The title of last night’s “Breaking Bad” episode, “Ozymandias,” comes from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s short poem about an ancient ruler commemorated in a sculpture which, like his kingdom, has disintegrated. The pedestal, still intact, reads, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.” So much for Walter White’s empire. Those craggy, sky-topping desert cliffs looked like a consortium of gods passing judgment on him from their aerie.
The theme of season 5’s 14th episode is names and naming, a Saturnine activity of setting boundaries, in which parents define their children with a word, and adults sometimes transform or embrace their identities with new monikers.
First up is the name Holly. The episode flashes back to Walt and Jesse’s first meth cook, during which Walt talks with the then pregnant Skyler who says that Holly – which they eventually name their daughter – is her new favorite.
Back to the present-day desert where, after the ambush by the white supremacists which leaves Gomez dead, Uncle Jack deals with Hank by referring to him as Fed. Walt, desperate to save a family member, dignifies the proceedings and says his brother-in-law’s name is Hank. And the wounded Hank, knowing his death is imminent and echoing the poem’s verse, responds by saying, “My name is ASAC Shrader,” choosing his agency title as the name to honor his life’s work.
Jesse doesn’t get off easily. Before revealing Jesse’s hiding place to the Nazis, Walt distances himself from his surrogate son by calling him Pinkman.
The heartbreaking events of this episode – Hank’s death; Jesse’s kidnapping, brutal torture and being made to cook by Todd; Flynn’s – Junior’s adopted name to distinguish himself from his father – learning about dad’s activities; and Walt’s near murder of Skyler – reach their pinnacle with Walt’s kidnapping Holly.
With all the names in the lexicon of girls’ baby names to choose from, show creator Vince Gilligan and his team opted for Holly. It’s a telling choice. Evoking the poisonous lily of the valley which figured into Walt’s poisoning Brock, the berries of the holly tree were traditionally seen as the blood of the underground goddess Holle (Helle and Hel, among others).
As scholar Barbara G. Walker notes, Holle, as universal mother, was the patron of all newborn children and in charge of giving them names which was tantamount to giving infants their souls. And baby Holly, the only person still ignorant of her father’s deeds, wants her own mother really badly.
Which brings us to Walter White’s rechristening himself as Heisenberg. In a forward flash, we know that name will be scribbled on a wall of his ruined house, as vulnerable to time as Ozymandias’s legacy. As Shelley wrote, the decayed kingdom of that former ruler is a “colossal wreck.” Now that makes two rulers. Two homes. Still to come for Walt is yet another renaming – Lambert – for his getaway life, albeit temporary, in New England. Say my name? Which one?
Astrology Television Rating: ♄ (Saturn)