Editor’s Note: For eight weeks, WarriorsWorld’s Jesse Taylor will speak to Harrison Barnes about each episode of their favorite current TV show, Breaking Bad, as it completes its fifth and final season. This first installment covers Season 5-B Episode 1: Blood Money.
WARNING: These are episode reviews, so there will be SPOILERS …
Jesse: Before diving into Sunday’s episode, and since this is our first post, I want to cover a little background. You recently called Breaking Bad the best show on TV. Why, and at what point in the show’s run, did you first start watching and what was so appealing about it to you?
Harrison: During the NBA draft process I was flying around a lot, so I asked people on Twitter what some great TV shows would be good to watch. At that point, I had been watching Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Then a few people suggested Breaking Bad, so I bought the first season on iTunes and watched it. Was hooked and bought it through season 4. Last season (Season 5-A) was the first one I watched live.
What I really like about the show is the depth of the characters. As you go through each episode and each season, it’s a great transformation to watch that change in Walt. He goes from the innocent guy with not a lot of respect, then he starts making meth to get by and set his family up without getting too involved in the business, and slowly but surely that persona of Heisenberg starts to take over. It starts to change how he acts, changes the way he is around his family and changes his thoughts on the business. And now he wants to build an empire and is a borderline tyrant with no way out.
On the other hand, as Walt’s turning bad, we start to see Jesse maturing throughout the show. He starts as this rag-tag druggie, to a user trying to clean up his act. Then he gets smarter and smarter with his business and how he conducts himself as he gets closer to the El Pollo Loco guy Gustavo Fring (technically, it was Los Pollos Hermanos) and during his runs with Mike. He starts gaining confidence and can cook on his own and be nearly as good, if not as good, as Walt.
Where do you place it amongst the pantheon of great shows?
It’s definitely the best show out on TV right now. In terms of the best show ever? That’s a tough one. There are some legendary shows; obviously you have The Sopranos, The Wire which I actually started watching last year and is a great show. I never really watched Seinfeld, but I’m sure some people would argue for that. A show like Homeland is on its way into that top group too. They’ve had a helluva a start and it will be interesting to see if they can keep it going. So I don’t know if Breaking Bad is the best show in history.
Where do you stand on Walt as we start this last season? With him or against him? Can you root for Jesse and Hank while still rooting for Walt?
I like Walt. A lot. If it were real life, I would cheer for him. As crazy as that sounds. Obviously I am not promoting drug trafficking or usage. But he has some valid reasons. And even now, his cancer is coming back. Even though there’s that scene where he’s playing Hank in the garage by telling him, “I may not be here in six months,” that might be a realistic possibility. They showed him getting his chemotherapy, so obviously the cancer is back. As much as you don’t want him to start cooking again, you also want him and his family to be okay. That show without Hank or Jesse can still go on. But that show ends if Walt isn’t around. He’s the corner piece and it’s hard not to root for him.
Do you see any of yourself in the Walter White/Heisenberg dichotomy? Off the court, you’re more Walter White – friendly, easy to get along with. Not really threatening. On the court, you flip that switch like Walt with Heisenberg. As Nikola Pekovic, Anthony Randolph and Ryan Anderson can attest to.
(laughing) Yeah, I agree with that. I can see it. But I have to be that calculating Heisenberg who is threatening by outsmarting people. Not Heisenberg at his craziest; giving Jesse’s girlfriend’s son ricin.
I don’t know. I’d say you gave Pekovic some ricin.
You have to be controlled crazy. You have to be driven by something more. Something inner. Like Walt not just wanting to be a chemistry teacher anymore, but someone who is the absolute best at what he does. He needs Heisenberg for that.
Maybe we need to switch your nickname from The Black Falcon to something like HarrisonBerg or HeisenBarnes.
(And by this, Harrison meant, “That’s not funny. Don’t even try it.”)
What are you hoping to get out of this last season? How do you predict or want it to end?
The biggest thing I’m hoping for is that Walt is alive at the end of the show. Now, I have a real bad feeling, especially since they brought back the cancer in this last season. I’m kind of nervous that they are going to kill him off. As a way for him not to go to jail or for the whole Heisenberg thing not to blow up. More importantly, I’m hoping that all of the side entities associated with Walt are able to be okay. I hope Jesse does okay. Yeah, give some of that money away, but save some for yourself and have a nice life on your own. I hope Saul Goodman can finally get away from these guys. Even though he runs a real shady practice, I hope he can land on his feet. I hope Skylar can stop driving herself into a wall; always obsessed, wondering if Walt is cooking and bringing danger to their family. They’ve killed off a lot of people in Walt’s wake, so I’m hoping the remaining characters are okay in the end.
How much do you read into the theories, or even things like Walt and Skylar wearing white clothes because they cleansed themselves of the meth cooking business? Or something like Walt taking on the personality of everyone he has killed – putting the towel on the toilet floor like Gus, etc.? Are you into the side things that are not explicit in the actual show?
I’ll read some stuff because it’s great information. But I don’t personally put too much stock into most of the theories.
So let’s get into the episode and start with the best part first. Walt arrives at Hank’s – pretty much knowing Hank has figured him out. He goes into the garage and plays everything off. But instead of continuing the cat-and-mouse game, he just goes for it. He brings out the GPS devise. Hank closes the garage door and the battle begins. What were your thoughts on that scene?
That was one of the most intense scenes so far. At first I thought Hank was just going to keep going … keep beating on him. Maybe someone is going to pull a gun out. Or grab something in the garage to take out the other one. I thought someone was going to get badly injured, if not die. But as the scene went on, you start to hear Hank list all of his accusations about Walt. And Walt keeps denying and denying. For a second, I thought Walt was going to cave and admit to everything. Before he hit that “tread lightly” line, it felt like he was hinting towards an admission. So I’m thinking Hank is going to have a wire and get him to confess or have some blackmail. But when Walt dropped the, “If you don’t know who I am, you best tread lightly” line you knew he wasn’t giving in.
In terms of rooting for Walt or Hank, I’m more worried about Hank’s health. This is not good him. He is constantly obsessing over this case. He just will not let it go. It gives him panic attacks. And if he loses his job over it, it will be a waste. He won’t have anybody to support him or back him.
Do you think Walt will play Skylar against Hank? Like, “If you take me down, your sister-in-law is going down too?”
I think that’s the kind of wild card Walt won’t reveal. If he gives that up too soon, then he goes down and the whole family goes down. I don’t think he’ll want to risk it.
The show opened with a flash-forward about 9-to-10 months into the future. Same as last season’s finale. Walt goes back to the house, which is fenced in, he’s got his hair, an assault weapon in the trunk and he retrieves the ricin from his hiding spot in the house. And his neighbor Carol is scared to death of him. What do you make of the flash-forward scenes?
My guess is that they will catch up to that timeframe somewhere in the last three episodes. The secret about Walt is going to come out, the family has to move or flee town. Walt will be detached from Skylar and the family. He’s grabbing that ricin to finish out the job. Probably trying to put an end to Hank, Lydia or some new drug rival that gets introduced later in the season.
Speaking of Lydia, the show does a great job of introducing new characters. While she’s not on the level of Tuco, Gus or Mike, she’s very quirky in the fear she portrays for someone of her status in an illegal operation. How do you think she’ll impact this last season?
I think she’ll get Walt interested in cooking again. Especially with the Czech Republic scenario. “How do you feel about putting 1,500 miles between you and your product?” More protection. A chance at that empire idea that Walt gets off on. Lydia has the power to keep Walt involved. She might be the female version of Gus Fring. Or she might introduce someone like that from the Czech Republic who comes to the United States.
Who’s your money on in a fight between Skylar and Lydia?
Oh, Skylar by far. Lydia gets rattled so easy. Back when Mike was alive, there were a number of scenes where he had her sweating bullets. I was like, “Wow, she’s about to collapse right now.” And when she was meeting with Mike and wearing her shades. That was great. He told her to take off her shades, and she was like, “No, I’m okay. I need to be conspicuous.” She called him a made up name when the waitress keeps calling him Mike.
Would you rather watch an episode of Star Trek or listen to Badger and Skinny Pete discuss their versions of a Star Trek episode.
Well first off, those two guys have been Jesse’s downfall from the jump. He definitely needs to lose that dead weight. I thought it was a great scene though. I was surprised they let it run so long. It was just Badger talking and talking and talking about his scene. At first I was lukewarm to it. But then I had to rewind it to see if there was something in there I was missing. Some important message the writer wants to get across. But then it was, “No, they’re just talking about Star Trek.”
When the camera panned back to reveal Walt back in chemo, did that scene surprise you or did you have a feeling it was that serious?
That shot actually took me by surprise. I didn’t think the cancer would come back like that. I thought they were beyond that. Then to add that element into it, now you have added desperation. Walt thinks he has six months to live. Makes everything more exciting and Walt more reckless.
When Walt told Jesse that he needed him to believe that he didn’t kill Mike, did you take that as a threat? Would Walt actually kill Jesse if he felt he had to?
I think Walt would kill Jesse, and anyone for that matter, if they were thinking about crossing him or hurting his family. He’s done it numerous times. I mean, there was really no reason for him to kill Mike. Mike was sailing off into the sunset. He was going to be fine. But Walt didn’t let him go. He goes and shoots him. Walt’s known to do that. So if Jesse is potentially going to put Walt at risk, Walt would kill him.
Is Walt’s ego a huge hindrance for him?
No question. That’s a huge reason why you see him consistently act the way he does. His ego. It seems like every conversation with Skylar recently is about feeding his ego. Proving to her that he is the man. And he has an inner joy with it. He loves having that power; feeds into it. Now he’s walking around with a different set of confidence. “I’m that guy Heisenberg that you’re looking for.”
I just hope Jesse doesn’t start taking that approach. With his new maturity and making that connection with Walt killing Mike. He’s not falling for Walt’s manipulation anymore, but hopefully he turns that into a good thing.
In the last scene between Hank and Walt, I was surprised that they confronted each other so quickly. It’s a mark of why Breaking Bad is such a good show. They get right to the conflict, where others shows may spend several episodes letting it linger and teasing Hank having that knowledge of Walt. Did you expect it to happen that soon?
Oh, not at all. I even thought it might potentially be something that waited until the last scene of the show. It will be interesting to see this next week what Hank’s play is going to be. Will he tread lightly or not?
Now that it’s back, how satisfied were you with this first episode?
It was great. I’m happy to have it back. I think it’s sad it’s the last season. I almost wish they wouldn’t have told us. Just left it out there. Regardless, I’m going to be watching it Sunday nights.