In a recent interview, actor Dean Norris- better known as Hank Schrader- revealed that he put in a request with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan to have his character killed off. Gilligan denied the request, of course, saying that with Hank gone, “what would I write about for the last eight?” Given the discovery that ended the first half of the season, it’s no surprise that the show’s final chapters will focus heavily on the Hank/Walt relationship; but with this latest tidbit from behind the scenes, it seems like a good time to speculate about the possibilities.
It might be reasonable to expect the volatile Hank to go after Walt with the wrath of a hurricane; we’ve seen his obsession with finding Heisenberg, and finding out that his quarry has been right under his nose all along is sure to make him pretty furious. However certain he may be, though, his actual evidence (the book which ties Walt to Gale) is circumstantial, at best, and proving his case in court will require him to play cat-and-mouse with his brother-in-law- clearly a formidable master of that game. Hank is pretty wily, and what he lacks in smarts he makes up in intuition and determination; but even with his eyes now opened to the truth, is he capable of outwitting the great Heisenberg?
There are other issues to be considered here, as well. Things in Breaking Bad are never as simple as they seem, and this situation is complicated, to say the least. First of all, Walt is family; bringing him down will devastate the people Hank loves. He doesn’t yet know if Skyler is involved, but with her recent irregular behavior, it’s probable he must at least suspect so. This means acting against his own wife’s sister, who is also the mother of a niece and nephew he clearly adores. To top it all off, he genuinely likes Walt- or at least he has up until now.
Then there are the possible ramifications to his career. If it becomes known that the meth king of the Southwest is his own brother-in-law, it won’t look good for Hank. It could damage his reputation and conceivably cost him his job; worse yet, since Walt covered his medical expenses, he might very well be implicated as an accomplice himself. At the very least, he will certainly be suspected, and the resulting scandal might mean ruin for him and his entire family.
Considering these factors, Hank faces a difficult dilemma. He’s hungered to catch Heisenberg for a long time, but doing so now could cost him everything that matters to him. It’s intriguing to think we might see some kind of alliance between Hank and Walt- hunter and hunted joining forces to clean up the mess in which they have found themselves. Other seemingly upstanding characters have compromised their integrity- Skyler has certainly done so, and of course Walt’s abandonment of his ethics has been the subject of the show all along. It might be entirely fitting if, in the end, even Hank, the representative of law and order itself, “broke bad.”
Even if he doesn’t end up helping Walt to escape justice, Hank definitely faces some tough decisions as season five returns this summer. I, for one, can’t wait to see what direction he takes, but it’s easy to imagine that, before it’s over, he just might wish (like the actor who plays him) that he was already out of the game.