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

With three episodes of Breaking Bad to go, “To’hajiilee” left us as anxiety-ridden as we've ever been. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, “What a place to end an especially tense episode of a show that does cliff-hangers so well: not right before an action scene, not after, but in the middle!” Here’s our weekly recap of the recaps.

“Walt has drawn a line at defending himself with deadly force against his own flesh and blood, a line that forced him, reluctantly, to redefine Jesse as non-family in order to justify his elimination by force. What he couldn’t imagine is that Jesse adopted Hank, and vice-versa, creating a situation where deadly force against Jesse puts Hank in the crossfire. The lines that Walt drew, and believed absolutely in his power to maintain, are erased by his collusion with Uncle Jack, the price of which is Walt reluctantly crossing the line of retirement. Once Walt can’t define himself, he loses the ability to define anything.” –A.V. Club

“Even being reminded of what Walt is truly capable of, though, didn’t influence my immediate, visceral reaction to his being caught, which was this: I wanted him to get away. It wasn’t a rational desire. It might be a matter of my coming down from an addiction to his constant outmaneuvering. If it had just been about his being caught but the money remaining safe and hidden for Skyler to dig up later, I would’ve perhaps reacted differently. But the poignancy of his greatest fear really coming true, that it would all be for nothing, hit me hard. And also the part about his finally trying to do one right thing by calling off the Nazis but Hank and the rest of his family never knowing it. As much as it makes me feel weak and inept and borderline criminal to admit, I am an endless sucker for his sad-sack-ness." —Capital New York

“The agonizing minutes spent waiting for the barbarians are made all the worse by the lack of music. Walt surrenders and is arrested, and there's nothing but dead air between the hollow language of Hank's triumph. The sense of dread is physically painful in this scene. You feel the dread in your body. When Hank calls Marie to tell her that he's got the bad guy, that he loves her and it might be a little while before he's home, you know it cannot be.” –Complex

“Despite the brilliant machinations from both sides — Hank working Huell for the info, Walt using Brock and Andrea to ‘flush out’ Jesse — ultimately things look to be decided by some violent lunatics. It’s part of the chaos of Breaking Bad, and also a way for the show to give Walt an out even in the toughest of times. There’s never been just one Deus Ex Machina coming down to free Walt, but an unending supply. Maybe it’s this aspect — despite the show’s creator Vince Gilligan saying that Walt is a bad man going to hell to pay the price — that keeps viewers coming back to Walt’s corner.  He might be a horrible person, but the series keeps giving him outs, and we look to an explanation why.” –Collider

“Jesse and Walt both use a phone to try to trick their former partner — only one is successful. If Jesse had heard the message, he would have run straight to Andrea's house, right into the sight of his would-be murderers. Of course, he didn't hear it, so he didn't have a chance. Walt, on the other hand, takes Jesse's phone call, and runs straight into the trap Jesse helped set. Those two are more alike than either would admit.” –Entertainment Weekly

“So Walt boarded the express train to the tenth circle of hell. Worse, all his plays failed. At every turn, Jesse and Hank anticipated his moves, countered him, and ultimately set him up. For five seasons, Walt has been Heisenberg, a step ahead. Sure, he was an amoral lying murderer, but at least he won. And, though it shouldn't have, winning made him easier to love. (Charlie Sheen will be glad to explain.) The fact that Walt's enemies seemed even worse than he did also helped. Walt's not winning anymore. He's desperate, angry, maybe even afraid, and as a result surprisingly easy to manipulate.” –Esquire

“There's a certain type of silence that can be excruciating. You know what I'm talking about. You've all not heard it: Squirming in the dentist's chair, anticipating the drill. A baby's face the second before the tears arrive. The terrifying space between someone hitting play and a Lumineers song actually beginning. It's not a deafening silence, nor a vacuum. Rather, it's inverted; a cup, not a bell. I'm talking about a silence that isn't defined by the lack of sound, but by the awful inevitability of the noise yet to come. It's silence like a threat, a marker that's primed to come due. It's not the silence of the grave. It's the ominous stillness that comes just before. Director Michelle MacLaren is the John Cage of this malevolent silence, able to wield it as precisely as a pointillist with a paintbrush. And with 'To'hajiilee,' the final episode of Breaking Bad she'll ever direct, she has painted her masterpiece. Under the unblinking eye of her relentless camera, this was television not as entertainment but as endurance. It was agonizing, nauseating, unbearable. I loved every minute but hated every second. I couldn't wait for it to be over but I never wanted it to end. And I especially never wanted it to end like that.” –Grantland

“At the start of To’hajiilee, we see slightly loony Lydia interacting with Todd and company. Todd’s uncle is pushing for a deal and Lydia is pushing for the blue color, which is the meths biggest selling point overseas. Lydia zooms in on Todd, not realizing the danger that this sociopathic young man brings to the table. While he makes it clear to her that he’ll do whatever is necessary, it is apparent that he’s taken quite a fancy to the lady.” –Guardian

“Nearly 20 minutes pass in the episode (give or take a few commercials) from the moment Jesse texts Walt the faked money barrel photo until the closing credits. More than 15 minutes pass from the moment Walt arrives at the spot where he buried the money, and more than 10 minutes pass from the moment we return from the final commercial break and Walt is prepared to surrender himself to Hank. I know this only because I went back, multiple viewings later, to clock it all. In the moment, the action seemed to be simultaneously taking place in an instant and over an eternity. A parade could have gone by my office window and I wouldn't have noticed. I'm sure I inhaled and exhaled, if only because I'm alive right now writing these words that you're reading, but I'll be damned if I was aware of any contracting or expanding of my lungs as Walt, Jesse, Hank, Gomez and then the Nazis all converged in the spot where Walt and Jesse first cooked their meth — the spot where the arrival of Emilio and Krazy-8 made clear to both Walt and us that nothing on Breaking Bad would ever go as expected.” –HitFix

“How great is it when stories hook into our nervous systems and hearts and minds, and take us somewhere we didn't expect to go? Intellect is great — and 'Breaking Bad's' ferocious intelligence and thoughtful attention to detail are great pleasures as well. But as I said in my review, the show also knows how to reach our pre-conscious reptile brains, and not many shows do. Well played, Vince Gilligan, you bastard.” –Huffington Post

“Without Mike’s world-weary, vaguely moral code and without Gus Fring’s rigid sense of order and without Jesse’s inherent sense of what’s right and wrong, Walter ended up working with amoral sociopaths, as happy to start pumping bullets at Hank and Steve as they are to carry out a hit on Jesse. They don’t really see Walter as someone who’s in power over them. They see him as a walking collection of money (money they’re standing on top of as the episode ends, though they don’t know it yet) or a tool who can get the meth cook back to Lydia’s exacting standards. Strip all the personality out of the business — any business — and it becomes just another machine that grinds humans down into dirt.” –Los Angeles Times

“Jesse's superiority over Walt at long last is signaled in a subtle but powerful way: the sound of his voice during that phone call. Unlike their conversations last episode, where crosscutting was used to show both Walt and Jesse, and Jesse's voice was treated to have that staticky voice-on-a-cellphone sound whenever the camera was on Walt instead, here Jesse is nothing but a disembodied voice, as crystal-clear as if he were sitting right next to Walt. He's still Jesse ('Fire in the hole, bitch!'), but he's omnipresent and inescapable in a way Walt can no longer manage – a voice in his head, an angel and demon on his shoulder, a telltale heart.” –Rolling Stone

“Did you get a look at the mug of tea that Todd handed to Lydia — a woman he clearly looooooves — early in this episode? It said, 'These colors don’t run.' That’s a statement that usually implies that  the colors in the American flag won’t fade, that true patriots always stand up and fight. But in the context of Todd’s role in the 'Breaking Bad' universe, it means something else. It means that while the meth he’s cooking may not be the proper Heisenberg hue just yet, Todd is true crystal-blue, to his core. Walter White may be officially out of the business, but Todd? Oh, he’s still coming to play. And when he has to, he’ll bring out the big guns.” –Salon

“I have a feeling, though, that somehow Walt is going to use science to make his escape. I gained all my scientific knowledge from the TV shows of Magnus Pyke, the guy who yelled ‘Science!’ on the Thomas Dolby song Todd uses as his ringtone, so I have no idea what compounds he might combine to protect himself from a hail of bullets, but this episode was full of reminders of Walt’s chemistry prowess. There was that ringtone, there was the request for the meth-cooking tutorial, but most of all there was the location: As Jesse reminded Walt, To'hajiilee — also the title of the episode — was where they did their first cook back in the pilot. It’s also where Walt mixed up a few chemicals to create the deadly fumes that killed Emilio and Krazy 8 in the Winnebago. And we know that Uncle Jack is too stubborn to wear a mask, even when Todd reminds him, ‘Mr. White says the fumes aren’t good to breathe.’” –Slate

“What should have tipped me off that we were not going to see Hank die — not before the end of this hour anyway — was how bleeding obvious Breaking Bad, and director Michelle McLaren, made it seem that we were going to see Hank die. When long-running dramas kill off major characters, played by stars who have been with the show for years, they tend to telegraph it by showering said character with moments and catharses and closure.” –Time

“What can you call the final moments of 'To’hajiilee' but a great western showdown? Replace the SUV’s and pickup trucks with horses and roll the clock back a hundred years or so and you’ll have a classic lawmen vs. outlaws standoff. What followed was a shootout that almost out Mann-ed Michael Mann until the gut-punch cut to black.”The Wall Street Journal

“'The apprehension of the bomb is more powerful than the feelings of sympathy or dislike for the characters involved,’ Hitchcock explained. But Breaking Bad has gone one step further by making Walter the ‘ticking time bomb’ in this story (as Mike once aptly and memorably described him). With just three episodes left, we're still waiting to see him go all the way off — but we know where he'll end up when he does.”The Week

Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC