Breaking Bad: Gliding over All

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“Now What?”

Gliding over All

GLIDING o’er all, through all,

Through Nature, Time, and Space,

As a ship on the waters advancing,

The voyage of the soul–not life alone,

Death, many deaths I’ll sing.

–Walt Whitman

This week’s episode of Breaking Bad, aptly titled “Gliding over All,” wraps up the first half of the final season by bringing full circle the various themes and pieces of story arc used in previous episodes.  Like Whitman’s poem, the episode is all about the cycle of life and death, hinting toward the future while referring to key points of the past.

The opening scene is reminiscent of the fly Walt obsesses over in Gus’ lab last season.  Not only is there a bit of irony involved here—a pest in the office of a pest control company—but the fly is a symbol of the death toll to come.  Interestingly, a variant of “Todd,” Tod, means “death” in German.  It comes as no surprise, then, when Todd’s Neo-Nazi uncle orchestrates, as per Walt’s specific instructions, the deaths of Gus’ surviving imprisoned men.  Like the painting Walt obsesses over in the hotel room, “As a ship on the waters advancing,” Walt’s hired men embark on a journey that will lead to “many deaths.”

Lydia’s part in this episode follows this theme not only through her active avoidance of death, but also through her role in sealing the inmates’ fates.  The writers cleverly make the connection obvious when she tells Walt, “I move things from Point A to Point B.  That is what I do.”  The double meaning here is the clear reference of life—Point A—and death—Point B.  This insinuates the possibility of Lydia playing a larger role in the life and death yet to unfold as the series concludes.

The theme of issues coming full circle plays out through the tactful use of various camera shots.  The director uses repetition with great purpose: the fly; the hydrofluoric acid and plastic barrel; the overhead shot of Walt in the shower; the copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the bathroom; the CAT scan; and the dented paper towel dispenser in the hospital bathroom.  This repetition represents a synthesis of past, present, and future, and ultimately the cycle of life and death portrayed throughout the rest of the episode.  The return home of the children further exemplify this idea, as does the indication that Walt is back “in” nearly as soon as he announces to Skyler that he is “out.”

The final scenes allow for a good amount of speculation about the direction in which the last eight episodes will take.  The bong Jesse is quick to hide when Walt drops off his money foreshadows a likely relapse into heavy drug addiction.  The CAT scan indicates the possibility of the return of Walt’s cancer.  Hank’s finding in Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass leaves no question that the great Heisenberg is soon to fall.  Only one true question remains: who’s going to get the ricin?

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Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her writing contains a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often has social or political undertones. Her recent full-length releases are Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. Leigh’s influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. For more about Leigh M. Lane and her works, visit her website at


  1. shulgidude says:

    As always, a wonderfully written essay :) I think we all knew that the members in jail would not live long whether under mike or walt’s decision. They were liabilities that had no potential for profit, it was just proper business. I think walt killing mike settled his ego down a bit. I like how the story is going though and i think it gave walt a chance to get away from the overacting he has had to do recently. My biggest frustration is the “two part final season ” bull that amc is using to draw out their best show. Im ny opinion they should have just said there will be six seasons, amc seems to be greedier than walt was.

  2. Phil Simon says:

    Nice write-up and another astute analysis. I didn’t know that ‘tod’ meant ‘death’ in German. I’m not sure that Walt’s cancer will come back, though.

    I was wrong about Hank already knowing about Walt. It was a theory, anyway. Only when Walt stops being Heinsenberg does he get found out.

    I can’t wait for the final 8. Amazing stuff.

  3. robin says:

    Anyone notice that baby Holly coughed?
    Just knowing how brilliant this show is with it’s subtle nuances etc….

  4. Bob says:

    I really feel that Walt has traded one set of problemed people for another set. The skin heads are going to start requesting payoffs. Lydia is going to be the new Gus and minipulate Walt and force him into cooking more. Although it appears as if Walts life had returned to being ruteen we know it is anthong
    but especially with Hanks realization that WW is walt. Will Hank be forced to keep his scilence in lue to possibly implecating himself. Since Walt paid for all his treatments it would appear that Hank had been receiving payoffs.
    I am more looking forward to seeing the son become more of a key player in this series. You know he is going to be shown at some point using Walts blue ice…

  5. Cratered says:

    Great analysis. Walt cannot just leave and pretend he has left no loose ends. Ambiguous future roles for almost every player in this awesome series. No question that Hank has some hefty decisions to make. Looking back at how Hank has handled revelations before, he would play his inference real close for a while, increasing the tension to near-unbearable levels. Remember how the DEA did recover the picture frame in the left-over Gus belongings from the S0501 episode? He absolutely knows or can suspect most everything already.

    The future? The baby (no name??) complicates Skyler’s destiny, but it is conceivable that Skyler could keep her financial secrets & disappear with Ted, the money hog, without Walt’s or Hank’s knowledge or consent, or even caring. Jesse could possibly be approached by Hank in a deal to get Walt, and Walt might then align with Lydia (remember she betrayed Mike before) and might stage his arrest/death with DEA help in return for amnesty?

    I observe that swimming pools seem to play a huge symbolic role in the entire movie: Walt throwing lit matches in the pool, the pool in Gus’ scholarship sponsor’s death, Gus’ revenge on the cartel around the pool, Flynn throwing up in the pool after getting drunk, Walt cleaning his condo’s pool, Walt picking money Jesse threw at him out of the pool, Marie walking into the pool recently, etc. That makes me think that something big is going to happen around a pool again.

    I just hope that Todd does not accidentally meet Flynn; they seem about the same age and Flynn seems the absolute opposite of Todd – at least in sensitivity.

    Thanks everyone for all your comments on this fascinating show, and thank you, Leigh M. Lane for your insightful analysis!

  6. Eric Rhein says:

    Brilliant. Thanks.

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