Note: spoilers for this week's Breaking Bad and uninformed speculations on next week's episode follow.
This week's Breaking Bad ended on a helluva cliffhanger. After being betrayed by his former protegee, Walter White was led into a trap and finally arrested by his brother-in-law, DEA Agent Hank Schrader. For a few moments, viewers dared to hope that the ending could be so bloodless. Hank and his partner tricked Walt to leading them to where he'd buried millions in drug profits. However, this happened to be out in the middle of nowhere and Hank hadn't made this arrest an official DEA operation, so his own office had no idea where he was.
After savoring Walt's arrest, Hank called his wife Marie and told her "I got him." It at last seemed over, and there was relief in his voice as he assured her everything was going to be okay now. Before he hung up, he told her he loved her.
In TV/movie cliche terms, Hank might as well have said he had only two days to retirement, for he was giving off just about every other warning sign of being about to be martyred tragically. Sure enough, the Aryans allied with Walt (long story) arrive on the scene. They not only outnumber Hank and his partner, but they heavily out-gun them. A shootout ensues and there seems to be no way that the Aryans don't have the upper hand. It's hard to imagine a circumstance where they would allow Hank and his partner to live.
But let's speculate here: If the creators were out to shock us with Hank's death, the place to do that would have been to end the episode with him getting his head blown off. That would have certainly had more impact in the final seconds of this episode than in the opening moments of next week's, right?
So perhaps we're merely meant to think that Hank is dead meat - hence the writers deliberately playing to the cliches by including that phone call to his wife.
Or is that just what they're expecting us to think?
So here's an exercise: think about what scenario allows for maximum
suspense and the strongest impact when that tension is broken.
Here's what I think: the next episode will not open with the results of the shootout. No, they're going to keep us in suspense as long as possible. Hank being killed straight off at the top of the show wouldn't generate suspense. If that was the intent, he'd have died at the end of this week's, leaving us to wonder "What's next?"
No, I think the purpose of the call to Marie was to set up the early part of the next episode to be told from her perspective. Hours will pass as Marie's relief passes into concern after not hearing from her husband. She'll go to the DEA and learn that Hank is missing and then will have to come clean about everything she knows about Walt's operation.
This is where all the shit goes down: Walt's family brought in for questioning, his unassuming facade stripped away. It hits the fan here - and yet we still won't know what happened to Hank. Eventually, some trail will lead the authorities out to the site of the shootout. We'll find Hank's partner's body first - but no sign of the Aryans, Walt or Jesse. For a moment we'll have hope that Hank is alive...
And then we'll find him. Dead. He'll be revealed murdered just after we have cruelly been invited to hope otherwise.
From flash-forwards we know that Walt survives for at least another year, during which he returns home after a long absence. He purchases a gun and it seems that revenge is on his agenda. A popular theory has emerged that he's coming back to kill the Aryans, perhaps to rescue Jesse from them.
I don't think he's coming to rescue Jesse. I think he's coming to avenge him.
My supposition is that Walt and Jesse both get captured by the Aryans. Walt is in full "fuck you" mode. The Aryans have just killed his brother-in-law, so he's not inclined to help him and Walt's cancer will do him in soon enough anyway. It's over - the last episode saw to that. He's also pretty pissed at Jesse so he's not going to stick his neck out for Jesse.
The Aryans kill Jesse. Walt somehow gets away, licks his wounds for a year and then comes back to settle a score. It wouldn't surprise me if most of that happens in the penultimate episode, leaving the final episode to explore all of the fallout from this.
So there's my crackpot theory. Odds are I'm wrong about most of this - but I bet I'm on the scent of how the next episode starts.
What theories do you have? In what way do you imagine the cliffhanger to be resolved and how will it be dramatically satisfying?