The title of the third of Breaking Bad‘s final eight episodes refers to two distinctly different types of confessions. The first is a complete and utter lie, while the second is coerced under much duress and ignites a fuse that’s been poised to burn for a couple of seasons. The lead-up to the explosive final moments was a slow build of tensions, masterfully woven together by creator Vince Gilligan, episode writer Gennifer Hutchison, and director Michael Slovis, adding up to a contender for one of the best episodes of the series.
It begins exactly where the previous episode ended, with Jesse Pinkman silently in a police interview room across from Hank Schrader, but unlike their prior, much more violent confrontation, Jesse holds all the cards. That said, Hank is no fool, playing it smart, and attempting to prove to Jesse that he’s on his side, he searches for a common ground. Hank senses Jesse’s unhappiness and tries unsuccessfully to use it to motivate a confession. Jesse remains silent, speaking only to dismiss Hank’s offer for protection in exchange for a confession. Then Saul finally shows up, threatening to sue every cop in the department if he can’t get some alone time with his client, there to bail Jesse out and take him to meet Walt in the desert.
Hank, for his part, continues to sweat the fact that he doesn’t have enough of a case against Walt to bring any of this up to the DEA. This fact is highlighted after a particularly tense meeting between Skylar, Walt, Hank and Marie at a Mexican restaurant, where an overly enthusiastic waiter tells them, “The guacamole is made fresh at your table.” The scene boils down to Walt allowing Hank one last opportunity to back off of the investigation and Hank vehemently refusing to let any of Walt’s past transgressions slide, even promising to take Skylar down with him if she continues to stand by his side. Walt and Skylar calmly stand and leave the table, Walt placing a DVD-R on the table before he exits.
The DVD contains the confession of Walter White; at least that’s what we’re led to believe, but Hank and Marie watch their TV in silent horror as Walt lays out a spellbinding and emotional “confession” about his involvement in Hank’s meth empire. No, you didn’t misread that and our editors are not drinking on the job (not more than the usual) — Walt’s confession is framed around the conceit that Hank has been the meth mastermind all along. He brilliantly lays out a timeline that begins when Hank approached Walt on his 50th birthday and invited him on a ride-along to a meth bust, planting the seeds and slowly forcing Walt into servitude as his cook. Walt continues to lay out the story, claiming Hank and Gus were partners who had a falling out, leading to a failed hit on Hank’s life and resulting in his injuries, and that he was then forced to build a bomb by a vengeful Hank, who had teamed up with Hector Salamanca to kill Gus Fring. On the video, Walt begins to cry as he relates the fear he’s been living under, using his current black eye as an example of what Hank does to him if he tries to leave his employ.
It is one of the single most devious, genius, and evil moves in the history of all anti-heroes. It’s such a malicious move that we’re not even sure anti-hero is the right word for Walt anymore. He’s a super-villain. He has also effectively neutered Hank, making mention in the video to paying all of Hank’s rehab bills to the sum of $177,000; Marie loses all color as the realization hits Hank that she took money from Walt and Skylar to pay for his medical expenses when their insurance denied the coverage. He flips out, “You’ve just killed me, Marie. That’s the final nail in the coffin!” And he isn’t wrong. With this information, he is officially too deeply involved to be able to get out of this without ruining his career and possibly becoming a sad cautionary tale told to new recruits in the DEA. It seems, at least for now, Walt has put out a fire… but there is an inferno on the horizon.
Walt and Jesse meet in the desert (“Always the desert,” as Saul remarks before being told to take a walk so that Walt and Jesse can talk). Jesse, as he has been all season, is mostly silent as Walt offers Jesse a chance to start his life over. He tells him about Saul’s guy who can give him a whole new identity. Walt lays it on thick, telling Jesse he cares for him and is worried about him, that he just wants him to have a shot as a normal life… maybe even a family. But Jesse has had enough of Walt’s lies, in one of the show’s most emotionally charged moments Jesse breaks down and admits how afraid he is of Walt. He claims to see through Walt and know that all he cares about is himself. His desire for Jesse to leave town is more about protecting himself than about giving Jesse a new lease on life. He screams at Walt to just admit that he doesn’t really care about Jesse, to just ask him like a man to get out of town instead of sugar coating it in this false father/son bravado. Instead Walt simply embraces the boy, and as Jesse sobs into his former chemistry teacher’s shoulder we’re left to wonder how much of Walt’s concern for Jesse is genuine.
For a brief moment it seems like we might not get our answer. The very next scene finds Jesse at Saul’s office being prepped on his meeting with the guy who’ll give him a new life. Although he’s still relatively silent Jesse has taken the offer, but he’s determined to go under his own conditions, ignoring Saul’s guidelines and lighting a joint in the office. Saul freaks out and makes Jesse extinguish the joint, telling him his guy won’t help him out if he smells like weed when he gets in the car. Jesse reluctantly puts out the joint but keeps a small bag of pot in his jacket pocket against Saul’s wishes. Then it’s time to leave, and Huell enters, ready to drive to the meet spot, and they bump into each other as Jesse walks out.
Moments later Jesse is alone on the side of Juan Tabo Boulevard (coincidentally enough the very same road on which Gale, the man Jesse murdered, lived), waiting for his new life to begin. He seems defeated, and broken. One gets the feeling he is going along with this plan purely because he’s lost the will to fight any longer. As he relaxes into the thought of this possible new life, he reaches into his pocket for his bag of weed. It’s gone. He checks his other pockets. The sound drops out as he checks them again. And again. And again. He pulls the contents of each pocket out, trying to recall the last moments in Saul’s office. Then he finds a pack of cigarettes, the same brand of cigarette the ricin was hidden inside, the ricin that he thought he lost, that he thought was responsible for poisoning Brock. Suddenly the pieces click together and a visible wave of rage rushes over Jesse Pinkman. He remembers Huell and the bump and another time he bumped into Huell… right before the ricin went missing. Just like that… over a stupid bag of weed everything changes.
Jesse rushes back into Saul’s office, slamming and locking the door behind him. He punches Saul in the face, and the attorney goes down hard, screaming “Code Red,” not looking for the discontinued brand of Mountain Dew but sending a signal to Huell to shoot the door down and come to his rescue. Jesse is prepared; as Huell busts into the room, he pulls out a gun and aims it at a bloodied Saul. He demands to know if Huell stole it from his pocket. Saul, thinking Jesse means the weed, confesses to asking Huell to lift it off him. Jesse clarifies: not the weed, the ricin. Saul confesses, our second confession of the episode, and Jesse leaves without another word.
We’re then taken to a tense scene at the car wash, where Walt tries to retrieve a gun he hid inside a vending machine without alerting Skylar that a potentially murderous Jesse is possibly on his way to kill them right now. Skylar, perhaps still reeling from the confrontation with Hank and Marie, doesn’t notice Walt’s jumpiness as he stuffs the gun into his pocket and hops back into his car.
At that very moment Jesse’s car skids to a stop on Walt’s lawn, as a furious Pinkman leaps out of the car, and pulls a giant can of gas out of his trunk. He then kicks open the front door to the house, begins to cover the living room in gasoline and…
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER VINCE GILLIGAN.
What the holy hell is going to happen next? Nothing about this final season has been predictable. Theories have flown about Walt having to rescue Jesse from meth cookers or Hank and Jesse teaming up to take down Walt, but nothing has come close to the actual twists and turns this show has taken. Next week brings us to episode four of eight; in the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think could possibly happen next.