Breaking Bad: ‘Ozymandias’ Episode Review

Nothing Beside Remains.

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Quite frankly, ‘Ozymandias’ is Breaking Bad‘s greatest episode to date. Everything that Walt had tried to protect over the course of the five seasons effectively dissipates within one hour of monumental television, and it’s thrilling to watch, despite being emotionally destructive.

From the moment Hank sat on the throne in season five’s halfway point, each episode of Breaking Bad has filled me with dread upon each viewing, none more-so than ‘Ozymandias’. Especially after ‘To’Hajiilee’s closing scenes last week, which saw Uncle Jack and his crew open fire on Hank and Gomie.

But as we know, there are no half measures in Breaking Bad, and straightaway we see Gomez’s lifeless body alongside a wounded Hank, who’s fresh out of ammo. Despite Walt’s pleas for Hank’s life, which to Walt, is worth his entire meth earnings of $80million, ASAC Schrader sickeningly receives a bullet in the head for all of his valiant police work, courtesy of the ruthless Jack.

This was the cruelest scene in the show’s history, witnessing a despairing Walt watch as Hank and Gomez’s bodies are dragged to the pit where his millions were buried, now of course in the hands of Jack’s crew. A whispering wind perfectly suited the situation; there were no words, this was a breathtaking moment of TV, rendering you speechless. Such an indignity happened to the most dignified character on the show, Hank deserved better, but he was never going to get it.

For a second, there was going to be double heartbreak when Jesse had a gun pointed to his head, before Todd intervened, suggesting they keep him to find out what he told Hank and Gomie. For a psychotic sociopath, Todd isn’t half logical. To further Jesse’s inevitable pain, Walter unleashes the spite of Heisenberg, informing him that he watched Jane die, choosing not to save her. Such spite was just sickening to hear and Jesse’s face resembled a man who was truly broken. If there ever was a point where Walt and Jesse’s relationship was completely severed, this was it.

With a barrel of money left to him by Jack, Walt keeps rollin’ comically through the desert, whilst the unknowing Marie informs Skyler of Walt’s arrest at the hands of Hank. Anna Gunn masterfully conveys so many emotions in this episode, and the look on her face was one of fear, relief and grief, especially when she’s forced to tell Walt Jr about his Father’s misdeeds. He’s understandably pissed, consumed by shock, Flynn struggles to accept the facts.

A frantic Walt waits for them at home, packing bags like nobody’s business which alerts Skyler to Hank’s location since a few hours ago her husband was supposedly in custody. Refusing to listen to Walt’s warnings and promises, Skyler pulls a knife on him and the pair wrestle for possession of it before Junior intervenes much to Walt’s disbelief: “WE’RE A FAMILY!”. This family’s turmoil has become so awkwardly distressing, yet mesmerising to watch and that’s all down to phenomenal scripts and acting.

Fleeing with daughter, Holly and $11million in his truck, Walt makes his escape from a hysterical Skyler. Subsequently getting the DEA off her back with a vile phonecall in which he implicates himself in Hank’s murder, also making his wife look like the victim in all of this. The call may be the most selfless thing he’s done in a long time, but he vents his frustrations with such fury and wrath that there must be some genuine emotion contained within. Realising his hasty mistake in kidnapping his daughter, seemingly longing to hold on to the one member of his family that’s too young to hate his guts, Walt returns her via the fire services before calling Saul’s ‘vacuum guy’ and making his escape.

To see every character’s lives turned upside down at such rampant speed was heart-stopping, Hank’s final resting place was downright twisted and the family fight scene was painful to watch as was seeing Jesse’s fate at the hands of Todd, being forced to cook meth once again on a damn leash. What we can now guess  is that the M60 is meant for Jack and his crew in what might be the redemption (attempt, anyway) of Walter White, saving Jesse in the process? We can only speculate.

I keep repeating myself week in and week out, and I have done so for years really, that Breaking Bad is a blessing. Nothing on your television is likely to come close to telling a story like this, or breaking your heart like ‘Ozymandias’ has.

As Walt was driven away to the sound of silence and as the lone canine crossed the road, I couldn’t help but recap the end of the ‘Ozymandias’ poem. A fitting and subtle masterstroke by Gilligan…

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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