"Breaking Bad" recap: Hank's ultimate stand

Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and Steven Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
Ursula Coyote/AMC

The third-to-last episode of "Breaking Bad" had one of the most action-filled, and tragic, plots in the Emmy-winning drama's history.

Walt's (Bryan Cranston) DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), met his untimely end in Sunday night's installment, "Ozymandias" -- named after the 1811 Percy Shelly poem about the futility of building an empire only for it to eventually crumble over time. The poem was previously heard in a voice-over by Cranston during a trailer for the second half of season 5.

The theme of a decaying empire certainly fit into this week's episode, kicking off with a scene when Walt's drug dynasty was still in its infancy.

The cancer-stricken chemistry teacher is seen in happier times making his first batch of meth alongside former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) on the remote To'hajilee Indian reservation outside Albuquerque. The typical banter between them is present, as are the formations of the many lies Walt will have to tell his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), over the course of their numerous cook sessions.

Walt is seen practicing an excuse before calling Skyler, pregnant at the time with daughter Holly.

Their innocent conversation is sharply contrasted as the scene fades away to the series' present, with the deadly standoff involving Hank, his partner Agent Gomez and Todd's crew coming to a head on the very same To'hajilee reservation where everything began.

Gomez is dead and Todd's uncle wants to execute Hank. Walt pleads for Hank's life, revealing the family connection between them.

Walt offers to give his entire fortune -- $80 million, buried nearby in barrels -- to the men in exchange for his brother-in-law's life.

Hank refuses to beg to them (did anyone think he would?). The DEA agent concedes that Walt is one of the smartest men he knows, but points out that Walt is too stupid to see what's happening. Todd's uncle "already made up his mind 10 minutes ago" about Hank's fate.

Hank is shot dead in the middle of uttering his last sentence, and with that, Walt is shattered. The Nazi henchmen bury Hank and Gomez, taking all but one of the cash-filled barrels for themselves. Walt's work has now been in vain.

Jesse is discovered hiding under a car but his life is spared for the time being by Todd, who offers to torture him later on for information. It is then that Walt reveals to his former protege the one secret we've been waiting years to see uncovered -- he admits that he was there when Jane overdosed and could have saved her life, but chose not to. The brilliantly-executed confession was so intense it was almost unbearable to watch.

As Todd, his uncles and their men leave with Jesse, Walt faces another problem when his car runs out of the gas in the desert. One of the bullets in the gunfight had ruptured the gas tank. Walt is forced to wheel his lone remaining barrel of cash across the barren landscape, set to the tune of The Limeliters' "Times Are Getting Hard Boys," before buying a truck from a local Native American.

While all this is going on, Marie (Besty Brandt) goes to visit Skyler at the car wash to tell her what she thinks is going on -- Hank has taken Walt into custody.

It is then that Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte) is finally told the truth about his father, and everything he thought about his dad starts to unravel.

Skyler and "Flynn" head home, where they discover Walt Sr. packing their belongings and promising a fresh start.

His wife isn't stupid, and realizes that Hank must be dead if Walt is standing before them. A knife-fight ensues, and the police get called, but not before Walt abducts Holly and hits the road.

Knowing the police are listening in, Walt calls Skyler later that night, exonerating her of any wrongdoing. He also lets off some built-up steam, going over the top admonishing her for constantly criticizing and questioning his actions in the past.

Cute little Holly is discovered left behind at a fire station by Walt, who is last seen heading off with Saul Goodman's vacuum cleaner guy to a fresh start and a new identity.

Tell us: With just two episodes left to go, how do you think "Breaking Bad"will end? What did you think of Hank's death?

"Breaking Bad" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.