Extended Cut: Breaking Bad – “Confessions” (Season 5, Episode 11)

Breaking Bad is a series unafraid to mine its past, delving into earlier seasons for images and icons and details. Small moments pulsate with added emotion, layers of meaning conveyed through a tarantula creeping its way across the desert floor, or a pack of cigarettes distorting within a clenched fist. Even a half-glimpsed Hello Kitty phone in Saul’s drawer reappears this week. The narrative finds breadcrumbs littered through earlier seasons and consumes them voraciously, whether it’s the morsel of Saul’s vacuum-cleaner vanisher, or more substantial hunks: Huell’s nimble fingers revealing Walt’s betrayal of Jesse and Hank’s health care subsidies proving less than legitimate.

Aaron Paul and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 11 - "Confessions"

Walt’s “confession” was a jolt to the system; one that left me agape, silently staring at the screen, mirroring Hank and Marie. It seemed wholly plausible that the video would be a genuine confession, given we know that Heisenberg will ultimately be unmasked, and that Walt fundamentally seeks recognition. More than recognition, though, Walt hates to lose, and the video is a glove across Hank’s face, a demonstration of the ruthless intelligence that impelled Walt’s rise to meth kingpin. That’s understating things: it’s less a glove than an anvil, an immense, unexpected weight. “You killed me here,” gasps Hank as the true source of the money that funded his recovery is revealed, that inescapable anvil descending upon him.

“Confessions” is about such anvils; burdens that have been hanging implacably over these characters’ heads for seasons now by fraying threads that are beginning to snap. The first half hour watches Hank crumble at the knees as he realises the extent to which he has tied himself to his brother-in-law. The second half hour instead surveys the severance of a once strong bond, the paternal link between Walt and Jesse. The episode goes out of its way to emphasise the strength of the connection between the two men – Jesse even describes Walt as a “concerned dad” before collapsing into his arms.

Maybe it could have ended there. Maybe Jesse could have created a new life, away from his mistakes and his murders and his meth. But Breaking Bad is not a show content to let its characters escape, not a show that allows its players to flit away from those dark masses that loom over them. When Walt poisoned Brock he threw off the shackles of morality and humanity that made him Walter White, so it seems fitting that this act would come back to irreversibly taint his relationship with Jesse. The way the episode gently uncovers Jesse’s revelation is masterful; from the moment he realises he’s been robbed to his fierce confrontation in Goodman’s office, the tension only increases.

The hour ends with its characters at the bottom of an inescapable chasm, more ominous anvils crowding above them. Does the phone that Saul uses to call Walt – a pink phone, a colour that often represents death in Breaking Bad – foretell a tragic end for someone in Walt’s family? Are Holly and Junior at home as Jesse drenches their house in petrol, consumed with fiery rage? And what roles do Todd and his blood-stained relatives have to play in this heady tragedy? The straining threads holding back such tragedy are ready to snap, the combined weight of these people’s shared histories ready to consume them all.

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