Breaking Bad – “To’hajiilee” (Season 5, Episode 13)

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 13 - "To’hajiilee"

“To’hajiilee” is an example of how Breaking Bad plays its audience like a musical instrument. The bulk of the episode stretches its viewers taut like a finely-tuned violin, ratcheting up the tension inexorably, whether it’s subtle bits of (potential) foreshadowing like Saul wearing pink (and a bullet-proof vest), Pinkman enacting a fugazi portrait of death by headshot or the story itself, which is full of scheming and sinister plots (including Walt’s plan to make that bullet-to-the-head a reality). What’s impressive about the dread that resounds throughout “To’hajiilee” is the way it’s not fear of any one result – but any result; we don’t want Walt to lose, but we certainly don’t want him to “win” either. The tension ultimately explodes in a climactic crescendo that promises a cathartic release then stunningly ceases mid-action.

The episode was tightly constructed and impossibly compelling, but it wasn’t flawless. The biggest false note for me was Walt’s rushed, comprehensive and awfully convenient confession to Jesse (which suggests that Hank may live out the day to use it against Walt). I’m also a little concerned that the primary antagonist in the final stretch will be the recently-established and sketchily-composed Neo-Nazis, but that remains to be seen…

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