Breaking Bad – Season 5, Ep. 1 – ‘Live Free or Die’ Review and Recap


How does one of the best shows on television follow up its best episode, filled with moments that are typical of the last season of most shows? The beginning of Breaking Bad’s fifth season managed to keep pace after the fallout of a very intense standoff between Walt and his former boss Gustavo Fring without merely tying up loose ends. Throughout the course of the episode, there were answers to important questions, reappearances of minor characters, and hints of what is still to come for the rest of the season.

First things first, the opening scene is not something anyone could have predicted. A glimpse approximately a year into the future shows Walt looking very different and in the middle of yet another face-off between an as of yet unknown target. Walt finds himself in a Denny’s in New Hampshire, which explains the episode’s title “Live Free or Die.” This scene is brilliantly constructed, allowing it to be anyone’s guess as to where we are and who we are watching until Walt builds himself a familiar looking bacon birthday dish. When we finally get a look at him, his hair and beard are radically different. At first I had wondered if this meant a full recovery was in store for Walt, but moments later we see him coughing as he takes another pill. Plenty remains unsaid in this scene. The payoff of this tease shows Walt purchasing a very large firearm from the same gun dealer who sold him his revolver. It’s anyone’s guess as to when the timeline of the show will catch up to this moment. Season finale? Mid-season break?

In the meantime, the immediate aftermath of the pipe bomb explosion provides plenty of excitement for Walt, Jesse, and the newly recovered but still badass Mike. The primary focus of the episode had a classic first season feel, much like when Walt and Jesse were donning ski masks to steal a barrel from a chemical plant. The idea behind their scheme to destroy Gus’ laptop filled with incriminating evidence is genius, fun, and has a homemade science experiment feel to it. The best part is that Jesse for once out-thinks Walt with his idea to use a high-powered magnet. The characters from the junkyard make their second appearance as they lend a hand in the trio’s unlikely solution. Those who saw the preview poster at this weekend’s ComicCon must have known immediately how this would play out.

Other very important developments include Ted’s rather unlikely reappearance. I and many others had been convinced that he had died at the hands of Saul’s A-team and that was the end of that. The moment Saul surprises Skyler with the news that “he just woke up” was one of the biggest twists of the episode. Ted’s first scene lingered a long time on Skyler’s reaction, giving an air of suspense and making everyone wonder if Ted could speak, move, or if he even knew where he was at all. Their conversation ultimately played out in a way that seems to wrap all of that up for now. Ted just looks intimidated at this point. If he becomes a major nuisance later on down the line it may not be too shocking, but there are certainly bigger concerns going on elsewhere.

Saul also confirms the speculation that he had his man Huell lift the ricin cigarette off of Jesse. The question is still open as to when the lily of the valley berry made it into Brock’s food or drink, but this plot thread will probably lie dormant for the time being. It may become a large factor by the end of the season, but there will be a complicated series of events before that. Viewers can expect a deeper look into the life and dealings of Gustavo Fring in the coming episodes. The slip of paper hidden in the frame (only noticed by the DEA after the destruction of Gus’ laptop) is guaranteed to bring many bombshells of information to light. Gus’ past and his accomplices will no doubt want to have a word with Walter White very soon. Maybe it will ultimately be one of them that sends him running to New Hampshire. Then again, it may end up being Mike and/or Jesse who turns against him. Big reveals are never easy to guess with this show and the twists and turns in the story have become more and more shocking.



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One Comment

  1. Just for the record, I think it's highly unlikely that in the opening scene Walt is IN New Hampshire. He must still be in Albuquerque. His new fake ID simply says that he's 'FROM' NH. Why else would, a) the waitress ask if New Hampshire was near Boston, b) would she ask why he's in this neck of the woods, presuming that he's probably on his way to California, or c) why would Mike have gotten ahold of his previous gun-dealer, who d) asks for Walt's word that the gun wouldn't pass over the border. He must be in ABQ.

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