In contrast to its Emmy-bait compatriot Mad Men, Breaking Bad is an extremely moral show. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, a loose end is never just a loose end, and you can count on each and every chicken (or fly, as the case may be) to come home to roost. Even in its darkest hour, there’s something intensely comforting about the scientific absoluteness with which punishments are doled out in the Breaking Bad universe. It’s fitting, then, that with just eight episodes left, the pendulum has finally begun to swing back out of Walter White‘s favor, and is destined to gather speed so quickly it’s going to give us whiplash.
The episode opens with the image of a fly, a call back to season 3 episode 10, in which Walt and Jesse tried unsuccessfully to eradicate their workspace of all contaminants. It would seem those contaminants have since proliferated into nine human beings, whose lives Walt has snuffed out by Todd‘s creepy uncle with no more emotion than he would feel over the death of a fly. When Jesse shows up to express his distaste, Walt literally shuts the door on him after being intentionally vague about Mike‘s whereabouts. Vulture noted last week that most of the deaths on Breaking Bad are not meant to be sad, and it’s a testament to how desensitized we’ve become to Walt’s violence that these nine brutal deaths (set to a snappy musical montage) bother us much less than the single death of someone just as bad as (and probably worse than) those nine guys, whom we knew and liked.
But wait! Wait a second! On multiple occasions in this episode, Walt’s reptilian eyes look genuinely tortured as he punishes himself with a searing hot, Lady Macbeth style shower, one which is accompanied by a foreshadowing shot of Walt Whitman‘s Leaves Of Grass. Could the violence finally be getting to whatever attenuated shred of humanity remains inside of him? Or is he simply nervous that things are getting too messy, something Mike often warned him about? Do the indifferent laws of moral physics that operate on this show care either way? After all, someone much more human and likable than Walt died last week because the misdeeds that had piled up throughout his life were too many to go unanswered. (It also figured into Walt’s trajectory, of course; his impulsiveness has officially made him not just a murderer, but a committer of unnecessary murders, which breaks the criminal code like whoa.)