Screenplay by Russell T. Davies.
For a limited series of eight episodes about a man descending into madness, episode five is the beginning of the end, and as such requires that character to reach breaking point. Davies knows how to accomplish this, and pulls together all four elements from previous episodes to drive Henry Best insane. Everything that’s got him this far, all the deceit and dishonesty, falls-apart. Because all that requires a life built from lies to fail is for someone to discover just one of them, and from that, everything else can be unravelled.
We’ve enjoyed watching Best be a bastard to succeed, because every time he does, we wonder when he’ll fall from grace. And Episode 5 is the perfect time to do it. Any earlier would lead to it being drawn-out, and any later would lead to it being rushed. And in true Breaking Bad tradition, it happens when one person, close to the protagonist, in this case Cleo, discovering the long-term, unexpected consequence of one of his actions, and tracing it back far enough to discover the source. Every bad thing in this show has happened because of Best, which makes Cleo’s revelation to him all the more enjoyable. We’ll only tolerate his villainy for so long, but after a while, we want him to get what he deserves. Davies clearly realised this, and served justice in the form of the one person closest to him of all the other characters. But we watch, knowing his deserves it, and appreciating the development this show’s having in that moment.
And just like that, everything clicks for him. The best thing he can do is return to Sullivan. Ask for forgiveness. But that can’t happen now. If the previous episode meant anything, it’s that these people are moving forwards with themselves. they’re abandoning everything from before, and starting anew. Which is why we, the audience, can’t possibly expect Sullivan to take him back – we’ve seen him with someone else now. We won’t be patronised by seeing everything work out just as everything’s going wrong. I certainly wouldn’t stand for that cliched kind of drama. So instead, things continue to move forward. That’s the general rule with writing drama: keep going forwards. Development is good. If something changes, write into that and embrace it. It’ll lead somewhere more interesting.
In this case, it’s definitely more interesting. Baxter doesn’t want him anymore, given that his parents have discovered who he’s living with, Cleo’s no longer funding his spare house after his using it to effectively run a pornography empire, and Sullivan made a clear point to him that, not only has he moved on, but that they never went anywhere in the first place.
And so, the time has come for the liar to descend. For everything to start working against him. He’s Walter White past his peak. The Sheriff is coming, and all he can do is wait for the ending. Meanwhile, I’ll cherish these last few episodes like never before.
Cucumber: Episode 5 — expertly crafted drama of madness 9/10.