(Spoilers ahead for anyone who isn’t up-to-date on their Bad episodes.)
Trying to outsmart Vince Gilligan and his writers, who may be the smartest writers in the world, is a loser’s game. There are a lot of reasonable theories out there, almost a collective speculative wisdom. Jesse is likely to blow up the lab. Walt is likely to die. Another White may die as well. But whatever we think is going to happen, whatever we want to see happen, we are going to be surprised. Plenty of people knew Hank was a goner when Uncle Jack and his crew showed up. No one thought Walt would try to bargain for his life with money.
Back in Ozymandias, when Walt tried to talk his way out of Hank’s execution, when he gave up Jesse to the nazis, and then told him about watching Jane die — these were events that no audience member imagined. But when they happened, they seemed inevitable. That’s what separates Breaking Bad from the pack.
In addition to characterization, there is masterful foreshadowing. The audience can always see some of it coming, but it’s like a magic trick where it turns out we weren’t even looking in the right place. We all saw Draw Sharpe riding a bicycle, we may even have known it was important, but like the one-eyed pink bear in the White pool, we had no idea what it meant.
The speculation that Jesse is going to destroy the lab is not a stretch. Jesse wants to die, wants Todd to die, and wants to end Heisenberg’s blue once and for all. We were reminded in the Ozymandias flashback that cooking meth is potentially deadly. Labs blow up, and Jesse has learned enough to blow one up. While an explosion would be dramatic, as a call back to the pilot, Jesse is more likely to mix up some phosphene gas. If Walt happens to be there at the time, looking for his own retribution — his saving Jesse’s life will not be much of a stretch either — not because he forgives him, but because once again, Walt needs him. He needs somebody he can trust to get the money to Skylar and to tell Flynn how he tried to save Hank’s life. This was foreshadowed last week when we learned that the Vacuum-man is not going to take the money to Skylar. Walt has no way of delivering it, nor does he have any chance of explaining to Flynn what happened and how he tried to bargain for Hank’s life.
So here’s how it might go:
Remember Skylar’s Lady MacBeth moment? “What’s one more?” It was a surprising enough pronouncement that we paid attention to it, yet it was perfectly within character. She thought Pinkman was a threat to her family. She doesn’t know a lot of what we know. She knows from Marie that Pinkman was with Hank, and she probably believes he was killed along with Hank and Gomez. . If Jesse comes to give her the money, or approaches Flynn, she may think he’s there to kill her, or she may think he knows enough to put her in prison. While it’s not likely that Skylar spoke to the police after Todd’s scary visit, it’s not unlikely she managed to get herself a gun just in case he came back.
The twist we didn’t see coming will be that Skylar shoots Jessie before she knows why he’s there. This not only gets her arrested for murder, but makes it look like she was even more involved with the business than she was.
After her arrest for Pinkman’s death, any nazis who survived Jesse’s labocolypse (which could be all of them) decide to take out one of her kids (my money is on baby Holly) to make sure Skylar stays quiet about Lydia. We know this is their modus operandi based on the murder of Andrea. But maybe the twist here is that they don’t wind up shooting the baby. Marie is hiding in a closet with Flynn and Holly, trying to save them from the nazis. She smothers the crying baby inadvertently, or to save herself and Flynn. (This certainly puts an interesting spin on Cranston’s remark that the ending would be a “holocaust.”)
Any way you figure it, at least one of those kids is gone. Holly is the most likely because of symmetry. The show has a great sense of balance, and is constantly self-referencing. Jane was somebody’s daughter too.
Flynn might just survive, a damaged being, left to mourn or not with an even more damaged Aunt Marie, if she doesn’t become insane or kill herself. And if you want to wipe everyone out, maybe it’s Flynn visiting a dying Walter in a prison hospital, who puts the old man out of his misery by smothering him with a pillow.
As for Gretchen and Elliot, we know the catalyst for Walt’s return to New Mexico was the Schwartz’ appearance on Charlie Rose. We never learned what really happened that caused Walt to abandon Gretchen and leave Grey Matters. Theories of a Madrigal connection abound, and we were just reminded by Elliot that “Schwartz” means black in German.
A German conglomerate, nazis, Heisenberg, and Schwartz — Is there a theme here? Wait a second, death by phosphene gas in the very first episode? Mass murder? The slaughter of innocents? Sounds like a future dissertation, and one that up till now most of the critics have missed.
What if Walter found out something awful about the company that caused him to leave Grey Matters? What if the cook with Jesse wasn’t the first time he’d broken bad, or at least had the opportunity to do so? Maybe he found out his work was being used for an illegal purpose, and abandoned Gretchen so he could figure out what to do, whether to go to the police, or go along. When she married Elliot, he decided to stay silent for her sake, and take the buy-out.
Gilligan has hinted that there might be some kind of “redemption” for Walter. If there is, it might come from his decision to save Jesse — even if it’s done for pragmatic reasons and it leads to Jesse’s death later. Possibly, he may expose the even bigger criminality of Grey Matters.
The Grey Matters connection will be key. We are going to learn something in the last minutes that puts an entirely different spin on everything that came before, but turns out to have been, like Gus Fring, hiding in plain sight the entire time.
(Comments are always welcome. Marion is feeling like Carrie Mathison toward the end of Homeland’s first season when she had all that stuff pinned to her wall. But unlike Carrie, Marion’s theories really are gibberish. However, if you found this at all entertaining, you might like her very affordable books.)