‘Breaking Bad’ Review and Recap: ‘Fifty-One’

SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEK’S EPISODE BELOW

Weeks of deep, vacant stares and heavy depression from Skylar have begun to result in drastic action coinciding with Walt’s 51st birthday and the official one year mark since the events of the pilot episode. Within one year from now, and no more than 12 episodes in the series to cover that ground, Walt will be purchasing an M-42 machine gun in the parking lot of a Denny’s far away from home. Judging by the way things are going so far and the fact that Walt’s fake ID lists his last name as Skylar’s maiden name, it should be a safe conclusion that Skylar will be permanently out of Walt’s life one way or another. The moments between the family this episode were some of the most tense, awkward, and suspenseful moments that have happened in the White household. Walt’s dual personas, family, and “work,” have always remained disturbingly separate. Even when everything has been close to crashing down, Walt can still somehow put it all aside and pretend that he’s still the same family man he always was. Skylar’s burden of having to know and live with who Walter really is has finally begun to take its toll.

Walt’s insistence on having a party for his birthday is a long shot from his 50th, where he was surrounded by friends but still mostly eclipsed by Hank’s brutishness. While it’s only family this time and a more laid back dinner, Walt’s first reaction when he gets home is clearly that he was expecting more. He seems to always expect more and more coming to him, whether it’s nice cars or an unending supply of methylamine. His speech where he reflects on the past year puts in perspective that what he’s been willing to do in the name of family has only grown more sinister. Skylar can only take so much of it and has a strange meltdown/cry for help in the pool. Plenty of memorable scenes have already taken place in or next to the pool and this week’s scene even somewhat mirrors a climactic moment from the last season of The Sopranos.

The confrontation between Skylar and Walt that follows again shows just how far Walt is willing to go to keep his plans afloat. His mind games and passive aggressiveness get put aside for a moment where he demonstrates in cruel detail exactly how a final conflict between them might end. Skylar wants the kids out of the house for good and will hurt herself more severely to keep them away. Walt says he will have her committed. Skylar says she will make it look like an act of abuse. Walt counters with what it would mean to explain this to Walter Jr. While crying, Skylar admits that she doesn’t know what to do until a more permanent solution happens. In that moment, she admits to hoping that her husband will finally die of cancer. The long standing threat that, barring a more violent ending, has been the expected conclusion to Walt’s story might not even be a sad ending anymore.

Also worth noting:

– Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) returns to the show for this episode. His flourishes make the more dramatic and suspenseful moments stand out in flashy ways. That ticking clock at the end of the episode . . .

-The opening scene seemed a bit out of step with the rest of the episode. A bit too much with the dubstep and showy cars. It looked like a commercial. Seeing Walt’s iconic car come back, if only briefly, was a fun surprise, especially the joke about the windshield getting broken so many times.

-Lydia’s high strung ways make for both funny and tense moments with her mismatched shoes and her encounters with the DEA.

-Mike’s notion of sexism is that Lydia “deserves to die as much as any man he ever met.” No more half measures.

-Hank’s new role is guaranteed to ensure that if Walt ever does get caught, there is no way it won’t be under his watch.

-Jesse is only in a few scenes, but by now he is not only firmly “Mike’s guy,” he’s also nice enough to buy Walt a birthday present. It’s always possible to feel even worse about where Jesse has ended up in his life.

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