Even before he was diagnosed with cancer, Walt’s most preciously guarded asset was time. Breaking Bad’s earliest chronological scene (three weeks before the pilot’s flash-forward cold open) takes place on the morning of his 50th birthday. Skyler arranges Walt’s bacon in the shape of a “50” – but it’s veggie bacon. “Zero cholesterol,” she tells Walt. She’s looking out for him, hoping to extend his life just that much longer.
Clearly, these are the types of people who would own a Pontiac Aztec. As Walt’s mechanic points out in this week’s opening scene, the unassuming car is an easy punch line (a point echoed to EW by Breaking Bad’s transportation coordinator), but it is “sturdy as hell.” It’s the eve of Walt’s 51st birthday, and he’s at the body shop to pick up his fern-green Aztec, mended after the latest in its long line of injuries. “I’m bettin’ you get another 200,000 miles on it,” the mechanic says of the car with nine lives.
For Walt, this strikes a nerve. He doesn’t have nine lives, just one, and he doesn’t want to spend 200,000 miles of it driving a car that represents so many of the things he’s worked hard to shed. The Aztec was purchased pre-cancer and, as the ol’ black porkpie he finds in the passenger seat reminds him, pre-Heisenberg. It belonged to a man scared of Gus Fring, scared of Tuco Salamanca, scared of chemotherapy, scared of cholesterol. So, after taking a long look at his porkpie, he sells the car to the mechanic for fifty bucks – a dollar for each year of his previous life. “Dad, are you crazy?” Walter Jr. asks. His father answers yes, but not it any way Junior would recognize: Without saying a word, he simply puts on his Heisenberg Hat.
Cut to the two Walters pulling up to the White family driveway in a pair of brand-new cars (the scene is soundtracked by blaring brostep, perhaps the official music of crazy people). Junior revs a red Dodge Challenger with black racing stripes (just like the one Skyler made Walt return in season 4) while Walt, Heisenberg Hat firmly in place, laughs like a maniac in a shining black Chrysler. The series has always been savvy about its use of cars, so it says a lot that Walt went with the tough-guy-approved, halftime-in-America company whose latest ad proclaims, “If you’re driving one, you know what it means to earn something.” For Walt, it also means he’s done counting his days. He’s ready to live them.
NEXT: Not so fast, says Skyler