You didn't honestly think I'd let the occasion of the midseason finale of "Breaking Bad" pass us by without some postgame thoughts, did you? Well, here they are, and apologies for this late post, but the Labor Day holiday intruded. The subject today: What were the top eight events/people/places/things in the first eight episodes of this, the final season, that were overwhelmingly important, and how might they possibly inform the ending? (Why eight? Because I couldn't think of ten — but give me a minute. I will .?.?.) Here they are, and in order of importance:
1.) The killing of the boy in "Dead Freight." Yes, this was the event of events — a punch into the face of three million fans who say "whooaa" then "whyyyy!!" It was a horror show of a moment, but it also clarified the moral depravity of Walt. Another child dies because of Walter, and there will be consequences indeed.
2.) The Death of Mike. Of course, the death of Mike — a monumental moment in the series overall simply because Jonathan Banks so effortlessly captured this remarkable character over three or so seasons. Mike's absence is more a tonal shift than a fundamental one, however. He is simply no longer in Walt's way, or undertaking the father/son role with Jesse that Walter so obviously cherished.
3.) Hank sitting on the throne. Hank's bored with the bathroom reading material in the White bathroom and reaches for "Leaves of Grass" — the copy Gale gave Walt a couple of seasons ago, lovingly inscribed with that note to my "other favorite W.W." Why would Walt leave this so foolishly in plain sight, as it were? To get caught — or is this simply a MacGuffin — a plot twist that means everything or means nothing. It seems awfully, awfully obvious to suggest that Walt Whitman will be the undoing of Walt White — but I do like the poetic justice of it all.
4.) The pool! The pool! The pool in the context of "Breaking Bad" is like blood in "Macbeth" — a symbol of cosmic guilt. Terrible things happen in pools here — Mexican drug lords die by them, teddy bears fall from the sky in them .?.?. Skyler falls in one. It's all terrible foreshadowing of something horrific that is about to befall the Whites — and I certainly don't intend to linger here on that scene at the end Sunday when Walt Jr. is applying sunscreen to baby Holly poolside. A horrifying karma awaits Walter. Will the pool be the instrument of this karma?
5.) Hank gets the job as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Abq DEA. Significant and insignificant insofar as Hank is now, in his official role, pulled off Heisenberg duty. But significant insofar as Hank no longer is incapable of seeing the forest because he's so busy looking at the trees — perhaps the meaning of his ruminations on his old high school job — but can now step back and look at the whole forest.
6.) The advent of Todd — Jesse Plemons. What was it that Jesse called him — "Hank Hitler?" Beware the man who kills a boy and feels no remorse. And now Todd is in Walter's orbit. The question thus becomes who is more evil?
7.) The TAG Heuer Monaco wristwatch that Jesse gave Walt. What is it about time in this series. Time — especially this season (witness the specificity of Walt's orders to kill ALL of Gus' men within a two-minute time frame; not three minutes or four, but two. Why two? I dunno; Walt does.) Time is even more ruthless than Walter and he now has a $3600 wristwatch to keep track of it .?.?.
8.) The banishment of the children from the White House. In a way, this could go either at number one or number 8; I'll opt for number 8. Children in the context of "Breaking Bad" are everything — they are purity and innocence, but most of all they are potentiality. They are the future. They are what will be. That's the core theme of "Breaking Bad." What will children become? Will they turn into Hank or .?.?. Walt? The alchemy of "Breaking Bad' is really all about the alchemy of the human soul — what makes us who we are, and what makes us good, or bad? By sending Walt Jr. and Holly away to Hank and Marie's house — Skyler of course had her reasons — the show is taking what is fundamentally good and siding it with good (Hank and Marie.) Thus stripped of his "family," Walt is stripped of his professed reason-for-being. But when the kids return to the house, watch out. Something terrible will happen .?.?.