42. Breaking Bad: Season 5.5 (2013)

It’s Got: Hank getting suspicious, Nazis, the end.

I do try to highlight some overlooked television every now and then. I say, next up I may let you fine gentlefolk in on this absolutely smashing new series called The Game of Thrones, or some such show like that.

Sorry, I don’t know what character that’s supposed to be. But yeah, let’s talk about what’s totally just the second half of Season 5 (even though it told a different story, was written separately, filmed separately, and aired ten months after the rest of the season). Previously, you’d been left on a big cliffhanger that could have played out in any number of ways. The end of the first episode, from the moment that garage door goes down, sets the tone… nothing is going to be even slightly protracted anymore. Every one of these final eight episodes is all about the final fate of Walter White.

You’ve seen the show, or you heard enough about the show to make an informed choice about why you didn’t watch it. So it’s not worth going into too many specifics about this run of episodes, because the specifics aren’t the reason it soars. It’s all about the 4.5 seasons of rising action that have led into the proceedings. The season could have been just eight episodes of Walt sitting in a diner, then going “HRRK, my cancer!” and falling over dead, and we would have… well we would have hated it, sure. But we still would have watched to the end, based on the level of investment we had by this point. Luckily it’s a lot better than that.

From the Pilot episode, you get a pretty good idea of the scope of the show. You have a man who cooks crystal meth because he has cancer and wants to leave money for his unsuspecting family, you can pretty much see how the dominos are eventually going to come down. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a show execute such a long awaited payoff in such a satisfactory way.

Vince Gilligan’s staff actually does the conclusion SO well, we get it a bit early. All the shit goes down in the third to last episode, and the last couple are just a nice leisurely victory lap. Quite the feat.

If I Had to Nitpick…: That long long long term set-up with the Ricin Cigarette. I can’t think of who else it should have wound up with, but it was a long way to go for a pretty low key payoff.

Notable Episodes: I really love the whole season, but when it comes to outstanding episodes, I’ve got eyes only for the one-two punch of “To’hajiilee” and “Ozymandias.”

#43 | THE LIST | #41

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