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Next 'Breaking Bad': 'The Best Episode We've Ever Done'
September 13, 2013  | By Eric Gould

[Editor's Note: This story reveals details of Sunday's Sept. 8 episode of Breaking Bad.]

When Vince Gilligan tells you that last week's episode, To'hajiilee (above), was not as good as Breaking Bad gets, you'd better take notice...

Gilligan and the cast of Breaking Bad gathered together last July at the TimesCenter in New York for a panel discussion before the premiere of the second half of Season Five. During that presentation, which TVWW attended, Gilligan singled out director Rian Johnson (director of the claustrophobic Season 3 episode, Fly), calling him one of Hollywood's up and coming young talents.

Then, Gilligan added, "The third to last episode (which Johnson directs) will knock your socks off. It may be the best episode we’ve ever done. Unfortunately, there are two episodes after that.” That got a laugh out of the cast, and the audience.

And as Gilligan mentioned the episode, actor Bryan Cranston, who plays lead character Walter White, looked up at the ceiling, inhaled, and, remembering the episode, winced a little, and nodded in serious agreement.

He may have been thinking of the confrontation coming between sisters Skyler White (Anna Gunn) and Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), if brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) doesn't make it out of last week's shocking gun battle – which suddenly went to black in the middle, a la the finale of The Sopranos.

If Hank does make it out, TVWW has perhaps the only plausible explanation here.

Last week, we felt the full effect of Walter White's mythological corruption, as he put out the hit order on his surrogate son, Jesse (Aaron Paul), and, because of greed, lost his single greatest advantage over his enemies – his scientist's calculating intellect  and dispassion. He was tricked into leading Hank to the desert spot where he buried the seven plastic barrels of cash from his meth empire. The audience finally got the face-off between him and Hank, and his arrest.

We also saw the result of his hubris, his bargain with the devil – Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen). Making a deal to do one more meth cook for Jack in exchange for the hit on Jesse essentially has made Walt indebted to Jack now.  Jack and his crew arrived at the desert face-off to take what's theirs: Walt as their new meth cook, and the lives of the DEA agents in their way.

In the two respective flash-forwards in this year's half-season premieres, Walt is heading to a gun fight, shown with a military M60 caliber machine gun in his trunk. (One reader reminded me that it's a heavy weapon, capable of cutting a car in half.)

Following Vince Gilligan's pitch that Breaking Bad has been the story of "taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface," it seems likely, now, that Walt is off with that M60 to a showdown with Uncle Jack, similar to how Al Pacino went out in Scarface, after introducing his gangster rivals to "his little friend."

In both flash-forwards, Walt looks pretty much like a walking ghost: stripped of everything, his house abandoned, and driving a junked car. So the money is gone, and one of the few questions remaining is: What's happened to Skyler and the children?

Asked by an audience member at the TimesCenter panel whether Walt deserves to die, Cranston answered, “I think there’s a good case for that. That maybe that’s the fitful end. But what if the thing he wanted the most, the togetherness of his family, what if he lived and they didn’t? Wouldn’t that be a worse ending?”

Sunday's upcoming episode (AMC, 9 p.m. ET) is called Ozymandias, after the 19th-century poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It warns of how all leaders eventually fall. But it also suggests that their ego and arrogance – Walt's idea of empire – are as frail as the flesh.

The poem is worthy, as is Bryan Cranton's haunting voice-over and the Bad montage along with it... with Walt's trademark pork pie hat in tatters. The clip was made by AMC as part of the promotion for Breaking Bad's second half of Season Five:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

As Walt tells Jesse in the Season 5 Say My Name, "All the people that we've killed... If you believe that there's a hell – I don't know if you're into that – but we're already pretty much going there. But I'm not gonna lie down until I get there."

And given last week's gunfight, and the video of Ozymandias, hell may just be in the New Mexico desert, in the barren purgatory of the American frontier.

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