Breaking Bad: Gliding Over All   Rewatch 
January 21, 2015 9:35 AM - Season 5, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Walt ties up loose ends. Seeing the evidence of his success, he makes a startling and dangerous decision.

"I'm out."

Myles McNutt:
The montage answers some questions about how we’re going to move quickly enough to get to the flash forward that opened the season: after the show took over four seasons to get through a single year, a single montage travels a quarter of that time, making Walt’s date with a very big gun a nearer future than it was previously.

It’s a fascinating montage, risky in its risk-averseness. It’s a risk for a show known for reveling in the dense atmosphere of the day-to-day to suddenly gloss over a lengthy period of time: it goes against what we perceive as the pace of the show, and it suggests that the period of time in question is suddenly drastically less dynamic than what came before. Just look earlier in the episode, when Walt stares at his watch for three minutes as Todd’s uncle’s connections complete the work of eliminating the nine loose ends. In four minutes, nine lives are ended, an entire DEA investigation is destroyed, and countless people’s lives are affected in immeasurable ways. When you skip over three months, you miss the three minutes, and I do think that’s something of a copout, or a shortcut.
Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post:
When Walt stood at the kitchen sink telling Skyler he was done with drugs, I felt as though there were some scenes missing. How did Lydia and Todd take that news? Would they continue without him? How would Walt feel about the fact that Todd, Lydia and even Jesse could still implicate him in an untold number of crimes? Being "out" wouldn't mean that he was safe from them turning on him at any point. Would the family have to go underground? They certainly didn't appear to be preparing for that.

And anyway, the whole problem with getting out is that sometimes your business partners don't take kindly to goodbyes. What about his new buyers in the Czech Republic? His local distribution partner? Were they going to be okay with Walt closing up shop, or handing over the business to far less experienced hands? Everybody was making an insane amount of money -- it doesn't stand to reason that everyone would just agree to let Walt go quietly.

Of course, it's quite possible that many of these questions will get answers when the show returns in 2013, but the way "Gliding Over All" glided over so many of these questions within the episode itself ... well, it didn't sit quite right with me. There's a difference between mystery and confusion, and Walt's "exit" from the business was a little further into the latter category than I would have liked. I'm all for cliffhangers, but this felt more like the show simply didn't have time to get to these questions.
Sean Collins, Rolling Stone:
Enjoy the little riches of the performances: Laura Fraser lighting up as Lydia when we finally learn what, exactly, this seeming basketcase brings to the table of one of the most formidable drug operations in America. Anna Gunn holding that purple pillow like a shield as Skyler when she realizes she no longer has any excuses for keeping the kids at her sister's house. Aaron Paul collapsing against the wall of his hermit house as Jesse, looking at his money and his gun like they were covered in larval insects. Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris as Breaking Bad's own Valjean and Javert, both so exhausted by their high-pressure lives at different points that they all but sink into their armchairs.
James Poniewozik, TIME:
I suspect some viewers are disappointed by the idea of Hank getting tipped off to Walt’s secret essentially by accident–literally, with his pants down. But on reflection, maybe that was the only way it could happen. This season gave us Walt utterly triumphant—if despicably so—and Hank, in the end, utterly thwarted on the verge of getting one of the prisoners to flip. There was simply no way Hank was going to catch Heisenberg; he was outmatched. But Walter White–relaxed, his guard down, convinced that he had in fact managed to pull off the perfect crime? That guy, Hank could get.
Vince Gilligan answers fan questions for AMC, Part I and Part II:
Why on the toilet? We were looking to do a type of scene and a moment of revelation that was unique to the show and that seemed a bit overly-mundane or perhaps even undramatic in its setting. Breaking Bad is known for its moments of high tension and drama and showmanship, and we wanted to end the season in a very different manner. We believe that the moment of revelation, when it finally comes, is so very dramatic that really it could be set anywhere and still have the punch of horror for Hank that it needs to pack.
Vince Gilligan interviewed by Alan Sepinwall:
We really liked the idea that after everything Hank has said and done, after all the hard work he's put into catching Heisenberg, it would pretty much literally fall into his lap. We liked the irony of one of life's less dramatic moments serving as the very moment when the biggest single revelation that will ever occur to Hank, occurs to him. It is quite literally an "Oh, shit" moment.
More Gilligan interviews: New York Times; Salon, including some fascinating insight into the writing process plus bonus Kubrick references.

Michelle MacLaren was nominated for the 2012 Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Emmy for this episode, losing to David Fincher for House of Cards. The 8-episode season won the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy.

How much money was in that pile?The Internet attempts to calculate it: somewhere between $15M and $80M.

Andy Greenwald at Grantland anticipates the final (half) season:
Breaking Bad is the rare show that was designed for this moment; it’s a doomsday device, built to end. There isn’t a single person watching Breaking Bad who thinks Walter White is going to survive these final episodes and, even more noteworthy, everybody is entirely fine with it. I’ll say it again: Walter White is going to die and we’ve known it from the first miserable moment we made his acquaintance. What makes Breaking Bad‘s final season unprecedented in TV history is that for the first time, an entire audience has willingly bought tickets to the same grim destination.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I kind of like that the most devastating thing for Walt to learn (and that it's taken him over a half-century to learn is pretty key) is that when you're a hungry striver, success is boring. He has all this money and a fearsome reputation, but the nature of the beast is that he can't go public and get the adulation he craves, so there's nothing more to do.

But then Hank figures out the obvious, and things get awesome.
posted by psoas at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The time dilation piece is interesting, especially the fact that it is inside this episode. You have the very, very tight timeline of the nine names getting disposed of in 2 minutes (and I should've checked, did the show do that in real time? i.e., did we watch Walt at the window and the cuts to the prisons for 2 precise minutes?) and then two bounds forward in time...the 3 months of just cooking with no outside distractions or problems...and then to the family dinner, which seems to me to occur some length of time after "I'm out" and the kids have moved home.

I have to wonder..if Hank had never had the revelation, would Walt have been able to keep his mouth shut for however long he had left? Or would his twisted need for recognition of his genius require him to do or say something along the way. He wouldn't be content with just Skyler knowing.

Since I very much view the cancer and Heisenberg as linked (either one or the other was going to consume Walt from the inside), it's no coincidence that the cancer comes back shortly after he quits cooking,
posted by nubs at 2:43 PM on January 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

did the show do that in real time?

Either it did, or it was cleverly edited to suggest that it did.

While I remember it: the shot of Hank being told about the prison killings felt to me very strongly reminiscent of Bush being told about 9/11.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:17 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

*long pause*

"It can be done... *exactly* how I want it."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:58 PM on January 21, 2015

Walt deciding to quit... I never know if I like it. It seems really easy (although complications do arise, as we'll see), and it doesn't seem quite in character for him. Also, I think the murder of ten inmates simultaneously is genuinely the stupidest thing the show has included, because apparently if you pay some white supremacists related to your colleague enough money they can perfectly execute, with not one failure, a time perfect murder in all prisons! It's frustrating because this marks Walt's most blood thirsty and cold act, yet it's accomplished so easily.

I do love that ending though, even if it's a shame Hank has to find out via a magic book we've never seen before rather than finally connecting the dots via something that has been in plain sight all season.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:14 AM on January 22, 2015

We had seen the book before. A few times. I even specifically remember the scene where Walt decides to leave the book out, as a kind of trophy.

Breaking Bad was really really good about not just having things appear out of no where.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:13 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

We had seen the book before. A few times. I even specifically remember the scene where Walt decides to leave the book out, as a kind of trophy.

Hmm, I guess I'm just wrong there then! In which case (that), objection withdrawn!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 7:16 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the book had been around. In a way, I think it's somewhat interesting that after Walt has tied up all his loose ends, it's the simple fact of the book he kept as a trophy that starts everything coming apart.

But your comments about the neatness by which things get wrapped up in this episode is, I think, one of the areas where Breaking Bad had it's problems. At times, things are just a little too convenient, a little too easy for Walt throughout the series (which is why I wondered at times if we were just watching dream/fantasy sequences the first time I saw certain episodes). Usually, the series is pretty good about showing that Walt's solution to a problem creates even more problems, but not so much here. Here, Walt says he is out, and he is out - Todd and Lydia and everyone else apparently have no concerns about him leaving, and he has no concerns about them keeping quiet. I guess it's a sign that he's now at a level where both he and the people he's dealing with are professional enough criminals that they don't plan on upsetting anything, but I really can't see Todd and his Nazi family really letting Walt go that easily.

I'm usually willing to overlook it when BB skates over certain things, but this was an issue that seemed to keep coming up in season 5.
posted by nubs at 8:19 AM on January 22, 2015

Usually, the series is pretty good about showing that Walt's solution to a problem creates even more problems, but not so much here. Here, Walt says he is out, and he is out - Todd and Lydia and everyone else apparently have no concerns about him leaving, and he has no concerns about them keeping quiet.

Up to this point, it's Walt who's made the biggest deal about the purity of his cook. It's even been lampshaded a few times along the way--like Jesse saying "We have the least discriminating customers in the world"--and given how well Jesse (and even Victor!) learned his method, I doubt anyone suspected at this point that Todd was going to make such an inferior product without him, or that it would matter.

It does become a plot point in the second half of the season when Lydia gets all righteous about her Czech customers and their tastes, but the problem (which has been seeded by Walt's retirement) hasn't yet emerged.
posted by psoas at 9:36 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, Jesse says (in Fly I think) that "we sell poison to people who don't care."

Declan also questions why he should care about 70% vs 99% purity; Walt snows him somewhat with the argument that higher yield means more profit.

I'd argue that Gus always cared about the purity too, as a way to differentiate his product from the cartel's: something that goes right back to Hermanos where he and Max argue to Don Eladio that Max's product is far superior to "biker crank".

Walt says he is out, and he is out - Todd and Lydia and everyone else apparently have no concerns about him leaving, and he has no concerns about them keeping quiet.

Walt grumbles later in the season, when they try to bring him back in to consult, that he left them "a turnkey operation". I suspect he made a very convincing argument that the business ran itself. Also: Walt exiting the partnership means more share of the profit for the remaining partners.

Usually, the series is pretty good about showing that Walt's solution to a problem creates even more problems, but not so much here.

To be fair, that does happen here; it just takes a few episodes for the cards to fall. Walt's exit strategy of leaving the cook in Todd's hands is a short-term solution at best; his speech to Gus about Victor taking over the cook implies that you need a chemist to keep the quality up. And he knows full well that Todd's abilities fall short of Jesse's: "you applied yourself, that's as much as I could ask."

Walt left the operation with a mediocre cook, after proclaiming himself "the greatest meth cook in America." So of course the Vamenos operation faltered; and of course that leads them straight back to Walt's doorstep to drag him back in.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:04 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

OK, I don't think I was clear in either my head or my writing when I made that comment; it's just the fact that there is no apparent internal or external struggle leading up to "I'm out" and that the later problems - the quality issues due to Todd's lack of skill - are likely ones that Walt set up, because it would be just like him and his ego to make sure they had to come back to him because no one cooks like he does. He's irreplaceable.

In previous seasons, though, the problems that arose from Walt's solutions were usually things he hadn't considered - distribution, cash flow, materials. The quality of the cook, though, is something Walt always had foremost in his mind.

Anyways, point taken, and I'm looking forward to the back half of season 5 where the shit hits the blender in frappe mode.
posted by nubs at 3:45 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

The editing in this episode is very clever in places--not just the prison murders montage but also in Walt bending over the coffee table at Hank's, then sitting up on the job in his cook suit; in the dissolve between Saul pouring a drink and some fluid being poured for use in the meth cook; in the wipe as someone passes between the camera and Skyler sighing at her table, a coffee cup in front of her, and a closeup of a similar coffee cup being lifted as Lydia drinks from it....

I could buy Walt finally wanting to get out: the cancer's back, he's got more money than he could ever possibly spend, and he misses his children. But I had a bit of trouble with suspension of disbelief about Lydia and Declan letting him out, when there are millions at stake. Still, I knew the writers wouldn't have failed to think of that, so I had faith things would work out well enough storywise.
posted by johnofjack at 7:19 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Lighting again. The White house has been becoming steadily darker as the series progresses: even in bright daylight it's all shadows and gloom inside. In this episode the darkness spreads to the Schrader house: usually it's cheerfully and brightly lit, but here Hank and Walt's conversation takes place surrounded by encroaching shadow.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:05 PM on January 29, 2018

I like that we get one happy family scene just before Hank’s discovery: Marie, Skyler, Hank, Walt and the kids having a relaxed meal by the pool. I don’t think we see anything quite like that anywhere else in Breaking Bad - even in Season 1 something is always being hidden. But the group are listening to a radio playing “Up The Junction” by Squeeze in the background: a tale of happy family like all gone to hell.
posted by rongorongo at 3:18 PM on September 20, 2022

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