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!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Just a little over a year ago, Walt and Jesse were cooking meth together in an RV out in the desert. At that time, it seemed that everything was going to be smooth sailing for Walt, who was expecting a beautiful daughter named Holly and money enough to support his family.
That time has long passed. In the same desert where Walt and Jesse got their start, Steve Gomez now lies dead, and Hank Schrader is wounded by Jack Welker's gang of Neo-Nazis. As Jack prepares to execute Hank, Walt begs him to stop. Jack is determined to go through with killing Hank since he had shot him, but Walt persists, offering his entire eighty million dollar fortune in exchange for Hank's safety. Jack sarcastically asks Hank what he thinks of Walt's offer, but Hank is resigned to his fate: he tells Walt that Jack had already made up his mind ten minutes ago. He tells Jack to do what he needs to, and is shot once in the head.
The shock of Hank's death brings Walt to his knees. He collapses, sobbing quietly as Jack uses the coordinates Walt gave him to track down the barrels of money Walt had buried, taking all but one barrel which Jack leaves to Walt as a gesture of respect for mentoring his nephew, and burying Hank and Gomez in their new grave.
Before the gang departs, Walt, grief and anger now driving him, points out where Jesse is hiding. The Neo-Nazis drag Jesse out from under a car and prepare to kill him, but Todd asks Jack to spare him so they could find out what he told the DEA. Jack agrees to keep him alive, at least for as long as it took to interrogate him, and the Neo-Nazis apprehend Jesse with Walt's blessing.
Jesse struggles against his captors at first. Walt, however, decides to twist the knife in Jesse one last time: he tells him that he watched Jane Margolis die, choking to death on her own vomit as she overdosed, and did nothing to save her. This revelation takes all of the fight out of Jesse, and he puts up no further resistance as the Neo-Nazis drive him away, looking back at Walt with a sorrowful, defeated look on his face.
Walt drives away with his barrel of cash, but the car stops not long after, the gas tank empty from a bullet hole. He rolls his barrel across the desert to a Navajo man's residence and buys out his truck for one of his stacks of cash.
At the car wash, Marie tells Skyler that Hank called her, informing her that Walt was in custody. While the trust between the two sisters is broken, Marie agrees to help Skyler however she can, but in exchange, she must give her every copy of Walt's false "confession". Additionally, she has to tell Junior the truth about his father. Skyler is reluctant to do so, but Marie insists she does so, or else Marie will tell him.
The Neo-Nazis keep Jesse detained in a pit in the ground. When Todd goes to retrieve him, Jesse, battered and beaten, pleadingly insists he told them everything and the only copy of the confession was at the Schrader residence. Instead of interrogating him, Todd takes him to a laboratory built in the Neo-Nazis' compound, which, to Jesse's horror, also has photos of Andrea and Brock. As Jesse realizes their lives are in danger, Todd nonchalantly puts on a hazmat suit and tells Jesse "Let's cook."
Skyler, with Marie, tells Junior the truth about his father's arrest and involvement in the drug business. Junior is completely incredulous and in denial, insisting it's all bullshit and demanding to talk with his father, whom he is told is in custody.
Walt rushes back to his home and begins to pack. When Skyler and Junior arrive, he instructs them in a panic to pack their belongings. Skyler demands to know what happened to Hank, but Walt desperately dodges the question, telling her he made a deal, and insist they pack.
Slowly, however, it begins to dawn on Skyler...
"You killed Hank."
Walt insists he tried to save Hank and tries to help a confused Junior pack. Skyler, however, has had enough: she gets a kitchen knife and points it at Walt, demanding he leave. When Walt tries to approach her reassuringly, she swipes at him, slashing his palm. A fight breaks out between Walt and Skyler. Junior pushes Walt off of Skyler and moves to guard her.
Walt is enraged. "What the hell is wrong with you?! WE'RE A FAMILY!" he screams. From the looks of fear on Skyler and Junior's faces, however, it dawns on Walt that his family have turned on him. As Junior calls the police, Walt, in a final act of spite against Skyler, abducts a crying Holly and drives away with her.
At a gas station restroom, Walt changes Holly's diaper, his injured hand bandaged with duct tape. After changing her, however, Holly utters her first words: "Mama". He realizes that Holly not only misses her mother, but fears her father now. His entire family, the reason he got into the meth business to start with, was scared of him and wanted nothing to do with him...
Back at the White residence, Skyler works with the police to try and track down Walt and Holly. A phone call comes in from Walt. Under the police's instructions, Skyler answers and tries to speak normally. While she denies that the phone is being traced, Walter knows better. As an act of recompense, Walt, acting as the dangerous Heisenberg, scolds Skyler for her disobedience, for telling Junior about his drug business and never being grateful for the things he had done for her, even going as far as to call her a "stupid bitch". Skyler knows that this is an act on Walt's part: by playing himself up as a dictatorial druglord who reigned over her with fear, he could convince the police and the remaining family that Skyler was never a willing participant in his illicit business. He furthers the act by threatening her with the same fate that befell Hank, and when asked where his body was, telling her that she would never see Hank again, crushing Marie's heart in the process.
Finally, Skyler begs Walt to return Holly to her. Walt, fighting back his tears, tells her he still has things left to do, and hangs up.
Holly is later found in a fire station, left there by Walt with her home address pinned to her clothes.
The following day, Walt contacts Saul's cleaner. With his barrel of money and a suitcase of whatever belongings he was able to pack, Walt climbs into the cleaner's car, and sets off for a new life...
This episode provides examples of:
- Adult Fear: We have Skyler pulling a knife on Walt after finding out he killed Hank (one of the few crimes Walt was actually not guilty of, which he had no way to prove, itself a bit chilling), which escalates into a full out fight between the couple as Junior watches helplessly and Holly cries in the background, culminating in Junior wrestling his father off his mother, and calling the police on him with one hand while the other is flung protectively in front of Skyler. Then, Walt steals Holly from her crib and drives off with her, with Skyler running after the car screaming.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Played straight with Walt pleading for Hank's life. Completely and utterly defied by Hank himself. Played straight by Jesse after being tortured by the Neo-Nazis.
- All for Nothing: Walter's ill-advised kidnapping of Holly when he realized Skyler and Walter Jr. turned against him and thinking that Holly couldn't turn against him due to not knowing enough practically put a final nail in the coffin for any chance of redemption. And he was proven wrong, as she started crying "Mama!" Having realized he'd gone too far, Walt sent Holly to the Fire Station to be brought home to his wife and son, and he spent the rest of his life at least partially try to making amends until his death in the finale.
- Anyone Can Die: Spelled out to the extreme here. As soon as we see Gomez, a series mainstay since the pilot episode, lying dead on the ground, Hank's days too are all but numbered.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "Where's Hank?"
- Book-Ends: Walt got his start cooking meth in the To'hajiilee desert, and it is in To'hajiilee that his career as a drug kingpin ends.
- Boom, Headshot!: Hank's ultimate fate.
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Walter borrows from Jesse by calling Skyler a stupid bitch.
- Break Her Heart to Save Her: Knowing that the police and the family will be listening in, Walt calls Skyler and begins verbally abusing her in order to portray himself as a psychotic abuser who terrorized her into complicity in his crimes from the beginning. This is done to make sure the law enforcement involved won't prosecute her for willingly aiding him and so Marie and Walt Jr. won't shun her. He's playing it up hard, crying as he delivers the more brutal lines, and you can see the moment Skyler realizes what hes doing.
- When Walt is rolling his barrel of cash through the desert he passes his pair of pants from the pilot.
- The episode opens on a previously unseen moment during Walt and Jesse's first meth batch out in the desert. It harkens back to the moment Walt genuinely felt he was in control and doing what he thought was best. It's also been noted that it has the first instance of Walt lying to his family due to his meth-making. It stands in stark contrast to what happens in this episode.
- Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Todd talks his uncle out of killing Jesse by saying they should keep him alive until they find out what he's told the DEA. It will later transpire that Todd is also interested in using Jesse in order to manufacture purer meth.
- Cassandra Truth: Walt didn't actually kill Hank, even though he was indirectly responsible for it, but by that point he's alienated his love ones so much that not even Skyler and Walt Jr. believe him.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The knife rack from the opening flashback is far too prominent not to come up later.
- The dripping from the undercarriage of Walt's car when they pull Jesse out.
- Saul's cleaner finally comes to use in this episode.
- Chess Motifs: The fire station scene starts with a closeup shot of the white king being moved.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The shootout from the end of the last episode is revealed to have ended this way.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Walt's Motive Rant to Skyler over the phone, finally giving her the freedom she so desired. It tears Walt up inside.
- Despair Event Horizon: Pretty much everyone in this episode who isn't a Neo-Nazi, at one point or another.
- Domestic Abuse: Invoked by Walt during his phone call to Skyler, portraying himself as a spousal abuser so the remaining family and the police will believe that Skyler was forced to collaborate with him in his crimes.
- Doorstop Baby: Walt anonymously drops off Holly at a fire station, with the White House address and phone number written on a napkin and safety-pinned to her shirt so she would be safely returned to Skyler.
- Downer Ending: Let's see... Hank and Gomez are dead, Jesse is forced into slavery by the Neo-Nazis, Walt loses most of his money, Walt Jr. learns about his dad's meth making, Walt effectively loses his family, and the last shot of the episode sees Walt (after having dropped off Holly at the fire department) leaving with the extractor... yep, this trope fits to a T...
- Drama Bomb: It's probably quicker to name the scenes where something incredibly dramatic DIDN'T happen in this episode. To put it another way, the closest thing it has to a joke or levity is the "seatbelt" moment with Skyler and Jr.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Hank takes on a gang of heavily armed Neo-Nazis with nothing more than a Glock pistol, and remains composed and dignified before Jack murders him.
- Even Evil Has Standards: When Uncle Jack and his Nazis take Walt's barrels of money, Jack does leave Walt with one barrel, out of respect to him.
- Evil Is Petty: Having already sold Jesse into slavery, Walt stops the Neo-Nazis dragging him away...just long enough to tell Jesse that he was there the night Jane died, and chose not to save her. Vince Gilligan considers this one of Walt's worst deeds due to its simple, pointless sadism.
- Face Death with Dignity: Hank refuses to beg for his life or even pretend that there's a way out.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: "My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself."
- Failed a Spot Check: Somehow, the Nazis just plumb forgot to check under that car.
- Fate Worse than Death: Instead of killing Jesse, Jack's gang takes him captive, tortures him for information, and then forces him to cook meth for them by threatening Andrea and Brock. Aaron Paul himself has said that Jesse would definitely prefer death.
- Foregone Conclusion: There was no way Hank was going to survive with a bullet in his leg, his partner dead, and several neo-Nazis with their guns trained on him. He even spells it out for Walt:Hank: You're the smartest guy I ever met...and you're stupid to see...he made up his mind ten minutes ago.
- From Bad to Worse: Oh boy, this episode. Walter White essentially realizes how much he fucked up. See Downer Ending above for more details.
- Get It Over With: Hank knows Jack won't spare him, so he refuses to beg for his life and tells him to "do what [he's] going to do".
- Get Out!: Skyler, after realizing that Hank is dead and things have truly gone to hell. And then Walt makes a move for her knife.
- Gut Punch: This episode is one of the biggest draining episodes ever.
- Heel Realization: When Holly utters her first words and calls for her mama Walt finally realizes he's gone way too far, thus setting his actions in the rest of the episode.
- Heroic BSoD: This episode is full of them:
- Walt collapses and weeps after Hank's death. Also during the final moments of the episode, while Walt realises his family will never love him again.
- Junior goes through one at the reveal of his father's crimes.
- Skyler breaks down in the street as Walt drives off with Holly.
- Marie goes into one of these after finding out about Hank's death.
- Jesse, who loses any will to fight his capture after Walt reveals he watched Jane die.
- I Have Your Wife: The Neo-Nazis blackmail Jesse into cooking for them by threatening Andrea and Brock.
- Internal Reveal:
- Walter Jr/Flynn finally learns the truth about his dad.
- Walt tells Jesse he watched Jane die.
- Walt confirms Hank's death over a phone call to Skyler that Marie and the police are listening in to.
- The DEA now know who Heisenberg is.
- Kick the Dog:
- Walter revealing to Jesse that he saw and let Jane die, after giving him up to the Neo-Nazis might be the cruelest and most unnecessarily sadistic thing he did in the entire series.
- Walt abducting Holly to spite Skyler is definitely this.
- Played with by Walt's speech over the phone: while it initially sounds like it, he's giving Skyler an alibi to get her off the hook for collaborating with him.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Poor Hank.Hank: Do what you gotta d—- (Jack blows his head off)
- Killed Offscreen: We last saw Gomez holding his own with Hank against Jack's crew. When we pick up, Gomez is seen lying dead. Hank soon follows.
- Literary Allusion Title: The episode is titled after Percy Bysse Shelley's poem about the ruins of a once great empire. The sonnet is quoted in full at the top of this page, and was read by Bryan Cranston as an advertisement for Season 5B.
- Never My Fault: Walt blames Jesse for Hank's death, even though Walt in reality shares as much blame as Jesse, as he called the Nazis in the first place. Although, to be fair, Walt failed to know Jesse allied with Hank, and the Neo-Nazis will come anyways. Accounting for this would have made this episode very different.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: This episode pretty much throws any existing status quo as we knew it out the window.
- Not Me This Time: In rather dramatic irony, it's the one thing Walt didn't do that ends up destroying his relationship with his family forever: He's blamed for murdering Hank, when Walt made every conceivable effort to avert Hank's death.
- Precision F-Strike: Hank gives one to Jack:"My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself".
- Reality Ensues: As Walt finds out too late, you can't deal drugs without ruining your family.
- The shoot out between Hank/Gomez and Todd's crew ends in a Curb-Stomp Battle. Hank and Gomez were outnumbered and outgunned.
- As Jesse unfortunately found out, pissing off the man who is your sworn enemy when the tables are turned is not usually a good idea.
- Taking the Heat: During his phone call to Skyler, he portrays himself as an abusive husband to her, knowing that the police and the remaining family are listening in and recording the conversation. This way, everybody will believe Skyler was an unwilling accomplice in Walt's crimes.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Walt deliberately invokes this over the phone with Skyler so everybody will believe that she was abused into becoming his accomplice.
- Serial Escalation: The shit is raining all over the fan in this episode, and doesn't give you a breath.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Having realized he's torn apart his family, Walt calls the extractor.
- Shout-Out: "He made up his mind ten minutes ago" sounds a lot like "I did it thirty-five minutes ago" (especially considering the character who says that line is named Ozymandias).
- Suddenly Voiced: Holly, after being abducted by Walt, is asked by him if she can say, "Dada." She instead says "Mama" repeatedly. These are Holly's first on-screen words, and it crushes Walt.
- Taking the Heat: Walt's phone call to Skyler was performed in order for the family and the law enforcement to believe that Skyler was not a willing participant in his crimes.
- Took a Level in Badass: Walt Jr. moments after not only learning his adored dad is a criminal but watching him struggle with Skyler and a knife; he jumps off his crutches and pulls Walt off Skyler moments after Walt had the upperhand and uses his limited movement to shield Skyler from his crazy father. To add insult to injury he calls the cops on Walt. While in a normal situation, a son defending his mom from a violent father is common, it's extra bonus points for this particular son because he's the only person on the show to stick up to Heisenberg and live. It also is an indicator the Walter White persona is still alive, as he fled the house realizing this.
- Wham Episode: While the entire season is one big Wham episode after each other, many a fan will admit that this is The wham episode for the series. Uncle Jack's crew kill Hank and Gomez, take 6 of the 7 barrels of cash, go their separate ways with Walt, and take Jesse into custody so they can debrief him and have him teach Todd to cook Blue Sky. Walt Jr. learns everything about his parents' involvement in the drug trade. Walt and Skyler get into a fight and Walt Jr. calls the cops on him. Walt ends up fleeing, taking Holly with him before leaving her at the fire department after an epiphany, and the episode ends with him getting into a car with Saul's identity-eraser.
- Wham Line:
- "I watched Jane die. I was there, and I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her.....but I didn't."
- "You're the smartest guy I ever met, and you're too stupid to see... He made up his mind 10 minutes ago." Then Hank turns to Jack, "Do what you gonna d-" Boom, Headshot!.
- One of the most hard-hitting lines in the show is delivered by baby Holly. What's even better is that the line wasn't even scripted; Holly's actress saw her mom off-screen, reacted accordingly, and Cranston just went with it."Mama, mama, mama."
- Wham Shot: The episode almost immediately starts with one: In the aftermath of the shootout, Hank glances over at Gomez, who's lying dead on the ground.
- What the Hell, Heisenberg?: Jack is none too pleased about Walt never letting him know that he has a brother-in-law who works in the DEA.
- This entire episode is a long and very vicious one to Walt.
- Zero-Approval Gambit: Walt, having crossed the Despair Event Horizon, tries to do right by his family with this trope. Calling his home phone, which he knows will be taped by police, he attempts to absolve Skyler of her (entirely willing) role in his crimes by taking sole responsibility and painting himself as an abusive, domineering, half-insane monster that no one will side with.