TV Review: “Breaking Bad” Episode 8 – “Gliding Over All”

Written by Devin Barnes September 10, 2012

“The whole night we were laughing, telling stories, drinking wine. And he’s somebody else completely. Right in front of me. Right under my nose.”

Oh, how Vince Gilligan’s twisted sense of irony cuts deep. It’s befitting that – after the lone moment of peace these characters have experienced this season, or even the series at large – a bomb of atomic proportions is dropped on one Hank Schrader: he realizes his geeky, mild-mannered brother-in-law is Heisenberg, the criminal mastermind he’s been painstakingly searching for since the series began. Hank, stumbling into the most pivotal revelation of his DEA career while searching for bathroom reading material, is flabbergasted. It’s hard to say how Hank and Walt’s inevitable confrontation will play out – both having cared for the other before Walt’s involvement in the drug trade – but one thing is a near certainty: through whatever means, Walter White will be brought to justice. It remains to be seen how this will come about, but death at the hands of Hank Schrader’s revolver has escalated into a considerable possibility.

“Death, many deaths I’ll sing.”

“Gliding Over All,” alluding to a Walt Whitman poem of the same name that appropriately deals with a journey of the soul, begins with a beat of considerable anxiety for our reprehensible protagonist; for even he was shocked at his behaviour regarding the murder of Mike Ehrmantraut. “It had to be done,” he explains to a confused, stoically compliant Todd. “I don’t want to talk about it.” “Okay,” nods Todd, accepting everything Mr. White says without a hint of disobedience. Walt needs more workers like Todd; unquestioningly loyal meth cooks who make a point of refusing to make pertinent statements. Fortunately, Todd’s Uncle has a prison hook-up to aid in the assassination of Mike’s nine men: and, following an encounter with the wily Lydia, Walt – after ridding the world of those few who could prompt his undoing – takes his meth business to an international level. Things are going perfectly for the new king: but, as Walt learns, holding the methamphetamine scepter can be a heavy burden.

“How much is this?” “I have no earthly idea.”

“Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

There are two impeccably crafted montages in “Gliding Over All,” both of which deserve recognition for technical excellence come awards time. The first of these showcases the violent deaths of Mike’s nine men, as they fall victim to beatings, stabbings and – in one horrific instance – being incinerated alive, all chronicled by the ticking hands of Walt’s pricey birthday watch. “It’s done,” says Todd’s Uncle, on the other line (let it be noted that Walt insisted they do things his way, despite the risk involved; what arrogance!). “Pick yourself up, dust yourself up, and start all over again,” says the horrifically fitting, jazzy background tune. Wow, what a montage! Yet it’s child’s play compared to what comes next (as Walt would say, “old school T-Ball versus the New York Yankees”): a city-wide, month spanning montage of meth cooking, money laundering, falsely fumigated homes, discreetly collected bags of money, sips of coffee and glasses of Saul Goodman’s sweetest champagne, all set to the hilariously appropriate ditty “Crystal Blue Persuasion” – featuring some of the smoothest transitions I’ve seen on television and cinema alike. It’s nothing short of awe inspiring.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

The callbacks to previous seasons: a fly, the cat scan, a dented bathroom fan, Walt staring listlessly into the pool, each personify different periods in Walt’s cancer-stricken year, and the painful emotions that accompanied them. Anxiety, helplessness and a loss of control are all what Walt dreads, and he finally senses that this meth business has grown beyond his control. “How much is enough?” Skyler implores, making one last ditch effort to get her family back. Once again, something changes in Walter White. He tells Skyler he’s “out,” and means it. He visits Jesse, making amends and giving him his $5 million at last, reminiscing about old times as a means of apologizing to his surrogate son (a shaking Jesse drops a gun from his hand after Walt leaves, having presumably anticipated violence after the deaths of Mike’s men – that moment was unbearably suspenseful, as we didn’t know what Walt was going to do either). Walt is sincere; kindness creeps into his face again. His family is the top priority once more. But this doesn’t absolve him of his sins. And, now that Hank knows the truth, it’s only a matter of time before Walter White gets his comeuppance. As Gael Beotticher’s other W.W. once wrote, “the voyage of the soul, not life alone – death, many deaths I’ll sing.” This voyage is about the disintegration of Walter’s soul: and, if the DEA gets their way, he’ll be singing many deaths indeed.

“To W.W.: my star, my perfect silence.”

Rating: 9/10

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