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The Best of This Week’s Breaking Bad Recaps: ‘Ozymandias’

Skyler White (Anna Gunn) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

This week’s Breaking Bad left critics across the board trembling and (nearly) speechless. Matt Zoller Seitz likened watching the episode to “being on an old wooden roller coast that thrilled and terrified you but made your back hurt so bad you worried that maybe you ruptured something.” Though there are still two episodes left, it seems impossible they’ll be as agonizing as this one. While you’re still in shock, here’s our weekly recap of the recaps.

“When Walt reveals Jesse’s hiding place and coldly nods at Jack’s cheerful ‘Good to go?’ he’s a force of pure vengeance. It’s not enough that Todd gets to torture Jesse (remember what I said last week about how he’s the scariest motherfucker in the room?). Walt twists the knife that he’s left sticking in Jesse’s gut for months now. It’s the demonic completion of what Walt almost was brought to confess in ‘Fly’ (not coincidentally, also directed by Johnson). ‘I watched Jane die,’ Walt tells him. ‘I could have stopped it, but I didn’t.’ Not only is this Walt the torturer, but it’s also Walt the liar — the liar that Jesse has called him repeatedly ever since he lost faith.” — A.V. Club

 “Until this episode, I was wishing for any end but one involving a gun battle, but after the hopelessness I felt watching Jack wave his pistol at Hank, I’ve changed my mind. The next two episodes could play out without a single surprise and I will still feel satisfied as long as Uncle Jack and his men get theirs. I need those Nazis to pay (it’s more than a little disturbing it took the death of one lone man for me to feel this way, considering these guys' ideology). It’s astoundingly impressive that the show pulled this off and it’s a real testament to the fact that the way a story is what really matters.” — Capital New York

 “The episode wraps with the most loaded moment of the series as far as I'm concerned. There's been much written about the vitriolic misogyny directed at Skyler by fans of Walter White. Actress Anna Gunn has written eloquently about this in the New York Times. Of course, she wasn't as hard on the show as she could have been. Breaking Bad has never taken a focused interest in her character to the degree it has to Walt, Jesse, and Hank. She is forever reacting. It's rare when the show spends any significant amount of alone time with her to foster empathy for someone who is married to a egomaniacal liar and manipulator. Still. The show has been trying in recent seasons to make her more of a real presence (just like it's done with Marie this season), and I don't think it's a coincidence that the language Walt uses when he calls her and chews her out is the exact sort of language Internet trolls use.” Complex

 “Surely neither of the remaining two Breaking Bad episodes could be as explosive as this one was.  ‘Ozymandias’ was the culmination of everything that the series has been building to, as illustrated in the cold open which showed how much things had changed from the days when Walt had to practice his lies, where he wooed Skyler and she joked with him on the phone lovingly, and where a snarky Jesse Pinkman mumbled and smoked and attacked rocks with sticks.  Flash forward to two years later, and Walt has kidnapped his own child, killed his brother-in-law, threatened his “stupid bitch” wife, and ordered Jesse’s death.  And after all of that, he is left with one barrel of money.  For whom?” — Collider

“Except for what Walt does with the ricin, who the giant gun he bought from the Supernatural guy is for, and the ending of the entire series, there are no more big revelations to make. Walt Jr. is aware that his father is a drug lord; Jesse knows about Jane's death.” — Entertainment Weekly

“514 was a touch schematic, but it had the most powerful moments on television since Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale faced off at the end of season three of The WireOh my God, I found myself saying out loud, as Walt told Jesse that he'd watched Jane choke on her own vomit, the least repentant confession since Jeffrey Dahmer explained his taste in meat. How could you?” — Esquire

 “No show in history has ever demonstrated the courage of its convictions like this before. No show has ever made us suffer through the flip side of our fantasy. It's truly saying something when the brutal, point-blank slaying of a beloved cast member was only the fourth- or fifth-worst thing to experience in an hour. And what it's saying is awful. But at least Hank was dispatched quickly, able to say his own last words and scowl a final scowl. At least he wasn't beaten to a pulp before being chained to a ceiling pipe and transformed into a human lab rat by a polite Nazi who won't need to shave till he's 50. At least Hank ended the hour with some rough kind of peace, not like the surviving members of his extended family: covered in tears, blood, and snot, their pleading eyes ping-ponging around a suddenly unrecognizable room for a reset button or an off switch.” — Grantland

 “Walt runs off with Holly, his blood staining her pink and white jacket, Skyler left distraught in the middle of the street. He calls to unleash a tirade of abuse — ‘This is your fault. I warned you for a solid year — you cross me, there will be consequences. You never believed in me, you were never grateful …’ After his demolition job on Jesse, it's like he has been possessed as he mimics her ‘whining’ (‘It's immoral! It's illegal!’). But is there more to the conversation than just his ego being unleashed? Is he giving her a way out, calculating that there would be a trace on the line, the police listening as he took full responsibility for everything, absolving her as he says: ‘I built this – me. Me alone, nobody else. You mark my words, Skyler, toe the line. Or you will wind up just like Hank.’ What is it that he has left to do? Save Jesse? Get the money back? Get them all out of there?” — Guardian

 “Walt has always justified his meth cooking as something he was doing for his family, but as his wife and son stare at him like he is history's greatest monster, and as he steals his baby daughter from her terrified mother, his actions are exposed for what they've always been: indefensible.” — HitFix

 “The thing is, we're at the point in the story where all the chickens are coming home to roost. Every consequence of every single choice Walter White has made is landing with unbelievable force. Given how many terrible things he's done and the awful events he's set in motion, those consequences should land like a ton of bricks. I just didn't expect so much of it to land in such a concentrated way in one episode. It was pummeling, it was punishing, but I can't think of a thing I'd change.” — Huffington Post

 “That scene in the house — which culminates in Walter kidnapping baby Holly! — is one of the best scenes in the show’s history, the kind of small, two- or three-character play that Breaking Bad has always done so well. It turns on so many little dramatic and emotional beats, and it’s both beautifully scripted by Moira Walley Beckett and exquisitely directed by Rian Johnson. (The shot where Johnson holds on the knife block right next to the phone for what feels like several hours allows the audience to wonder if Skyler will finally attack her husband or call him in.) The bitter irony underlying all of this – that Walter didn’t directly kill Hank but, instead, indirectly led to his death by getting involved with evil neo-Nazis – just makes things that much more harrowing. The thing that finally pushes Skyler to take action is something Walter didn’t even do.” — Los Angeles Times

“But look at Walt's eyes, his facial expressions, his body language, when he's giving that harangue. He only starts choking up just before he brings up Hank's death, taking ‘credit’ for the murder that sent him over the edge in the first place. His contempt for Skyler, his rage at her perceived insubordination, his fury at not having spent his entire life being treated like the king of kings — that's all very real. That's the emotional landscape of a man who'd steal his own child, who'd give his blessing to the torture of a poor sap he once thought of as a son.” — Rolling Stone

 “Come on, Walt’s smart enough to realize that the cops were definitely listening in on that call. So he intentionally did what he had previously accidentally done during a pivotal conversation with Jesse Pinkman. He confessed to multiple crimes, made it clear that Skyler had nothing to do with any of those crimes, then hung up and took poor, clearly labeled little Holly to a firehouse so she could be returned home, safe and sound and probably forever emotionally scarred. During that entire phone call, Walt maintained a ruthless edge even though it was clear that his hardened facade was cracking.” — Salon

 “Still, Walt did commit an unlikely act of kindness when he provided Skyler with an alibi. He called the home number, the line that he knew would be picked up by the answering machine so that his voice would be amplified throughout the house so that there was no doubt the cops would know he was on the line, and he proceeded to minimize Skyler's complicity. Between his belligerent tone, his calling her a "stupid bitch," his giving her a chance to state for the record that what he does is ‘immoral’ and ‘illegal’; his leaving her out of the pronouns — ‘whining and complaining about how I make my money’; ‘now you tell my son what I do’ — he made himself the mastermind and her the bitch who disrespected him. This fits Walt’s egomaniacal view of the world, but it also gets Skyler off the hook.” — Slate

 “It’s always been about family for Walt: that was his original impulse, his justification through his own criminal career, and the line he told himself he would not cross with Hank. Back at the White house, we saw that he had well and truly killed all that. He has killed the love that was the one genuine good thing left in him, he has ruined the happiness of the family he told himself he was saving. Wrestling the love of his life on the floor with a butcher’s knife, seeing his firstborn and namesake throw himself over Skyler ready to take a stabbing for her, Walt must see that his family — at least, a version with him in it — is over at last.” — Time

 “In the aftermath of Hank’s murder, Walt managed to conjure a final punishment for Jesse as his surrogate son was being taken off to whatever abattoir Todd had handy: ‘I watched Jane Die. I could have saved her, but I didn’t.’ We all knew Jane’s death would return, but I always hoped the information would surface at a time when Jesse could do something about it. Jane’s death was the moment I broke with Walt. It was his unforgivable sin. And Walt used his sin like a serrated blade in Jesse’s body and soul. And now Jesse is stuck, a slave to Todd (who probably scored the only joke in the entire episode: “I’m sorry for your loss.”). Bruised and broken he will cook and cook and cook to keep Brock and Andrea safe.” — The Wall Street Journal

 “It probably goes without saying that this is all enormously difficult to watch unfold — and taken alone, the sheer shock of seeing so many long-buried truths come to light would probably have been enough to put ‘Ozymandias’ in the pantheon of all-time great Breaking Bad episodes. But the most riveting thing about ‘Ozymandias’ is the way director Rian Johnson focuses not on the characters who are finally making these confessions, but on the characters who are finally hearing them. Watch the way Jesse's face crumples when Walt says, ‘I watched her overdose and choke to death,’ or how Skyler's eyes flit around the room like a cornered animal when Marie finally confronts her in the office.” — The Week

Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC