A Gut-Wrenching Showdown in 'To'hajiilee' (2022)

There’s a certain type of silence that can be excruciating. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve all not heard it: Squirming in the dentist’s chair, anticipating the drill. A baby’s face the second before the tears arrive. The terrifying space between someone hitting play and a Lumineers song actually beginning.

It’s not a deafening silence, nor a vacuum. Rather, it’s inverted; a cup, not a bell. I’m talking about a silence that isn’t defined by the lack of sound, but by the awful inevitability of the noise yet to come. It’s silence like a threat, a marker that’s primed to come due. It’s not the silence of the grave. It’s the ominous stillness that comes just before.

Director Michelle MacLaren is the John Cage of this malevolent silence, able to wield it as precisely as a pointillist with a paintbrush. And with “To'hajiilee,” the final episode of Breaking Bad she’ll ever direct, she has painted her masterpiece. Under the unblinking eye of her relentless camera, this was television not as entertainment but as endurance. It was agonizing, nauseating, unbearable. I loved every minute but hated every second. I couldn’t wait for it to be over but I never wanted it to end. And I especially never wanted it to end like that.

Still, for a moment, let’s focus not on the noise of that ending — of neo-Nazi bullets thunk-thunk-thunking into the sides of cars, of Walter White’s shrill, impotent cries, of hope leaking out of this series like air from a punctured balloon — but on the silence. It descended on the episode at around the three-quarter mark, when Walt arrived at the site of his buried treasure, a pathetic pirate in a cerulean button-up. During the drag race out of town, he was as manic as we’ve ever seen him, as if he’d finally made up for all those years of not sampling his own product. Yet when he cut the engine, the piston-drums of the soundtrack began to fade, replaced by the banal donging of the Chrysler. Walt stepped outside and the noise washed away altogether. He was alone. There was nothing there. Just the soft scuffles of his own feet on desert sand, our own hearts, like his, jackhammering in our throats.

(Video) Breaking Bad - 5x13 To'Hajiilee - Group Reaction

Are there birds? Maybe a few. I’d like to think they’re buzzards; better yet a murder of crows. But watch the scene again and it’s almost as if you can’t hear them; they’re temporary interruptions of that awful, awful silence. It’s so still out there on the Indian reservation. It’s the type of place where only two types of things can happen: terrible things and nothing. I think we all knew which to expect, even before the arrival of Hank’s car.

About that: two thoughts. One, Walt is a monster but it’s unhelpful and reductive to call him evil. Contrary to what Jesse believes, Walt isn’t actually the devil — he’s just willing to shake hands with one to consummate a business deal. Ultimately what blinds Walter White is the same thing that dooms him, not to mention the very thing that makes Breaking Bad so fascinating: his own unceasing, unquestioning commitment to himself. (Cue the other W.W.!) In those sick, ticking moments of indecision as Uncle Jack breathed into the phone and Hank yelled into the wind, we saw Walter come up against his own red line: He won’t kill family. (Jesse’s a gray area, though. He’s “like” family. So.)

This is admirable, I guess. And consistent. Destroying people’s lives but not actually ending them seems like a tough moral two-step to me but, then again, I’ve never had even a single barrel full of cash. (It’s the same distinction, I think, between killing someone and killing someone with “no suffering, no fear.” I mean, tell yourself what you want, but you’re still killing someone.) So bully for Walt for calling off the Nazis — though I don’t think for a minute any of us believed they were so easily mollified. History has demonstrated that they aren’t the type of people who like to take “no” for an answer. But what I was saying was this: Just because he tried to do the right thing by Hank when it counted, it doesn’t mean Walt’s not still a monster. After all, Godzilla’s ultimate intentions are kind of secondary. He can still knock over half of Tokyo just by turning around.

So the second thought: Hank got his hero moment. He got the villain in cuffs. Walter, beaten, broken down — coughing again, as the Heisenberg body armor weakened, allowing the disease to sink in — shuffling in a Christ pose. (Not an accident. In his mind, no one will ever appreciate the majesty of his sacrifice.) In the breathless moment of Walt’s approach, I think Jesse really expected his former teacher to sprout cloven hooves and horns. But no, he was defeated. Shamed. Shackled. Spit upon and then locked in the backseat of a car like a particularly truculent child. “He’s clean,” said Gomez after searching the man he and Hank had spent the better part of five seasons hunting. It was the opposite of true, but I wonder if it was nice for Walter to hear, to maybe have a chance to believe in his own righteousness for at least a few moments more.

(Video) BREAKING BAD Season 5 Episode 13: To'Hajiilee REACTION

This was when the quiet really started to get to me. It was high noon at the Not OK Corral, but the lawman and the crook were both still breathing. The standoff had stood down. This couldn’t last, of course. But before the bullets, Vince Gilligan (and episode writer George Mastras) had to twist the knife. The phone call between Hank and Marie was cruel and unusual punishment. In the first season, these two were at best comic relief, at worst a purple-and-racism-streaked waste of time. But one of the many cumulative triumphs of this impeccably constructed series has been the way the Schraders have been revealed to be a truly loving — if highly specific — partnership. She pushes him. He pushes her buttons. But their devotion to each other is real and earned and palpable.

So to hear this phone call — him staring at his conquest, her staring at a pile of viscera in the trash can — was almost too much to bear. The whole thing was so fraught, so loaded, so downright McBain-ian in its foreshadowing finality that it inspired me to contribute this piece to the Grantland precap, about how our excitement about the Breaking Bad endgame may have overlooked how agonizing the end might actually be. (Next week’s episode is called “Ozymandias,” meaning it shares a title with a famous poem about a ruined king and a colossal wreck in the desert. You do the math.)

Look, I was shaking my head in admiration even as I was shaking it in disbelief. It was a particularly ingenious bit of plotting to allow Hank his victory in this way. It gave the show a chance to have its cake and eat hot lead too. But god, it was rough. It’s easy to sit here and mock Walt for wanting to walk away from a murderous trade without any blood on his hands. But on some level that’s no different from what I wanted, in that weak-kneed moment, from Breaking Bad. To wit, here are my notes, unedited, taken as I watched the phone call for the first time:

“Things gonna be a little rough for the next couple weeks but they’ll get better.”

(Video) Breaking Bad: Anna Gunn | A difficult scene in "Ozymandias"

PLEASE don’t do this!!!!!

Marie crying
“I’m much better now”
I gotta go, may be awhile before I get home
I love you.
I love you too.

Oh god.

Oh god.

(Video) Breaking Bad Season 5: Episode 14: Jack kills Hank HD CLIP

Wait, I’m getting worked up again. I can hear the silence that announced the arrival of Uncle Jack and his unmerry men and it’s taking me right back. My stomach is imitating Chekhov’s — Chekhov’s! — in Badger’s Star Trek script, post-transporter mishap. So let’s interrupt the inevitable by rewinding a bit. There was plenty about this episode to love, some of which I didn’t even need to watch from between my fingers. The strange, lovesick politeness of Todd as he runs his fingers over Lydia’s lingering lipstick stain. The brilliant soft-rock choices sprinkled through the opening — “She Blinded Me With Science” as a ringtone; “Oh Sherrie” playing just before that — that functioned like white (very white) noise, masking the deathly quiet still to come. Skyler teaching Walter Jr. the importance of branding at the car wash, just moments after we heard, yet again, the importance of the blue color in the meth. Hank and Jesse’s double whammy of successful bluffs. Saul unraveling beneath his well-maintained billboard. That so much should come down to Huell.

Oh, and then there was the surprise return of Andrea and Brock. This was a terrifying bit of misdirection, one that caused me to forget nearly all the breakfast jokes I had planned for the week. (Although I’d like to think Walt never actually felt remorse over poisoning the kid until he saw him shoveling in Froot Loops like they contained the antidote. Something something cereal killer.) I like to credit Gilligan for the way no characters are ever wasted (again, look at how much hinged on Huell!), but Andrea and Brock’s presence here made me look at it a different way: No one touched by Walter White remains unmarked. It would have been awful if Hank hadn’t intercepted Andrea’s call and the Nazi bloodbath had been served up to her front door. But it wouldn’t have been all that surprising.

When the final shootout actually did arrive, well, that wasn’t so surprising, either. Just like the last time gunmen came for Hank, someone tried to give him at least a minute to prepare. But what good’s a minute, after all these years? Or in the face of all those guns? The camera pushed violently into the faces of all the characters: Walt screaming at Jack to stop, Jack showing no intention of stopping. (This wasn’t justice as Agent Schrader intended it, but it was poetic for Walt: forced to watch, powerlessly, as his own worst-laid plans exploded in front of him.) Hank not flinching. Jesse ever so slowly unlocking the passenger-side door …

And then it was quiet again. So, so quiet. As the sound stopped and the trigger fingers itched, MacLaren built a buzz saw of tension and agony out of nothing but images and quick cuts. She’s the most kinetic, expressionistic director of action I’ve seen since Kathryn Bigelow — that they both are women may be a coincidence, but it’s an awesome one. If Alan Taylor can parlay a few episodes of Game of Thrones into a new career as Hollywood’s go-to guy for big-budget spectacle, then MacLaren should be turning down those scripts before he even sees them. It seems unfair that someone else should have the honor of finishing a firefight she started — though Rian Johnson, arguably the show’s second-best director, is a pretty good backup plan — but cutting to black, mid–heart attack, is actually a pretty appropriate way for MacLaren to go out.

(Video) Breaking Bad - Episode 12 (Rabid Dog) & 13 (To'hajiilee) Reviews

Breaking Bad has never shied away from cliff-hangers, of course, but this was something else. This was a fingernail scrabbling for purchase on a sheer drop. We don’t know for a fact that Hank and Gomez are dead, that Walt is now a prisoner of Uncle Jack, cooking meth to keep the same thing from happening to his goose. But we don’t not know it, either. One of the things that everyone loves so much about Breaking Bad is the way it doesn’t make us wait too long for the things it promises; instead of stalling, it sends the biggest scenes hurtling at us with the subtlety and velocity of a freight train: Hank finding out the truth in one episode, Hank punching Walt in the face an hour later.

But what about the scenes we don’t want? The deaths of old friends. The ruination of lives. And, worst of all, the final showing of cards. There are only three episodes left now, and with every one of them that airs there is less and less uncertainty for Heisenberg and his family. That means less to dread, sure, but in Breaking Bad terms that just means there is less to look forward to.

No. Just this once, I’m grateful for ignorance. Better to take a moment out in the desert, in To'hajiilee. Better to live in this gaping, hideous silence. Because it beats the hell out of the alternative.

    FAQs

    Why is it called to Hajiilee? ›

    To'hajiilee is a noncontiguous section of the Navajo Indian Reservation, located in New Mexico. The word comes from the Navajo phrase tó hajiileehé, meaning "where people draw up water by means of a cord or rope one quantity after another."

    What happens in breaking bad s5 e13? ›

    At Jesse's lead, Hank visits Huell Babineaux at a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) safe house and tricks him into cooperating by having Huell believe that Walt has put hits on him, Patrick Kuby, and Saul Goodman. Hank shows Huell a staged photo of Jesse shot in the head as proof.

    What happens in breaking bad s5 e12? ›

    After a cleaning crew cannot fully remove the gasoline scent, Walt douses his clothing and the seats of his car with it. He tells a doubtful Skyler and Walt Jr. a complicated fabrication about a pump malfunction at the gas station. Walt moves the family into a hotel until the carpet and flooring can be replaced.

    What happens in Ozymandias Breaking Bad? ›

    To summarize “Ozymandias,” the third to last episode of Breaking Bad, quickly: Hank is dead. Gomez is dead, too. Todd's uncle Jack and his guys take most of Walt's money. Walt Jr. knows the truth.

    What does to Hajiilee mean in Navajo? ›

    About To'Hajiilee

    It is a Navajo phrase roughly translated in English as “Dipping Water.” It was formed on the “Long Walk,” during the forced relocation of Navajo tribal people, in 1864.

    How do you pronounce to Hajiilee? ›

    To'hajiilee (towa-hee-lee)

    What does Felina stand for? ›

    "Felina" is a portmanteau of "Fe", "Li" and "Na", the symbols for iron, lithium and sodium, or shorthand for "blood, meth and tears".

    Who poisoned Brock? ›

    Sadly, Jesse was right; Walt did cause Brock's illness as a way to turn Jesse against Gus. But the poison wasn't caused by ricin as later confirmed —it was from a Lily of the Valley plant, revealed to be in Walt's backyard in the final shot of Breaking Bad's season 4 finale.

    Where was Walt's money buried? ›

    But you will find a cool inside joke. The GPS coordinates where Walt he buried his cache of cash on Sunday's episode (+34° 59' 20.00", -106° 36' 52") aren't actually for a location in the middle of the desert. Instead, they lead to ABQ Studios, where "Breaking Bad," "The Avengers," and other productions have shot.

    Who kills Hank in Breaking Bad? ›

    Hank then tells Jack to do what he has to do and Jack kills him with a shot to the head. Jack's men bury Hank's and Gomez's bodies in the hole Walt had stored his money, stealing most of it but leaving one barrel totaling approximately $10M for Walt.

    Did Walter poison the kid? ›

    The truth is that Walt did poison Brock — just not with ricin. Instead, he used a Lily of the Valley plant which was growing in his backyard. The effects of ingesting the flower mimicked the ricin that Jesse assumed Brock had eaten.

    Why did Jesse betray Walt? ›

    Walt didn't help Jesse out of the goodness of his heart. He did it to control him. Each supportive action made Jesse more indebted to Walt, meaning he was tied to him, and couldn't break away.

    Is Ozymandias the best episode ever? ›

    The season five episode 'Ozymandias' is often considered the show's best episode (and might be the best episode in the history of television). Despite the persistent quality of the show, 'The Fly' is known as the one moment of weakness in Breaking Bad.

    Why is Ozymandias called Breaking Bad? ›

    The episode title refers to the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which recounts the crumbling legacy of a once-proud king. Bryan Cranston recited the entire poem in a 2013 trailer for the series. Walley-Beckett had wanted to use the poem for a long time and thus introduced it to showrunner Vince Gilligan.

    What means to Hajiilee? ›

    To'hajiilee is a noncontiguous section of the Navajo Indian Reservation, located in New Mexico. The word comes from the Navajo phrase tó hajiileehé, meaning "where people draw up water by means of a cord or rope one quantity after another."

    What is the checkerboard area of New Mexico? ›

    Navajo Territory in New Mexico is popularly referred as the "Checkerboard" area because it is interrupted by Navajo and non-Native fee ownership of numerous plots of land.

    How do you pronounce Ozymandias? ›

    How To Say Ozymandias - YouTube

    How did Walter poison Lydia? ›

    Lydia is the final character to be killed both in the show and by Walter. Lydia's fate is foreshadowed by Walt's aborted decision to poison her with ricin at The Grove in "Gliding Over All".

    Why does Walt leave his watch? ›

    After the Breaking Bad finale aired back in 2013, Vince Gilligan actually did clarify the choice to show Walt taking off his watch and leaving it atop the payphone he used to scam information about Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz. Gilligan claimed the practical explanation came down to continuity.

    What happens to Walter White in the end? ›

    After taking out Jack and the neo-Nazis and saving Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) one final time, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) dies in the place that made him feel alive: the meth lab.

    Did Gus see Walt? ›

    'Breaking Bad's' Giancarlo Esposito clarifies end of 4x12: Gus didn't see Walt | Hypable.

    Did Gus know Walt poisoned Brock? ›

    But after discovering that Brock has been been poisoned, and isn't simply "ill," Gus' entire demeanor shifts, and he gives Jesse the rest of the week off. Obviously, Gus knows he didn't poison the child, and is smart enough to single out Walter White as the only other potential suspect.

    How did Brock get Lily of the Valley? ›

    He has Saul deliver the lily of the valley berries to Brock in some way. This is never shown exactly but probably Walt did something with the berries like made them up into some candy (chemistry skills) or something and had Saul deliver it to the boy.

    Did Walt lose all his money? ›

    In the end of Season 5, it is revealed that Walter White earned a little over 80 Million Dollars in hard cash. Out of that money, he gave 5 Million to Jesse Pinkman simply out of guilt. There was a lot in store that was unaccounted for.

    How much money did Walt leave his family? ›

    He ended up leaving them 9+ Million, I think he was happy with that. Maybe towards the end he was doing it for himself, but at the beginning it was mostly for the money and possibly a little for the thrill.

    Why did Jack give Walt a barrel? ›

    Jack shows some (if not hypocritical) standards, as he states he hates needless brutality like Gus and Hector and greed, as he gives Walt a barrel of the money he just stop from him. He also despises tattletales, as he wanted to kill Jesse when he learned he ratted Todd out for killing a child.

    Was Hank's Body Found? ›

    In the end, Hank's body was returned to his family and Walter was killed after seeking vengeance on Uncle Jack.

    WHO warned Hank before he was shot? ›

    In Breaking Bad, who warned Hank (Dean Norris) about the cartel hit and saved his life? It was none other than Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) who contacted Hank about an impending cartel assassination attempt, despite being the one who ordered the hit in the first place.

    How many deaths is Walter White responsible for? ›

    Fandom. walts body count. Walt has killed (inadveratly or otherwise) 186 people.

    Is Walter White a villain? ›

    Walter White is selfishness incarnate, and perhaps one of the greatest tragic figures to ever grace television, making his ultimate descent into villainy that much more compelling.

    How did Jesse realize Saul took the cigarette? ›

    In the season 5 episode Confessions Jesse realises that Saul and Huell took his ricin cigerette on the orders of Walt (Jesse finds this out by threatening them with a gun) which causes him to also realise that Walter was behind the whole false story of Gus poisoning Brock when it had been him all along.

    How does Gus know about the car bomb? ›

    No, Gus does not explicitly know and think that his car has a bomb planted in it. Upon learning from Jesse that Brock was poisoned under unidentified circumstances, Gus would have perhaps guessed that some kind of foul play was at work, which ultimately ended up bringing him there.

    Is Walter a sociopath? ›

    He believes in pride in his work, and there's no show of remorse in any of his acts of cruelty to get what he wants. The portrayal so far is that he's not a particularly intelligent sociopath, but he uses the tools he has — which means violence, for the most part.

    Does Hank ever find out about Walt? ›

    In the final scene, Hank figures out that Walt is Heisenberg while perusing Walt's copy of ​“Leaves of Grass” on the toilet. The book is inscribed: ​“To my other favorite W.W. It's an honor working with you.

    Does Skyler cheats on Walter? ›

    When Walt defiantly moves back in, Skyler retaliates by initiating an affair with Ted and coldly informing her husband that she cheated on him. Even as her marriage crumbles, Skyler permits Walt to take care of Holly and defends some of his actions to her lawyer, who advises that she leave Walt immediately.

    Who gave Walt the truck in Ozymandias? ›

    Kenny digs up the barrels and they put them in the truck. Jack decides to give Walter one of his barrels and makes him shake hands and agree that there are no hard feelings. Walt agrees, but says they still "owe" him Jesse.

    Does Walt redeem himself? ›

    'Breaking Bad' Producer on Walt's Finale Sacrifice: He Didn't Redeem Himself (Q&A) Peter Gould tells THR that Heisenberg can't atone for the deaths he's caused, but admitting the real reason he committed his crimes is a start: "When he's no longer lying to himself, that is truly the end for Walt."

    What is the point of the fly episode in Breaking Bad? ›

    The fly that appears in Season 5. Flies (Diptera) are common insects that appeared in Breaking Bad. It has been speculated that the fly represents guilt, contamination, irrational obsession, and the loss of control in Walter White's life.

    Why did Walt take Holly? ›

    Holly betrayed him, just like the rest of his family had. Walt grabbed the baby on his way out of the house to punish Skyler, of course, and to remind her how powerful he was. But he wanted Holly because she was the last person in the family who still respected him.

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