy bear in the pool, Walt's second cell phone, Skyler and "I fucked Ted" Beneke's relationship, and Hector Salamanca the kamikaze wheelchair pilot, among others. 

Because of that tendency to make everything significant, every little detail that has come up over the course of the first four seasons can seem to the obsessed Breaking Bad fan like it will be the key to the eventual downfall of Walt, Jessie, and everyone around them (because you just know they're all gonna go down in the end, and hard). With that in mind, I've compiled the following list of unanswered questions that I believe will factor into the final season in a major way.

Oh, and of course - if you haven't watched the first four seasons of the show, there are massive spoilers ahead, so don't say I didn't warn you.


1) What is Walt in for now that he's killed Gus?

Looking back on the second half of Season 4, one thing seems to really stand out: absolutely no one wanted to be the one to kill Gus. I mean, we all remember "that Terminator shit" Gus pulled with the sniper, right?

And of course, there was this scene, featuring Don Eladio - king shit of the Mexican drug cartel - outright saying that the only reason he didn't kill Gus is because he knows who he is and that he has some serious connections in Chile:

That is, no one wanted to kill Gus until Walt went ahead and actually did it (with one of the most badass assists of all time from Hector, of course). Pretty much everyone - the Mexican cartel, Mike, Jessie, and hell, possibly even the DEA - seemed to realize that actually taking Gus out would likely cause more problems than it would solve. But not Walt. And now that Gus is dead, I wouldn't be surprised if we found out exactly who he was and why he was so untouchable.

2) Will Jessie ever find out about all the horrible shit Walt has done?

Season 4 ended with Walt once again keeping himself, his secret, and his family safe, and - once again - he did it by royally fucking with the emotions and well-being of his apprentice, Jesse Pinkman. By this point in the series much of the audience's sympathy has shifted from Walt to Jesse, mainly because Jesse is the only person who has been in this with Walt since the beginning, and Walt just keeps on fucking with Jesse's life.

There are now two monstrous crimes against Jesse that Walt has committed in order to save his own hide. First, he literally stood about a foot away and watched as the love of Jesse's life, Jane, choked to death on her own vomit in a heroin stupor and did nothing to save her because she planned on taking Jesse away from him. This sent Jesse spiraling down to the darkest point he has ever been at in this show - we're talking sobbing incoherently on a soiled mattress in the middle of a heroin den. 

Second, after Jesse had managed to pick the pieces of his life up and start putting them back together with his new girlfriend Andrea and her young son Brock, Walt swoops in and poisons the poor kid and convinces Jesse that Gus did it so Jesse will help him get rid of Gus once and for all. Now come on - that stuff has got to come back to bite Walt in a major way. I'm talking series finale level stuff here.

And lest we forget - Mike's first appearance was to clean up Jane's apartment before the police showed up, and he knows someone else was there the night Jane died.

The show has even teased Walt spilling the beans on the whole Jane thing before, but you have to figure that as bad as that was, poisoning Brock was way worse. After all, Walt's big sticking point in their dealings with Gus was how Gus had no qualms with using kids as expendable soldiers in his drug business. If Jesse ever finds out any of this, I don't see any possible outcome other than either Walt or Jesse having to go. And what more inevitable way to end things than Walt vs. Jesse?

3) How did Walt manage to poison Brock, anyway?

Much has been made of the logistics of Walt poisoning Brock and how the whole scheme could have played out. After all, what mother would let a strange middle-aged man anywhere near her kid with a Sandusky lurking in every neighborhood? Was Saul involved? What about those papers Saul's secretary "Honey Tits" was seen shredding during the Season 4 finale? They sure did look like a college class schedule, exactly the thing that would tell Walt when Andrea would be away from Brock.

Or hell, what if Walt enlisted Skyler to pose as a fellow mom at the park or something equally diabolical? No way she would be down for poisoning a child. Maybe unless her own children were threatened, that is.

All speculation aside, I prefer the idea that Walt somehow did it himself. There is, after all, that stretch in "End Times" where we don't even see Walt for a third of the episode, and multiple characters call his phone only to be sent straight to voicemail. Odds are Walt was too busy slipping some Lilly of the Valley into Brock's Lunchables to take any calls. 

The reason so much speculation surrounds Walt poisoning Brock is because it's the only time in the course of the series that we haven't been with Walt every step of the way as he comes up with a plan and carries it out. And to be honest, I actually hope we never find out  how it all went down. That uncertainty is part of what made the reveal that Walt was behind the poisoning so effective. It effectively threw any credibility Walt had left out the window, and further distanced us - the audience - and our sympathies from Walt, who used to be our protagonist in this tale. Now we can't even rely on Walt to tell us the whole story. 

4) How will Skyler deal with the knowledge that her husband is not only a confirmed drug baron, but now a confirmed murderer?

When Skyler first had her suspicions of Walt's clandestine moneymaking operation confirmed in Season 3 ("I'm not a drug dealer! I'm... a manufacturer.") she was memorably disgusted. One of the best Skyler/Walt scenes in Season 4 featured Walt's "I am the one who knocks!" speech, in which he hinted at just how much he has changed as a result of his forays into the criminal underworld. And again, Skyler had to deal with the fact that the mild-mannered Walt she once knew is long gone.

Jump to the last moments of Season 4. Skyler knows all about Gus and his threats against the family, and has just seen the news flash on TV reporting an explosion at a nursing home that claimed the lives of not only Gus but two others. Almost immediately, she's on the phone with Walt, asking if this was his doing. His only response: "I won."

Now, all of Skyler's character progression and her own descent into the dark side aside, she's still pretty much the show's biggest wet blanket when it comes to Walt and his life of crime. She spent much of the series unsure of what Walt has been getting himself into. Now she knows with 100% certainty that the man she fell in love with, married, and with whom she has raised a family has become one of the biggest meth cooks in the Southwest and is capable of orchestrating a massacre at an old folk's home of all places. How the hell does she come to terms with all of that?

5) What is the fate of Ted Beneke?

Much of Skyler's progression into a more amoral character over the course of the first four seasons revolved around her relationship with Ted Beneke, her former boss who is just too dumb to live in the world of Breaking Bad

When Skyler's shady bookkeeping practices for Ted's company threaten to come back to haunt the both of them - especially Skyler, who has moved on to laundering Walt's meth earnings - and idiot Ted refuses to accept the only logical way out (pay his back taxes with a $600,000-plus gift of dirty money from the White family), Skyler turns to shady lawyer Saul and his band of incompetent thugs in order to force Ted to do the smart thing: pay off the IRS and keep everyone out of federal prison. Of course, the whole thing famously backfired, and Beneke - moron that he is - took a nasty spill as he attempted to flee Skyler's hired goons.

The thing is, the show never really came right out and said what became of Beneke as a result of his header into the kitchen counter. Did he crack his skull open and die? Massive head trauma leading to a coma? Severed spinal cord leaving him a paraplegic? Who knows? But if a crippled Beneke comes back in a M.A.N.T.I.S. suit looking for revenge against Walt, that would be the greatest thing ever. 

6) What's the deal with the shadowy German parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos? 

Madrigal Electromotive. With all of Hank's digging into the tangled web connecting Gus, Gale Boetticher, Los Pollos Hermanos, the laundromat superlab, Walt, and Jesse, the only piece of the puzzle he managed to turn up that we don't already know all about is the mysterious German conglomerate that sold Gus his state-of-the-art air filtration systems. And with Gus and Gale dead and the superlab torched by Walt and Jesse, look for Madrigal Electromotive to be the only straw Hank has left to grasp as his investigation continues in Season 5.

But just what exactly is Madrigal Electromotive? Just some company who makes air filters? A made-up foreign entity created by the ultra-careful Gus Fring in order to help keep some distance between his public persona and his secret life as a meth kingpin? Or could it be some face of the mysterious force that was behind Gus all along? Because everything we think we know about Gus points to there being a much bigger, much uglier picture lurking behind him.

7) What is Mike's true role in all of this?

And call me crazy, but I don't think there is any bigger indicator of a big picture behind Gus Fring than Mike "The Fixer" Ehrmantraut himself. For a character with so much face time, we know next to nothing about Mike, outside of his good relationship with his granddaughter and that he used to be a cop. And as far as I can tell, it's never even really been made clear who Mike works for.

Think about it. When we first meet Mike, it's as Saul's fixer. On Saul's behalf, he comes to clean up the messes that Walt and Jesse get themselves into. And it is through Mike that Saul puts Walt and Jesse in contact with Gus - the implication being that Mike works directly under Gus. But for some reason, the idea of Mike as this former cop who was hired by Gus to oversee the more militant aspects of his meth business never really did it for me. I'll admit this is probably because I like Mike so much as a character that I think his motivations have to be way deeper than they appear on the surface.

The big red flag when it comes to Mike for me is this: he is the only one who really seems to know who Gus is and why he should never be messed with. This influences a lot of his actions throughout Season 4, especially when it comes to Walt's constant scheming to get Gus out of the picture. But there are a few points where Mike seems to suggest he knows no more about Gus than the other characters do. For instance - Mike insists that, just like Hank, he could find no record of Gus Fring's previous life in Chile. So why is he so scared of Gus? Does Mike strike you as the kind of man who would let speculation and intimidation influence whose side he chooses? I think Mike knows exactly who Gus is, and I would not even be remotely surprised to find out it's because he is working for whoever was really behind Gus's whole operation. Likewise, I could see Mike being some sort of rogue undercover agent who was plotting to bring Gus down, only to have the whole thing blown to kingdom come by Walt and his prideful meddling.

Either way, the last think Mike ever wanted to do was side with Walt, and now with the way things have ended up he may no longer have a choice in the matter. Never forget that even if Mike pretty much actively detests Walt, he has an affinity for Jesse, and keeping Jesse safe means keeping Walt safe. So Season 5 is fixing to be a very interesting season for Mike.

8) When will Marie really come into play? What about Walt Jr.?

Speaking of characters that have to have more to them than we've already seen...

It speaks volumes about Breaking Bad that even a forgettable character like Marie keeps coming up in idle plot speculation. That's because the idea that Breaking Bad could actually have an inconsequential character in its main cast does not even remotely compute. Once again, this is the same show that opened episode after episode in Season 2 with inexplicable, contextless shots of a pink bear floating in a pool for weeks and weeks before it all paid off. Odds are, if something keeps popping up on this show, it is going to have a huge payoff. This is how we've been conditioned by the storytelling.

So, I'm sorry. There has to be more to Marie than just a kleptomaniac nuisance to her law-enforcement hubby. And yes, Marie's tiny acts of PG criminality do nicely parallel Walt's Scarface-esque rise to the top of the criminal underworld, and when taken all together Marie and Walt show how there are criminal tendencies lurking in even the most harmless people. That's nice, thematic stuff. But if you don't think Marie is going to be a big factor in the plot when it's all said and done, I truly believe you're kidding yourself.

And the same goes for Walter Jr. Sure, your helplessness provided some opportunities for some early badass Walt moments (as well as some equally memorable "Worst Dad Ever" moments), and it was awesome when Walt blew up that flashy sports car he got you for your birthday, but if that's all that he has to offer the story in the end, I'd be shocked.

9) What's up with Gomez?

Another prime example of a character that has to have more to him than meets the eye. Gomez has been there from the beginning as Hank's wisecracking ethnic partner at the DEA, but if that's all he is at the end of the series I'll eat a wax replica of Danny Trejo's head served on a turtle's back whole.

Throughout Season 4, I was convinced that Gomez was working for Gus. Something about the way he would always shit all over Hank's conspiracy theories concerning the chicken man's meth dealings reminded me of the all-too transparent way Walt would do the same thing on his ride-alongs with Hank. In fact, I thought all those DEA guys were always too quick to dismiss Hank's investigation into Gus. After all, could someone build such a massive criminal empire - especially a man as careful as Gus was - without making sure to have a few friends in law enforcement? Police corruption goes hand in hand with crime, and that's one of the few angles Breaking Bad has yet to play up.

10) Does Hank know?

Pretty sure he does.


  1. Question 10: I think he does. As season 4 progressed, I started getting the felling that he knew or was seriously suspecting but now, after S5 premiere--when the evidence team was putting the laptop in the evidence bag and that camera pans to Hank--his face was filled with horror, not excitement. He must have seen what was on the laptop otherwise, he would have been gleaming from ear-to-ear about collecting more evidence.

    Also, for Ep-2 coming attractions, as the DEA Chief is reflecting on how Gus was right under his nose, Hank seemed equally embarrassed and even pured a drink--he could not make eye contact and was looking at the floor.

  2. Can I add a Question 11?

    When hank was prepping Hector with the bomb plot and Victor is scanning the room and comes across the Don Elidio's pendant hanging on a picture frame: In the picture was Hector, Leonel and Marco, and a third child--who is that third child and could it be Steve Gomez?

    1. Sorry, I meant when Walt was prepping Hector