Breaking Bad: To'hajiilee   Rewatch 
February 2, 2015 9:18 AM - Season 5, Episode 13 - Subscribe

Things heat up for Walt in unexpected ways.

"It may be a while before I get home."

Allison Keene, Collider:
“To’hajiilee” was a chess match, and its ending was like someone walking in and knocking every piece off of the board.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:
Until Uncle Jack and his crew arrive loaded for bear, this felt like a pretty damn spectacular version of how "Breaking Bad" should end. The great Heisenberg is outsmarted by two men he would never expect to be working together, using the same kind of chicanery he employed to take out Gus Fring. He confesses many of his biggest sins, returns to the scene of his first crime and is cuffed and Mirandized by his brother-in-law.
Donna Bowman, AV Club:
That turnabout—from Jack’s gang doing Walt’s bidding, to Walt doing Jack’s—is merely the last and most explosive instance of “To’hajiilee's” narrative structure: Mice turning into cats (and back again). The seesaw of hunter and hunted, plotter and pawn, victim and perpetrator, wobbles so fast in this episode that inattentive viewers (if any are left on this show) will likely experience whiplash.
Andrew Romano, The Daily Beast:
In that split second, “To’hajiilee” turns—and Gilligan’s true vision for Breaking Bad becomes clearer than it’s ever been before. As I watched the final shootout—the hail of bullets buzzing back and forth between Hank and Agent Gomez on one side and Todd, Uncle Jack, and Uncle Jack’s neo-Nazi buddies on the other—I thought back to what Gilligan had actually said to me. “I absolutely see Breaking Bad as a modern Western,” he’d explained—emphasis on the modern. Hank isn’t the hero. There are no heroes. There is only Walter White and what he hath wrought. And in the end, that’s what “To’hajiilee” is telling us. That Breaking Bad is about Walter White’s descent—not anyone else’s heroism.
Maureen Ryan, HuffPo:
For all the ugliness Walt has put in the world, the last third of this episode managed to be gorgeous. Even the moment he gave up had a beautiful poignance: Walt, wearing white, his hands raised in a gesture of surrender that clearly recalls Christian imagery, was framed just so against the red desert cliffs. The moment before that, behind the rock, when Walt finally gave up, Bryan Cranston made Walt's face go slack with relief.

This is just one reason MacLaren is such an brilliant director: Walt's car ride, the showdown in the desert, the John Ford badassery of the episode's concluding scenes -- all those big moments were suitably epic and terrifically alive. And yet the episode allowed a small yet vitally important moment -- a pure desire to stop being Heisenberg and just be a human being -- to register on Walt's tired, beat-up face.
Director Michelle McLaren interviewed at HuffPo; at BuzzFeed:
Bryan and I discussed this being the most impotent moment for him. He feels shock, betrayed, he feels hopelessness, he feels, Oh my god, what am I going to do now? And then, as he realizes he doesn’t have an out here, he’s going to have to give himself up, as he gets closer to Jesse: anger. So betrayed. So viciously angry at Jesse, and hatred comes in. Bryan Cranston being the brilliant, genius actor that he is, he feels it all.
Writer George Mastras interviewed at TV Guide; at The Hollywood Reporter; at Vulture.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
[I just want to take a moment to thank you for all these carefully-curated posts. This Rewatch has really enriched my appreciation of the show.]
posted by psoas at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

[I concur. I haven't been watching every episode, but I do read the posts and the collected materials.]
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

[Thanks. The posts have gotten longer this season because at this point EVERY SINGLE CRITIC was covering the show; and EVERY SINGLE EPISODE was generating another round of writer/director/showrunner interviews. I rather like focusing on the contemporary reviews, rather than the retrospectives, to re-experience what the critical sentiment was at the time.]
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:13 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

And stepping out of metacommentary now: astonishing that Michelle McLaren wasn't Emmy-nominated for this episode, or that Rian Johnson wasn't for Ozymandias. Instead, Vince Gilligan was nominated for Felina -- and lost to True Detective. That seems an odd choice to me; the finale was OK but these 2 episodes were spectacular. Did Sony (?) not submit them? Or did the Academy simply choose to nominate the finale as representative?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Answering my own question: the 2014 Emmy nominating ballot included 7 of the final 8 episodes of Breaking Bad (the omission being Buried which was also directed by MacLaren). So it was the Academy voters that picked Felina as the nomination.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Finally Walt's approach catches up with himself here. He thinks he can wheedle himself out of anything, given the right offer, the right amount of money, the right promises. But he's been lucky, really. Lucky that those he has been facing before consider him more useful alive than dead. Hank knows. Hank gets a triumph here, not only in successfully catching Walt, but in understanding and accepting his fate. Hank doesn't deserve the end he has here, but he faces it well, something Walt completely fails to do.

Walt's action? To snarlingly make sure Jesse gets caught to.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:52 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

That's one hell of an ending for this episode, choosing not to end it just before the shootout or just after it, but in the middle of it.

Wonderful direction of Walt finally getting caught, and a nice callback to "Two Minutes," with Hank placing the call telling Marie that everything's fine just before all hell breaks loose.

So much emotion about this one, knowing what happens.
posted by johnofjack at 4:45 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I recently discussed how Breaking Bad uses actual New Mexico locations, settings and scenery with some co-workers, and this episode highlights that, including the name of the specific location. As pointed out in the Vulture article, the Navajo (Diné) word To'Hajiilee translates as "bringing up water from a natural well," which has meaning for Walt's first words to Jesse: apply yourself.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

However bad this episode ends for Hank, his handling or the chase to capture Walt is strategically masterful: we see the snapshot of "Jessie with his brains dashed out" used to scare Huel and the "Barrels of Walt's money" photo used to sent Walt sprinting towards To'Hajiilee. We also see Walt's meticulously constructed phone call from Andrea - intended to lure Jessie to his assassination - get immediately spotted for the scam it is. After being one step behind in the hunt for Heisenberg, since the start of the show - it is thrilling to see him get to pull ahead at this stage.

In terms of lures, we see Walter assume Andrea and Brock's welfare will be the one thing that will draw Jessie in - and simultaneously Jessie's insight that Walt can be lured in only by any perceived threat to the pile of money he buried in the desert. The fact that it is a cash hoard rather than any threat to his family, that brings Hank in - shows where his real focus lies.

And - a shout out to the idea of using the numbers 34, 59, 20, 106, 36, and 52 as the geolocation for the winning hoard. It turns out that it actually is possible to signify a geolocation by buying New Mexico lottery tickets (you just need to buy 6 of them) - and also anybody who seeks out that particular location will find themselves not on Navajo land - but rather - and very appropriately - right here.
posted by rongorongo at 10:52 PM on September 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Once Walt was handcuffed and in the car, Hank lingered, called Marie. There were moments when neither of them had eyes on Walt. And I figured his peacocking and casualness would get him killed. But maybe not.

The look on Jesse’s face when Walt surrendered. Astonishment and relief.

If they recorded that phone call this should be a done deal, surely. I mean SURELY they did.

Also why the hell didn’t they radio for backup while going to meet an armed criminal in the desert, confessing crimes in a phone call en route???
posted by bunderful at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2023

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