As of August 11, all bad things begin to come to an end. And while most of us would love to see W.W. exposed by Hank for the monster he is, another more realistic part of us would love to see Walter and Jesse carry on forever. Or Skyler peacefully sleeping on a bed made of money – either is fine.
Thus, in the spirit of our "Mad Men" music feature, we've chosen to commemorate the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad with a look at the music that's defined the final season so far. From classics to silence, the soundtrack helped make the TV show, so grab your Los Pollos Hermanos, any number of breakfast foods, and make yourself comfortable – this is the danger (bitch).
Episode 5.01 – “Live Free or Die”
<strong>Music: Javaroo, “Love is Running Through Me;” David Castle, “Music For Your Soul”</strong> Irony! Once upon a time, Walter White was merely a cancer patient lovingly trying to raise money for his family. Now, in the “empire business,” the former science teacher is making meth for a whole different kind of love: love of power, and love of himself. As for the second track? Considering the episode begins with Walt trying to hide the ricin he planned on using to kill Jesse’s girlfriend’s son, it’s safe to surmise Mr. White might not have a soul left to play music for in general. <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Entire series. Considering this final season of "Breaking Bad" is arguably the darkest so far, it makes sense for the first two songs to comment on Walter White’s 180-degree turn from loving father to murderous megalomaniac. Does anyone else remember ever feeling bad for him?
Episode 5.02 – “For the Love of Mike”
<strong>Music: Whitey, “Stay on the Outside;” The Coachmen, “I Can’t Hide It;” Mack Owen, “Somebody Just Like You”</strong> “On the outside / we have to stick together / on the outside / you just get in the way.” Talk about foreshadowing, you guys. If you’re not with Walt, you’re against him, and in an episode named after the doomed Mike Ehrmantraut, creator Vince Gilligan offers a musical cue that if you don’t plan on aligning 100 per cent with Walter White, you’ll eventually be shot and left for dead by a stream. (See: Mike’s death in 5.07) Meanwhile, irony reigns once again via The Coachmen’s “I Can’t Hide It” – a song about hiding one’s true self (if taken literally), but a song about love, which stopped existing in the "Breaking Bad" universe a long time ago. <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Both. While “I Can’t Hide It” arguably lays the musical groundwork for Mike’s death later this season, Mack Owen’s “Somebody Just Like You” eerily exists in an episode where we see Mike’s ability to show mercy. He has a granddaughter (that we already know about, yes), but he doesn't kill Lydia once he realizes she has a daughter at home. Could this song represent the potential of a younger Mike? Or does it take somebody like a child to remind Mike of how precious life really is?
Episode 5.03 – “Hazard Pay”
<strong>Music: Doghouse Lords, “You Got the Guts?;” Sergio Caro, “Los Galvez’s y Los Contreras;” Charles Barker and Matt L. Jones, “Solfegietto by C.P.E. Bach;” The Peddlers, “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever;” Lyle Murphy, “Three Blind Mice ('Three Stooges' Main Theme)” </strong> In an episode about grounding oneself in reality (Walt realizes the money he, Jesse, and Mike make must be divided up for the likes of delivery, security, and to compensate the exterminators letting them cook meth through their business), it’s the job of tracks like “On A Clear Day” to remind us just of just how unclear Walt’s thinking really is. The person who is thinking clearly? Mike, who is under pressure to financially compensate Gus Fring's team, who will talk to the feds otherwise. <strong>Episode or season:</strong> Both. In terms of season, “On A Clear Day” epitomizes the contrast between Walt and Mike, which has arguably been prevalent since the two met. (Mike is cool, calm, and collected, while Walter White is a disaster.) Meanwhile, “You Got the Guts?” poses the kind of question Walt has no problem asking others, but can't be asked of him. In this episode, he nearly refuses to pony up his share of the money those he owes to keep business running – and only does so when Jesse has the guts to cover him. As for the "Three Stooges" theme? Well, that’s just Vince Gilligan winking at us.
Episode 5.04 – “Fifty-One”
<strong>Music: Easterling and Gildersleeve, “Good and Lonely;” Pier Branch, “My Good Thing’s Gone'” Knife Party, “Bonfire”</strong> If we want to take them literally, the song titles in themselves sum up the White family: “Good and Lonely” represents Skyler, who in this episode not only walks into the pool at Walt’s 51st birthday party, but who tells Walter she’s simply waiting for his cancer to come back. “My Good Thing's Gone,” on the other hand, is a nod to a more overarching theme: it represents Walt's loss of self (he is the danger), Skyler's loss of husband, Skyler's loss of control, and Walt’s loss of Skyler. As for “Bonfire,” well, that’s obviously just a nod to "Spring Breakers." (We kid, we kid.) <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Both. Loneliness – no matter how upbeat “Good and Lonely” actually sounds – is an enormous theme of the series, considering it was Jesse’s loneliness that brought him so close to Walt, Mike’s loneliness that’s allowed him to live his outlaw-like lifestyle, and now Walt’s loneliness that’s driving him to be a monster. Each of these songs – about being “good” and about losing “goodness” – are country ballads about love. While the theme of Breaking Bad is arguably cause-and-effect, the music offers the moral padding: without goodness, there’s no love.
Episode 5.05 – “Dead Freight”
<strong>Music: None</strong> The sound of silence: could anything define the least plausible episode of season five quite like it? However, despite its lack of realism, as Walter, Jesse, and Todd rob a freight train, the show’s standard soundtrack plays – until we hear the gun sound. When the men eye a little boy who's seen them pull of their heist, Todd responds by shooting him. No sound, just action, and the deafening aftermath – as if even the show couldn't form words. <strong>Episode or season:</strong> Show. Considering Walt was willing to off a child in season four, none of us should be surprised when anybody dies anymore. That being said, he didn't go through with it. Clearly, this is new territory. (And we thought he'd broken bad before.)
Episode 5.06 – “Buyout”
<strong>Music: Walter White whistling Let’s not waste time. </strong> <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Both, for the love of all that is good, both. After disposing of the body of the little boy they murdered, Jesse overhears Walt merrily whistling when he thinks he’s alone. At last, it finally hits him: Walt is unaffected by murder, and unaffected by everything. In short, he is a monster, and Jesse wants out. (Though for the record, it would've been funny had Jesse whistled at the dinner table while witnessing the awkward dynamic between Skyler and Walt.)
Episode 5.07 – “Say My Name”
<strong>Music: Alan Hawkshaw and Alan Parker, “Clear Waters A;” Duke Ellington, “Overature;” Tchaikovsky, “Nutcracker Suite'” The Monkees, “Goin Down;” Reg Tilsley, “Return To Summer”</strong> Not only does Walt kill Mike at the end of this episode, he makes members of Fring's old operation say his name. (Literally: by asking them to, and following up “Heisenberg” with “You’re goddamn right.”) Thus, we can only hope that it’s a matter of time before, like The Monkees’ song title suggests, we see him “Goin Down.” (And trust us: we’ll be as happy as the track sounds.) <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Episode. As Walt leaves Mike to die, “Return To Summer” offers the peace Mike could return to; finally, he was free of Heisenberg and the responsibility of being associated with him. He could now, figuratively, return to “summer” – a symbol of freedom for many. (Or at least for you crazy people who love heat waves and humidity.) As for The Monkees, while sung from the perspective of someone who’s in over his head (Walt), it also alludes to realizing you've bottomed out and found peace in not having to worry anymore. To make Mike’s death better for all of us, let’s assume that's exactly how he felt – New Orleans references and all.
Episode 5.08 – “Gliding All Over”
<strong>Music: Paul Abler, “Night in the City;” Paul Abler, “Clear Skies;” Alexander McCabe, “Spin Drift;” Nat King Cole and George Sherling, “Pick Yourself Up;” Tommy James and the Shondells, “Crystal Blue Persuasion;” Squeeze, “Up the Junction”</strong> And Skyler gets her wish: the cancer is back. Though for some reason, that realization isn't quite as powerful as the last shot of Hank on the toilet, putting two and two together and realizing that “W.W.” is Walter White – New Mexico's biggest menace to society. (Though I have a feeling the music associated with Hank will come more into play in the next eight episodes – since him getting the jump on Walt will see Hank arguably earn his own soundtrack.) <strong>Episode or season: </strong>Series – but particularly through one song. As pointed out by Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture, following Walt being informed that the cancer’s returned, the overhead shot of Walt and Jesse’s portable labs set to "Crystal Blue Persuasion" sums up a huge "Breaking Bad" theme: the spreading of cancer – both literally and figuratively. (After all, none of this would've have happened without the disease -- Heisenberg wouldn't exist without it, many would still be alive, and New Mexico wouldn't be enduring an ever-increasing meth problem. Curse that crystal blue persuasion.