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

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
Photo: Ursula Coyote/AMC

The stakes were high with only eight episodes left, but reviewers agreed that Breaking Bad’s “Blood Money” exceeded even immense expectations, answering some questions from the first half of the season and opening up many more. The critics posed some of their own big questions: How do the next seven episodes lead us to that graffiti-covered pool teaser? And did Walt’s cancer destroy him, or did it “liberate him to become the man he was all along, deep inside”? Here’s your weekly recap of the recaps to tide you over until next Sunday’s episode.

“The overwhelming realization of how Walter has deceived, endangered, and crippled them all blurs Hank’s vision, steals his breath, and leaves him panicked and gasping after running over some poor slob’s mailbox. I love this visceral reaction, born of rage, shame, and vertigo. Hank has devoted himself to bringing down Heisenberg, even when nobody else at the D.E.A. supported him. Remember how appalled he was that Gus Fring, Friend of Law Enforcement, was running an empire under his nose? Take that reality-redefining moment, crank it up to 11, and layer a beat of family intimacy underneath. Suddenly those boxes of evidence tell a whole new story.” —A.V. Club

“Walt is in country club sweater and slacks combinations, acting like he just runs a car wash now. Lydia shows up trying to pull him back in, as the puny Todd can only achieve 68 percent purity, but Walt knows only air fresheners. As if in reaction to criticism of Skyler’s lack of agency, there’s a scene where she gets to tell Lydia to never come back, but it feels like too little too late. Breaking Badhas never been a show about its women characters, and that’s not going to change with eight episodes left.” —Complex

Breaking Bad is one of the few shows where houses feel like homes.  The White’s abode has been so central to so much that has happened with Walt.  It’s a place of refuge as well as a place that grounds Walt, but also one that he uses to hide his immense lies (sometimes literally within the walls).  To see it as a boarded up and forgotten ramshackle was heartbreaking because that, more than anything, really signifies the end.” —Collider

“When Walt leaves the house, he encounters his neighbor. ‘Hello, Carol,’ he says ominously. Carol just stares at him with a horrified look on her face. She drops the grocery bag she held in her hands. Oranges roll out onto the ground. And as we all know — oranges signal death. But Carol’s? Or Walt’s?” —Entertainment Weekly

“Did lung cancer destroy Walter White? Or did it liberate him to become the man he was all along, deep inside? If he’d been in Poland in 1942, would he have strapped his death’s-head insignia on and smiled as he watched the ovens cook?” —Esquire

The entire thing felt like the moment after you surface from a deep dive with water clogging your ears; all that’s audible is the terrible thump-thump-thumping of your own heart. No one thought Hank would merely cowboy up and collar his brother-in-law then and there, did they?” —Grantland

“If AMC isn’t selling t-shirts, mugs and framed photos with the awesome Schraderbrau logo by tomorrow, then I don’t understand anything about the internet or brand expansion.” —HitFix

“What’s ironic is that at times, Walt is sincere — he has given up the life; he thinks he is devoted solely to pursuing ‘an ordinary, decent life.’ Will Hank come to realize, as many of us have, that Walt probably never truly wanted that? That his ego most likely never would have let him settle for that kind of quotidian existence, even without the cancer diagnosis” —Huffington Post

“If the writers are willing to push things this far in this midseason premiere, how far might they go in the episodes to come? And even when it seems like this episode might tip over into all setup, there are those pleasing little ‘Breaking Bad’ structural hallmarks, like the yin-yang of Hank pretending to be sick to investigate Walt while Walter is actually sick and is pretending to be well to try to blend back in with his surroundings, which will be all the better to evade capture, even if he doesn’t know it yet.” —Los Angeles Times

“Hank, of course, discovered that his beloved brother-in-law Walt was his white whale Heisenberg while taking a shit; this time out, he calls an end to the cat-and-mouse game and wordlessly announces his intention to confront his nemesis by … closing the garage door. There’s something kind of hilarious about watching some suburban dude hit his garage-door opener button with all the steely-eyed gravitas of one of Walder Frey’s goons shutting the banquet hall doors to begin the Red Wedding, you know?” —Rolling Stone

If Hank shares what he’s discovered with his fellow agents, he’ll look smart for five seconds, then foolish for eternity. (’His brother-in-law the whole time, and this lunkhead didn’t know?’) Hank doesn’t want that. It may be easier for him to take extended medical leave or early retirement and, somehow, try to swallow the inevitable bile that will result from continuing to keep Walt’s identity a secret. What was it that other Walt, the Whitman one, wrote in one of his closing verses in ‘Leaves of Grass’? ‘Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?’ No matter what he does, Hank faces potential annihilation of one kind or another.” —Salon

“At first, I thought the oranges that we saw rolling out of Carol’s shopping bag were a tad too on the nose. After all, they’re The Godfather’s go-to portent of death. But after seeing the rest of this grim, gripping episode, I’m pretty sure they’re Vince Gilligan’s citrus-scented signal that we have moved into the era of consequences.” —Slate

“There’s a great moment where, having spent his fury, Hank finally lets show some of his confusion and amazement that Walt–nerdy, brainiac Walt whose chops he was busting way back in the pilot — is not just a criminal but a composed, controlled, ruthless monster, and that Hank has been living, professionally and personally, inside a massive lie. “I don’t even know who I’m talking to,” he says, and it’s a wonderfully plaintive, lost line reading by Norris. He’s furious, but he’s also still a little sick, and it’s not the potato salad.” —Time

“Since its first episode ‘Breaking Bad’ posed a subliminal challenge to the viewer: How far are you willing to go? Meaning, what will it take for you there on your couch to condemn Walter White once he makes the jump from Good to Bad? Jesse mocked the show’s thesis, incredulous that Walt could simply ‘break bad.’ It’s almost as if Walt spent all this time trying to prove to Jesse that he has the stuff. Yes, he can be ‘Bad.’ Walt won out and now both Jesse and the audience are stuck with the monster.” —Wall Street Journal

“In many ways, Hank’s sudden discovery has turned him into a Bizarro version of Walter White: He’s lying to his wife and shirking his normal responsibilities at work. (The fantastic montage in which Hank reassembles all the evidence from the Heisenberg case files even plays out like one of Breaking Bad’s patented meth-cooking montages.) In an alternate universe, Breaking Bad could just as easily have been a more conventional show about a DEA agent who eventually discovers that his meek brother-in-law has been a criminal all along.” —the Week

The Best of Breaking Bad Recaps: ‘Blood Money’