Piling up on the side of “too messy” is the massive amount of cash Skyler’s keeping in a storage locker because it’s too much to even try to launder. It’s a strong visual symbol of the practical uselessness of what Walt is doing; he has more money than he could ever spend, but he continues to cook meth to prove how big his dick is. You think he’s just going to give another speech about how he’s in the motherfucking empire business, but something about him has changed; he seems genuinely affected by Skyler’s little field trip. Another shot shows Walt in medical garb; presumably, the cancer is returning. Could Walt’s physical cancer replace his psychic cancer this time? Will it humble him instead of making him crazy?
In another uncharacteristic act, he returns to Jesse‘s house to talk awkwardly about the old days and drop off Jesse’s $5 million. This conversation reminds us just how far the two have come (gone?) since those first cooks in the RV, and makes us (and them?) nostalgic for the days when the most pitiable person they had to kill was raving meth head/drug dealer Tuco. Walt’s comments on “inertia” also hint that he could finally be gaining some insight into his own actions. Considering Walt screamed “YOU GET NOTHING” at Jesse just last week, that scene and this one are like night and day. And the combination of dread and relief with which Jesse greets the giant bag of money is yet another testament to Aaron Paul‘s acting skills. Something tells me he’s got quite a bit of acting left to do before the series is over, despite Jesse being nominally “out.”
In case anyone is left doubting that something about Walt is different, he makes it explicit to Skyler with just four minutes left in the episode: “I’m out. I’m out.” He even attempts a smile of husband-ly concern, like they just got in a fight about what school to send their kids to and he’s admitting he was wrong. Nice try, dude. Your marriage is still fucked, and so are you.
And Lydia! Let’s not forget about Lydia. Poor, jittery, stevia-loving Lydia. She saves herself from being ricin-poisoned by offering Walt a convincing-sounding plan for product distribution, one which Gus Fring was ready to pull the trigger on before someone pulled the trigger on him. Essentially, the chance to be the new Gus. Walt says yes for the time being, but one wonders how much longer she’ll last if Walt turns out to be serious about staying out of the business, especially with how closely the DEA is looking into Madrigal’s operations.
As the minutes of the episode/half-season wind down and the White family relaxes with Hank and Marie, you know the other shoe has to drop somehow, and drop it does, in the form of that incredibly incriminating copy of Leaves Of Grass that Walt just happened to leave lying around his house. Hank goes inside to take what he thinks will be a regular old crap and stumbles upon something that finally alerts him to the single, huge blind spot he’s had all along. “Holy fucking shit,” you can see him thinking. And that’s it. Blackout! OMFG! It’s been determined: the next eight episodes will consist of Hank vs. Walt, although I still think it will be better poetic justice if Jesse is the one to pull the trigger.
Being so close to getting away with all of it, why would Walt leave that fucking book in his bathroom just waiting to be found by Hank? Maybe for the same reason he forgot about Lydia; he’s become so baselessly convinced of his own godlike potency that it’s made him careless. Last time it led to someone else’s downfall; this time it will lead to his own. Or maybe, as the penitential shower scene would suggest, Walt subconsciously wants to get caught. Maybe there’s a little mechanism in all of us that switches on once too much evil has been done; maybe we feel we need to be punished in order for the world to make any sense. It’s a very Catholic view of things, and one which is not inconsistent with this show’s hardline morality. Of course, there’s also a chance he just can’t pass up taking credit for being Heisenberg, no matter what awful consequences that revelation brings.
Walt is going down; there’s no question about it. But when and how, and whether it happens in a way that even approaches redemption will be the all-absorbing question of the next eight episodes. Fuck AMC for making us wait a year for them! Much like Walter White on his 52nd birthday, I could really use a time machine right now.