Updated 9/9 at 9:30am
Breaking Bad, Episode 513: "To'hajiilee"
Original airdate: September 8, 2013 on AMC
| 509. Blood Money
512. Rabid Dog
> 513. To'hajiilee
514. Ozymandias airs September 15
515. Granite State airs September 22
516. Felina airs September 29
Spoiler warning: Quotes below may contain spoilers about this episode (though not future episodes).
The final Breaking Bad episode directed by Michelle MacLaren (who is responsible for many of the series' best moments) and written by fellow BB veteran George Mastras, "To'hajiilee" (named for the Navajo reservation where Walt buried his money) continued this final season's trend of accelerating plot developments so that they occur sooner than expected, while culminating in the season's most nerve-racking cliffhanger yet.
What did critics think of the episode? (Hint: unlike anyone in the final scene, they were blown away). Below are quotes from reviews and recaps of this week's episode. If a publication provides a grade or score for the individual episode, it is included below (converted to our 0-100 scale). Note that next week's recap will likely come a bit later than normal; critics will no longer be getting the episodes in advance.
Extremely positive reviews
100 "Every week we question what we want to have happen, what will satisfy us. We stake our identities on some outcome that will represent victory for our values (or, more likely, our appetites), and pre-emptively declare some other possible outcome as betrayal. Have we learned nothing? Be careful what you wish for, fans. You might get it."
— Donna Bowman / A.V. Club
"In a series full of breathtaking, fiercely tense sequences to close out episodes--both 'One Minute' and 'Crawl Space' immediately came to mind--this will be remembered as one of the greatest."
— Kevin McFarland / Boing Boing
"Supremely clever, suspenseful and perfectly paced, 'To'hajiilee' is a tour de force."
— Lori Rackl / Chicago Sun-Times
"A return to form for Breaking Bad."
— Zac Oldenburg / Cinema Blend
100 "'To'hajiilee' was a chess match, and its ending was like someone walking in and knocking every piece off of the board. "
— Allison Keene / Collider
"I wonder if Vince Gilligan and his merry band of 'Breaking Bad' writers ever fully comprehended the enormous impact that their tantalizing flash-forward would have on the way fans process the show this final season. ... That single brief sequence has touched off an avalanche of theories as to how the show's end game will play out. It got people talking. But it also dramatically changed the way we watch the show."
— Chuck Barney / Contra Costa Times
"After a few minutes of stunned silence, I've come to the conclusion that 'To'hajiilee'... is the finest episode of Breaking Bad yet. The smartest. The most intense. And ultimately, the most devastating. It makes me think Breaking Bad is hurtling toward as perfect an ending as anyone could conjure up on cable TV."
— Andrew Romano / The Daily Beast
"The symmetry, the chemistry of this hour was brilliant, keeping us guessing but playing with our awareness of how narrative works to keep us pessimistic about any positive outcomes. The long telephone goodbye between Hank and Marie and the premature celebration by Hank were the only sour notes of the episode."
— Joanne Ostrow / Denver Post
"MacLaren is the John Cage of this malevolent silence, able to wield it as precisely as a pointillist with a paintbrush. And with 'To'hajiile'... she has painted her masterpiece. Under the unblinking eye of her relentless camera, this was television not as entertainment but as endurance. It was agonizing, nauseating, unbearable. I loved every minute but hated every second. I couldn't wait for it to be over but I never wanted it to end. And I especially never wanted it to end like that."
— Andy Greenwald / Grantland
" I didn't want this scene to end, to know for certain that we've started the cull."
— Richard Vine / The Guardian
"When you're fully absorbed in a great book, a great movie, or an amazing hour of television like 'To'hajiilee,' you may lose track of time, of temperature, and possibly of the need to breathe. "
— Alan Sepinwall / HitFix
"'To'haiilee' was one of the most intense episodes that Breaking Bad has rolled out – and that's saying something for a series that routinely takes your innards and fork-and-spoons them like spaghetti. ... What an amazing piece of work this series is."
— Tim Goodman / The Hollywood Reporter
"The highest compliment I can give 'Breaking Bad' is to say it made me feel ill. ... I'm going to call it: I can't imagine that there will be anything more viscerally exciting and gut-churningly vivid on television this year (except, perhaps, the 'Breaking Bad' series finale?)."
— Maureen Ryan / Huffington Post
100 "I admit, I would've been pretty satisfied with the end of the episode if it just ended with Walt caught. It wouldn't have been as great, but I would've accepted it as a pretty damn good episode. ... Instead, we got something way, way more awesome."
— Seth Amitin / IGN
"When I first watched 'To'hajiilee,' I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but the more I think about it and turn it over in my head, the more it seems to me the standout of the episodes to have aired in 2013 so far. My main complaint the first time around was that there's a sense of inevitability to the episode that isn't really in keeping with the show's ethos. ... Now, however, that inevitability seems like the whole point."
— Todd VanDerWerff / Los Angeles Times
100 "It's a tour de force of televised suspense, with the little fragments adding tremendously to the whole."
— Drew Taylor / The Playist
"Walt's total loss of cool and control as he speeds toward the burial site, screaming murder confessions into his tapped phone all the while, finally trumped by two people he long considered his intellectual inferiors, was nearly as viscerally thrilling to watch as it probably was for Hank and Jesse and Gomez to experience first-hand. That thrill is what sticks with me here, more than anything."
— Sean T. Collins / Rolling Stone
"By concluding this episode as they did, Vince Gilligan and co. seemed to be saying on two different levels, 'It's not going to end this way.' Meaning: 'Breaking Bad' is not going to end with Hank getting Walt 'dead to rights.' And, more broadly, it's not going to end on some sudden, ambiguous note that makes us wonder what actually happened to Walter White."
— Jen Chaney / Salon
"It's an strange choice to end the episode in the midst of a gunfight, but I think it's essential to how Vince Gilligan wanted us to see Walt at the end of the episode. Handcuffed, powerless, shouting impotently for Jack and Todd to stop shooting, glass shattering over him, his world - his illusion of power - crumbling all around him. Gilligan didn't want us to see Walt backed into a corner, he wanted us to see him yanked out of it."
— Brian Stitt / Star-Ledger
"You might think that such (apparent) telegraphing would take the suspense out of the episode's second half. On the contrary–maybe on Hitchcock's theory that 'knowing' a terrible thing will happen is worse than not knowing–it was torture, from the moment Walt took the phone call from Jesse and barreled out on the blacktop to the existential showdown in the desert."
— James Poniewozik / Time
"The episode was a direct hit and one of the best of the season, maybe even the series. I hate to use the word 'perfect' to describe things ... but the final 20 minutes of 'To'hajiilee'–everything from when Walter received Hank's Snapchat photo of a barrel of money to the final cut to black–was perfect television and right up there with the Season 3 masterpiece 'Half Measures' and with an ending that was reminiscent of 'One Minute.'"
— Tim Surette / TV.com
"It's truly the mark of an incredible drama that I really don't even know who to root for at this point."
— Luke Gelineau / TV Equals
96 "Breaking Bad continues to prove just how great a show it is."
— Sean McKenna / TV Fanatic
"If you're reading this, it means the Internet did not in fact explode at 10:01 p.m. Eastern time, September 8, 2013. ... The moralist in us took unseemly pleasure in watching Walter squirm and flail as his enemies out-thought and humiliated him. Hank reading Walter his rights was one of the most cathartic and deeply satisfying moments in TV history, but for my money, this episode contained at least one runner-up: Jesse taunting Walter via cell phone during the drive to the desert."
— Matt Zoller Seitz / Vulture
"'To'hajiilee'... delivered not one, but two jaw-dropping moments in its final 15 minutes of airtime, upending expectations yet again and ratcheting up the tension to near-unbearable levels. It was an exhilarating bit of television, and one that is likely leaving a lot of people yelling at their TVs as the screen cut to the end credits."
— Rick Porter / Zap2it
80 "This was the most directorially-led episode we've seen so far in the final half of the final season, which has felt writerly and actorly up to now, as it has continued to grind out the emotional truths of its endgame."
— Chris Harvey / The Telegraph
What do you think?
What did you think of last night's episode of Breaking Bad? Let us know in the comments section below.