Breaking Bad–Ozymandias

The title of tonight’s episode comes from a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which reads:

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The beginning of Walt’s end came when Hank discovered his copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, with an inscription from Gale Boetticher. Things have only gone downhill from there. As usual, Walt is more than capable of thinking his way out of things. But more than anything else, last week’s episode, To’hajiilee, showcased his inability to plan for unexpected contingencies.

If Shelley’s poem is about anything at all, it’s about how the empires of man always end. In the context of Breaking Bad, and in light of the end of To’hajiilee, it seems (and the flash forwards shown at the beginning of seasons 5A and 5B bear this out) that Walt will be left a man alone–having sacrificed everyone, and everything, he ever loved for the sake of the empire he tried to build.

“Nothing there remains.”

Here is Bryan Cranston reading the text of Ozymandias:

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