The impending midseason finale of Breaking Bad has had us tossing and turning all week as we nervously try to figure out Walt’s next move. Of course, trying to predict what’s up Walt’s sleeve is a risky business – many bad men have died trying – but there is one thing we do know: there will be at least one less bald guy on the show tomorrow night.
It’s no secret that Breaking Bad has held the coveted Baldest Show on Television title for some time now, and this season seemed to take the cake as the series centered all its action around the cue-ball crew: Walt, Hank, Mike, and Jesse, who’s been keeping his head shaved shorter than ever before. Then there are the many smooth-headed supporting cast members, like bodyguard Huell and slimy Saul, whose Neil Hamburger-ian combover has never fooled anyone. And due to miraculous medical procedure, even vain, not-dead Ted broke bald this season, a fitting punishment for letting his silver-haired pride get in the way of the White family business (and, you know, for sleeping with a cancer-ridden man’s wife). Given all this, there were many times when we had to wait for a commercial break just to see a follicle.
But now it looks like the AMC drama’s reign of hairlessness is in danger of coming to an end as the baldness begins to recede. Mike is no more, and retirement-minded Jesse has been replaced with the blond upstart Todd. The series has also been more attentive to its women lately: Skyler was devastating in those domestic arguments in “Fifty-One,” Marie’s detective work is becoming more effective than her husband’s, and Madrigal exec Lydia is the only player left with the power to make Walt’s meth true blue.
And perhaps most significantly, the season premiere’s flash-forward open showed us that in a year, the birthday boy will have a jarringly full head of hair (and breakfast, of course). So maybe his all but inevitable death might not come at the mercy of his cancer, which stubbornly remains in remission, much to Skyler’s chagrin. Instead, the signs are pointing toward’s Walt going down in a traumatic act of violence. Granted, the scene could very well be a red herring, but unless Heisenberg is suddenly tweaking his product with a new Rogaine formula, we’d say series showrunner Vince Gilligan is up to something.
Besides, Gilligan’s always been expertly savvy about using his characters’ fashion decisions (not to mention automotive ones) to develop them more fully. Consider how Walt seems to own 219 different pairs of Clarks Wallabees, a shoe brand that’s synonymous with both good-tempered English Quakers and streetwise Wu-Tang Clan hustlers. Or how his black porkpie hat has become so powerful, it almost seems capable of killing people by itself.
The show’s shifting baldness scale, then, could be a bad sign for Walt. Last month’s cryptic Dexter-like shot of blood streaking down his scalp as he shaved certainly smelled like an omen, or at least a lead. And as Bryan Cranston once told fans in an AMC Q&A, “A bald man is more intimidating as a generality. What’s interesting is a man with no facial hair is less intimidating than a man with facial hair, and a man who is bald is more intimidating than a man with hair.” When we saw the soft-headed Walt of the future, he was alone, looking vulnerable and in real trouble – the kind that requires fake IDs and illegally purchased firearms. Perhaps the power has shifted toward the intimidatingly bald Hank? A move like that would certainly help tidy up Hank’s own story, which has included pangs of masculine insecurity, bouts of physical and professional impotence, and awkward pissing contests with his brother-in-law. After all, he’s already taken custody of Walt’s children; the job’s almost done anyway.
We won’t know the fates of the show’s bald baddies for a while – Breaking Bad’s final half-season doesn’t air until summer of next year – but depending on how tomorrow night’s episode goes, Walt may already be in a dangerously hairy situation.
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