Last night's Breaking Bad was the best—and most grueling—episode ever

Yesterday’s episode of Breaking Bad was a gruelling squirm-a-thon from start to finish, featuring a number of major developments — and it proved to be one of the best of the entire series. Serious spoilers incoming.

The episode, titled "Ozymandias," opens with a flashback from season one showing Walt and Jesse conducting their first cook in To'hajiilee — the exact spot where Walt has buried his money and where the gunfight erupted at the close of episode 13. In the scene, Walt speaks to Skyler on the phone, weaving one of his many lies to come; their journey is about to come to a close. The show has come full circle to this particular geographical location, the spot where Jesse and Walt first began their partnership as meth cooks, and now, years later, they come as adversaries.

"I watched Jane die"

After the teaser, the episode resumes with what proves to be one of the most dramatic in the entire series — a scene in which we learn that Agent Gomez is dead, we watch as Hank gets shot and killed, and we hear Walt admit to Jesse that he watched Jane die but did nothing to save her.

At the close of the gunfight, Gomez lies dead as Hank nurses a badly shot leg. Jesse managed to disappear under Walt’s car during the battle. Walt pleads for Hank’s life, conceding that he’s family. But after realizing that they’re dealing with DEA agents, Jack says, “There’s no scenario in which this man lives. “ In a vain effort to save him, Walt fesses up and reveals that there’s $80 million buried in the immediate vicinity. Walt offers Jack a deal — that he’ll give him the money if Hank’s life is spared. Unswayed, Jack kills Hank.

Walt keels over in despair.

Jack’s gang starts to dig and they find the barrels stashed with money. Jack, in an apparent gesture of good faith, leaves Walt with one barrel. They find Jesse hiding underneath the car and prepare to execute him as per Walt’s request. But prompted by Todd, they take Jesse hostage in hopes of gleaning information from him about the DEA’s investigation. Before Jesse is taken away, however, Walt says to him: “ “I watched Jane die... I watched her choke. I could have saved her, but I didn’t.”

Walt gets into his car, but it soon stalls; all the gas leaked out owing to a bullet hole in the tank. He takes out the barrel and starts to roll it through the desert — a beautifully symbolic scene of Walt’s predicament, rolling the barrel and doing whatever he can to protect it. He eventually finds a house occupied by a native American and manages to secure an old pickup truck.

Flynn Informed

Marie, still convinced that Walt is in Hank’s custody, shows up at the carwash to inform Skyler that the jig is up. She tells her sister than Jesse has provided them with everything they need to prosecute Walt, and makes an attempt to reconcile with Skyler. Marie says she’ll support her through whatever comes next, but that she needs the DVD that discredits Hank. She also insists that Skyler tell Flynn — a.k.a. Walt Jr. — everything. “He needs to know and he needs to know now,” she says. Skyler tells Flynn the whole story. “You are full of shit is what you are,” he says, “Why — I mean why — would you go along?” To which Skyler responds: “I’ll be asking myself that for the rest of my life.” In Flynn’s mind, his mother is equally culpable.

"Let's cook"

We rejoin Jesse, who is locked in a cage, cuffed, and very badly beaten. It’s clear that he’s been tortured. Todd shows up, and Jesse, panicked, insists that he’s told them everything and that no one else knows outside of Agent Gomez and Hank. Todd takes Jesse out of the cage and brings him to his meth lab, where he chains him up like a dog on an extended leash. “Let’s cook,” says Todd, as a picture of Andrea and Brock hang in an ominous reminder as to why he has no choice but to cooperate.

Jesse, it would appear, is totally screwed.

"Toe the line"

To their shock, Skyler and Flynn return home to find Walt. Skyler demands to know what happened to Hank, but he avoids answering, saying that they have to get out — that they have $11 million in cash and that they can have a fresh start to their lives. Skyler, convinced that something terrible has happened, pulls out a knife. Skyler cuts Walt in the hand as he approaches her, and a fight ensues. Flynn calls the police. But the scene ends with Walt grabbing Holly and driving away with her.

Last night's Breaking Bad was the best—and most grueling—episode ever

With the police now involved, an amber alert is issued for Holly. Walt calls home to speak with Skyler as the police, unbeknownst to Walt, listen in. Walt, in one of his most sociopathological episodes ever, begins a rant in which he tells Skyler, “This is what comes of your disrespect,” calling her a “stupid bitch.” He’s furious that she didn’t come along with him and that he told Flynn the entire story. “Toe the line or you will wind up just like Hank,” he says.

Skyler, not wanting to infuriate him any further, apologizes. And knowing that the police are listening in, she asks Walt about Hank. “You’re never going to see Hank again,” he responds. Marie, who is in the room, learns the news of her husband’s death and breaks down. This is what happens when you cross me, says Walt, family or not. “You let that sink in.”

The episode ends with two developments. Walt leaves Holly in a fire truck where she’s found at an Albuquerque fire station. And in the final shot, we see Walt get picked up by Saul’s guy to be given a new identity.

As for the title reference to Ozymandias, the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, it recounts the crumbling legacy of a once proud Pharaoah in order to show how all empires inevitably fall to hubris and/or the passage of time. Earlier this year in a trailer for the series, Bryan Cranston read the entire poem.

Images: AMC.