This entire season has been about Walt consolidating his power and taking control of his “empire.” In this episode, Walt finally attains the kind of autonomy he could never have dreamed of. With Mike out of the picture (another victim of the tub and acid trick) and Jesse still in retirement, Walt is the only vote left. Walt has the absolute power to order the simultaneous hit of Mike’s 9 guys (plus the flipping lawyer) and he has the power to decide whether to take Lydia up on her Czech Republic offer or to put the ricin in her coffee. Walt’s two decisions result in two of the most visually stunning montages that this show has ever depicted. The prison killings and the global expansion of the Heisenberg empire were both juxtaposed onto light-hearted music (with “Crystal Blue Persuasion” being the quintessential meth-cooking song that I expect show creator Vince Gilligan has been saving up for a long time). Both demonstrated how efficient Walt could be while working on his own. However, hidden within the montage of the crystal going out and the money rolling in was a shot of Walt in an MRI machine. No matter how effectively Walt can control his empire, he can’t control the cancer.
Of course, the real surprise about Walt’s success is how little happiness it brings him. He’s got more money than he’s ever dreamed, more success, more adulation (of course, this adulation is limited to drug dealers, so maybe it’s not enough anymore), and more security, but he still doesn’t have his family. Post-montage, Marie reveals it’s been 3 months since the kids came to live with them, Skyler seems happier now, and so maybe it’s time for the kids to come home. In response, Skyler takes Walt to a storage unit where she’s hiding the giant mound of un-launderable money. It’s coming in so quickly that she’s stopped counting it. Now she just piles it up, keeps it dry, and sprays it so the silver fish don’t wreck it. It’s more than they can spend in 10 lifetimes, she tells Walt. When will it be enough?
Jesse asked Walt the same question a couple of episodes ago, reminding him that when he started, he only wanted to make $737 000. At that point, Walt wouldn’t listen but now, for some reason, he apparently does. Perhaps the cancer forced his hand. Perhaps, as suggested here, now that he’s the boss and things are running smoothly, he’s bored. It’s not fun anymore, and what’s the point in making a ton of money if you’re not having fun and if you don’t even have a family to go home to? For whatever reason, Walt comes home and tells Skyler he’s out. I don’t think that Declan or the Czech buyers would just let their supply leave with no replacement, so I suspect that Todd is remaining on as sole cook, keeping Heisenberg’s pure blue meth on the streets as part of Walt’s legacy. He might have gotten out, but the empire he built lives on. Maybe. We’ll have to wait for next season to find out for sure.
One thing that is certain is that nothing is ever as clean-cut as it seems. Jesse got out before Walt did, and he spends his days getting high and falling asleep on his couch with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Walt goes to visit him and Jesse senses danger lurking below the surface. He gets his gun and opens the door with fear and caution. What does Walt want with him now? It turns out, Walt just wants to reminisce. They talk about their old days in the RV, back when they were a team, figuring things out as they went. Jesse asks why they kept that junky RV after they had enough money to buy a new one, and Walt replies, “intertia.” It’s perhaps an explanation about why it took him so long to get out. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep doing what you’re doing than to try to figure out how to stop. As the awkward exchange fades away, Walt tells Jesse that he left him something on the porch. Still unconvinced of Walt’s innocent intentions, Jesse approaches the bags with trepidation. He clearly worries that he’ll get blown up like Gus, but instead he finds the $5 million that he’s owed. He throws the gun across the room and puts his head in his hands. Jesse may have gotten out, but the shadow of Walt and the horrors they committed together still hangs over Jesse. He may have gotten out, but he isn’t free.
The same shadow lurks on the penultimate scene around the pool, where the Whites and the Schraders make small talk while Walt Jr. pushes Holly around the pool. There’s nothing to suggest that this is anything other than the idyllic family afternoon that it appears to be, but getting out can’t be as easy as Walt made it seem. It turns out, though, that the danger wasn’t coming from the outside but was, like Walt’s cancer, originating from within. Hank uses Walt’s bathroom and stumbles upon the copy of Leaves of Grass that Gale gave to him. Seeing the inscription to his “other favorite W.W.”, Hank immediately flashes back to an earlier conversation, where he found a similar inscription in Gale’s notebooks and pondered with Walt over who that could be referring to. Back then, Walt was able to brush it off with a joking “you got me,” but this time, the look on Hank’s face says it all. All of the inconsistencies in Walt’s behaviour over the past year are coming into sharp focus as Hank sits on the toilet in Walt’s master bathroom. We have to wait for next season to find out exactly what he does with this newfound realization.
I don’t know why I bother making predictions, because this show is so good at twisting everything around, but here goes. Hank might now know that Walt is Heisenberg, but there isn’t one shred of evidence to prove it. The book might connect him to Gale, but I don’t know that it would be admissible in court and it certainly doesn’t prove that they were cooking meth together. Still, like other criminals before him, Walt made one small fatal mistake. He was so concerned with the big picture – with orchestrating the killing of witnesses, with disposing of bodies, with establishing international drug rings, with finding the perfect hiding space for the ever-present vial of ricin – that he overlooked the innocuous book. I’m also not entirely convinced that Walt even know that inscription was in there – the pages seem stuck together and it’s possible he never read it. Also, the book moved from a pride of place on his nightstand to the back of his toilet under some magazines. The Walt who brought that book from the condo to his home was at the height of his pride and his arrogance. That Walt kept the book as a trophy. A little reminder of the man who got in the way of him and his rightful place as the only genius meth cook in town. The new Walt, who has enough money and who just wants to spend time with his family, might have forgotten all about it. He might no longer see it as a trophy but as just an old book that he got in another lifetime. Whatever the reason it was kept, the fact is that Hank knows that the monster he’s been chasing has been under his nose this whole time.
I’m not totally convinced that Hank immediately arrests Walt. First, theres the aforementioned lack of evidence. Second, Hank’s boss got fired for not realizing Gus’ involvement, it’s impossible to imagine that Hank wouldn’t get the same treatment once it comes out that his brother-in-law is Heisenberg. Third, Hank and Marie have directly benefitted from Walt’s drug money, since Walt paid for Hank’s physical therapy. Would people really believe that no one else knew what was going on? Fourth, will Hank be willing to blow up his entire family and put both Walt and Skyler (his money launderer) behind bars for good?
All of these questions (and about a million more) will have to wait until next season, which might as well be an eternity away. One thing’s for sure, while this season was about Walt’s rise to power, next season will be about his spectacular fall. The question is, how many people will he take down with him?