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'Breaking Bad' Mid-Season Finale: What the Critics Are Saying

The AMC series finished the first half of season five with twists that left TV observers speculating how it will all end.

Breaking Bad Midseason Finale Screengrab - H 2012

AMC’s Breaking Bad wrapped up the first half of season five with stellar ratings and plenty of revelations.

THR’s Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman will host a live chat to discuss all of the twists and turns at 7:45 p.m. PT. In the meantime, below is a sampling of what other critics had to say about the episode, “Gliding Over All.”

[Warning: spoilers ahead for those not caught up with Breaking Bad]

The episode’s revelations—like the bills in Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) giant pile of money—are nearly too numerous too count. Walter orchestrates the ambitious murders of 10 prisoners, expands his meth trade internationally, manages to make (as Skyler puts it) more money than his family could spend in 10 lifetimes, and ultimately claims to be quitting the business.

STORY: Breaking Bad Mid-Season Finale Live Chat

But the final scene, in which Hank (Dean Norris) apparently discovers that the W.W. the late meth cook Gale (David Costabile) worked with was actually Walter White, is what generated the most buzz.

Writing for Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz praised the episode, but admitted to being disappointed by the way Hank came to his revelation.

“I really, really wanted this episode to end (if indeed it had to end in a revelation for Hank) with the DEA agent putting things together on his own,” Seitz wrote. “Instead, series creator Vince Gilligan and screenwriter Moira Walley-Beckett ended with Hank sitting on the can at the White house.”

Seitz noted that “this is Hank’s show now. While the up until now Breaking Bad has been about “crime,” the final eight episodes will surely be about “punishment,” as the DEA closes in on Walter’s operation. Seitz speculated Walter’s punishment may include seeing those he loves harmed or killed. Or perhaps worst of all, end with the recognition-craving Walter dying “without anyone knowing he was Heisenberg.”

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ForbesErik Kain picked up that thread, speculating that Walter’s keeping the copy of Walt Whitman’s Leave’s of Grass Gale gave him, was not a slip of the mind, even though it could connect him to the meth business.

“That’s the pride part. Walt knew Hank had found his initials previously in Gale’s diary. As careful as he’s been over so many other tiny details, I doubt he simply forgot about the book or ignored the risk,” Kain wrote. “Was there still some small part of him that wanted to be caught? Is his subconscious still, in some twisted fashion, searching for the recognition he believes he deserves?”

Concerning Walter’s perfectly-orchestrated murder of Mike’s guys in prison, as well as his decision to leave the meth business, The Huffington Post critic Maureen Ryan wrote: “As Walt no doubt does, we could regard those deaths, those tasks, those sacks of money as mere transactions, items on a ledger sheet or a to-do list. There's the banality of evil, and then there's the boredom of actually executing certain kinds of evil. It's hard work and it's repetitive, if nothing else. I think Walt White wanted out of the biz for the latter reason, more than anything else.”

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She also praised the irony that Gale’s book may ultimately lead to Walt’s downfall.  “That Gale's gift implicates Walt seems appropriate and morally satisfying somehow,” she wrote.

Salon’s Willa Paskin noted Walt’s transformation into  “full-blown monster mode” is so complete, that his murder of 10 men took just five minutes of screen time. She took issue with what she considered the rushed nature of this season’s eight episodes. However, she predicts the final eight episodes series should be enough for a satisfying ending.

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“There is now nothing ahead of us but the long-awaited Walt and Hank showdown, and nothing— not even Walt’s day-to-day meth-making— to get in its way. Eight episodes should be enough to finish up Walt’s story. When it’s all done, tonight’s episode will be, hopefully, the closest he ever came to a happy ending.”

To share your thoughts on the episode, join THR’s live chat at 7:45 p.m. PT.