Quick Take: Breaking Bad, "Live Free or Die"
"We're done when I say we're done." – Walt
Review: Breaking Bad, "Live Free or Die"
(S0501) The beginning of Breaking Bad's fifth season presented more of an uncertain direction plot-wise than any previous season. Without a clear antagonist or even a conflict (at least not an obvious one), “Live Free or Die” could have gone in a dozen different directions. Of course, I can’t say I was expecting the cold open we did end up receiving. And it was a doozy. We weren’t presented with an actual antagonist per se, but we did learn that some real antagonizing is going to be going down in a year or so from the current arc’s timeline. Some heavy duty antagonizing.
Although I may be jumping to some conclusions here, so let’s go over what we know for sure. Walt turned 50 at the beginning of the series and he mentioned in an episode last season that he was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. So let’s assume roughly a year has passed. In the opening scene, Walt makes a 52 out of the bacon. Now, he accepts the free meal from the comely Denny’s waitress, but has to show an ID to receive it. Which means one of two things. Either Future Walt just mentioned his fake birthday on his fake ID or his fake ID had his real birthday on there. I strongly lean towards the latter. All of this may seem like a minor detail, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it played a part either.
While no other main characters are in the future scene (though I wouldn’t be upset if we get a series of vignettes like this, not unlike the plane crash cleanup scenes in season two), we do meet our gun-running friend Lawson again (played by the always great Jim Beaver) who sells Walt a machine gun that wouldn’t look out of place in The Expendables 2. Who Walt is planning to obliterate with that thing remains to be seen.
And it could be a long time before we find out. Luckily, there’s a lot of current business to take care of first. Walt and Jesse did a great job torching the superlab, but they forgot one crucial element. Gus was a bit if a surveillance buff and all of the footage of all the criminal activities is hiding on the hard drive of the laptop he kept in the Los Pollos Hermanos office.
Mike returns and obviously immediately wants to cap Walt, but Walt and Jesse convince him to help deal with the laptop situation since footage of Mike will be on the hard drive as well. Mike, being a former cop, knows they have no way to get into the evidence locker in which the laptop is being stored but Jesse (of all people) comes up with the idea to erase the hard drive with a magnet. So the three amigos turn to the wrecking yard proprietor who got Walt and Jesse out of a Hank-related jam in season three and rent his car-moving magnet and a butt-load of batteries to run the thing from the back of a U-Haul truck.
The plan involves driving the truck the exterior wall of the evidence holding area and cranking up the juice. This ends up destroying a great deal of other evidence in the locker, but does presumably seem to solve their problem (“Yeah science!”). But Walt turns the magnet dial two high and the truck itself ends up tipping over, leaving Jesse and Walt to abandon the truck entirely. Though Walt claims everything is untraceable because Walt plans for everything.
Unfortunately, he can’t plan for thing he doesn’t know about. Thus, he is unaware of the unintended side effect of his magnet plan. The magnet destroyed a picture frame showing Gus and Maximilian in happier, non-dead times. Hidden behind the photo is account information from a Cayman Island bank.
The other somewhat surprising plot development is the fact that Ted Beneke wasn’t actually killed in the freak counter-and-orange-related accident from “Crawl Space,” though he does have a serious neck injury (I was under the impression he wasn’t paralyzed, but I could be wrong). He tells a visiting Skyler that he won’t say a word about the illegal circumstances that got him in the hospital, to which Skyler replies, “Good.” I’m honestly not sure what to make of this scene or how it will affect the future proceedings so please feel free to speculate in the comments.
All in all, though, a fittingly strong return for the best show on television.