AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 5, Episode 1: “Live Free or Die”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a recap & review of the Season 4 finale, “Face Off” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Madrigal” – click here
In a Denny’s by himself, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has breakfast. On the plate he spells out 52 in bacon. It’s his 52nd birthday. He looks a lot different than we last saw. He’s not going by his real name, he’s got a fake ID from New Hampshire. What’s going on in his life currently? Danger, that’s what. He’s there to meet Lawson (Jim Beaver) about more firepower. This time, it’s serious artillery— a machine gun.
We’ve some catching up to do!
After the death of Gus Fring, everyone’s reeling, even the DEA. Skyler (Anna Gunn) is able to get hold of Walt on the phone. He lets her know: “I won.” This means Hank (Dean Norris), Marie (Betsy Brandt), and everybody else. Her husband quietly confirms he was the one to make it out on top. Back at home, Walt cleans the place up after his bomb making, to make sure the place is nice and clean of any potential evidence should things go haywire. Oh, and can’t forget that Lily of the Valley. Wouldn’t want anybody – particularly Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) – discovering that little bit of nastiness. Soon, Jr. (RJ Mitte) and Skyler are back with the baby, and life’s supposed to go back to normal. Yeah, right. It’s already awkward enough having Jr. excited about the wild conclusion, calling Hank a hero and not realising his father’s the one who murdered Gus. And Skyler’s only more afraid of her husband than before. What a mess. By providing for and protecting his family, Walt’s only served to destroy them and himself.
What about the exploded lab? Could there be any evidence remaining? What of the security cameras? Better yet, what of the footage? Oh, shit.
Hank and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) are down in the leftover rubble having a look themselves, along with others from the DEA and various agencies. It’s literally nothing but a hole in the ground. Ironic, how Walt said a while back that without him the lab would be nothing but an $8-million hole in the ground. This prophecy came true, in a way.
Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) has been out of commission since the Mexican cartel massacre. He’s given word Fring is dead. This sends Mike flying back home. On the way back, he comes across Pinkman and Mr. White on the road. He’s ready to shoot Walt, but Jesse refuses to let him. Heisenberg alerts him to the security footage problem: “It‘s all on tape somewhere.” They’ve got to figure out how to get their hands on or destroy any tapes in existence.
For the time being, these three are tethered together, as Hank and the authorities are bagging Fring’s computer to put it into evidence. Mike starts using his job as a former cop to reach out and try to get information on the whereabouts of the laptop. They’ve got it in the Albuquerque Police Department lockup. No way in, no way out. The hitman’s “getting the hell out of Dodge” before the heat comes down. Walt isn’t so ready to give up. He says they don’t need to get the laptop out, they only need to somehow erase what’s on it. Jesse suggests “a magnet.”
In search of the strongest magnet, Walt, Jesse, and Mike find a junkyard, owned by Old Joe (Larry Hankin). There, they’ve got access to one of those huge magnets used for moving vehicles. If they put it in a van, park it alongside the precinct, they could, theoretically, turn the magnet on and pull everything to the wall from outside. In doing so, the magnet would erase everything on the hard drive. That’s all in theory. Mike, for one, isn’t so sure it’s a sensible plan. They do a test. After a little bit, it looks like their magnet might actually work.
There’s other troubles, as well. Skyler gets Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) visiting the car wash. The lawyer’s there to let her know what happened with Ted Beneke’s (Christopher Cousins) weird fall. He’s in the hospital all fucked up. Skyler goes to visit, finding him in a brutal condition and scared for his life.
At the precinct, Mike’s able to open the security gate so Walt and Jesse can drive their junk van up close to the building. They park at the wall. Walt turns on the magnet, gradually upping the juice. A cop insides notices the computer monitors all shut off. Slowly, things are drawn to the magnet. One by one, pieces of evidence slip off the shelves, light fixtures lean. Walt keeps turning up the power and everything’s flying off the shelves inside. Alarms begin going off. Walt needs to make sure the laptop’s erased, so he turns the power all the way up and tips the van into the building. The cops rush out and discover the vehicle abandoned. Mike, Jesse, and Walt are already gone.
“Yeah, bitch— magnets!”
After the job, Mike’s not exactly ready to trust Walt, though the latter appears to be settling in as the new boss of their operation. Not that it’ll last much longer than it has to, Mike won’t be listening to Mr. White after they’ve got their evidence issues settled. Speaking of, at the precinct, cops look through all the evidence, much of which is damaged. A framed photo of Gus and Max reveals a Swiss Bank account in the Cayman Islands. Goddamn.
At his office, Saul lets Walt know about the Beneke situation. He explains everything in as positive a light as he’s able, but that isn’t saying much. None of this is any good. The chemist doesn’t dig his $600K was given away to a guy who fucked his wife. He also takes issues with his lawyer using the word “ethically.” Not that Walt is any better. Saul reveals he had Huell lift the ricin cigarette off Jesse, confirming even more deviousness than we’d seen before. Also proves to us Mr. Goodman’s totally corrupt, to the limit, if we didn’t know already. Most of all, we’re seeing Walt totally transform. There was a humanity hanging on by a thread, at one time. Not so much anymore. He’s full-on going Tony Montana.
Another great chapter in Breaking Bad. Definitely a fine start to Season 5. Should be lots of interesting things during this re-watch of the final season. “Madrigal” is next, and we’ll start seeing the full fallout of Gus dying.