Well, “Say My Name” is officially the title of the episode, but from now till the end of time fans will call it “The One Where Walt Kills Mike.” And what an ending for one of the best supporting characters in recent TV history. His closing moments were beautifully assembled. Mike sitting there making peace with it while the sun reflected brightly off the water. Walt realizing too late that it didn’t have to end this way, that he could have gotten the names of Mike’s guys from Lydia. (Though it’s hard to blame Walt for that; I forget about Lydia sometimes too.) Walt says he’s sorry … though probably not too sorry. And then: “Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace.” By the way, if there was ever a moment for a cable net to throw caution into the wind and go ahead and allow the word “fuck” to air in primetime, that would have been it.
That entire ending sequence made this episode, which, quite frankly, I found to be somewhat routine for most of its running time. Yes, Skyler still wants nothing to do with Walt. Note to Vince Gilligan and company: We all get that by now. And there was a notable lack of suspense throughout the middle of the episode. Walt retrieving the bug from Hank’s office went just as smoothly as it did when he installed it. But from the moment Walt opened Mike’s getaway bag and saw the gun, which really was the point where you just knew Mike was never making it through the hour alive, it was like a cold screw being slowly driven into your chest. Something about the horrific look on Walt’s face after Mike’s car crashed and his little old-man run when he jogged over to the car to finish the job — just chilling. These moments were so powerful it ended up not mattering much what came before.
But to be thorough: What did come before was a bitchin’ opening scene that may be the last time we ever find ourselves rooting for Walt. As this episode begins, there’s still primal fun to be had in seeing Walt demand that Declan, the Phoenix drug dealer introduced last week, acknowledge the power of Heisenberg. There’s a part of all of us that wishes we could be that much of a badass. And Walt quickly gets his way in that scene, even though I liked the brief tangent where the fact that not all drug dealers respect the purity of the product like Walt does is touched upon. There’s also a throwaway mention of Declan dying his meth blue so he could pass it off as Walt’s that felt like it could have driven an entire episode or two had it come earlier in the show’s run. Anyway, our rooting interest in Heisenberg quickly dissipates a few minutes after the desert rendezvous when Walt is back to acting like a total dick and mocking Mike for not thanking him for the $5 million he’s about to be paid.
Jesse meanwhile spends most of the episode trying to break it off with Walt, with or without his $5 million. There’s a scene early on when Jesse is staring intently at Skyler, and I first I thought it may have been representative of Jesse wishing he had some of connection with her, what with him being Walt’s pseudo-son at all. But I think the more likely interpretation is that Jesse sees Skyler as a person trapped in Walt’s web, unable to ever break free, and that only increases his resolve to escape.
Hank’s resolve strengthens in this episode too, but, in his case, it’s to find out how the blue meth is still finding its way to the street. Even after his boss orders him to drop the excessive surveillance on Mike, Hanks exploits a verbal loophole by siccing Gomez and the boys on a lawyer Mike has been using to pay off the families of his incarcerated associates. Gomez hits pay dirt — gifs of his smile at the door of the bank fault will live on the Net forever, I’d guess — and it starts a chain reaction that leads to Mike needing Walt to grab his getaway bag for him so Mike can get gone immediately. Well, we all know how that turned out.
The introduction of another new character, Mike’s non-Saul lawyer, was pretty transparent: The Breaking Bad writers’ room needed a way for the DEA to corner Mike without upending any other facet of the show. It might not be top-shelf plotting, but it got the job done and gave a Bob Odenkirk a fun little scene where Saul complains about Mike using another guy for his payoffs. (I also love the fact that Saul has an entire desk drawer full of cellphones, and when one of them rings he has to go digging for it.) Another little highlight from “Say My Name” was Walt rediscovering his inner chemistry teacher as he took Todd through his first cook. That pairing is doomed, but I appreciated seeing a side of Walt that ties back into who he was when Breaking Bad first started.
Some other random observations:
— Yet another desert showdown in this ep. Breaking Bad has probably ruined desert showdowns for every other show that will ever exist. I mean, you’re not going to top it, either in style or sheer number.
— Bacon banana cookies sound fucking disgusting, and I bet Ron Swanson would scoff at the idea of ruining a perfectly good bacon cookie by adding banana.
— Marie has really been an afterthought so far this season, huh? Only her photograph appears in this episode.
— God, I wanted to sucker-punch Walt when he sarcastically alluded to Jesse’s “emotional depth.” More than anyone, I hope Jesse makes it out of this show alive. That guy deserves a do-over at life.
Follow Bob on Twitter: @robertbtaylor