Analog This: Live Free or Die, Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere

You’re not the boss of me now.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! So if you don’t like spoilers (and based on the Internet buzz around “The Dark Knight Rises,” I can tell that people really don’t), read on with caution.

It is fitting that the first episode of the final season of “Breaking Bad” would begin the same way that the pilot did. In the pilot, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) looks at the number 50 spelled out in his bacon. In the season five premiere, entitled “Live Free Or Die,” Walt was digging on swine and turning his bacon strips into the number 52. During this mysterious flash forward, Walt had aged two years and since that time, he has gone from caring, mild-mannered chemistry teacher to downright evil meth cooker Heisenberg.

I may not be qualified to say that “Breaking Bad” is the best drama ever on television. After all, I still haven’t seen “The Wire,” and I’ve only seen “Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” episodes here and there. However, I can say this: “Breaking Bad” is the best drama I have ever seen on television, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
While “Breaking Bad” shows no signs of slowing down, the season premiere was rightfully toned back after the heart-stopping season four finale. The stakes were high, but not as high. This was classic “Breaking Bad”: Walt had to clear his name, and Jesse (Aaron Paul) got one very memorable declaration of his favorite five letter word that begins with a “b.” 

However, things are noticeably different. Now that Gus is gone, moral ambiguity doesn’t stand as strong. Walt is officially the show’s villain. He officially earned this title after breaking the one moral he had left by poisoning a child (to be fair, he also let Jesse’s girlfriend die in season two). Jesse, meanwhile, is somewhat starting to become the man Walt once was. He’s now just as good of a cook as he is, and he’s even getting into science. He comes up with ideas, such as that magnet one, right off the top of his head the way Walt used to be able to. Now, Walt’s ego is too high to let that brilliant brain of his actually work.

But before I go further, I have to go back. Or should I say forward. No show since the glory days of “Lost” has used the concept of flashbacks and flash forwards as effectively as “Breaking Bad” does. Based on this flash forward, we now know that “Breaking Bad” takes place over a period of at least two years. We also know that something bad enough will happen that will draw Walt to change his identity. I believe this is part of the last resort plan that Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) told Walt about in the season three finale. Walt is now a man from New Hampshire. A close up of the state’s license plate focuses in on the state motto, “Live Free or Die.” This motto is basically the declaration of Walter White and eventually Heisenberg. This is a man who will do anything as long as it allows him to keep his freedom, even if that means constantly shifting his identity. This is a man who once gave up money for cancer treatment because he didn’t want charity. Walter White wasn’t always evil, but he has always been filled with the hubris that is leading to his downfall.

Classic “Breaking Bad” shot

“Live Free or Die” was essentially a heist film condensed into one hour. As far as heist films go, it was a very good one.  This caper involved Jesse, Walt, and Mike (Jonathan Banks) trying to get a hold of a laptop found in Gus’s office containing hours of security footage. Even with Gus gone, his cold and ever watchful presence is always felt. It was locked up in a DEA evidence room and since they couldn’t get it from the inside, they instead got it from the outside using a giant magnet. Walt gets away safely, for now.

Seeing as even the show’s own creator doesn’t feel sympathy for the character, I think Walt’s luck will eventually run out. Hank (Dean Norris) looked pretty sure of something we didn’t know while searching through the remnants of the meth lab. Did he already look at those security tapes and know who Heisenberg really is. Maybe he, like many have already proposed, switched out the laptop and has the real one in his possession. It’s a move that only Hank could pull off.

The posters promoting the latest seasons touted the tagline, “All Hail the King.” This can now be seen as somewhat ironic, because despite all of his wealth, Walt isn’t quite on top of the world. It makes more sense to say that he thinks he is king. At one point in “Live Free or Die,” he claims he is right simply because “he says so” and later he tells Saul that “it’s not over until he says it’s over.” And there Walt is again, too stubborn to ever let someone try and tell him how to live his life.

And as much as I liked this episode, it just felt a tad too short. This might have to do with the fact that this is the first time I’ve ever watched an episode of “Breaking Bad” live with commercials as opposed to streaming on Netflix. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way so next time Gilligan, don’t be afraid to go long. But as far as setting up the next two years goes, we have a hell of a lot to look forward to from the most intense drama on television.

Side Observation:

I feel as if every character on “Breaking Bad” is worthy of their own spin-off. Maybe with the exception of Marie (Betsy Brandt), just because I don’t think I can sit through another spoon stealing ordeal. And while I always thought the spin-off would go to Saul, I think Mike deserves his own at all. He kills it with his many deadpan zingers (“Keys scumbag. It’s the universal sign for keys”) and his mysterious way of living. Seriously, I actually want to see more of his friendship with those chickens.

And in case you were wondering, this is what it said behind Gus’s picture in the cracked frame:

Cayman Islands… definitely important
And how could I forget: 
As always, leave it to “Breaking Bad” to screw with our expectations. 
  • Dara

    Mike could definitely have his own spin off show.. But I could also see him being a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie