‘Breaking Bad’ Season 5 Premiere Review

Published 3 years ago by

Aaron Paul Bryan Cranston Breaking Bad Live Free or Die Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere Review

Many of the best stories can be defined by the power of their conclusions. In ending, they tell us something definitive about the characters that we have invested so much of our time on. These stories attempt to validate our investment by cashing out in some memorable fashion, which will allow them to reverberate and be retold countless times. Even though (after tonight) we’re still 15 hours away from any such conclusion with Walter White, there’s still a tangible feeling of imminent completion surrounding the season premiere of Breaking Bad.

Creator Vince Gilligan – who also wrote the premiere – gets the games going early by utilizing a familiar break in chronology as a means to set up the episode. This was previously used to great effect with black and white glimpses of a stuffed animal floating in a pool. Only after we had all the information did the pieces fit together. Revealing the mangled toy to be from a catastrophic aviation accident tangentially tied to Walt (Bryan Cranston) and his handling of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and his new drug-addled girlfriend. The effect was engrossing on its own, but also served as a payoff for those who had tuned in week after week to watch Walt’s downward spiral.

Now, ushering in season 5, Gilligan offers us a glimpse of what we can only assume is nearly the end of the road. ‘Live Free or Die’ revels in offering just enough illumination on the mysterious circumstances to spark what will certainly be countless theories leading to the how and why. An unshorn Walt, complete with beard and thick-rimmed glasses, sits alone in a Denny’s restaurant, playing with his food by arranging pieces of bacon into the shape of a fifty-two – the age he has turned on this day. He’s there to meet up with Lawson (Jim Beaver, Supernatural), the weapons dealer, and purchase a rather large machine gun nestled in the trunk of a car, which Lawson also provided.

The brief scene is telling in many ways, but only telling enough to raise many more questions. For those keeping score, Breaking Bad began on Walter White’s 50th birthday – so this is, in a way, Gilligan illustrating to his audience just how far Walt has traveled and in what amount of time. More clues come while Walt is making the purchase from Lawson in the men’s restroom. Lawson demands the artillery not cross the border, to which Walt replies it’s not even going to leave town – meaning someone is likely about to be on the receiving end of the machine gun. After Lawson wishes him good luck and leaves, Walt dry swallows a prescription pill of some kind, which will undoubtedly leave viewers questioning whether or not his cancer has come back.

Finally, as he’s exiting the restaurant, leaving a $100 bill under his untouched plate, the waitress addresses Walt as Mr. Lambert – the maiden name of his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn). In addition to everything the audience is asked to take in, Walt’s choice of alias presents a whole slew of questions on its own. Again, Gilligan should be commended for the precision of his approach: it’s purposeful and direct without giving everything away.

Aaron Paul Bryan Cranston Jonathan Banks Breaking Bad Live Free or Die Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere Review

While ‘Live Free or Die’ excels in teasing the audience with the season’s larger, more ambiguous direction, the episode also handles the fallout of season 4 with a deftness that makes it seem as though Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) exited the series just last week. Walt’s conversation with Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) – in the scene released prior to the season premiere – manages to somehow resurrect the intensity of ‘Face Off’ without resorting to any kind of hokey mid-scene flashback reminding the viewer just how dire the circumstances were. Instead, it simply offers the season 4 phone call between Walt and Skyler as a sort of abridged version of the events that occurred beforehand.

Even with the intensity of last season’s finale fresh on everyone’s mind, Cranston manages – in his own skillful manner – to clearly define the tonal shift in Walt, now that he’s moved into the post-Gustavo world. Gone is the frightened, desperate man who detonated a bomb in a nursing home and poisoned a small child to regain the trust of his partner. In his place, Cranston has breathed new life into the kind of fierce Walter who sought to defend his territory against would-be cookers in a parking lot.

That same bravado is on display throughout the present-day scenes. Walter White is on the top of the world, but he’s finding it a very lonely place. Walt Jr. is enamored with his uncle Hank (Dean Norris), and Skyler readily admits she’s now frightened of the man her husband has become. In fact, when he’s at home, Walt’s forced to toast himself in the mirror and enjoy a congratulatory drink by his lonesome. Perhaps that is why, even when facing down the gun of an angry Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), he doesn’t even flinch. Despite Mike’s eagerness to kill him – and with Jesse professing his allegiance – it’s only in that company that Walt feels he’s truly amongst people who understand him.

The marketing campaign of “All Hail the King is incredibly accurate. Walter White has in fact ascended to the throne. He displays the kind of self-assuredness that comes when one believes he is truly predestined to the role he’s taken.

Jonathan Banks Breaking Bad Live Free or Die Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere Review

When Walt orchestrates the destruction of Gus’ laptop by buying a giant magnet from Old Joe (Larry Hankin) and using it through the wall of a police evidence room, Mike asks if he’s supposed to accept that the mission was a success on faith. Walt simply tells him it worked because he says it did. It’s the kind of answer one gives to a pestering child, or a person one deems to be beneath them – as the ruling class might look upon the peasants who do their bidding. A thing is because the king says it is.

However, it’s not until the episode’s end that Walt truly understands, or perhaps accepts, his place in the new power structure he’s created. And what an embrace it is. After assuring (read: threatening) Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) that his lawyerly work will still be required under this new regime, Walt comes home to Skyler, making her aware that he’s been completely briefed on the Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) situation. With fearsome deliberation, Walt holds his wife close and tells her she is forgiven.

As things stand, in the world of Breaking Bad, the power to forgive or condemn, kill or set free belongs to one man. For the time being at least, Walter White finds himself wearing the crown.

In many ways, Gilligan’s cryptic declaration that things will change heightens the significance of Walter’s shifting demeanor. By hinting at the transitory nature of power – and of course its corruptive properties – Gilligan has seemingly brought a core element of his program full circle, stating: everything in life, including life itself, is fleeting. Best grab what you can before it comes time to check out.


Breaking Bad will return next Sunday with ‘Madrigal’ @10pm on AMC. Check out a sneak peek below:

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  1. The way that Vince Giligan constructs Breaking Bad is amazingly similar to how Chris Nolan does his movies. He gives you bits and pieces of information that you don’t really know what to do with early on. But as the story plays out, we begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together and the picture becomes clearer

  2. Not only the stories are intangibles with such force (Sopranos). It is the cinematography that illuminates the characters,and keeps us watching. Best show on T.V right now

  3. My beloved Breaking Bad is back, oh how I’ve missed you! I filled my time with Dexter and Mad Men but it is you I truly love, you never let me down, make me sit onthe edge of my seat, sweaty palms and anxious clenched teeth, you make me giggle and laugh out loud, can’t wait to see how you conclude and again leave me feeling empty but satisfyingly fulfilled, see you next week you sexy minx!

  4. This series only ends one way: observant viewers, did you catch the Denny’s free giveaway? Delicious episode. Walt, the consummate anti-hero…long live the King! :)

  5. My 2 fave moments were 1- when Walt tells Saul you work for me til I say but #2- was more chilling still, when he tells Skyler he forgives her. If she was afraid of him before she must be very afraid of him now

  6. I was a bit confused by the opening scene. Where does it fit in the timeline?

    After the opening credits,we were brought to the timeline we were left with last year at the end of show and it moved forward from there.

    • The opening scene was a flash forward to Walt’s 52nd birthday. For context, he first episode of season one took place on his 50th birthday, and the 4th episode of season 5 is titled Fifty-one.

      • It isnt walts 52nd bday is his fake alias, wich i believe is a bigger part than it seems now. To leave such a big tip, make a point it is his birthday and making his age on his food… He want to frame someone is my guess.

  7. The ambiguity of Walt’s ‘I forgive you’ was marvellous, playing exactly on the fear she has on him. Purposefully of course. Walt’s reaction to Skyler telling him she was afraid was to look at himself in the mirror and raise his glass in triumph. The ego truly has landed and whilst any previous predictions of how the story plays out from myself have always ended up being crap, it’s this ego that will define the end of Walter White. The only question is, will he find contrition before the end? The opening scenes played heavily on the idea of regret, of isolation. I suspect that is the end game.

    Of course, I’ll be wrong. That’s why I love this show.

    • Yes Skylar has now gotten her hands pretty dirty so she really has no room to be pointing an accusing finger any more unless she is willing to also point one at herself (people who throw rocks in glass houses and all that)

      • That’s a great point! She is no longer on the fence and has done some serious dirt, so she needs to get over herself.

  8. WOW!!!
    It looks like Walt will be going out in a blaze of glory doesn’t it?
    One of the reasons I love this show so much is because Vince Gilligan and the writers give us little clues and slowly will add pieces to let us as viewers try to figure out the answers.
    That’s why that opening scene is so great.
    Also, I’m happy that they wasted no time in putting to rest the debate of if Walt was the one who poisoned Brock. But in true BB fashion I’m sure there’s a reason why we didn’t see Walt actually getting rid of the evidence, especially the cigarette. It’s just sitting there in the back of his car.
    This was a great way to start the season!!!

    • Another thing I’ve been thinking about today…
      There’s an old quote but I forget by who that goes something like this…
      If you show a gun in act 1 you have to use it in act 3.
      I’m paraphrasing because I forget the exact wording but that’s the gist of it.
      We saw a big gun in act 1 so I fully expect to see Walt pulling the trigger before all is said and done.

      • Chekhov’s gun

  9. When he said I forgive you to his wife, was the moment when I started to believe he has gone full-psycho. I love it though.

  10. One episode in and the build up is brilliant. Loved that opening scene. Walt is going full gangster and people will die. (He needs his porkpie hat, it completes him)

  11. Brillant beginning. There is really nothing else I can say.

    • Steve, I think SR kind of frowns on linking people away from their site to discuss the same topic.

  12. Anyone catch what was the note behind the picture of Gud and his former partner?
    I’ve just done a full rewatch and I’m sure Gus’ Chilean past is gonna form some part of the story.
    Great episode, yeah, magnets b****

    • It looked like it was addressed to the Cayman Islands. It very well could include bank account information – which would provide a paper trail to everyone Gus dealt with… including Walt.

      • He never paid Walt via check. It was always cash and it was always via Saul.

  13. I think the concept of power and the idea that he wears the crown is an interesting topic. I see that, I do, but the first scene of the premiere we see that he’s on the run and has a new identity (kinda) and a new look. So clearly Gilligan is allowing us to see both ends of the spectrum right out of the gates.

    Yet another example of how and why this is the best show on TV.

  14. I had a friend who used to tell me that he hated the number 52…Because, in digital format, it looks just like a mushroom cloud. I’m sure the producers were aware this similarity when they opened with him making the number on his plate.

    Great episode…You know, up until the very end of season 4, you always really wanted to like and sympathize with Walt…That’s all been blown away, and it really makes the atmosphere a lot more tense.

  15. Hmmm – wonder if Walt’s past will catch up to him …

  16. everyone is assuming that the beginning flash forward is walts actual 52nd birthday, but you can NEVER assume anything with Breaking bad. Perhaps it was just a way to legitimize a new identity? cant wait to see the answer, best show ever!!!

    • Yep, free breakfast at Denny’s really legitimises his ‘new identity’

      Seriously, dude?

  17. I seriously doubt the opening scene at Denny’s actually takes place on his 52nd birthday. For starters, why on earth, if you’re using a fake ID, would you have it display your actual date of birth? Would seem to, at least somewhat, hinder the assumption of a false identity. Second, as another user pointed out, one of the forthcoming episodes is titled Fifty-One and hints that it marks a full year since the first episode took place. Although this is merely speculation on my part, I would be surprised if there was any sort of major time-leap between the middle of this season to the end. With the first 4+ seasons taking place in less than a year (before the 51st birthday) it seems a lot more likely that there is some deeper meaning behind that date. Perhaps it is actually Skyler’s birthday, not Walt’s – he is, after all, using her maiden name. I wonder if something has happened to her by that point – that is more or less what that scene suggested to me. As usual, can’t wait to find out!

  18. It seems like Walt wanted to be remembered after that opening scene, he openly showed his ID, the waitress remembered his name and then he left her a 100 dollar tip for his ‘free’ breakfast, I would say that It points towards the alias he is using takin the blame for something in that state that will concern the mahoosive machine gun in his trunk which would not be crossing the state line?!

  19. Who was Gustavo in Chile ?
    Was he one of Pinochet’s guys, the South American equivalent of Adolph Eichmann living undetected in the American west ?
    Or was he ‘relocated’ there by the CIA ?
    And if so, how closely do they monitor his activities ?
    If the head of the Mexican Cartel was scared to kill him, what is it that protected him ?
    That homey’s dead, he just don’t know it yet.

  20. I’m not sure I buy the whole “Walt is the new king” deal. My feeling was that Gus was just the most visible cog in a larger, unknown machine; think “The Prisoner”s Number Two. So far as we were allowed to see, Number Two was running the show, except that the very name (number!) of the character gave away the whole scheme. Somebody (the German company) was helping Gus with the construction of the superlab, and Mike’s first question after meeting Jesse and Walt was something to the effect of, “Do you even know what you’ve done??”, which is not the kind of question that gets asked when there are no consequences to be had from killing Gus.

  21. cant watch anymore

    weak plotlines, and…….

    27 commercials on our charter station july 29th

  22. perhaps Walt is celebrating his 52nd birthday a little early, knowing that he will never reach it

    • I think it really is his 52nd birthday. In the pilot he is told he has “a couple years” to live, and the next day will have been exactly two years since his diagnosis. Also, his cancer has returned. Hank knows he is Heisenberg, and that will set up the last half of the season where we will see why he is celebrating his 52nd birthday alone at the diner. Also notice that he was disappointed that his 51st birthday party was not as extravagant as the year before, and this is an even worse celebration. I think this scene will come at or just before the finale, and it most likely will end with him dying either of the cancer or getting killed in some fashion. This is just speculation, and I might think too much, but I’ve noticed a few things that make sense.

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  27. It is the flash forward to his 52nd birthday much like the flash forward of him going back to his house and getting the ricin. Both of which he uses to rescue and then kill Jesse in the final episode. Jesse is held hostage and forced to cook. Walt kills everybody frees Jesse and offers Jesse water. Jesse drinks the water and Walt drops him off at his house, Jesse goes for a smoke and sees there is 1 upside-down he removes the smoke and finds the empty ricin container and realizes Walt has poisoned him with the water.