‘Breaking Bad’ Mid-Season Finale: 7 Lingering Questions

Whether you call Sunday’s Breaking Bad a season finale or a mid-season finale, it’s the last we’ll get to see of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and co. until next summer. Forcing us to wait another year for the show’s final eight episodes seems like Heisenberg-level cruelty — but at least Vince Gilligan and his cohorts have left us with plenty to discuss in the meantime. After the jump, we’ve compiled a few of the biggest questions Breaking Bad will need to resolve in its last season (or half-season, whatever). Give us your predictions, and add your own queries, in the comments.

Why has Walter White suddenly become so introspective?

Amid all the action in Sunday’s episode, Breaking Bad gave us several long shots of Walter sitting silently, alone and apparently lost in thought. We watch him take shower after shower, an image that we can’t help but equate with feelings of guilt, from Lady Macbeth’s futile attempts to get her hands clean to Pontius Pilate cleansing himself of Jesus’ murder. Is it possible that some trace of his conscience remains, that all this killing and screwing over his partners and family is finally getting to him?

Why does Walter stop cooking?

The Heisenberg project may have begun as a terminally ill high-school chemistry teacher’s last-ditch attempt to raise money for his family, but in the past few seasons pride has subsumed cash as Walter’s primary motive. It’s about “empire,” stupid. It’s about “being the best at something.” So we don’t buy for a moment that his trip to the storage facility with Skyler is enough to make him retire. There has to be something else going on. Unless, as some have already suggested, he actually hasn’t stopped cooking — although there’s a good amount of support for this theory, we find it hard to believe he’d be able to evade Skyler’s suspicion for three whole months.

Is Walter’s cancer back?

Of course, Walt’s declining health could explain both his introspective mood and his sudden decision to give up the business. Maybe it’s only his own mortality that still has the power to give Walt pause. We see him climb into an MRI machine, but never find out the results. The fact that he seems so exhausted at various moments in the episode adds further support to our suspicions.

What does Todd want?

He may have the sweet, innocent face of Landry from Friday Night Lights, but we don’t trust trigger-happy Todd for a minute. Walter’s eager apprentice is only too happy to use his neo-Nazi uncle’s prison connections to help his boss bump off potential snitches — a pretty big favor. We can’t help wondering what happens to Todd when Walter retires, and whether he’s planning to ask something of Walter in return for his services.

What did Saul tell Jesse?

When Walter visits Jesse, toward the end of the episode, he wants to drop off a couple giant bags of money and revisit those good ol’ days of cooking small batches of meth in a battered camper. But his former partner isn’t anticipating a social call. Jesse tells Walter that Saul told him about what Walt did, and later we find out that Jesse put a gun in his pocket before answering the door. So, what exactly does he know? Did Saul simply tell him about the guys Walter had murdered in jail, or did he also confide in Jesse about Mike’s murder? It seems like Jesse would have been angrier if he knew about Mike, but at this point, maybe he’s so terrified of Walter that he’s afraid to show it (or exact revenge).

What’s going to happen now that Hank knows who “W.W.” is?

Leave it to Hank Schrader to solve the biggest case of his DEA career on the toilet, right? But if his discovery was enough to put Walter in jail forever, well, Breaking Bad wouldn’t have eight episodes of material left. We imagine there are plenty of complications ahead, and that the majority of next summer’s run will have to do with Hank spying on and chasing Walt. It wouldn’t entirely surprise us, either, if it took a while for Hank’s realization to sink in. After all, it’s not every day you find out that your brainy, mild-mannered brother-in-law is a meth kingpin.

How do we get to Walter’s 52nd birthday at Denny’s?

And finally, we’re no closer than we ever to answering the first and biggest question of Breaking Bad Season 5. Even on a show famous for its baffling, foreshadowing cold opens, this was a doozy: We see Walter with New Hampshire license plates, recognizable despite having a full head of hair and a beard. He eats breakfast in a Denny’s and arranges his bacon into the number “52.” Somehow, after celebrating his 51st birthday a couple episodes into Season 5, he’s made it another year. Hank may have found him out in the mid-season finale, but the implication is that Walter got away — apparently without his family, and healthy enough to have regrown his hair. Considering that last night’s episode spanned a good three months, he can’t have been on the run for terribly long.

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