AMC's Emmy-magnet drama Breaking Bad aired its midseason finale on Sunday night, embarking on a 10-month hiatus by employing one of the series' favorite tricks: A massive cliffhanger. Just as Breaking Bad's meth-manufacturing protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) quits — or claims to quit — the meth business for good, his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) realizes that Walter is the mysterious drug kingpin called "Heisenberg" that he's been chasing for four and a half seasons. And as fans well remember, the fifth season premiered with a flash-forward scene that showed a bedraggled Walter illegally purchasing a massive gun. How will Breaking Bad take us from Hank's realization to Walter's gun buy? Here, four predictions:
1. Hank will take Walter down — but might go down with him
Given Hank's realization, it seems clear that Breaking Bad's final eight episodes will center on "Hank's attempt to bring Walt — whom he now knows is Heisenberg — to justice," says June Thomas at Slate. But Hank's self-interest may keep him from simply turning Walt in. Though Breaking Bad has never indicated that Hank is corrupt, he'll "surely be tempted to keep the information to himself" to protect his own career and family. After all, Hank has accepted money and closed-door visits from his meth-dealing brother-in-law, creating a raft of evidence that he's "benefited from the proceeds of drug trafficking." The easiest solution would be to kill Walt, but unlike his brother-in-law, Hank isn't "a cold-blooded murderer" — so he'll have to get more creative.
2. Walter's cancer will come back
Breaking Bad's first season began with down-on-his-luck Walter, then a middling chemistry teacher who moonlighted at a car wash, being diagnosed with lung cancer. (Walter started cooking meth to make sure his family would be taken care of when he died.) Though his cancer has been in remission for several seasons, Walter "looks like a corpse" in the finale, says Cory Everett at Indiewire. Though the episode doesn't specifically offer any "doctors or results," Walter's cancer may be the true reason that he unceremoniously quit the meth empire just as it's finally "running smoothly." Also suspicious: His decision to make amends with estranged former partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) by showing up unannounced to give him $5 million, which makes it seem like Walter is "preparing for the end by putting his affairs in order."
3. Walter will go back to cooking meth
"Was Walt simply lying about being done?" asks Maureen Ryan at The Huffington Post. From Walter's legion of new stateside partners to his booming new business in the Czech Republic, "everybody was making an insane amount of money," so it's hard to believe that they'd let their expert meth cook go without a fight. Walt didn't appear to be lying to his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) when he said he was quitting, but there are still eight episodes of Breaking Bad left, and "AMC is not about to broadcast a show about a blameless Walt White's day-to-day routine." Even if Walter thinks he's done cooking meth, he may get dragged back into the business against his will.
4. The White family will fall apart
Though the finale ends with "the White family back together" after eight episodes of turmoil, says Kelly West at CinemaBlend, something — most likely Hank's investigation — will "upset the peace." Walter may go back to cooking meth, but even if he doesn't, "will Skyler honestly be able to move past this whole situation?" And Walt Jr. still has no idea that his father is "a meth cook and a murderer" — a revelation that's very likely to come to light. Whatever the circumstances turn out to be, "there are still plenty of issues to be resolved" when Breaking Bad returns next year.