Breaking Bad is back and it kicks off its final eight episodes with a lot of positioning for the final run and a stand off I don't think anyone saw coming so soon.
Before we get to that Hank vs. Walt showdown lets get to a moment a few months after that as the cold open shows a machine gun toting Walt (from Season 5's cold open) returning to a boarded up and vandalized White home. Heisenberg scrawled in paint along the inside leads to so many questions, but the answers that this scene gives us is much more important. First, Walt didn't just up and abandon Skyler and the kids it seems, something seemed to have gone down there. And while yes that opens another line of questions, it also gives us some insight into Walt's exodus from Albuquerque. The most important detail we got though, especially after watching the episode, is that Chekhov’s ricin tablet doesn't come into play until we eventually catch up to these opening moments. This is important, and a relief, because the episode was full of moments where Walt might have been given cause to use said tablet. Removing the possibility of ricin from all of the pre-flash-forward scenes not only keeps the audience guessing, but alleviates that threat one of your favorite enemies of Walt isn't going to unknowingly bite the dust. Most intriguing though is the great question that it does raise, who is left that Walt is so hellbent on killing that he will risk everything just to give them a dose of that tablet? And to make things interesting, this week's episode gave plenty of fuel for Walt's fury against many of his potential enemies.
Closest to his side this week is, staggeringly, is Skyler. The two's marriage appears as strong as it has maybe been ever on the show. We only get a couple moments with them, but the fact that Walt is telling the truth to her is a glaring change of pace for the two and her standing up to Lydia has to go a long way with her long estranged husband.
Chance of tasting ricin (yes I know it's tasteless): About as good a chance as those pine air fresheners not selling better by the register.
Sadly, I don't think Skyler knows what she is getting into with Lydia as her return to try and get Walt back to cook is only going to cause trouble. The purity yield apparently has plummeted since Walt left, 68%, and she wants him back for the interim just to get things back on track. Walt is obviously not amused, and while Skyler is capable of scaring her off for the moment I fully expect she will be back and ready to pull just about anything to get what she wants. Mike seemed to be right about her and she has loads of ammo to try and take Walt down. Lydia has been a loose cannon who is always seemingly ready to blow, she is the biggest wild card of the season.
Chance of tasting ricin: About as high as Lydia can get stressed out.
Jesse also finds himself in hot water with Walt this week, but it's not because he does anything bad, but that he wants to do something good. That “blood money” Walt gave him in the last episode is eating him alive, possibly putting him back on drugs (was that really weed in Saul's office?) and he just wants to get rid of it. Saul and Walt both aren't stupid though as Jesse's generous donations to Mike's granddaughter and the family of the boy they killed would raise many more questions than either of them care to handle. It's Jesse's indifference to the money that Walt can't understand and their little talk does nothing to change his mind. In fact, it almost only confirms the notions about Mike in Jesse's head as both men seem to leave each other significantly more wary of one another than when they started their conversation. Jesse's Robin Hood act certainly isn't going to make Walt happy either.
Chance of tasting ricin: zero, Jesse would know what is making him sick and have them treat it, Walt knows this.
This leaves us with just Hank and Hank has got Walt right in his crosshairs. A slight panic attack almost kills him and Marie on the drive home after discovering Walt's autographed copy of Leaves of Grass, but a quick look through Gale's notebook only confirms everything he already knew. Hank is a lawman though, and one that has been burned by acting with his fists before his head in the past, and he starts to dig through every piece of evidence he has associated with Heisenberg. He finds nothing that can stick, but as Walt puts together the pieces on his end their stand off happens far sooner than anyone could have imagined. Other shows would have dragged this out for weeks, but the final scene of this great episode had both of men staring each other straight in the face daring the other to bite. Watching Walt's arrogance unable to let the GPS tracker go is a brilliant moment, but Hank tops him by shutting the garage door (I knew that kid was out in the street for a reason). When Hank throws that punch I couldn't believe Gilligan and his team were already taking us here, but relieved all the same. I didn't want to watch them dance around a game of cat and mouse for three episodes and instead we will get to see them each play whatever card they can to stay one step ahead of each other. It also brings the two's families safety directly into the fold, which will ramp up the stakes of the show immediately, helping raise the tension even higher than it already is. Watching these two go head to head is going to be a blast and I love that I have no idea where it is going to go.
Chance of tasting ricin: Will depend week to week, but Hank's “perceived” heart issues make a quick death easy to swallow for everyone in his life.
Breaking Bad's final eight episodes are off to a solid start, but I wouldn't quite put it up there with the season openers over the past couple starts. Jesse's depression/relapse feels all too familiar and Walt & Skyler's happiness seems a bit too sweet, but the season is positioned strong going forward. Minor complaints here, but it certainly seems like Vince Gilligan and team are ready to set things off going forward.
-He's Back! And ready to make a ?nal stand?
-A knowing look at the broken mirror? Did Walt cause that?
-"Hello Carol." The show still has a sense of humor.
-Picking up right where we left off. Good.
-"You are the devil!" Fantastic.
-Hank panic attack! No, this might be blind rage taking over.
-"Just do not tell Skyler."
-I hope the ?nal season is just Skyler and Walt running car washes.
-I guess Todd can't cook, 68%? Ouch.
-"That will be $14.95 please."
-Hank's got that 1000 yard stare really working.
-Hank's totally losing his job over this.
-Jesse, no! Please just be observing.
-"Because he's a doctor, bitch!"
-This is a baked conversation for the ages!
-Love that "Saints Go Marching" Muzak.
-Huell ain't breathing any better.
-Jesse, wow, Kaylee Ehrmantraut! And the dead kid.
-"Still two miracles short of sainthood."
-Hello Kitty iPhone, classy Saul.
-Fuck you, Walt!
-Is he hiding the cancer/chemo from Walt Jr. or Skyler too?
-Walt is putting it together, let the Chess game begin.
-Heisenberg does not like that.
-"Yeah, tell him I already got two grandmas."
-Here. We. Go.
-"You wouldn't know anything about this, would you Hank?"
-"Now rot you son of a bitch."
-"Then, maybe your best course would be to tread lightly." Line of the night.