Tonight's riveting "Breaking Bad" episode -- "Ozymandias" -- delivered the awful news many of us were expecting: Hank (along with his partner Gomez), met his sad demise in the desert.
What we weren't quite ready for was the utterly horrific dissolution of the White family.
This was gut wrenching, almost sickening stuff. "Breaking Bad," of course, has delivered a lot of hard-to-watch sequences over the years. Murders. Bombings. Poisonings. ... But to see Junior finally learn the truth about his father -- and to see Walt turn against Skyler and his family in utter rage ... Well, that was almost too much to take.
When Marie and a tearful Skyler first tell Junior about his father's drug-lord ways, the kid is initially incredulous and incensed.
"You're completely out of your mind," he says. ... "This is B.S.!"
But moments later, Junior sees his father for who he really is. They arrive home, where Walt is frantically packing and orders them to do the same.
This, however, is where Skyler's loyalty finally runs out. She wants to know where Hank is and she's convinced that Walt killed him. We're talking family now. Her sister's husband. She is no longer that cold-blooded "Skysenberg" who told Walt that Jesse was expendable. This is the end of the line for her. She has come to her senses.
Walt does his best to keep her toeing the line. He tells Skyler that he still has $11 million left -- that they can still go away and start a new life. But she's not buying it.
Skyler grabs a knife, wields it in Walt's direction and yells, "Enough! Get out!"
The ensuing scuffle makes for tense, gasp-inducing viewing, and when Walt watches Junior call the cops of him, he reacts as if that knife pierced his heart. In Walt's eyes, Skyler has truly crossed the line. He abducts Holly and flees.
And to think that there have been well-chronicled legions of Skyler-haters among "Breaking Bad" fans. Pretty shameful. I wonder what they are thinking at this point.
The verbal attack that Walt later delivers over the phone to Skyler is extremely vicious. Instead of taking a remorseful stance, he calls the woman who, at one point, was ready to back him, a "stupid bitch." And there is talk of her "disrespect" and of how, if she doesn't toe the line, she will "wind up just like Hank."
But it becomes clear that this is another grand performance by Walt. He realizes that the cops are listening in on the call and this is his effort to take full blame for the carnage wreaked by Heisenberg, while taking the heat off Skyler. It's his last humane act for a family he has destroyed.
In the waning moments of the episode, Walt leaves baby Holly at a fire station and declares that "I've still got things left to do." He boards that red van that Jesse was supposed to take and heads off to who knows where.
Some random thoughts:
-- RIP, Hank. He was a gruff, take-no-crap guy until the end. When Uncle Jack asks, "Should I let you go?" Hank responds with a "Go (screw) yourself." He departs the world as a hero.
-- Walt's jaw-dropping, anguish-filled reaction of Hank's death was breath-taking, and Bryan Cranston nails the scene once again.
-- "Sorry for your loss." ... Wow. Todd. You really are an unfeeling robot.
-- So much for Jesse "being family." Right before Uncle Jack's gang hauls Pinkman away, Walt just has to tell his former partner, out of spite, that he watched Jane die -- that he could have saved her, but didn't. One last sucker punch.
-- The clash between Walt and Skyler brought back memories of the famous "Whitecaps" episode of "The Sopranos" when Tony and Carmela went at it with vicious fury. This was even more horrifying to watch.
-- Anna Gunn, as usual, was spectacular in all her despair.
-- Kudos to director Rian Johnson, and the episode's writer, Moira Walley-Beckett. They were at the top of their game. One of the best "Breaking Bad" episodes ever.
-- The episode title, "Ozymandias," is taken from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem of the same name. The poem is a caution against empire-building hubris. In a trailer for the series released earlier this year, Cranston read the entire poem.
Here it is:
I met a traveller from an antique land
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".