Aug. 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM ET
After a nail-biting, yearlong wait, "Breaking Bad" kicked off its highly anticipated final episodes with a shocker to match Hank's midseason discovery that Walt was the notorious drug lord Heisenberg.
Episode nine, "Blood Money," delivered a payoff as delicious as it was terrifying. And it all started with a conversation about potato salad.
With a simple click of the garage-door opener, the awkward amiability between the brothers-in-law switched instantly to seething hatred. And fear.
At first, it seemed like Walt would escape justice again when DEA agent Hank suffered what appeared to be a fatal heart attack during his hasty retreat from the Whites' house with Gale's incriminating book. But that would be too easy for the geniuses behind "Breaking Bad."
Instead, Walt's toilet played another starring role. While he was vomiting from his chemo treatments (confirmed: his cancer has returned), Walt noticed that his copy of "Leaves of Grass" was missing. Finding Hank's GPS tracker under his car sounded even more alarm bells, but it was his brother-in-law's obvious nervousness during Walt's "friendly" fact-finding mission that seemed to confirm the worst.
Still, Walt almost seemed ready to play along with the charade, turning to go after wishing Hank a speedy recovery. But as he faced the camera, viewers could see him morph into Heisenberg — such a subtle but sinister shift that Bryan Cranston deserves an Emmy just for that singular second.
At first, it seemed like Hank had the upper hand — using it to first lower the garage door and then punch Walt in the face. While we're at it, let's hand over another Emmy to Dean Norris for his cold fury — and then horror as Walt dropped his desperate facade and revealed the monster within.
Shocked almost into silence, Hank whispered, "I don't know who you are ... I don't know who I'm talking to."
And that's when Heisenberg delivered one of the most chilling lines in the history of television: "If that's true — if you don't know who I am — then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."
What does this mean for "Breaking Bad's" endgame? If we didn't know better, we might be convinced that Walt could resume his life as an ordinary family man with a boring job (albeit with a much larger savings account). But the writing is on the wall: specifically, "Heisenberg" graffitied on the living room wall of the Whites' condemned house. His final warning to Hank is just another variation on Heisenberg's command to "say my name," the title of the seventh episode and AMC's tagline for the final episodes.
Has Heisenberg completely taken over, or is Walt's apparent devotion to his family as genuine as the day he first cooked meth to provide for them? Whatever happens en route to his 53rd birthday, the confrontation in the garage (not to mention Lydia's visit to the car wash) means that Walt can never separate his dual identities.