Breaking Bad returns for part one of its divided final season with “Live Free or Die” - a strong set-up introducing us to the rules of Season 5. There’s a lot to touch on here, so let’s jump right into it.
“Live Free or Die” opens with a flash forward, somewhat reminiscent of the pink teddy bear back in Season 2. I suspect these images will continue to reappear throughout the rest of the series, indicative of Walt’s fate. As of now, we know a few things: It’s Walt’s birthday (a throwback to the pilot and the turkey bacon), and he’s buying a crazy weapon from the arms dealer featured in the teaser of last year’s “Thirty-Eight Snub.” Walt is sporting a completely different look (hair, a fuller beard, new glasses) and it’s suggested that his cancer is back, as well.
The possibilities of this teaser are endless here, so it isn’t even worth speculating. After all, could anyone have predicted that pink teddy bear was from a plane crash caused by an air traffic controller’s grief? So I won’t go into my thoughts, but I’m glad the flash forwards are back, and I can’t wait to see more. I can’t help but wonder if Walt really did move to New Hampshire, who’s motto is evidently “Live Free or Die.”
But let’s get back to the present. This episode works well because it feels like a standalone - or, at least, the closest we can get to a standalone episode of Breaking Bad. Most of “Live Free or Die” focuses on how Walt, Jesse, and Mike can wipe Gus’ incriminating laptop without breaking into a police protected evidence room. The answer? “Magnets, bitch!” This provides a fun little diversion that helps ease us back into the series, and reminds us how everything always goes wrong on Breaking Bad. On that note, I loved the image of the truck being pulled against the side of the evidence room.
The most important difference this season is Walt’s ego. His pride has always been an issue on the show (such as his leading words to Hank in “Shotgun”), but it’s spiraling out of control now that he’s taken down Gus. His interactions with almost every character reveal an inner arrogance and pride, culminating in his “we’re done when I say we’re done” line to Saul.
But Walt’s not the only one taking advantage of his newfound power. Skyler, too, begins to see the benefits of being feared. Ted has survived after last season’s brutal fall, and his image is shocking. I like how we see Skyler’s reaction first; she is terrified by her hand in Ted’s accident, and her tears were a nice change from Walt’s typical discomfort at facing the consequences of his actions.
But that scene takes a strange and fascinating turn. As Ted speaks, we see that he’s scared of Skyler - that she will somehow harm the rest of his family. Rather than try and explain herself, Skyler uses Ted’s fear for her own gain, allowing a passive threat to unfold. It shows a new side of Skyler, and positions her even closer to Walt.
I loved the final scene of “Live Free or Die,” where Walt awkwardly embraces a visibly shaken Skyler. She explains her actions, and Walt says, “I forgive you.” The line was delivered perfectly, showing Walt’s arrogance and his newfound power-trip.
Overall, “Live Free or Die” is a great start to Season 5. We’re not overwhelmed by external threats, like the knife-wielding Gus in last year’s “Box Cutter,” or Tuco’s crazy cousins from the previous season’s “No Mas.” Instead, the threat is internal, and we’re forced to face the man Walt has become since the pilot… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What did you think? Was it worth the wait? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Note: This review is taken from Review Hub Central.