Monday, March 10, 2008

Breaking Bad: The junkman cometh

Brief spoilers for the "Breaking Bad" finale coming up just as soon as I bake cookies for my open house...

I'll be honest: I watched this episode on Friday morning on a review screener, enjoyed it well enough, and made a mental note to find time to write a blog entry to go up in time for the end of the episode. But one thing led to another, and I got so caught up in all my coverage of "The Wire," that "Breaking Bad" eluded my mind altogether until I saw the finale on my DVR's hard drive.

Which, again is not a knock on the episode. I've just had my brain on 24/7 focus on the end of the best drama series of my lifetime, and so almost anything else would seem somewhat forgettable in comparison. So I'll be quick and then get out of the way to let people with less clouded minds offer up their thoughts on Walt and Jesse's junkyard adventure.

A week or two ago, I talked about how the show was finally finding its footing just as its strike-abbreviated season was coming to an end. The finale definitely felt abrupt, like a middle chapter of the story rather than something to tide us over until the second season comes (if it comes; I have no idea how the ratings have been or what AMC considers the bar for success, post-"Mad Men"). That's not Vince Gilligan's fault -- a number of other scripted shows that got shut down by the strike ended abruptly, whether they'll be continuing ("Pushing Daisies") or not ("Las Vegas"). It happens. It's frustrating, but what can you do?

I liked several moments, notably Walt once again using imminent death to boost his sex life (though wouldn't the treatment at some point impair his libido?) and Walt and Hank's conversation about where to draw the line on drug laws. Hank's been a good comic relief character, but this is the first time he felt like more than a clown.

The real stand-out, though, was Walt on the video at the baby shower. It's an obvious tear-jerker moment -- the dying father recording a message for the daughter he may never get to know -- but the amazing frigging Bryan Cranston plays it so quietly, with such dignity (no way Walt's going to let Skyler's annoying friends see him lose his composure) and with such sincerity that it earned whatever tears it may have jerked.

Walt and Jesse's caper was fun, and yet another reminder that you really don't want to mess with your local chemistry teacher, lest he blow you up real good, but those boys seem beyond screwed with their association with Tuco. (And am I the only one who wonders if Tuco's name is a tribute to the Eli Wallach character from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"?) That man is a sackful of crazy.

What did everybody else think? If the show continues, what would you like to see from season two?

11 comments:

Kensington said...

The best thing I can say about the situation is that I'd really like to see more. I hope they get to do a second season.

In that second season, I'd like to see less overt hostility between Walt and his partner. It will get old if their relationship isn't allowed to evolve into something more substantive.

smitre said...

Enjoyed the show as usual, though not one of my favorite episodes of the season. The break in caper combined with the real estate open house felt like creep into adventure of the week syndrome, not that it is always a bad thing. Also the pacing and editing felt like two episodes combined into one compared to most of the season. We all know why that very well could be the case.

Hopefully the second season will be able to spend more time in creative ways with secondery characters such as Walt's son.

Brandon said...

With Tuco, I immediately pictured The Ugly as well!

And shortened though the season may be, I wonder if Vince Gilligan and company new episode 7 (or is it 8?) would be the finale, because to me, it works well. Particularly since the one before it had more action and this one showed more thoughtfulness, kinda like the Sopranos season endings. I think these two worked really well as a way to say Walt has embraced this new career, and that final scene of Tuco beating the crap out of one of his associates over nothing was a way of showing how far Walt is in over his head.

In fact I felt there were so many great, contemplative, finale-ish scenes, from Walt nearly spilling to his wife (and at least planting the seeds to do so) to that conversation between Walt and the brother-in-law. Even Jesse trying to sell his house is a way of closing one chapter and starting another.

I agree with Kensington though, in that the best I can say is I want to see more. I don't quite love it like I do Mad Men, but I do really enjoy it.

Bobman said...

Alan, I think your comment about the tear-jerker moment sums up a lot of what makes this show so good for me - it earns its moments. There may be a lot of things that we've seen before (though there are a lot that we haven't) in other series, and as the series progresses it's inevitable it will get a little more formulaic or predictable. But the writing and acting (particularly by Bryan Cranston, of course) bring something to the table that really sets it apart from everything else.

I really hope it comes back next season.

WCArnold said...

Does anyone else think that Walter will use Marie's shoplifting as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card when Hank finally finds out what his brother-in-law is doing?

Dan Coyle said...

I was ready to give up on this show a few episodes ago, and declare the Vince Gilligan who wrote "Small Potatoes", "Soft Light", "Drive", and "Paper Hearts" dead and buried, he showed signs of life here.

Although it was clearly a victim of the strike, it seemed to really work as a finale, as Marie and Hank finally got shades to their characters, Skyler got a storyline of her very own, Walt dealt with the treatment, and he and Jesse finally seemed to work as a team, or at least will get closer now that they realize how dangerous Tuco is.

So I hope it comes back, and Gilligan lets go of the despair- I know it's about a guy with lung cancer, but despair was never his strong suit, and black humor is.

John F said...

While I enjoyed this episode, I feel they could of made it more finale-like by just switching the order of the final scenes. Walt and Jesse witnessing Tuco's craziness together was nice, but the scene with Walt and Skyler would have made the better ending for me. By showing Skylar's scene after the Tuco scene, I feel like it puts Walt in a more "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. Walt's clearly past the point of no return with both Skylar and Tuco and watching him realize that after Skylar's "you don't want to know" comment would have more effectively been a cliffhanger type moment for me.

Nevertheless, I hope AMC brings the show back. I agree that I'd like to see Jesse and Walt bond a little more than we've seen so far. I also think we're on the verge of rest of the supporting cast finally becoming more rounded characters. I hope when the new season starts a little time has passed, maybe a couple of weeks of them making money relatively easy, so when things start to go wrong the show can capture the crisis atmosphere of the first couple of episodes this season.

Anonymous said...

To me, the most arresting thing about the show is the cinematography: those long, multi-part establishing shots like the one of the junkyard that show beauty in the ugliness, the framing of each shot to suggest whether Walt is feeling small or powerful, the little details that the camera catches...this week, what got me was the way Walt was framed in the baby shower/talking to Holly scene, in which the camera (held by his son) eliminated all of the headroom, bobbing just above Walt's forehead in a subtle nod to the fact that Walt Jr. wants to focus on his dad's face, not his hair loss. Powerful stuff. I so hope this show comes back.

Jana said...

I know it's been said before, but I love that it's actually filmed in Albuquerque. I lived there for 5 1/2 years back in the 90's and still recognize the film sites. Shout out to Taco Cabeza[Cabana]!!

Jeremy said...

I really enjoyed this series, but my pleasure all comes down to this beautiful, terrible tragedy of Walter White. The characters mostly just revolve around him... and as the season went on, it felt like it grew towards a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. Walt blows up a yuppie car! Walt blows up a drug dealer! Walt ties up a security guard in a port-a-john. The day he beats cancer is the day that I give up on the show.

What I like is the way the bright sun of New Mexico beats down on him, relentless. Walt is constantly beset with his own weakness, and now, with the horrifying results of his own attempts to be bad. It's not about moralizing... it's about doom, and the pleasures of film noir.

This should end up with his wife abandoning him, his partner shot from his mistake, his son on drugs and his death knowing that everything he's touched has gone wrong.

Wow, is that a little bleak? Still, I don't so much want it for Walt as I want to see Bryan Cranston act it out for me.

It still could happen. In a 10-episode run, you want to give the characters a little success 70% of the way through, so you can pee all over them in the last couple episodes. (See The Wire.)

debbie said...

Years late to the party, but I love that someone mentioned something about this show being filmed in ABQ. I lived there for a couple of years and this show is the first thing on TV that I've seen captures the true feeling of the town.