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Breaking Bad – Episode 5.11 – "Confessions"

Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul)                        Ursula Coyote/AMC
     Confessions can be incredibly difficult. So many of these characters have kept things from each other since the beginning of Breaking Bad, afraid of the consequences that might rain down on them if they were to tell the whole truth. The entire premise behind Breaking Bad is that a meek chemistry teacher turns to a life of crime to help pay his bills after being diagnosed with cancer. By its very nature, the central character of the show must keep his cards close to his vest. This is why “Confessions”, the third of eight final episodes of the AMC drama, feels like such a relief after everything these characters have gone through. Jesse’s confessing to Walt, Saul’s confessing to Jesse, Todd’s confessing to his uncle and Walt’s creating a manipulative story that masquerades as a confession to the police. While some are bragging about their past actions (Todd), others are just trying to salvage what little good will they have left (Jesse, Saul). There is a cathartic moment for each of these characters in “Confessions”, and it’s fascinating to watch.

     I found it interesting that writer Gennifer Hutchison and director Michael Slovis decided to begin this episode with an extended diner scene with Todd and his white supremacist uncle. It is a scene that could easily have been pulled from a Quentin Tarantino movie and is obviously an homage to the cult favorite director. Everything from the diner location to the seemingly endless dialogue to the visit to the bathroom could have been straight out of Pulp Fiction. But the homage is not just for stylistic purposes. As Todd tells the tale of stealing the meth from the train (back in episode 5.06, “Dead Freight”), there is a sense of foreboding. There is a disquieting tension to the scene that will likely set a tone for the rest of the season going forward. The scene ends with Todd and company driving back to New Mexico, which probably doesn’t bode well for Walter White. 

 
     Meanwhile, Walt remains blissfully unaware that Todd could become a potential threat to him. Walt is busy dealing with his brother-in-law Hank, who has discovered Walt’s entire criminal operations. Walt slips Hank and Marie a DVD confession for them to watch and the couple assumes that he was finally going to turn himself in. Instead, they are treated to a masterclass in bullshitting as Walt frames Hank for all of Walt’s wrongdoing. The scene, in which Hank and Marie watch Walt’s “confession” in stupefied horror, is admittedly a thrill to watch. However, that doesn’t mean Walt has suddenly become a root-worthy character again. He has gotten so good as misting the people around him by playing the unassuming dad with cancer card that Hank and Marie are left completely stunned by his nearly psychotic behavior. Walt’s blackmail here was absolutely brilliant, forcing Hank to tread lightly as he learned that the money to pay off Hank’s surgery was all from Walt. This was an excellent resolution of a storyline that begin in season 3, proving that the series is intent on tying up all loose ends.
 
 

 
     This new “tying loose ends” philosophy is not anywhere more apparent than in Jesse’s revelation at the end of the episode. Walt tries to manipulate Jesse into taking on a new identity so that he could eliminate another potential threat to his livelihood. Walt continues to perform his mist on Jesse, who grows more and more fed up with him with each encounter. Jesse finally blows up on Walt, arguing that he doesn’t even care about him at all (which is true). This is a heart-breaking scene played with expertise by Aaron Paul, finally snapping out of his drug-induced stupor for a moment of clarity. He takes Walt’s advice anyway and set up a new identity through Saul, which is understandable, given how unhappy Jesse has become. As Jesse waits for the van to take him away to his new life, he looks down at his cigarette carton and something clicks. Though it is not immediately obvious what he is thinking, it becomes clear that he has figured out that Walt poisoned Brock, his ex-girlfriend’s kid, way back in the day.
 
     This sudden realization was a bit of a stretch, as I’m not sure that Jesse has the type of critical thinking skills to suddenly understand an event from so long ago, even if it was critical to his life. Jesse’s realization jumps from him confronting Saul in his office, nearly beating him to death in the process, to getting a jug of gasoline and pouring it all over Walt’s house. It’s definitely an exciting, tension-filled scene that Breaking Bad has become known for, but I’m not sure if it was entirely earned. I get that certain ordinary things can be triggers for some people, but I don’t think it was entirely believable as something Jesse would put together. Paul’s performance in “Confessions” however, is more than convincing and should easily be his episode submission at the Emmys next year. This episode was a necessary one as Breaking Bad enters its final five episodes of the season. It provides the characters with a set up to finally confront each other head on as Walt finds his life threatened from many different sources.
 
Grade: A-
MVP: Aaron Paul
 
Awards Potential:
 
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Aaron Paul
Writing for a Drama Series: Gennifer Hutchison
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