TV Recap: Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias”

The Overthinkers analyze the staggering Breaking Bad episode, the Shelley poem that lends its title, and what it means to carve a name in stone.

Peter Fenzel, Shana Mlawski, and John Perich recap Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias.”

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→ Download The Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14 Recap

And don’t miss Bryan Cranston read Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”

"Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia."

“Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia!”

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12 Comments on “TV Recap: Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias””

  1. CWD #

    This is a superb website. You are not of an age, Peter, but for all time.


  2. mezdef #

    You mentioned Dante in the recap, which was perfect. I want to float another hell.

    There’s some strong connections to ‘No Exit’ by Sartre. Hell is other people’s perceptions of us and how they impact us. So Walt (Loki?) is stuck in a hell where reputation means everything to him, and he is repeating his Sisyphean task of reputation building (rolling the barrel in this episode, too obvious to mention on the recap?), but he is also a slave to it. The great deceiver, he is forced to spin his web of lies. Tod (Odin? Flanked by Uncle Jack as the raven? I liked that he did away with half of Jesses’ face, essentially making him one-eyed, transferring death god status to Jesse? Perhaps Jesse will take out one of Tod’s eyes?) doesn’t really care, and is perhaps the most free of any of these characters in the hell of perceptions and self-image. Their crimes are revealed or subverted for other purposes in this episode, but it just makes everything worse and no-one feels good about anything.

    Finally, the ‘Rabid dog’ running across the screen as the van drives away is a fairly obvious one that wasn’t mentioned on the recap, but is probably worth having out there.

    Finally, I’d like to say: WOW that episode was super-dense on both visual metaphors and thematic elements from a myriad of genres. Hats off to Rian and the BB team, I’m floored. Perhaps taken as a given, but I wanted to say it. Also: that was a great recap, gave me a lot to think about, thanks OTI!

    Also, apparently hell is other meth labs for Jesse.


    • Tulse #

      The Sisyphus reference may have been obvious, but I do think it is worth noting, especially since Sisyphus is punished for deceitfulness and for believing he is smarter than Zeus, both of which resonate with Walt’s fatal flaws.

      This was indeed a superb episode of the show, but also a superb recap by the Overthinkers, whose insights always make me appreciate the show much more deeply.


      • mezdef #

        So in the Pantheon of Breaking Bad, Walt is Sisyphus, what other legends represent the rest of the cast?

        Jesse could be Icarus / Prometheus, Skyler could be a reversed Jason / Medea. Not sure what to do with the rest of the cast.

        Grasping at straws, but they are fun straws.


  3. Falconer #

    When Walt is looking in the Mirror in his car…. and can’t bear the ‘sneering visage’… he turns the mirror away.
    When turning the mirror away, the impression I got was that the spot where the mirror was pointed was where Hank and Gomey had just been buried.

    I think it’s significant that Hank and Gomey are buried in the same hole where Walt’s money was.
    Jesse said they were going to go after what was really important obviously referring to Walts’ money.
    Originally the only thing important to Walt was his family… not the money. Except, along the way, Walt had mistakenly confused the money with his family.

    And in this cruel twist of irony his family is lost and buried in the ground, on the exact spot where the whole downfall began.


  4. Shana Mlawski OTI Staff #

    Man, our commenters are always great, but today you folks are really kicking Overthinking behind. Keep it comin’!


  5. Falconer #

    One other thing I forgot…
    The fact that Hank and Gomey are ‘Buried’ where the money was buried… is a direct tie back to the episode of the same name this half season. Walt essentially was digging Hank and Gomeys grave in that episode. Perhaps that entire episode was an elaborate foreshadow of this episode.


  6. Brofather #

    A brief well actually – Native Americans have appeared a few other times over the course of the series. There’s Hugo, the school janitor Hank wrongly arrests and the helpful truck driver who almost foils the methalamine heist. Possibly one or two other appearences. Oh, dont forget the Sweat Lodge!
    The real first in this show was in fact the Firemen- Real Heroes!- that Walt entrusts Holly to, arguably the most morally vaunted of the mainstream emergency services. There are all kinds of things you could extrapolate from that scene- Holly being rescued from the burning wreck of Walt’s plans for her, Walt’s choice to place her in the care of people both masculine and deeply caring (as he aspired to be)… I could go on.

    The real profundity of these two episodes in the overall Breaking Bad mythos is still sinking in for me. We had the cuffs going on Walt last time, which was a moment everyone had been expecting one way or another since the beginning, and now Walt’s whole scheme has come crashing down- he has failed on his own terms, and his family has nothing. And Flynn found out. They kept that one back a loong time, early on I was expecting him to become an accomplice, but it turns out the world doesnt work that way.

    To punt on Jesse’s fate, Walt clearly expects him to be tortured and killed, but given Walt’s record on prediction I will go the other way and say Jesse will indeed be the next Fring. Viva Hermanos!


    • Chris Morgan #

      If we are throwing Native American characters out there, wasn’t the cop that fell at the hands of The Cousins in that sort of horror movie pastiche (which feels apt to bring up in a discussion of this episode) a Native American gentleman? Maybe even Tribal Police, dare I say?


  7. Chris Morgan #

    There is a very good chance I can’t carve out the time this week for your guys’ podcast, but if I can I certainly shall (the world does not slow down for Breaking Bad podcasts) but I still wanted to continue contributing comments because, much like Jerri Blank, I’ve got something to say.

    Really, all I want to say is that, all in all, this was probably my least favorite episode of Breaking Bad, mostly because of what a bummer it was. Well-made, emotionally resonant and all that stuff, but, you know, also kind of a bummer. I said aloud, to myself, on multiple occasions, “Oh man, this is heavy.”

    I was expecting stuff to fall apart, but I was anticipating it happening in Breaking Bad fashion. As I said last week in the comments, this is a pulpy show, but this was not a pulpy episode. I don’t mind bleak stuff, but this wasn’t No Country for Old Men bleak. It was Chinatown bleak, and I don’t like Chinatown for that reason (Leonard Maltin also wasn’t a fan. He liked Laserblast more. Score one for Len Maltin).

    I’m still looking forward to the final two episodes, but I am just hoping it is more in tone with the Breaking Bad I know and love. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Vince Gilligan and company, by the way. It is their show and all that, but, man, a really bummer of an hour of TV.


    • Chris Morgan #

      I was listening to the official Breaking Bad podcast, and, for what it’s worth, the scene that has been referred to as the Sisyphus scene around these parts they refer to as the “dung beetle scene.” So, there’s that. Make of it what you will.


  8. Vasted #

    I noticed there were two possible Wire references. One was Jack talking about going “the other way”, which is the same phrase Marlo uses with a security guard.

    2nd reference is Skyler asking Walt “Where is Hank” in a similar manner D’Angelo asks Stringer Bell about Wallace.


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