Breaking Bad: 501 “Live Free and Die” Review

This is it, folks. The final season of “Breaking Bad” is underway and fans couldn’t be more excited and devastated at the same time. It’s been a long and hard journey for Walter White, which means it’s been a nail-biting and intense past couple years for us at home. The final season starts with a bang. If you didn’t get a chance to watch “Breaking Bad” last night, here’s what you missed:

The episode begins with Walter White in an unspecified state eating at a Denny’s on his 52nd birthday…alone. He’s looking pretty roughed up and he’s actually sporting a full head of hair for the first time in literally years. He makes small talk with Lisa, the waitress serving him, and she reveals that he’ll get his meal free with valid identification. He reluctantly agrees and hands her a license. She responds with something to the effect of, “New Hampshire, huh? You’re a long way from home.”

They continue talking and a mysterious man enters from the background. He’s out-of-focus but the camera follows him, leading us to believe that he has some importance in this scene. Sure enough, a few seconds later Walt makes his way to the bathroom. He slips the man an envelope and the man slips him some car keys. The unnamed man asks Walt if “it” is leaving the country. Walt replies, saying that “it” isn’t leaving town. He leaves the restaurant quickly, leaving a $100 bill under his untouched plate of food.

In the parking lot, Walt grabs a duffel bag full of something that isn’t revealed. He finds the car to which the keys he was just handed belongs, and in the trunk is an M60 with upwards of a thousand rounds. An instruction manual is placed neatly under the gun, and after staring at it, putting the duffel bag in the trunk, and closing the door, the main credits roll.

Going back to present day, the White family is in a frenzy over the death of Gus, Walt’s former boss. Skyler is on the phone with Walt and asks him what’s going to happen next. Walt replies with, “We’re safe.” She asks if he knows anything about Gus’ death, only to be met with statement, “I won.” Going back to the White household, Walter cleans up everything he used to make the bomb, and puts the Lily of the Valley plant, the one he used to poison Brock, in his trunk just in time for Skyler and Walter Jr. to come home. In the bedroom, Skyler confesses to Walt that she’s relieved he’s alive, but that she’s scared of him. She leaves the room and Walt says, “Oh shit.”

Cut to Hank and Merket in Hazmat suits investigating the remains of Gus’ underground lab, which has now been turned into a big pile of nothing. Two unrecognizable bodies have been left, and after Merket tells Hank that he’s allowed to say, “I told you so,” Hank sees a charred piece of metal and plastic. The two theorize what it could be and Hank ends the scene with, “Maybe a camera?” We then see Mike, who is still recovering from his wounds. He’s being told that Gus is dead and he speeds away in his car.

A few miles down a dirt road, he runs into Walt and Jesse, almost running into them. After planning to shoot Walt, Jesse convinces Mike that he has something important to say. Reluctantly lowering his gun, Mike listens to Walt who says that they’ve all been caught on the cameras. The only way to clear their names completely would be to erase all the memory from the computer. The only way to do that, of course, would be to steal the computer…or would it? In the midst of an argument between Mike and Walt, Jesse chimes in with the idea of a magnet. Magnetic forces usually destroy computer hard drives, but where can they get a magnet big enough to do the job?

The junkyard! The three bald-headed criminals visit Old Joe who says that they can put his car compactor magnet into a U-Haul truck and park it in front of the police station. They can then turn on the magnet, destroy the computer, and be out of there before anyone sees them. Meanwhile, Saul visits Skyler at work to reveal the news that Ted Beneke, who was thought to be dead at the end of Season 4, is in the hospital and has “just woken up”.

She pays him a visit but is shocked to see his condition. He’s attached to a metal head brace that is literally drilled into his head. His head is shaved and he looks like he hasn’t slept in days. In a surprisingly touching scene, Ted promises Skyler that the only thing the police know about is the fact that he tripped and fell. It was a freak accident and he swears that because of his wife and kids, he wants no trouble and won’t ever breathe a word of what happened. Call me crazy, but I don’t see things ending well for Mr. Beneke.

Back to Mike, Walt, and Jesse, they’re able to successfully destroy the computer (at least they’re pretty sure they did), and make it away without being caught, but Walt turned the magnet on so high that they truck tipped over. They’re forced to ditch it and make it away in Mike’s car. When asked why he knows the computer was destroyed, Walt simply says, “Because I say so”.

The next morning the cops go through pieces of evidence piece by piece. They get to the laptop and report it as damaged and in pieces. We see that the frame of one of Gus’ photos was also broken during the incident. It’s revealed that bank account information that had previously gone unnoticed was hidden behind the picture, written in pen in the lining of the frame.

Saul tells Walt about Skyler helping Ted to pay off the IRS. He’s upset Saul never told him about her giving away more than $600,000 of his money to the man she was sleeping with, despite Saul explaining that it’s just good business. When Walt starts yelling at him, Saul says “we’re done.” Walt walks behind the desk and gets in his face: “Were done when I say we’re done.” Walt tells Skyler he heard what happened to Ted. She says Ted won’t talk and Walt proceeds to lean in for a hug. In an equally chilling and terrifying moment, he says “I forgive you.”

This is a great and dynamite start to the final season and I’m literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the next episode. The directing is the best “Breaking Bad” has to offer. By not overdoing the innovative shots the show is known for, the suspense is heightened even more than it needs to be due to its gorgeous photography. The music fit the mood perfectly. Specifically, a scene where Walt tries to hide all the bomb-making materials ended with a deeply haunting and fascinating fade out that reminded me a lot of the score for Insidious.

As for the cast, everyone is back and ready to play. Bryan Cranston becomes more and more intense every season, and his voice is close to resembling that of Christian Bale in The Dark Knight. Jesse’s importance to the show is becoming more defined and I feel like he’s going to play a pivotal part in the series’ climactic scenes. All in all, “Breaking Bad” is off to a great start and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has to offer.

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