the recap recap

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

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 11 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
Photo: Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

In this week’s Breaking Bad, Walt told perhaps his most elaborate lie yet. In his recap, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, “The juxtaposition of Walter White’s first videotaped confession in the pilot (which was all truth) and this one (which was all lies) would seem to answer the question of whether there’s still good in Walter. This was his last chance to break good, and he didn’t take it.” Here’s our weekly recap recap:

“The hinge on which this half-season turns starts to move at the moment Jesse speaks up and asks to be treated like a human being, instead of like a cog in Walter White’s grand megalomaniacal system of bullshit. ‘Just ask me for a favor!’ he yells. ‘Just tell me you need this!’ It probably takes the pit of meaninglessness and despair into which Jesse has fallen to drive him to finally say this out loud. He knows, and we know, that Walter’s pandering to his supposed desire for money or freedom is a dead end. But it also means that when he breaks down sobbing in Walter’s arms, we’re not sure whether we’re seeing a reconciliation — maybe even something genuine from Walter, for the first time in this episode.” —A.V. Club

“In an episode full of parallels and callbacks, Walt applies eye makeup to his bruised face — just like Jesse did in the first season — before greeting Walt Jr. for the first time since his confrontation with Hank. Putting on his best performance, Walt Sr. chalks the eye injury up to a chemo-related injury. There isn’t enough to say about the grace and care of RJ Mitte’s performance in this moment and across the series. The show has never used him for sympathy in the obvious ways, and has instead earned every moment of drama with his gifts as an actor. His face quivers at the knowledge that his dad is facing death again. Walt’s chummy way with this news is hard to stomach.” —Complex

“The explosive encounters between Walt and Hank were just a warm-up. The real shit storm is coming, because this is the real relationship the show has been built around, narratively and emotionally. It took the hour for Jesse to go from sticking by Mr. White in the presence of Hank to getting ready to make Walt’s house explode, because a touchstone secret (the moment when many felt Walt had really broken bad and lost his soul) was finally revealed. Last week’s ending was nothing. He’s there now. The one person Walt came to rely on totally is going to be the one to bring everything crashing down. Hold on to your butts.”Collider

“In ‘Blood Money,’ we saw Walt answer a call while he was in chemo, presumably from Saul, and presumably right after Jesse left his office with the instructions to give away his $5 million dollars to Drew Sharp’s parents and Kaylee Ehrmantraut. Walt said ‘calm down,’ but many pointed out that Saul’s demeanor in that episode did not warrant Walt’s words. Fast-forward to ‘Confessions,’ when a hysterical Saul phones someone we assume is Walt — at a time when we know Walt is in chemo. Was this the conversation Walt had in the premiere? Walt is wearing the same clothes in ‘Blood Money’ during chemo that he wears in ‘Confessions.’ Breaking Bad regularly shifts timelines on us, yet this would be trickier than usual.” —Entertainment Weekly

“I wanted to punch the screen. No. I wanted to find my way to that diner and crowbar the teeth from Todd’s idiot mouth and then cut out his tongue to be sure. I can’t remember ever feeling so deeply about a fictional character, much less a minor one who’s been with us only a few scenes. And not for what he did, but because of a speech in which he didn’t curse or threaten or even lie — every word he said is true.” Esquire

“Since watching the episode, I’ve been thinking a lot about Walter White, the ‘shadow’ on his recent CAT scan, and the black cloud that has long since overtaken his heart. The closer we get to the end, the more Walt scrabbles around and lashes out like a rat when it’s surrounded, the less I’m buying Vince Gilligan’s whole ‘Mr. Chips to Scarface’ quote as an analogy for Walt’s transformation. That’s the route the character has taken these five seasons, sure, in terms of his changing context. But I think the most horrifying part of Breaking Bad may be that Walt, at his core, didn’t really transform at all. It wasn’t greed or generosity or cancer or fear that fueled this reign of death and destruction. It was resentment. Seething, burning resentment, the kind that forms not due to poor treatment but due to an innate knowledge that you, the aggrieved, are better than said treatment, better than everyone who has somehow gotten the better of you over the years. We’ve had some good times with Walt and Jesse these past few seasons — in the camper, in the lab — but we should never lose sight of the fact that Walt (the teacher) loathed Jesse (the student). He hated his bratty insouciance, his wastefulness, his sloth. Every moment Walt spent in front of a classroom he was thinking about how beneath him it all was. He was a genius; he was meant to be a millionaire, not this castrated cross between stepping stone and doormat. When you got down to it, Walt desperately wanted to teach every one of those kids a lesson, and I don’t mean in the style of Mr. Chips.”Grantland

“Walt’s DVD ‘confession’ is a masterpiece of Heisenberg spinning, turning the events of the past year back around to pin it all on one of the few people in the frame who could plausibly have pulled off a drug operation of this size. ‘Hank has been building a meth empire for over a year now.’ In this alternate reality it’s Hank who spotted his brother-in-law’s capacity for chemistry, meth-cooking and bomb-making; as a DEA agent he had the underworld connections, knew Gustavo Fring and teamed up with Hector Salamanca when he fell out with Fring (’I guess you call it a hit’). Then, in among the lies: a truth, and another confession, this time from a heartbroken, stunned Marie. Hank’s medical bills were paid for by the Whites. For Hank in this moment, it’s the final ‘nail in the coffin’ — a fact that will be hard to explain away without making them look guilty. As we’ve seen with Aaron Paul’s performance over the last two weeks, silence can be as powerful as any of Walt’s silver-tongued monologues. Marie and Hank’s reaction in this scene was equally moving: open-mouthed, lost for words. You could see the impact of Walt’s compelling perversion of the events sinking in, his mock shock at the things he was ‘forced’ into an even bigger insult on top of the bare-faced lies, and realisation that they were being set up to take the fall if Hank took his investigation any further.” —Guardian

“What’s striking about ‘Confessions’ is that even as it’s demonstrating what an incredible actor Walt has become, it’s giving him an audience conditioned to disbelieve him. Walter Jr. is roped in, but Hank and Marie know the truth of what happened — even as Marie concealing the truth of who paid for Hank’s rehab (even after he told her about Walt last week) seems to ruin any shot Hank has of turning Walt in while avoiding prosecution — and Jesse Pinkman has long since lost all faith in his former partner. Walter White is giving the performances of his life — somehow becoming more reprehensible with each one, when you wouldn’t imagine it getting worse than playing the cancer card to manipulate his teenage son — and they’re mostly wasted on their audiences.” –HitFix

“One of this show’s signature moves is the creation of cognitive dissonance, and the scene in the Mexican restaurant was a beautiful example of that. We knew how tense everyone at the table was, thanks to their stiff body language and grim expressions, and the perkiness of Trent the waiter highlighted how non-festive everyone was feeling. There was the lively music, the colorful decor, Trent’s fake-cheerful presence … and then there was the hatred, disappointment, hurt and anger that the four people around the table felt. The impact of the latter was enhanced by the presence of the former. Because Breaking Bad has delineated the surfaces and the depths of this world so precisely, we can inhabit the space between them and fill it with our own thoughts, reactions and speculation. We can derive an enormous amount of pleasure from the suspense and tension these spaces create; the contrasts make the show crackle with possibility and vibrate with energy. We can laugh in the middle of a scene of untrammeled violence (Saul’s ‘Code red!’). We can feel a certain amount of sympathy for a man we know is a monster. Our hearts can break for a murderer. The show contains multitudes, and one of the reasons we respond to it is because we do, too.” –Huffington Post

“Where Walter is words, words, words and implicit action, Jesse uses as few words as possible but often takes explicit, even over-the-top action. He’s someone defined by how quickly he can be capsized by the terrible things that happen around him. And if Drew Sharp was the straw that broke Jesse’s back and pushed him out of the meth trade entirely, then realizing that his father figure and mentor, the man who made him rich beyond his wildest dreams, was the one to poison Brock a few seasons ago is the thing that finally drives all of that potential, stymied action and self-loathing outward. Jesse finally realizes that there’s a great evil in his life and that he can’t begin any sort of new life until he wipes that cancer out. As he spills the gasoline all over the home of the man he still calls Mr. White, Jesse finally takes the fight to the man who’s pushed him to this breaking point.” –Los Angeles Times

“Todd’s banal evil – which actor Jesse Plemons is alarmingly good at conveying – is more frightening than the supercriminal calculations of Gus Fring, the explosiveness of Tuco Salamanca or the mute murderousness of the Cousins, because he’s unable to appreciate murder’s seriousness. To Todd, if you phrase something politely enough, cover up someone’s eyes or leave out crucial details in a voicemail message or diner conversation, it’s like it didn’t happen at all. (Yet the evil still pervades that excruciatingly slow sequence: every moment the trio spends staring at their waitress, every second spent in close quarters with two urinating killers in that men’s room, was pregnant with menace.)” –Rolling Stone

“Astute viewers may have noticed during the aforementioned Mexican meal that came to a screeching halt before Trent the waiter could even take a margarita order, the Whites were again both dressed in beige, as they have been before this season. That color first reared its khaki head several seasons back, when Skyler and Walt attended that splashy party at Gretchen and Elliott’s house where seemingly every champagne sipper was decked out in beige and white. The fact that Walt and Skyler are both wearing those colors so much this season suggests that their goals are finally aligned and that, like Gretchen and Elliott’s party attendees, they’re finally winners in life. The flashing of the beige in that dinner scene — particularly when Walt whipped his jacked off his chair and retrieved that damning DVD from its pocket — telegraphed that the Whites are eight steps ahead of Hank and Marie. Walt may not be able to outlast everyone due to his cancer, but he will outwit and outsmart until he takes his final breath.”  –Salon

“This episode really brought me back in a lot of ways to the thematic elements of the first season. Cooking meth and killing people weren’t something we were ever strictly supposed to approve of. But Breaking Bad launched as something along the lines of a ‘revenge of the nerds’ fantasy. Pushed into a desperate situation, the very intelligent Walter White is able to reclaim his masculinity and get one over on his dumb jock brother-in-law. Things got much darker, especially in the first half of Season 5, but I like that with the moral stakes raised the show’s returned to that dynamic. Walter really is smarter than Hank. He’s a totally amazing meth cook and criminal mastermind, while Hank is at best a middling DEA agent who’s somehow managed to bungle this investigation even after figuring everything out.” –Slate

“Jesse’s revelation and its aftermath were so stunning and well-designed that they managed to overshadow what could fairly be called the greatest false confession in television history. After Marie attempts to lure Walt Jr. to the Schrader’s purple palace (a ploy Walt is able to rebuff only by confessing to Junior that his cancer has returned), Walt sits down and asks Skyler to film a confession that starts exactly the same way as the one that opened the series pilot: ‘My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104. This is my confession.’ After Walt and Skyler fail to reach any sort of agreement with Hank and Marie during the world’s most awkward double-date — Marie suggests that Walt simply commit suicide — Walt leaves Hank and Marie a disc as he and Skyler get up from the table.” –Time

“The bravura scene of both ‘Confessions’ and the season thus far was Jesse and Walt’s desert confrontation. Jesse has always been an addict and falls in to cycles of behavior. Weed, money, heroin, meth, he’s chased it all. But like any boy searching for a mentor or replacement father, Jesse wants Mr. White to love him and tell him he is a good son. Jesse endures dead bodies, beatings, lying and manipulation to get his fix. But there in the desert, Jesse zeros in on Walter’s greatest lie. For a moment it seems Jesse might finally break his pattern of behavior. He says what we’ve suspected all along: That Walt’s series-long appeal to Jesse’s ego and happiness, the overtures of sympathy and love were nothing but tools to ensure Walt’s survival and keep the business going.”  —The Wall Street Journal

“Just when it seems like Jesse might get away, one last piece of the past comes back to haunt them: The ricin cigarette and subsequent poisoning of Brock, which Jesse finally traces back to Walt. The ricin cigarette plot has never quite played for me; as desperate as Walter was, and as ruthless as we know him to be, it’s never really made sense that he managed to poison Brock while on the run from Gus. (Earlier this summer, Vince Gilligan finally explained how Walt pulled it off, and the story is as vague and unfulfilling as I worried it would be: ‘My writers and I would always tell ourselves the story of the evil juice box man,’ said Gilligan, explaining that Walt had snuck into Brock’s school and crushed the poison into his juice box. ‘It would have been tricky timing, but he was a very motivated individual at that point.’)” —the Week

The Best Breaking Bad Recaps: ‘Confessions’