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‘Breaking Bad’ Talk: “Gliding All Over”

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In this installment of ‘Breaking Bad‘ Talk, we’re joined by three critics to discuss the mid-season finale, “Gliding All Over,” in which Walt finds an unexpected new partner and gets down to business in a serious way.

Editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by Brian Collins, Germain Lussier, and our own Jacob Hall to discuss the ‘Breaking Bad’ mid-season finale, “Gliding All Over.” Brian runs the Horror Movie a Day blog and is a contributor for Badass Digest. You can tweet him @BrianWCollins. Germain is a contributor for Slashfilm and you can tweet him @GermainLussier. In addition to ScreenCrush, Jacob contributes to Movies.com and you can tweet him @JacobSHall. You can find Britt on Twitter @MissBrittHayes.

Britt: Unlike every other week, I want to jump right in and address the big stuff: Hank has finally caught on to Walt by finding Gale’s inscribed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the bathroom. It’s such a simple mistake, but one that criminals with big egos like Walt’s make — keeping a token or souvenir. All it took was this one item, or errant thread, to unravel everything. Now we know why Walt was on the run in the flash-forward opening of this season. As Walt has finally decided to accept Skyler’s offer to step away from the meth business, he won’t be relaxing and enjoying his normal life for long. Also hinted in this episode is the possibility that Walt’s cancer has returned, which could be the thing that made him decide to finally step down. What do you guys think about this huge development?

Jacob: I’m very curious how Hank will choose to handle this situation. After all, Heisenberg has been literally under his nose the entire time! Drug money paid for his rehab. He killed Tuco and the cousins. He brought Walt on stakeouts. To outside observers, Hank could look like an accomplice. His detective skills are going to be put to the test, for sure. As a big Hank fan, I’m absolutely terrified for the man. How’s he going to feel when the monster he’s been chasing turns up in his own family?

As for the cancer? Oh yeah, it has to be back. But I don’t think Lydia, Todd, and the Phoenix guys are going to let him out easily.

Germain: Before this season began I pretty much figured this was the point the half-season had to end on. With Hank FINALLY figuring it all out. Just as a simple mode of storytelling, it was the perfect cliffhanger because we all knew it had to happen.

However, I’m not sure I agree with the fact that we have all the answers as to the first scene of season five, nor do I believe that Walt has opted out of the meth business. I think we’ve learned, over the course of the series, he tells lies way more often than he tells the truth. So no — I don’t believe his discussion with Skyler.

Like everything with this show, I agree with Jacob that there are way more layers to this revelation. Hank has a very touchy subject on his hands. What I’m actually more interested in —  because we knew this Hank thing was inevitable — is how this is going to change Walt’s relationship with Jesse, which is strained at best as we take a one year break. He still doesn’t know the degree to which Walt manipulated him and when he finds out (though I’m not sure how), Walt’s not only going to have Hank on his ass. Mr. Pinkman will have quite the score to settle, too — not to mention Lydia and the other guys Walt recently got in bed with. The man is in way over his bald head.

Brian: I believe he’s really out.  I don’t see Skyler moving back in without being absolutely sure.  I figured he just sold the recipe, which would pretty much keep him in the clear, no?  Most of the episode seemed a bit rushed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more to it that was cut (though, I will entertain the notion that they cut it to preserve him NOT being out as an option).

I was disappointed that the way Hank found out was such an obvious moment, from the second he went into the bathroom.  I was hoping he’d lock the door and then walk up to the light or something and check on a bug he planted, revealing he had been on to him for some time already that they could reveal later — perhaps during this three-four month period that we just saw via montage.  Hank put together the “why would a vegan eat chicken” thing pretty fast — seems a bit too easy for him to figure out Walt’s secret because he wanted to read while he was on the can (which is bad for your health, so I do like that bit of humor).

Jacob: I do agree that the episode felt rushed. For a show that always been about delving into the nitty gritty details of the criminal world, seeing three months pass in a (admittedly awesome) montage felt a little odd. Do you think this choice was deliberate or was it the result of a shortened season?

Brian: We won’t know until the next batch is over, but the optimist in me figures they want to speed things up now, with eight to go, rather than dilly dally and have to speed up a portion of one of the final two to three episodes (where it would be far more annoying).

Germain: The passage of time in this episode has to be deliberate. Walt went from Empire Maker to “Out” in an instant  like it was a Stanley Kubrick edit. There was so much left out that I agree we’ll fill in many of the holes next year. The show has always been very slowly paced and never scared to go back and explain. We’ll have to get some of that, even if it’s not a beat by beat retelling of how Walt settled all his contracts — though I still don’t believe he did so.

Jacob: I actually liked Hank discovering the truth in such an obvious, mundane way. Hank may be damn good at his job, but Walt was hiding right in his blind spot. The master manipulator vs. the master detective? The last stretch of episodes is going to be the ultimate showdown, guys.

Britt: I think finding the book in that particularly serendipitous manner is totally believable, if not a bit of a stretch. I’m also impressed with the way they gave us a flashback to the moment when Hank asked Walt about the W.W. initials without making it too silly. Often with flashbacks it feels like a show is sort of rubbing your nose in how obvious things are or holding your hand through the answers, but this was edited so beautifully that it felt like a hammer gently tapping a nail for us.

Maybe it will be a bit longer before Walt is on the run, and maybe he’s running from more than just Hank. I think we can all agree that no amount of familial ties will keep Hank from going after Walt on this, but I wonder about his exiting the meth business. Germain seems pretty convinced this is another lie and he’s not out of the game, but I like Brian’s idea that he might have just sold his recipe, which I wouldn’t normally believe given Walt’s pride, but after working for — presumably — months cooking meth to send to the Czechs, it’s plausible that he’s worn himself out. And with cancer likely being a factor again, it seems like he might actually be done. The Walt I saw at the beginning of the episode was the same monster we’ve had all season, but the one I saw at the end of the episode was a human being, and I have to applaud this show and Bryan Cranston for being able to take this character from sympathetic to monstrous and back again.

Jacob: You’re right about that, Britt: I wanted Walt dead at the start of the episode and found myself concerned for him at the end. This show keeps on playing with my emotions!

While we’re discussing the conclusion, who else was waiting for a sniper’s bullet to take out Walter Jr. while he wheeled the baby around the pool? That last scene was just soaked in dread.

Germain: Oh man, Jacob, you’re so right. The final scene at the pool was like the final scene of ‘The Sopranos’ in the diner. I was so tense. I really thought Flynn was gonna leave his sister alone and she was going to fall in the pool.

Brian: I had this momentary vision of Hank walking inside and then seeing his blood splatter all over the drapes because they held outside for an extra beat.

Germain: That wouldn’t have surprised me either, Brian. This was by far one of the most violent episodes in the series of the show. That two minutes, nine murders montage was riveting, disturbing, and exciting all at the same time.

Jacob: God bless Michelle MacLaren, possibly the best director working in television. Someone get this lady a movie. A thriller, preferably. Factor in the script by Moira Walley-Beckett and you have a kick-ass hour for lady filmmakers.

Britt: That whole last scene at the pool just felt uncomfortable in the best way. I’ve never been so worried while hearing people discuss prenatal vitamins.

I think the only thing that really troubles me with this episode is the way that Skyler resigns herself to this man she’s married to, and asks him to quit so she can have the kids move back into the house — as if it changes anything he’s done. She happens to ask at the right time and he says yes, but doesn’t she wonder why he’s saying yes now? It’s not for her or the kids, really, and I think Skyler is so much smarter than this. We’ve watched her have this very powerful emotional journey all season, and she just sort of rolls over flat in this episode.

Germain: Wouldn’t you roll over flat, just a little, if you had a pile of money like that? Another fantastic scene in this episode — the visual representation of all Walt’s evil work, as well as Skyler’s lack of ability to launder it. I think she gave up a long time ago. She could have left him and been fine, but she stays with him because I think she’s always wanted to. She’s always wanted that stability, even if it’s risky.

Brian: Well I noticed they don’t actually show her and Walt being affectionate at all.  Just a look by the pool. We can assume that they’re still on shaky ground and doing this for the kids.

This is where the giant skip forward in time plus the 10 month wait for the next episode is going to sting, because there’s so much unexplained and it might just have very simple answers.

Britt: I do agree that the visual of that giant pile of money is crucial in the moment, and I can see how it might represent the heft of everything they’ve been through and how Skyler is likely just as exhausted as Walt in this scene — and maybe the time jump has something to do with it, but I still just have a hard time buying that she opens the door for him yet again, knowing what he’s capable of.

Germain: I think that’s one of the slightly disappointing things about this episode. While it’s very much a finale for us, it’s only a mid-season finale for Vince Gilligan and company. We wanted major revelations, we only got one, and it’s one that we expected. We have to wait a year to find out what happens but, for our characters, there will be no passage of time. Personally, that’s my only gripe with this episode and it’s totally subjective. I was expecting something a bit more epic, honestly forgetting the fact that these eight episodes are meant to eventually be watched all together with 2013′s final eight.

Jacob: Although I did find the episode a little rushed, I disagree that it felt minor. Maybe I’m just dim, but I didn’t see Hank learning the truth coming at all. Not to mention, no episode that features Walt teaming up with white supremacists to murder ten people in two minutes across multiple prisons can be that disappointing for me. In fact, that murder montage may be one of the absolute best things the show has ever done. Look how far we’ve come: Walt practically wept over killing Crazy 8 back in the day and now he’s pulling a Michael Corleone on people he’s never even met.

Germain: You’re right. It’s not “minor.” Just “slightly disappointing.” That’s like saying a bowl of ice cream is “slightly disappointing” because a spoonful fell on the floor. It’s still fantastic.

Britt: Confession time: I’ve never seen ‘The Godfather,’ but don’t worry, my boyfriend has been scolding me about it for a few days now.

I totally agree about the montage — it was intense. I was uncomfortably giggling at the multiple stabbings because, to me, there’s something sort of hilarious and silly about the way people shank each other in prisons. It’s that tiny, quick stabbing motion that just looks so cartoonish, and married with the music and all the blood — so much blood! — I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It’s such a beautifully edited sequence of scenes and I wanted to rewind it and watch it all over again immediately after.

Also, can we talk about the ‘Friday Night Lights’ reunion between Meth Damon/Todd and his criminal buddy, who played the wheelchair-bound Herc on ‘FNL’? TEXAS FOREVER! I was not even expecting a white power thing there.

Brian: I think what is disappointing about this episode is the near total lack of Jesse.  He only had two scenes, and in one he was being tossed on his ass (“There is no WE”).  Walt’s great and all, but if we’re going to be sans Pinkman for nearly a year, I think we should see him a little more.

That said, the scene was fantastic, and if we’re under the assumption that Walt’s cancer is back and he’s truly out of the business, then the small part of me that still likes Walt really loves that he gave his version of an apology.  Also, enough cash for Jesse to buy a ton of new games and an updated Roomba.

Britt: I think we should start a petition to give Jesse and the Roomba their own spin-off series.

Germain: Lack of Jesse this entire SEASON was a bit of a disappointment, especially after last year’s reveal of Walt’s total betrayal. That was a storyline that was only briefly touched upon this year and mostly, Jesse was just a bitch, yo. I’m pretty sure he’ll be back to #2 status next year though, a role he seemed to relegate to the now deceased Mike this season.

Jacob: As much as I missed Jesse, his absence gave Walt exactly what he’d wanted from the very beginning: a long term operation with a stable partner (and Todd is perfect for Walt, despite being a psychopath), a steady flow of cash, and no wanton violence. Walt loves Jesse, but he was never going to make storage closets full of cash with him on the plan. Criminal Walt needed Jesse gone to grow up. Their reunion felt like two old high school buddies seeing each other after moving away to go to separate colleges. Just so sad: they have nothing left in common, just memories and an old fondness for one another.

Well, one-way fondness: Jesse thought Walt was there to kill him! Bridge = burnt, methinks.

Britt: Although Jesse was absent for most of the episode (which I think served as a reminder that this is, primarily, a show about Walter White), that scene when Walt showed up at his house was fantastic. The look on his face when he sees the bags of cash and realizes he can relax because Walt isn’t there to kill him is so perfect. Jesse made a huge transformation from season one to season five, and while Walt has changed too, I think Walt’s changes are less about transforming and more about enhancing and embracing the darkness that was already there. Jesse has really grown and changed from the ghetto white boy he was on the surface.

Still, no, there was not enough Jesse in this episode, yo. Give Aaron Paul all of the Emmys. ALL OF THEM.

Jacob: Aaron Paul may need Emmys, but I think Jesse Pinkman needs a hug… and a father figure who’s not a murderous sociopath.

Brian: Tellin ya’, he’s gonna team up with Hank.  I’ll bet a drink at Fantastic Fest 2013 on it.

Jacob: Jesse will only team up with Hank if he lets him have a free punch. For revenge and such.

Brian: Also, let’s not forget why Hank beat the s— out of him in the first place.  Jesse has changed a lot since then.  Not a complete stretch to believe he’d feel at least a bit guilty about telling a guy that his wife had been hospitalized.

Germain: Well, if he teams up with Hank, is that who Walt is on the run from at the beginning of season five?

I’ve been looking for that scene online and can’t find it to watch. It seems like that’s going to be our biggest clue as to what’s coming up, because it’s literally what’s coming up. Who is Walt running from? Has he turned? Is he going to kill someone? What’s in the trunk? I have no idea about any of these things. I read an interesting theory online that Walt was wearing a wire in this scene and him flipping on Madrigal sounds like a pretty decent bet.

As for Hank and Jesse? I don’t see Jesse flipping. He’s going to have a score to settle with Walt, but I bet he does it his own way and maybe with the help of everyone’s favorite dynamic duo, Badger and
Skinny Pete!

Britt: I hope we get one last moment with Badger and Skinny Pete next season, for serious.

In which scene does this theory say Walt was wearing a wire? During the coffee shop scene with Lydia? I’m not sure I buy it, but I would perhaps believe Jesse helping Hank, especially if he finds out the truth about Brock and the ricin. Or Jane, even. It might be interesting to see if Hank finds out about Jane first and uses that to crack Jesse. Hank may have beaten the hell out of him, but Jesse’s pride isn’t like Walt’s, and I think he could overcome the past if he needed to.

Germain: The “Walt Wire” theory is from the first episode of season five. People have analyzed the footage and supposedly found visual evidence of a bulge in Walt’s pants — and not the kind that’s kept Skyler around all these years. It’s a huge, huge stretch, but as valid a piece of speculation as anything else at this point.

Here’s my scenario, which I don’t necessarily buy but it’s possible. Hank confronts Walt, Walt has always known this was coming and has a plan –he was a patsy and there’s someone else above him. He agrees to smoke that person out and help Hank and wear a wire. From there, who knows. Again, just totally spitballing here.

Brian: And that person… is Walt Jr.

Britt: Walt Jr. is the real kingpin. There’s ricin in that sunblock.

Germain: YES. More Walt Jr. Talk about a pointless character.

Jacob: While we’re spitballing, what other theories and predictions do you guys have for the final batch of episodes? I want to double back to what I said at the start of the season: in the flash forward, Walt isn’t buying a machine gun for protection, he’s buying it to kill a bunch of people. He’d buy a pistol if he was on the run — with an M60, he may be planning to raid a DEA office or something.

Britt: I think Walt’s cancer plays a big part in the final episode. For a man with all that pride who made himself a king in his own mind, seeing him be eaten away by cancer would be the ultimate act of poetic humiliation. I also think Jesse is going to be just fine. While not a prediction, I really just want to see Jesse and Walt in a huge final confrontation. Also, where the hell was Saul this week? I expect Saul to be around a lot in those final episodes.

Jacob: I fully expect Vince Gilligan’s proposed Saul Goodman spin-off to happen. It has to.

Germain: Hank prevails and lands the whale. Walt gets nailed and either dies or goes to jail. His final act of redemption is letting Jesse get away free. And the family keeps a bunch of the money.

Britt: I’m sorry, but did Germain seriously respond in the form of a poem?

Brian: I’d like to see some sort of actual redemption for Walt.  Preferably jailed than killed (though I assume if he has cancer he can’t be jailed), living out his days realizing it was all for naught.  Jesse should have a happy ending, but then again he killed Gale so perhaps he needs to do some time as well.  Hank and Marie adopt the kids.  Skyler…. f—s Ted, I guess.

Another person that has been short-changed this season is Saul.  I was hoping he’d eventually be a full character, but he’s never really expanded beyond being the guy that they turn to who offers a quick solution and isn’t seen again for another two to three episodes.  Probably too late, but I’d love to see him get a bit of limelight the way they did for Mike this season, but preferably not ending with him dying by the river and being tossed in another acid bath.

Jacob: I can’t shake the final image of the show being Walt, powerful and feared, dying alone in a hospital bed, his entire family out of the picture (dead or fled).

Germain: Vince Gilligan has always made it clear that everything is shown for a reason — so the ricin will play a part in next season, for sure. Otherwise, why make such a point of showing its hiding spot in this episode?

Brian: Maybe Holly is shot on the stairs after coming out of Badger and Skinny Pete’s revival of True West, and then some random time later Walt just drops dead near his Lily of the Valley garden.

Jacob: So, who gets ricin’d? Hank or Skyler?

Britt: I vote Walt uses it on himself.

Jacob: Mind blown. Is Walt on a suicide mission when he gets the machine gun? Has he given himself a ticking clock? HOLY CRAP.

Germain: One of the kids is going to find the ricin and maybe that’s finally when Skyler decides to get her ultimate revenge.

That’s one thing we haven’t talked much about with this whole Hank revelation — how is Skyler’s role going to be viewed by he and Marie? Not favorably I don’t think.

Britt: Oh man. That’s such a huge web of lies and deceit, but I think that deep down, Marie will be more inclined to forgive Skyler and believe her. Before we end the convo,  is there anything else you guys wanted to get into about this episode or this season?

Brian: I just want to say, as someone who watched seasons one through four on Netflix Instant more or less back to back, I admire everyone who A. has watched from the beginning and had to live this torture of waiting for the next season (for even a week) for years now, and B. never spoiled anything for me.  I know everything big on ‘Game of Thrones’ and other shows that I didn’t watch at the time they aired, but apart from a couple of very minor things, no one ever ruined ‘BB’ for me.  Y’all are good folk.

Germain: I think we can all agree that the obvious use of “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was long overdue and another fantastic scene in this episode worth mentioning. I love ‘Breaking Bad’ montages.

My final thought is that this was a pretty solid batch of episodes of ‘Breaking Bad.’ It forwarded the story in small, but major steps and raises the stakes for the final eight episodes to an even higher level. Hank is coming for you, Walt. You better be ready.

Jacob: This has become my favorite show of all time. I’m still not sure what we did to deserve it.

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