'Breaking Bad' Season 6 Episode 5 Recap: "To'hajiilee" Goes To 11


Really? You expect me to say something? I just watched that, and coherent thoughts are supposed to both form in my brain, and last long enough for signals to travel down to my hands so I can type this recap? That's asking a lot of me, but I'd like to think I'm up to the task. First, let's get this out of the way:


Okay. In last week's recap, I noted that although the episode "Rabid Dog" contained some scenes that were as fraught with tension as any the series, it was mainly about setup. I also pointed out that, with so few episodes remaining in the series, that setup would have to pay off soon. Well, consider it paid off. In fact, consider it so paid off that I'm not even sure how there are still three more episodes to go.

Tonight's episode had everything: a rollicking caper, a triumphant moment for Hank, and, of course, a brain-melting desert shootout that came just as everything seemed to be going so well (the results of which we'll have to wait a week to see). It was the best of Breaking Bad's final eight episodes thus far, and one of the best in the show's history. I can't even begin to imagine where the show goes from here, and I'm not sure I can bear the suspense, but this recap is a time for reflection, so let's begin in our usual way by asking:

What Was the Worst Thing Walter White Did This Week?

Sure, he eventually called off his hit on Jesse (if very, very unsuccessfully), but Walt was ready to do it. He was ready to have a gang of neo-Nazis kill Jesse, someone Walt, himself, said was "like family" to him. Walt met with Todd's uncle Jack and everything. No amount of rationalizing, of lamenting Jesse's inability to listen to reason, or of insisting his demise be quick and painless changes that. Killing Jesse was the one bridge we were led to believe that maybe, just maybe, Walt would never cross. (That he could be coerced into cooking meth again, as he reluctantly agreed to do in exchange for giving Jesse a one-way ticket to Belize, was much less of a surprise.) Walt does, indeed, decide that he can't go through with it, albeit only after he realizes he's cornered by the police.

But by then, Walt's change of heart no longer matters. Walt's order not to go through with the hit is sufficiently unpersuasive that Jack and his gang of thugs show up anyway, and rain enough gunfire down on the desert to put Walt, Jesse, Hank, and Gomie in mortal danger. (Of course, we can only guess at the fallout, because the episode diabolically — if predictably — cut off while shots were still ringing out.) The firefight was the universe's way of pointedly telling Walt, "With what you did, getting cuffed is gonna be the least of your problems." Mike long ago warned Walt of the danger of half measures. This was more like a seven-eighths measure by the time Walt tried to call it off, but there are some things you can't undo.

Thoughts On the Episode in General:

"To'hajiilee" was written by George Mastras and directed by Michelle MacLaren, and seeing those two names in the credits was our first hint that big things were in the offing. The last episode Mastras wrote was last summer's "Dead Freight," aka the train heist episode, while MacLaren is acclaimed by many as Breaking Bad's best director and is also an executive producer on the show. 

As I hope I've made obvious by now, the duo did not disappoint. "To'hajiilee" actually took on a somewhat similar format to "Dead Freight," in that Jesse thinks up an audacious scheme, and for much of the episode, it works to perfection. Only, this time, instead of Jesse's plot to stop a train and steal 1,000 gallons of methylamine from it before anyone realizes what happened, Jesse plots to bring down Walt by threatening his supply of buried money — and, by extension, his fragile pride at having amassed it. With Hank as a coconspirator, things go swimmingly. Thanks to some store-bought brain and a carefully shot photograph, Huell believes that Jesse is dead, and goes into hiding. Walt falls for a makeshift money barrel and heads out into the desert, and, soon enough, Hank finally, finally has his man. For the most part, I'd describe this episode with a word not often used with regard to this mini-season of Breaking Bad: fun.

But so was much of Dead Freight. The heist worked, after all, but that episode didn't end there; it ended with Todd shooting and killing an innocent boy who happened upon the crew at the wrong time. When Hank puts the handcuffs on Heisenberg and informs Marie that things are about to get better, we know things can't really be that easy (and not just because we know there are a few minutes left before the episode ends).

Sure enough, once again, Todd shows up — only, this time, he has a whole bunch of gun-wielding criminals in tow, and much more than one shot is fired. Did anyone die this time? We'll have to wait until next Sunday to find out for sure, but it's hard to imagine everyone makes it out alive. One good thing about Breaking Bad ending soon: if the last three episodes are anything like this one, I can't take much more of it anyway. (In the best way possible, of course.)

Bonus: The Most Heartbreaking Jesse Pinkman Moment Of the Week

It looked like Jesse was thinking about getting out of the car and walking into the middle of the gunfight. If he had actually done so, that would have been the moment. But, again, we can't be sure what he did. So, instead, I offer you:

Bonus Bonus: The Most Fist-Pumpingly Badass Jesse Pinkman Moment Of the Week

When he shouted, "Fire in the hole, bitch!" during the call that lured Walt out to the desert. Oh, and he's finally not calling Walt "Mr. White," anymore. Jesse's his own man now, and for Walt, that is a very dangerous thing.