Breaking Bad: Hank’s Dilemma in All its Dimensions

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS if you are not caught up on the first half of Season Five of Breaking Bad. If you did not see the episodes that aired in summer 2012, stop right there, watch them, and then you can come back. If the words “Hank on the pot” mean nothing to you, do not go any further!

You’ve been warned.

HankimagesOkay, so, last we saw Hank, he was sitting on the toilet, just looking for some reading material while taking a dump. And let’s back up a bit before that. The Whites and the Schraders were having a poolside party. The women were talking about hair (Marie wants a halo) and the men were talking about home-brewing beer (Walt says it’s like chemistry). It was this odd, unexpected happy ending scene. Walt had retired from the meth, err empire, business after making shitloads of money. Walt had even paid Jesse back the five million he had withheld from the buyout. His debts were paid, his children were back home and life was sweet.

But then Hank just had to take a shit, and while on the pot he found Walt’s copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, with the inscription, “To my other favorite W.W., It’s an honour working with you. Fondly, G.B.” Gale Boetticher’s poetic justice from beyond the grave.

It left us all, at that mid-season finale, saying one thing over and over: HANK KNOWS.

So the one person Walt has always alluded and stayed steps ahead of us is now onto him. And Hank, he’s a smart guy. He’s put a lot together (Madrigal, Gale, Gus, the laundry, Pollos, and so on). So let’s put together what Hank does and doesn’t know, and look at all the different aspects of the decisions he now faces about what to do next.

What Hank will most likely surmise:
-Walt got Hank, who was recovering from the Cousins’ shootout, in an accident on purpose to prevent him from getting to the industrial laundry meth lab.
-Walt stole the gas masks and glassware from his high school when he was working there.
-Walt must have somehow given Jesse Marie’s info when Hank was closing in on the RV. Or he will figure out that Walt was in the RV with Jesse.
-Hank will probably figure out that Walt had something to do with the whole Tuco shootout, with Jesse’s car ending up there when Hank was trying to track Walt.
-He’ll probably figure that Walt was involved in the nursing home bomb that killed Tio and Gus.
-He may link Walt to the prison killings, though there’s no real way for him to know how much Walt was or wasn’t directly involved in that.
-Jesse and Walt are working together. Obvi.
-Walt made up the diarrhea story to get Hank away from the chicken distribution center.
-Walt was feeding Gus and Mike info so they would be prepared for his bugging Gus’s car, and generally be ahead of Hank’s maneuvers.
-He may suspect that Walt bugged his office, but I’m not sure how likely that is, since some of the stuff re: Mike and the disloyal lawyer was said in front of Walt and didn’t need any extra bugging.
-And worst of all, for Hank, he will probably figure out that Walt’s long ago “ride along” was when this all began for Heisenberg.

But there are also several things Hank may NOT know or may misread.
-He may think Walt was more directly responsible for his getting shot. If you ask me, Walt has done some shitty things to Hank (and to others) but I don’t think Walt bears responsibility for this. It’s on The Cousins and Gus.
-He may think Walt shot Gale.
-He may not realize how involved Skyler is. She may be able to play it off as though she believes it’s gambling and that she has no idea about the meth.
-Hank may misread the whole DEA custody thing at the end of Season Four. He might think that Walt was somehow trying to attack him while really Walt was trying to protect him, because as Walt said, “My brother-in-law doesn’t deserve to die over this.” In fact, in general, I think that Walt (and I’m not one to give Walt a pass on his behavior) has in many ways tried to protect Hank and in his own way cares about his brother-in-law.

Then there are the things Hank simply doesn’t know, like that Walt and Skyler are paying for his treatment and physical therapy. He thinks it’s the insurance.

Hank has been hunting Heisenberg for awhile now, and now that he’s figured out Heisenberg’s identity, he must want to just go after Walter White with the full force of the law. BUT that’s going to be difficult, for several reasons.

The first is that this looks very, very bad for Hank. At best, he looks like an idiot for not figuring it out. Look at what happened to Merkert in the first half of Season Five, for not figuring out Gus Fring was a drug kingpin. He got canned and Hank got his job. So Hank could be facing the same sort of repercussion. But for Hank, it’s much worse. He looks culpable. The “bad guy” is a member of his family. Hank’s treatment (whether he knows it or not) is being paid for with meth money. Hank took Walt on that ride along that got it all going. It could easily look like Hank was in on all of it, especially as he’s reaping financial benefit. Saying anything to the DEA is going to be career suicide.

And Hank has no direct evidence. He has the book of poetry, but like that’s really going to hold up in court or impress SAC Ramey. To complicate matters further, Walt’s out, so if Hank follows him or bugs his car, he won’t find anything. It seems that Skyler has been extremely thorough with the money laundering (as she explains it all in a S4 deleted scene) so it’s unlikely there’ll be a trail there either. And if he tries to match Walt’s prints to Gale’s apartment, no dice there either.

So Hank’s got some tough decisions ahead. He can’t really go to the DEA because he has no evidence and everything makes him look guilty or supremely incompetent. He would lose his job, at best. But this season is Hank’s revenge, they’ve said. And Hank has been after Heisenberg for so long that we know he won’t just throw up his hands and say “oh well.” So will he, once again, go off the DEA rails and start investigating on his own? How will he try to trip Walt up?

HankindexJesse. Or Skyler. But probably Jesse. It’s the only connection he has to Walt and blue meth (oh okay, maybe also Brandon Mayhew, aka Badger as well). And Jesse’s scared enough of Walt now that he can be turned. But even if Hank gets Jesse to confess everything, where does that leave Hank, professionally? Still not so good.

So will Hank just go on a balls out manhunt for Walt and try to take him down with brute force and firepower? Or will he try to somehow, perhaps with Jesse’s help, get the DEA involved?

Some of the interviews and articles make it seem that Hank will pursue Walt ruthlessly. If that’s the way it goes, I hope it’s done really well. Because Hank, yeah he can be relentless, but he’s not heartless and I just hope whatever happens feels true to character. This is a man who helped his wife (many times) get out of shoplifting charges, and it’s not like it would be in character for him to let Walt off the hook (it wouldn’t) but it does seem that this is a guy who makes exceptions for family. This is also a guy who called 911 after beating up Jesse, and then told the truth instead of taking the easy way out when he had to give a statement about the incident. I hope we’ll still see that side to Hank’s character, that stand-up side.

I’d like to see some of that in the final eight, not just a manhunt of Hank vs. Walt, but the other sides of both of these men. I could even see, in the very end, one of them protecting the other somehow. I would like to see the side of Hank that is honest with himself and with others. That part that will take the consequences instead of the easy way out, who will do what’s right, not just go for blind justice. Maybe he WILL tell the DEA no matter how bad it makes him look, but if so, I don’t think it’ll happen right away.

What do YOU think Hank will do?

~Emilia J

11 thoughts on “Breaking Bad: Hank’s Dilemma in All its Dimensions

  1. I try not to think too far ahead to keep the surprise element going – but then its a real sticky situation for Hank. The psychological stress he would go through would first be enormous as his complete world around him would be in shambles. Classic Catch-22 , any decision he makes, he knows that it will end up being ugly. On one hand – even he does the right thing, his family (something that he most treasures) and his career (his life) would most likely blow up which is an incredibly scary thought – but then its Hank and he is not going to take it lying down.

    Waiting eagerly for August 11.

    • Hi Aneesh! I think you nailed it exactly with the Catch-22. In a way any move he makes could be trouble. And it’s going to be hard to know exactly what the one right thing is because everything will have such repercussions. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. The wait is getting excruciating.


  2. Something to do with minerals and “The Granite State” is all I’ve got for now. You’ve got me thinking and I’ll see what comes up as I continue my re-watch. So many characters left to lose! Oh, and I also thought about Skyler and how she smokes when stressed. What if she got that ricin cigarette?

    • Ellyn, I thought of you because the first episode coming out this summer, that is now called “Blood Money” was once listed as “A Rock and a Hard Place,” and of course that made me think of Hank and his rocks, I mean minerals.

      I don’t think Skyler will get the ricin cigarette but that’s partly because I read something that could potentially be a spoiler (though it’s from the very beginning of the first episode), but things change SO much on this show that you really never know.


  3. I think Hank, being the stand up guy he is, will turn in Heisenberg and everything he knows to the DEA along with manning up and taking the consequences for being incompetent or not good enough to up against Heisenberg. But Heisenberg can’t let that happen either! So he makes a last stand(M60 purchase?) So who knows… It’s going to be such a great series finale.

    • It’s true, he may turn everything in even if it means his career is over. I think the sticking point is that a lot of it makes him look guilty, not just incompetent. But he may risk even that, to be honest and to have a “clean soul” at the end of the day.

      Only a few days away now!


  4. Oh man now we know what will happen next ….. This was great acting on Hanks and Walts part. Amazing viewing yesterday

  5. Waiting for your great review for the show last night. I love to read all your thoughts on this brilliant Series. I am totally hooked on Breaking Bad. It is a real treat, since I come from Germany…and German television is….how shall I put it: Totally crap !!!

    • Hi Marcel, thanks so much! I agree, the acting was fantastic. Dean Norris was incredible. The episode review should be up later today. I want to watch it one more time before writing the review :)


  6. Hank’s helping his family get out of legal problems is not a sign of his humanity but of his hypocrisy-“one rule for them another for us”. Another example of this hypocrisy is his wink-wink, nod-nod to his possession of illegal cuban cigars. It’s a typical cop-mentality; “You break the laws, I just bend them a little.” Outside of his family and co-workers, Hank displays no empathy for anyone that is in his mind, “guilty”. Take the case of Hugo, inadvertantly swept up in the stolen lab equipment inquiry despite being guilty of nothing other than a minor pot infringement, this allows Hank to characterise him as a “major pot head” and justifies anything that might happen to him, ie loss of employment and as few months jail time. Hugo’s presence looms large in that season, Mr White’s first “innocent” victim, reprresenting the silent majority of peaceful pot smokers caught up in the hurly burly of the Drug War.

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