Sunday, May 31, 2009

Breaking Bad, "ABQ": Seven thirty-seven coming out of the sky

Spoilers for the "Breaking Bad" season two finale coming up just as soon as I underwrite a fun run...
"If I tell you the truth, will you stay? Stay, and I will tell you everything." -Walt
"Whatever it is, I'm afraid to know." -Skyler
I was half-tempted to eschew a finale review altogether and just post my lengthy season post-mortem interview with Vince Gilligan. As it is, I strongly suggest you start reading that first, because Vince and I talk for a while about the meaning of that final scene, how they tried to tease it out over the course of the season (starting with the titles of all the episodes featuring the teddy bear flash-forward, which combined spell out "Seven Thirty-Seven Down Over ABQ"), whether Vince feels they've played fair with the audience, etc. So go read that -- at least through the part where Vince says we shouldn't expect Walt to get crushed to death by a falling jet engine -- and I'll wait.

You're back? Good.

Now, given all the speculation about the cartel coming to get revenge on Heisenberg and/or or Gus Frings taking out an unreliable element, about which combination of characters would be in the body bags on the driveway, who the teddy bear belongs to, etc., I imagine some of you will feel disappointed, if not outright mad, to find that none of your guesses were right -- and that all of this seems the result of an act of God.

But as Vince talks about, and as the finale makes clear, if it's an act of God, it's the act of a vengeful God who wants to make "a cosmic indictment of Walt's life choices of late." Walt has brought this on himself, not just in terms of karma, but in terms of setting in motion the chain of events that led to this crash. Walt recruited Jesse as his partner, which led to Jesse losing his grandmother's house, which led to him moving in next door to Jane. Walt is the one who pressured Jesse to expand their operation, which led to Combo's death, which led to Jesse luring Jane off the wagon, and in turn to Jane introducing Jesse to heroin. Walt is the one who, in trying to shake Jesse awake, caused Jane to roll over onto her back before she began to vomit, and he's the one who declined to save her life when given the opportunity, which in turn led to Jane's father being too consumed by grief to properly do his job as an air-traffic controller...

... which led to those two planes colliding more or less directly above Walt's pool.

This is on Walt's head, every last bit of it, and so it feels right for fiery judgment to be rained down on that head.

Walt will likely never truly understand how he caused this particular catastrophe, but after the events of this finale -- after Jesse beats himself up for a death that Walt knows is really his fault, after Skyler confronts him about all she's learned (and all she doesn't want to learn) about his double life and orders him out of their house and out of his family's life -- you have to think that even Walter White, the king of denial, would be able to recognize some of the pain he's unleashed on the world.

You can see some of that recognition earlier in "ABQ," in that wonderfully squirmy scene where the TV news crew comes to film the feature on Flynn and SaveWalterWhite.com(*). Walt already hates all of this: the attention, as well as the realization that these reports will lead to actual donations from strangers, as opposed to the money-laundering operation Saul Goodman set up. But as Flynn begins to extol his father's virtues in the kind of hero-worship language every dad hopes to hear from his kids -- "He's just decent, and he always does the right thing, and that's how he teaches me to be." -- you can see how much it pains Walt, who at least has the clarity to recognize that he's not decent, that he's doing a whole lot of wrong things, and that over the course of this season (notably during the tequila incident in "Over"), he's been teaching Flynn all sorts of bad ways to be. Just a brilliant acting moment, in an episode -- and a season -- full of them for Bryan Cranston.

(*) As many people pointed out last week, the site went live after the episode aired, and actually funnels its donations to the National Cancer Coalition. Nicely-done, "Breaking Bad" people.

Just as amazing with their own showcase moments were Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul, who both got to do a lot with volume. Paul got to be big and loud and anguished at the shooting gallery, and then quiet and empty and haunting at the chi-chi rehab facility, and the quieter Gunn got in the scene where Skyler confronted Walt, the scarier and more focused her anger became.

Again, Walt's not in danger of being killed by an airplane -- I can't see the show transforming halfway through its run into a buddy cop show about a DEA agent who bottles his own beer and the sidekick who reluctantly puts up with his ethnic barbs -- but Walt finds himself in a bad place going into next season. And based on the genius that was apparent throughout this year, I can't wait for more.

Some other thoughts on "ABQ":

• Speaking of ol' Hank, he continues to be much smarter than any of us wanted to give him credit for at the start of the series. He knows Jimmy isn't Heisenberg, and sooner or later he's going to find the blue meth in another town, and maybe find a way to trace it all the way back to Gus Frings -- that is, assuming Gus the genius isn't constantly paying visits to the Albuquerque field office to go over the details of that fun run. I was alarmed when Gus got a look at Walt's picture on the cancer fund kitty, but as Vince astutely points out in our interview, a guy as clever and careful as Gus would have known Walt's brother-in-law was in the DEA a long time ago. At most, he now knows about Walt's cancer -- which, for now, seems to be a non-factor.

• And speaking of that photo, I thought it was a lovely touch by director Adam Bernstein to first show Hank holding it right in front of the Wanted posters at the field office -- which is exactly where Walt's picture should belong.

• Great casting, as usual, on both the big parts, like Jonathan Banks from "Wiseguy" as Saul's jaded investigator/fixer, and on the extras, like the bald guy Walt bumps into -- basically a shrunken, skin-and-bones funhouse mirror image of Walt himself -- while entering the shooting gallery to look for Jesse.

• Straw poll: do you want Walt's goatee to stay, or would you rather he go back to the dead caterpillar mustache? Either way, I thought the Van Dyke was a clever way to illustrate how much time had passed since the surgery -- the first notable time jump since the series began.

• The song playing over the surgery montage was "Life," by Chocolate Genius.

Well, that's it for another season of "Breaking Bad." I imagine we won't see the show back again until early 2010. I look forward to watching, and talking about it with you all.

What did everybody else think?

111 comments:

Question Mark said...

What an ending. I did NOT see that coming at all. That tidbit about the episode titles is just incredible.

After that last shot, I half-expected Walt to turn to Brett Cullen and Thomas Mapother and tell them to get infiltratin'

So with Skyler knowing about the money and going to live with Marie and Hank, presumably she'll tell them about the mysterious funding, which should raise a red flag in Hank's mind.

Anonymous said...

I think the ending shows Vince Gilligan's been talking to Ron Moore.

anonymoose

Chris Littmann said...

I know a lot of the focus is on the ending, but I just wanted to call attention to how amazing/intense everything was through the first commercial break.

The show does a lot of clever shooting, but this episode had a lot of it when it comes to the Wanted poster shot you mentioned, plus the open after the credits with the bouncing mattress and a few other things I'm totally forgetting at the moment.

Anyway, great episode, and I'll admit to feeling a LITTLE cheated by the airplane, but not enough to actual be angry about it. The plus side of the cartel not showing up, of course, is the fact that it leaves them a lot of story to play with.

Also, I was so locked in on the house and the smoke in the background that I totally missed the "NTSB" on the top of the van and didn't see it until the encore started a few minutes ago!

Hyde said...

I knew something was up when I saw that folks from the NTSB were leading the cleanup crew at Walt's. Piecing together exactly what happened over the course of the hour was fun, even if we didn't get the end-of-season blowout we had been anticipating.

Still a bit unsure how to react to the episode, though Skyler figuring out that Walt 1) has some enormous hidden source of money and thus 2) has been lying all along, prompting her to 3) order Walt to move out is clearly a major development. Walt unmoored from having to maintain the pretense of being a regular family man can't be a good thing.

And I'm not at all surprised Hank saw through the "professional prisoner" ruse, since I called that as unbelievable when that plot line was first introduced.

Craig said...

I can't see the show transforming halfway through its run into a buddy cop show about a DEA agent who bottles his own beer and the sidekick who reluctantly puts up with his ethnic barbsBut if Hank did get his spinoff, I'd totally watch. Shraderbrau, with his ugly mug on the bottle, that gets me every time.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to go that broad, you have to own up to it. Wow.

Jake said...

This is a strange episode for me. I loved it right up until the end. My issue with the ending is very simple. Ever since episode 1, we've been watching scenes that clearly point to a big reveal. I understand what the end is supposed to mean (Walt's distanced effect on those around him), but it felt like the entire build up was pointless. I don't know, maybe I just need to watch it again and let everything sink in.

Derek said...

Brilliant season from beginning to end.

The only thing that still nags at me is Skyler's "I don't wanna know" decision. After all she's been through with Hank, after the cancer, after having two kids ... she doesn't wanna know? Really? Who could do that? I wanted to see her rage at him - corner him into finally coming clean. Anything else just feels like the writers avoiding the big confrontation.

Anonymous said...

I thought the ending as fantastic. I really appreciated that interview you did with Gilligan, very cool trick with the episode titles. I am glad the cartel didn't come for Walt, but I think our predictions were still somewhat correct, Walt lost his family this episode. I can't wait for the next season, 2010 jeez. Good thing your doing the Wire Season 2 this summer Alan. Hopefully, we see Gilligan dominate at the Emmy's this year, we all know he deserves it.

BTW I didn't mind the goatee, but I did have a problem with the bright pink sweater. Come on Walt, you are the biggest meth supplier in the Southwest, you can't be wearing hot pink sweaters.

SteveInHouston said...

Major kudos to John de Lancie, who showed with so little movement and verbiage how his character is now doomed to walk the Earth for the rest of his days as a zombie.

Of course, the little girl or boy who clung to that bear in his/her last moments has been spared such a fate. In that regard, I found the color-on-b&w technique to be much subtler than was done in Schindler's List.

Also: Great cut between Jane's final shot, getting zipped up into a body bag, straight to Walt's daughter yawning and awaiting a diaper change.

Anyway: Nice work, Walt. You're doing a bang-up job, buddy.

Anonymous said...

Great "foreshadowing swerve" by Gilligan and company, early in the episode. I thought, for sure, Sklyer was done-for when they cut from the blue dress Jane's father was laying on her bed to Skyler wearing an eerily similar shade of blue....and then when Sky walked into Jr's room (seconds later) and proclaimed, "You're going to be in the paper!"...I was all but patting myself on the back for reading the foreshadow so well and was convinced Jr and Sky were headed for the bodybags....nice swerve, or maybe I just read too much into nothing.

Derek said...

Other things I noticed:

* The mural in Jane's apartment had a pink teddy bear in the top right corner, falling from the sky.

* The scene in Jane's apartment where her dad picks out a blue dress (ostensibly for her funeral) is followed by a scene with Skyler wearing a blue dress.

pgillan said...

I thought the ending was a cheat, given that the there were hints about it throughout the entire season. The implication was that it was relevant, that Walt's actions were going to lead to some sort of massive catastrophe that directly affected his life and home, killing someone important to him. This amounted to someone saying "Something big's going to happen!" for three months, then finally finishing it with "... and Walt's going to see it!"

And yes, yes, I get that karmically it's awful, and he'll feel guilty about it as soon as he sees news stories about the careless air traffic controller who caused the accident, but I don't feel it warranted that big of a buildup.

I vote goatee... though I do have to say, despite being fairly anti-mustache in general, Cranston is one of the few people I've ever seen who can work the 'stache and still come off menacing.

JoeE said...

I think Walt's actions will lead to someone close to him being killed. But not yet. This was just a warning shot, a karmic flashbang, if you will, a final chance for him to change his ways. He won't, and his family won't make it through the next season intact.

Clevelle said...

You know the ending didn't bother me at all (probably because I'd been told by others that there's no way I could guess how the teddy bear ends up in the water, which in my mind ruled out anything related to a meth lab explosion), but I liked the ending even better, Alan, after reading your comment about how Walt's actions led to the crashing of the plane. But the fact that plane debris rained on Walt's house as a symbol of the shit that his actions have brought down on his household - it's the kind of synchronicity that would make Jung and Sting proud. And also the little tidbit about the episode titles makes the ending feel a lot better than the BSG/Sopranos finales. By about 20 minutes into the show, I also figured that a lot would have to take place for the cryptic opening to be the result of some meth-related explosion at Walt's place.

Now for a little bit of random: Was the coworker offering condolences to Jane's dad played by the same guy who was the dad on SMALL WONDER?

Alex D said...

Funny - I didn't get self-awareness in that scene with the TV reporter, I got, "oh shit, someone's watching this who's going to be able to put two and two together and connect me to Heisenberg." I'd have to rewatch, but I think I saw a definite flinch when Flynn says his dad can do anything with chemistry.

Which just goes to show, of course, how far Walt has come.

I loved the end, because of the scale of it -- huge fire raining down, death and destruction for no obvious reason, but at the bottom, it's all Walt's fault.

(That having been said, I didn't believe someone wasn't going to be watching over DeLancie's shoulder on his first day back, just to be sure, although DeLancie himself sold the hell out of it.)

arrabbiata said...

When I saw the NTSB truck and the smoke plumes beyond the hill, it was instantly clear that this was not likely drug related violence that everyone (including me) was expecting. A cheat? Maybe, but part of me is glad that all the characters that we've come to know over the past 2 seasons should be back next year. (do we really have to wait until next summer for more?) I have no doubt that the collateral damage from Walt's path will eventually claim someone closer to him. I'm also curious to see if Skyler's leaving will finally be something that makes Walt realize where his life's gone, or if will just fit into the giant rationalization that his life has become.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

I think Walt will come to understand how he caused this tragedy. After all, Doug's face is sure to appear in the newspapers, and if not that then at the very least a story about the pressures he was under due to the overdose death of his daughter, Jane. Given that Walt will be locked out of his house by the NTSB and sans money (since Saul is holding Jesse's money, which Walt can't have, in a nice reversal from the post-Tuco episodes of the current season), I imagine he'll have plenty of time to learn Doug's story. I wonder who they'll cast as Mrs. Margolis, and if Mark Margolis (playing Tuco's uncle) will get to make a reappearance now that Walt's appeared on TV. I also wonder how Gus will make use of the info on Walter -- he could try to negotiate a better price, I suppose, but that seems short-sighted. Might he ask Walt for a lot of product and then force him to train one of his (Gus's) lackeys, as insurance in case Walt dies before delivery? Walt's knowledge is clearly more valuable than the meth itself.

In the end, I think I prefer the slow moving, closely observed, small bore version of Breaking Bad rather than the outlandish version that appeared in the finale. But I'll grant that Gilligan took the right approach: Go big or go home. If you continue to watch the show into season three, you can't say you weren't adequately warned about what kind of grand storytelling Gilligan wants to do. That being said, Skyler's scene in the bedroom, Jesse's scenes at the shooting gallery and Serenity, and Doug's scene at Jane's apartment were all quietly devastating.

Anonymous said...

I thought the episode as a whole was absolutely brilliant, and I appreciate the symbolism of the final scene. However, I do find myself having a small problem with the implications. Obviously, the point, as was stated by you Alan, and Gillian's interview, is to show how Walt's actions have led to a quite literal catastrophe. My problem is this: even though Walt is to blame for Jane's death, the fact is that as an addict, she very well could have passed away even without Walt's intervention. And if her father was too consumed with grief, he had a responsibility to take time off from work, especially in a line of employment in which people's lives are at stake. Moreover, his supervisors had a responsibility to advice him to take some time off. I just don't think it's fair to place all the blame on Walt, nor is it the intention of the writers, of course, but I really feel like this wasn't an inevitable outcome set in motion by Walt's actions. Jane was in danger of dying regardless of whether or not Walt moved her, and perhaps if she'd lived and run away with Jesse, her father would still have been overcome with grief, guilt, even, at his daughter's disappearance, with the same end results. Bottom line is that Jane's father should not have been working, and his decision to do so, and his superiors allowing it, not Jane's death, is what caused the accident.

I'll let that slide, though, because that final image was absolutely stunning. Can't wait for season 3.

Anonymous said...

So I guess the two bodies in the bags are Jack and Kate from Lost? Cause the final scene with the plane, titles spelling out the ending and black and white flash forwards are Lost from beginning to end.

Anonymous said...

Clevelle,

My god yes. It totally looked like the dad from Small Wonder. I have no idea if it was truly him, but it bugged me through that entire scene: "How do I know that guy"?

Russell Lucas said...

I was initially a bit put off by the interconnectedness of the air traffic controller (which smacked a little too much of CRASH-level plot-intertwining) and the "who's in the bodybag?" cliffhanger (which is still a cliffhanger to everybody who hasn't read that great interview). Upon further rumination, though, I'm totally on board.

It may sound too Big Concept to use Walt's role in all the but-for causes of that plane crash to illustrate how much misery Walt is responsible for causing, but it's a nice change of pace. The show generally doesn't spend much screen time on the end users-- from my rough recollection, I can think of only the shot of the drug house in this episode, plus the scenes from the back-to-back episodes involving the junkie couple with the boy and the stolen ATM. Apart from those, the show focuses its attention on the impact of Walt's drug activity on Walt's family, Jesse and, now, Jane's family. To suddenly take that narrow focus out onto a wide angle was a great change of pace.

I guess my misgiving at leaving the identity of the bodies unclear at season's end is because the bodies in the bags have a moral purpose more than a narrative one. This isn't a puzzle show like that one about those pretty people on the island, and so perhaps it works as a riff on that sort of one trick pony narrative sleight of hand. Who's in the bags? Some people indirectly killed by your protagonist, and it's the what that matters, not the who. Mystery solved.

My wife and I watched the show beginning with this season, and then just bought the first season a few weeks ago. Watching the first season while the second has been going on was like the best sort of prequel. Walt's turn to dark, calculating evil in this season contrasts so sharply with the guy who made a list on a legal tablet of the pros and cons for killing the druglord chained in the basement and who wept piteously when he learned he couldn't let the guy go. Having seen all of that so recently made it easier to buy his descent into rottenness. And Cranston's physical transformation from season one to two is unbelievable. The paunchy man with a full head of hair is transformed into that gnarled, golem, with sharpened, cold eyes.

There's something so incongruous about his pink sweater in that last scene, as noted above. Sure, it matches the teddy bear, but it's the first time we don't see him in drab earth colors and plain button-down shirts.

Mark said...

I haven't seen anyone else mention this, but the "ding" computer sound effect every time someone made a donation to savewalterwhite.com was a great callback to "Grilled", with Tuco's invalid uncle and his bell. Especially when Walt told Flynn to turn the sound off, because it was disturbing... the baby.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@12:20,

The question is how much time off of work does Doug have to take. We Walt didn't go under the knife until a little while after Jane's death, and he's been recovering for seven weeks. That means Doug's been off work for at least eight weeks. I do not know how "time off for family trauma" works in the air traffic control biz, but that's a lot of time. I'd agree that it might have been good to have someone watching over him, but the show already established a few weeks ago that Doug's office is overworked full of all this not-so-competent guys. Doug told Jane that when they went to lunch.

Also, this all points back to a theme of the show -- men leading lives of quite financial desperation -- that played a more prominent role in season one, when Walt could still plausibly claim some altruistic motives for his actions.

So remember, don't blame Walt for Jane's death. Blame the absurdly exorbitant cost of health care in the United States.

Anonymous said...

...or maybe BB can take over for "My Name is Earl", when Walt recognizes that his bad karma caused a burnt-up teddy bear to land in his pool.

Adam said...

Some great comments on this blog -- I'm definitely going to have to subscribe :)

I loved the ending, personally. I thought that it was actually very subtle compared to the more dramatic turn of events that people were expecting (i.e. yeah it's this huge catastrophe but it all zooms back down to the one image of the teddy bear, and that in itself is a pretty subtle--and powerful--image, in contrast with a meth lab or water heater explosion or the Mexican cartel coming and shooting someone up at Walt's house).

I understand the concerns people have, including the one about it not being totally Walt's fault that the plane crashed. However, one has to remember that Jane was a recovering addict until she met Jesse. So the chances of her dying (and causing her father grief) certainly increased because of Jesse and Walt's presence in her life. Just another small detail that allows me to accept the ending, personally.

Some great easter eggs mentioned here too. Definitely going to have to rewatch the last couple episodes and keep my eyes peeled...

cgeye said...

Don't *just* blame Walter for Jane's death; blame Jane, too.

She knew what she was getting into with Jesse; she could have come clean with her dad about Jesse and her relationship, and asked her dad to help the both of them to stay clean, but she instead chose to shame Jesse, and he went back to the pipe. She did her damage, too, when she had the chance to even go to New Zealand or Amsterdam and trip in style, she drugged herself in a house with a broken-in door, alongside a man she dragged down with her. She's like Mara in THE SHIELD, but a junkie's reduced awareness of potential consequences.

And that's not even including her father. De Lancie might benefit from the Shatner Effect ('at last', say Emmy voters, 'a role in a serious show we can vote for him in'), because his role was nuanced, reflective, non-pyrotechnic, and amazing.

cgeye said...

And Skyler stopped being a douche.

I mean she became more than a nag, and even though she didn't use that newly-discovered conscience to quit her job at Beneke's (most likely because she wanted to build a nest egg in case she left Walter), she did what a sane woman would do -- ask why her man was leaving her without plausible explanation, and verified just how the bills were getting paid, something that she should have done even if his ex-job extended charity.

She stopped being clueless, she started asking for more from Walter than vague explanations, and asked for something more real from Walter than bringing home the bacon.

SteveInHouston said...

Anonymous @ 12:47,

In case you were being serious, I can't imagine that Breaking Bad is in any way a meditation on high health care costs in the US.

Walt's treatment, after all, is extraordinarily experimental and extremely risky. It would be costly no matter what country he's in. In fact, in most countries, the only recourse he would have is to come to the US for such treatments, at least if he wanted to get it done in a timely manner.

Now, if this were a tale involving Walt struggling to pay for Levoxyl tablets to combat his lagging thyroid, I think we could reasonably call BB a jeremiad aimed at Big Medicine.

Otto Man said...

Great cut between Jane's final shot, getting zipped up into a body bag, straight to Walt's daughter yawning and awaiting a diaper change.Better than that -- the shot went from Delancie's dead daughter's blue dress with the sleeves outstretched, to Walt's newborn daughter's baby dress with the sleeves outstretched. Nicely done.

Ben said...

@ Steveinhouston

Sorry to burst your privatised medicine bubble but the NHS in the UK would have treated him for free and done it in a very timely manner.

Any way great episode and I was glad the ending wasnt what everyone (and me) thought it was going to be! Cant wait for 2010!

Tom said...

The first part of the show was as powerful as TV gets. It also had one of the darkest jokes I've ever seen. (The under-bed shot of mattress springs squeaking and a man moaning 'Come on, baby come on baby.' Jump cut to Jesse on top of Jane in the bed, desperately trying to revive her corpse.)

I did find the ending disappointing. Gilligan teased us for a long time with that Teddy Bear and those body bags. The speculation over who was in them was more than just idle second-guessing of the plot -- the audience had an emotional relationship with the characters and was trying to sort out which of them would pay for Walt's evil. (Walt's culpability is a given.) By killing hundreds of strangers instead of bringing the death of a loved on to Walt's doorstep, Gilligan has turned Walt's evil into an abstraction. Dramatically speaking, one dead wife tops an infinite number of dead strangers.

I'll still be watching in Season Three, though!

Matthew L said...

For my vote, absolutely NOT a cheat. The point of the flash-forward images was to say "this is building to something big and disasterous, and it's all Walt's fault". I know we've all speculated about a meth lab explosion, or the Mexicans killing Skyler and "Flynn", but the ending leaves all the show's pieces still in play (Walt's meth operation is still secret, his family are still alive) while at the same time there are two airplanes filled with people that are dead. And, forget the rest of Alan's chain of causation (which was all true), if Walt hadn't allowed Jane to die, those people would be alive. And that is pretty bloody big.

The only thing I'm uncertain about is whether we knew what Donald did for a living before this episode. I don't remember knowing, but it may have been a passing reference that I didn't pick up on. (If not, that's the only weak point where it could be said to be a cheat where we didn't have all the information needed.) In any case, after this episode's teaser, which established the mystery was something much bigger than we had speculated, the instant Donald sat down at his monitor you were able to realise what was going to happen, and it made the rest of the episode unbearable.

the audience had an emotional relationship with the characters and was trying to sort out which of them would pay for Walt's evil. ... By killing hundreds of strangers instead of bringing the death of a loved on to Walt's doorstep, Gilligan has turned Walt's evil into an abstraction.Don't forget that this is not the end of the show. We'll get a another two seasons (fingers crossed) in which the consequences of Walt's actions can become more personal to him, and I expect they will. In the meantime, we have a horrific ending that is a dramatic demonstration of the wider effect Walt is having, even on people he doesn't know.

Thinking about this, the show can (understandably) be very Walt-centric, and we never really see the victims of his actions. But this episode seemed almost focused on the number of victims that drug dealing and use can have. Obviously we have Jane's death, those users that actually die, but we also had the users existing in a living death in the house where Walt collected Jesse (was that the first time Walt was actually confronted with the reality of hardcore drug users?), and in Donald we have the people who are made victims by their loved ones' actions. And the plane is a demonstration that there's no way we can tell what wider effects these people will in turn create.

An incredible end to a stunning season. Congratulations to Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and everyone involved in the show. It has been great, and I cannot wait until next year.

JoeE said...

"Dramatically speaking, one dead wife tops an infinite number of dead strangers."

Somewhere, David Chase is laughing.

Ostiose Vagrant said...

The ending in one word:"Magnolia-esque"

Alex said...

@MatthewL: We did not know what Jane's dad did. They'd teased about it.

jon said...

I felt cheated by the ending. Well, not so much the ending, as much as the buildup to the ending. Without the buildup, I would have thought with amazement "Wow, Walt, look at the chaos you've caused." Instead I thought about the lack of payoff of energy I spent thinking about the tease during the season. It felt like a gimmick, and I expected more from BB.

Kind of reminded me of the "who shot JR" build-up: the writers spent at least a half-dozen episodes setting up at least 10 characters with a reason for shooting him, and they let the audience weigh the possibilities all summer. If the shooter had turned out to be a janitor who found a loaded gun and was testing to see if it had bullets, thereby shooting JR, the audience would have had an answer to the question but felt cheated by all the buildup.

This was an excellent season all around, and kudos to Cranston and Anna Gunn who really excelled this week. The Tuco episodes, "Negro y Azul," and "Better Call Saul" were some spectacular TV this season.

Anonymous said...

Not a cheat but I was disappointed. I can spring back though say unlike BSG>

Sloane said...

I loved this season but to me the ending was pretty horrible because it felt so coincidental. Walt meeting Jane's dad in the bar. Walt going to Jesse, moving Jane who suddently started coughing. Jane's Dad working as an ATC, having two planes accidently crash exactly over Walt's house. I mean, come on!

Sky confronting Walt was great but it really should have been her and Walter Jr (or Jesse and Jane) in those body bags. :/

Lynn said...

someone said: "BTW I didn't mind the goatee, but I did have a problem with the bright pink sweater. Come on Walt, you are the biggest meth supplier in the Southwest, you can't be wearing hot pink sweaters."

No, the color was perfect - this ep had Walt the happiest we've ever seen him. Practically giddy in the Dr.s office. He's moved on -with no cares of the havoc he's caused. Until it all explodes that is.
Also the use of color is always thoughtful as others have mentioned and I would add the connection that links Jesse in the green robe and matching slippers(!) with the next shot of Walt in a green hospital gown. They are both being healed.

Tom said...

JoeE:

It's impossible to know, of course, but I doubt that David Chase would have had the payoff to this season of BB be a plane crash with a lot of dead strangers. He kept the major payoffs in the family.

blogfan said...

SteveInHouston,

The health care stuff was more a theme in the first season, when paying basic bills was a big deal. We also had the joke about the long printing chemo receipt earlier this season. But once we moved on to experimental treatments and once the show made clear that the cancer was the rationalization for Walt's actions rather than the true motivator, this theme faded into the background. If this season had a financial theme it was further down the socio-economic ladder, as Jesse's experiences post-escape-from-Tuco revealed just how quickly someone can fall off the grid without a steady paycheck.

Verification word: damed
Definition: What happened to Jesse

D4P said...

I'm with Vince Gilligan. While I like to try to guess how things will turn out based on the clues I've been given, and while I get a certain amount of satisfaction from being right, I also like being surprised and outwitted by the writers. Shows that never surprise or fool me usually lose my interest pretty quickly.

So, I wasn't in any way disappointed with the ending, though I will concede that it's a bit too coincidental for the planes to collide directly over Walt's house.

As to whether the collision was all Walt's fault or not: I think the answer is clearly no, but I think that's perfectly fine from the standpoint of moral judgment and all that.

I think the point is that, while Walt believes himself to be completely in control of the situation with his intelligence ultimately being sufficient to enable him to emerge victoriously (wealthy, powerful, family intact, etc.) from his wrongdoings, his world is a probabilistic one in which both good and bad things can happen for reasons that are partly (but not completely) under his control.

JoeE said...

Yeah, the notion that Breaking Bad is in any sense trying to make a statement about the American healthcare system is ridiculous and just lets Walt off the hook when he doesn't deserve to be let off the hook. He had an easy way out, remember - Gretchen and Elliot offered to pay for everything, but Walt was more interested in avoiding a minor blow to his pride than in taking care of himself and his family in a safe, legal manner. The offer was even extended again later on, and it was rejected for the same reasons.

Walt isn't a victim of anyone or anything but himself.

Otto Man said...

Eh, I liked the ending -- it was surprising in a way that none of the body-bag guessing game scenarios would have been.

But more to the point, I thought it was brilliant to show the ways in which Walt's descent into crime has broader ramifications in ways that even he doesn't realize.

There are local costs -- his wife and children leaving him, the impact on Jesse, deaths and arrests of their underlings, etc. -- but those are obvious. This took things to a broader, bigger level, and it worked.

Also, I think it's an exaggeration to say that the crash happened exactly over Walt's house. It happened tens of thousands of feet over a major city. Just because a teddy bear hit his pool, that doesn't mean that was the epicenter of the explosion.

digamma said...

The plane crash came about a little too quickly and conveniently for my tastes. But it was still a great ending to a great season. Anna Gunn really got her moment to shine. I never enjoyed watching de Lancie on Star Trek, but he hit this role out of the park.

I don't think Gus knew Walter had cancer before he visited the DEA. And it is important to Gus for the same reason it was important to Jesse in season one - 50 year old family men don't just break bad.

Belinda said...

Wow.Amazing episode, and a great way to end season two and start season three, of which I cannot wait.

I'm surprised some found the resolution of the teddy bear to be unsatisfying; it's not like this show was ever about the big mystery of the teddy bear and the body bags(even if it was fun to speculate, and fun that I was completely wrong); but anyway, yeah, I could just watch the so again and again.

I'm foreseeing an even closer relationship between Jesse and Walt, if Skyler sticks with her plan. It'll be interesting to see how Walt deals with all this, and whether he'd ever fess up the truth to him or to her.

Kudos to Gunn; Major acting chops in that one scene alone.

Oh, I had some trouble making out what Jesse said in Serenity. Could someone help me out with that part of the dialogue?

As some have pointed out, this show is a master at callback scenes, so I'll add to the list:-
- The beginning shot of the bed springs while Jesse tries to save Jane vs. Jesse's car bouncing up and down in that wonderful scene with Tuco and Hank.
- The surgery scer with Walt on his side with the plastic over parts of his body with his toes peeking out vs. All those scenes about spitup/vomit and lying on the side, and the scene before where the emt packs up Jane.
- as others and Alan mentioned, the use of colour. Great to see blue on Skyler, Jane, the meth blue sky, Habk's push pins. And the pink sweater on Walt that mimics the teddy bear's colour.
- And of course, the bang of the plane crash vs. Walt's makeshift bomb from last season. I've gone from cheering on 'woo! Big bad Walt' to ' oh, Walt.' in a season.

Anonymous said...

The whole epsiode, just like the season, was brilliant in my opinion. I was stumped the entire time by the black and white flash forwards with the teddy bear; I at first, of course, assumed a meth lab explosion, but pretty quickly ruled that out because at least for now Walt is careful not to do his cooking at home. It has been so mesmerizing to see Walt evolve from this moral, if boring, family man to fairly unrepentant criminal; I think if Skyler and the fam are really gone, there's nothing really to keep him from continuing with his "enterprise." It can still all go the family, but there won't be as much to lose, and he can let her learn it all after he's gone without feeling as badly if they already think of him as a cad.

Then, at the beginning of the finale, we saw NTSB and figured out that somehow a plane had crashed and wondered if it somehow impacted his family.

As the epi unfolded, I began to wonder if the story next season would somehow come full circle with Flynn getting into drugs. They have started to show the strong parallels between Jane's family and Walt's, as well as the parallels between taking care of a new baby (keep them on their backs, not their sides) and a drug addict (when Jane was telling Jesse to lie on his side in case he got sick - shudder, foreshadowing). Then, of course, Jane's dad taking care of his daughter for the final time and Walt just starting to take care of his daughter...perhaps for the final time, as we might be seeing with Skyler taking off? Whew, lots and lots to ponder for months and months. What a great show! I always have to re-watch to catch all the details and let it all sink in - I had to watch the next-to-last epi to fully let Jane's terrible death become real, and now I see I have to re-watch the finale to catch some of the finer details there. Teddy bear in the mural; I never would have seen that! Well done, all around.

D4P said...

Not sure if this has been discussed in the past, but I've always pondered over whether Skyler would ever accept the money from Walt if she knew where it came from. I've always felt like she wouldn't, and thus that Walt's plan never really made sense from the very beginning (even if it proved successful).

Course, he doesn't really care about that now. In fact, I don't think he really cares about the money one way or another: he just cares about the power and feeling like he's in control and successful at something.

D4P said...

Which reminds me of something I've never really understood about the show.

If Walt is so proud that he won't accept "charity" and is willing to lie, steal, murder, cook and deal meth, etc. to avoid wounding his pride, why is it that he ended up teaching high school and moonlighting at a demeaning car wash job in the first place? Why didn't he ever "make more of himself"?

JoeE said...

D4P:

Presumably, he did try to do something better with his life, with Gray Matter, and for whatever reason, he failed. How exactly things went down and he ended up accepting a job as a chemistry teacher (something he feels is clearly beneath him) is something the writers will probably tell us eventually, but we know that Walt believes very strongly that he isn't responsible for that failure, and that he has been cheated out of his success.

constantlyL8 said...

I remember in Episode 10 ("over") that when the "NTSB" people were collecting evidence (like the teddy bear) they also picked up Walts glasses around that area too. so im thinking that in season three Walt will be in Hospital again but this time being hit in the head by a piece of the flying debris from the 737 (knocking his glasses off). where then he has real amnesia (not osme cover story) and cant remember anything (like in samantha who).
therefore he cant explain to his wife (or DEA hank :P) where all the money came from or whats been happening. but his past will inevitably catch up with him and the chaos continues. especially after his face is on national TV (as someone posted above that maybe someone in breaking bad will recognize Walt and link to him to heisenberg :O)
anyways thats just my theory from down under :)

also go the "dead caterpillar mustache" in the hope that he hasnt completely gone bad and does something selfless in the end... savewalterwhite.com :P

constantlyL8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
digamma said...

why is it that he ended up teaching high school and moonlighting at a demeaning car wash job in the first place?"You left me. Fourth of July weekend, you and my father and my brothers. And I go up to our room and you are packing your bags. Barely talking."

I'm confident we'll learn more of that back story next season.

Also, I figured out why Gus founded Los Pollos Hermanos: "You want brothers on the wall of fame, you open up your own business."

Anonymous said...

The ending was terrible! Its really too bad that such an amazing season of this brilliant show had to end with such a let down. There are so many good things about this show that its just annoying they made us wonder about the pink bear scene all season long. And this coincidence is so contrived and ridiculous it doesn't feel like Walt's fault at all. Air traffic controllers who are so overcome with grief that they CAN'T KEEP THEIR EYES OPEN should not be allowed to work, duh! That is not Walt's fault. Thats just poor writing no matter how clever the episode title clues were.

The ending of the past 2 episodes were so awesome, and I can't believe the season ended like this. Weak!

D4P said...

I know that the Gretchen breakup ultimately meant no Gray Matters for Walt, but it seems like he could have started his own company or something. But maybe he didn't have the startup funds.

Anonymous said...

Wanted to send a shout-out to the wonderful actor who played "the cleaner" with such cold, efficient detachment. He did show a glimmer of emotion when he saw dead Jane, but beyond that, he was all business.

What did he tell Jesse to say? "I woke up, I found her, that's all I know(?)" Like so many "Sopranos" scenes involving handling of bodies (such as the dismemberment of an associate's corpse at the butcher shop), this scene was definitely tragicomic: Jesse shocked and grief-stricken into paralysis, while the cleaner methodically running through a routine he clearly knows all too well, disposing of drug paraphernalia almost as casually as if it were garbage left over from a picnic.

Lynn said...

Speaking of Frank.. any comments/bloggage from you Alan on "Wiseguy"? The Toes Knows! Kevin Spacey's greatest role? Though the first season with Ray Sharkey was my personal favorite

Gopherannie said...

I agree with all of those who voice satisfaction and surprise with the events of the second season.

Regarding the goatee, I had the thought that Walt is mirroring Donald. I think Walt was influenced by his little conversation with Donald and somewhat impressed with Donald's visage. This will eventually make it more likely that Walt with take note of his connection to Donald through Jane's death in future episodes.

cgeye said...

but we know that Walt believes very strongly that he isn't responsible for that failure, and that he has been cheated out of his success.That's why he sticks with the meth; it's revenge on everyone he perceives as dissing him -- pissing on the social contract, on his peers, their kids.... there's too much anger in the man to ascribe simply to cancer or the living of a humble life. For Walter, ambition kills; he was clean for so long, but now he's relapsed, and everyone around him is going to pay the price.

digamma said...

I just watched the opening again. At one point you see the hazmat-suited people walk past a truck labeled OMI - the authority that came for Jane. I guess that was meant to mislead us.

Nquoid said...

Am I the only person intrigued by the spiderweb on the inside of the car? Is that just to show it's been ages, but surely they'd have done clear up quicker than that, to let a whole host of spiders cover the inside of car?

D4P said...

Am I the only person intrigued by the spiderweb on the inside of the car?

I think the car got hit, presumably by the bodies (falling from the airplanes) that end up in the body bags. What you see as spiderwebs are actually cracks.

Anonymous said...

how is it walts fault that jane is dead? shes the one who made the choice to do heroin. its her fault shes dead

Karen said...

I, too, saw the NTSB on top of the van at the beginning, and the two plumes of smoke, and assumed it was a plane crash. What I didn't--couldn't--know was that the crash would be the end result of the chain reaction Walt the chemist set in motion.

That was simply beautiful. Beautiful. I gasped with the beauty of it, as soon as I saw that Q was an air traffic controller.

The way Gilligan feeds us these bits is sheer genius.

In addition to the great acting moments you've already noted, Alan, I'd like to add John DeLancie's face as he pulls up to fetch Jane and sees the ambulance. The sorrow, dread, and recognition in that moment were heart-wrenching.

I think Skyler did the only thing she could do. Someone asked "How could she not want to know?" But that's not what she said. It wasn't "I don't want to know," it was "I'm afraid to know." I don't blame her. What on earth could he be hiding that would involve a cover-up that massive, and that's not an affair? I'd be afraid, too.

All in all, a beautiful, powerful season. Great, great television.

Adam said...

Yeah, I thought the cracks in the window shield were a spider web too at first... but nah, definitely cracks.

Also, this whole discussion of the question, "How can Walt be blamed for Jane's death?" seems kind of misdirected. I mean, obviously everyone has a personal responsibility for themselves and their own lives. But (also obviously) that does not preclude there from being very strong connections between people's lives, whether it be direct cause-and-effect-type relationships or even slightly less direct. The fact is (and I think this is the only fact that the show is getting at) is that people's lives and choices ARE interconnected and Walt DID play a role in Jane's death and, in turn (although to a lesser extent), in the plane crash. Obviously Jane and Donald and Donald's employer all also played roles in those events... no one's arguing that it's 100% Walt's fault. Just that he COULD have prevented it, but didn't because of his increasingly selfish and immoral nature.

Gah... That was a long paragraph... sorry!

Adam said...

Also, this has already been pointed out, but I'd like to repeat it: Walt is on VERY thin ice at the moment, with Skylar knowing that he got $300,000(?) out of thin air, and Hank (her brother) being a DEA agent. How long until Skylar tells Hank about this? And what's Walt's lie going to be?

Anonymous said...

Just reading through, thinking about connecting the baby girl in her innocent blue to the dead Jane in her blue--

Walt wouldn't wear anything flamboyant but now he is wearing pink, like the crash and burn Teddy bear.

A link between the adult woman and the baby, a foreshadowing link between the pink teddy bear and Walt?

In the old stereotypes, blue was for guys and pink for girls. It's neatly flipped here. Pink is also associated with cancer (pink ribbon for breast cancer).

Not saying they "meant" any of this, just that it's evocative.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Sky and the baby were on the plane?

dez said...

Also, I was so locked in on the house and the smoke in the background that I totally missed the "NTSB" on the top of the van and didn't see it until the encore started a few minutes ago!Same here! I was so busy guessing it was a plane crash that I missed the confirmation! And I agree with the poster above who noted how unbearable the last minutes were once we saw Q was an ATC. At least they didn't have anything land on Skyler's car as she left Walt's...or did they? Man, the wait for S3 is going to be rough! What a great show!

Matthew L said...

how is it walts fault that jane is dead? shes the one who made the choice to do heroin. its her fault shes dead.

To a degree, yes, you're right. We all have responsibility for our actions, including whether or not we choose to take drugs. But had Walt not shook Jesse, Jane would not have rolled onto her back and would not have choked. Had Walt actually tried to save Jane when she did start choking, she would not have died. And, as Alan explained, had Walt not started on this whole thing, Jesse never would have moved in next to Jane, so perhaps Jane (who was in recovery - 18 months clean, wasn't it?) would have had a nice non-drug-using neighbour who wouldn't have tempted her back into her addictions. Yes, Jane has some responsibility for her actions. But at any moment Walt could have prevented Jane's death, and he actively chose to let another human being die. And this is the consequence.

Anonymous said...

I'd imagine it'll be easier for Walt to deny having any direct hand in ruining people's lives because it is their choice to take drugs, or that Jane died because she took heroin, but realistically, he is a drug lord who deals drugs to addicts, and he watched Jane die from her own vomit. I'm not sure how one can justify that.

Bazza Mckenzie said...

loved this series but i thought the ending was a fairly cheap out for the writers. not enough to prevent me enjoying it, but deus-ex-machina in a pretty glass grade form of purity. bring on season 3.

Anonymous said...

deus-ex-machina in a pretty glass grade form of purity.That wasn't deus ex machina -- god didn't come down and resolve a crisis point in the plot.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

First of all, someone already mentioned that Walt was a mirror image of the user coming out of the house as Walt was going in to get Jessie, but when he and the cleaner were in the car outside the house, they looked almost like twins. The only difference was that Walt was still capable of showing some emotion. (Great performance by the cleaner, by the way.) I also think it's interesting that the user with the horns and the one with the tattooed face both also had shaven heads, just like Walt but for different reasons.

Nice comment from Mark about the bell ringing echoing Tuco's uncle. I hadn't noticed it before, but it sounded exactly like that. No wonder Walt found it disturbing.

Also, I don't think anyone has commented on Jane's father misspeaking as he was talking to the airplanes. Instead of saying "Juliet, Michael, 21" at one point, he said, "Jane, Michael 21." Then he catches himself, but it's obvious that his mind is still on Jane.

And for the person who speculated that Jane's mother would have been on one of the planes: the funeral would have been long past by the time Walt had recovered from his surgery and Don was back at work.

Anonymous said...

To answer about how much time off the air traffic controller can take: He might not have enough PAID leave to take 6-7 weeks off (although if working for years and delaying vacations/sick time off he could), but with the death of an immediate family member (daughter)and working in a federally-connected job, he would definitely be entitled to the provisions of the family leave act for unpaid leave to add on to whatever his paid leave was. If somehow ineligible for that, he would possibly be eligible for whatever leave act (unpaid leave) existed in the state where he resides.

Just because the viewer doesn't know how something works doesn't mean it's a plot error on the part of those who made the plot.

Mike F said...

I think the people who think the ending was a cheat are completely missing the point. It was a cheat all along, and it was supposed to defy your expectations. It was awesome to watch, it was dramatic and it surprised you as it was happening. It was a brilliant story-telling moment.

This show is very "anti" all the things you have come to expect from this kind of serial crime drama. Each character arc is going "anti" to what you'd expect. The super-tough hard-as-nails Hank, the mild-mannered Walt character, Jesse the punkish rebel, Skyler the happy homemaker, the pleasant and simple owner of the fast food joints (can't think of his name), Saul as an officer of the court, etc etc etc...they have all turned out to be the antithesis of what you would have thought going into the series.

And yes, the storytelling itself...Gilligan is playing against what typical tv shows do with everybody's false assumption that the season finale of a series like this one will end with characters we know well getting killed. This show is so much about internal struggle and that's what we were given in the finale.

I hear a lot of people say this was the best show on tv until Mad Men comes back on the air...I'd go one step further and say its the best show period. I can't wait til next season.

Anonymous said...

"the people who think the ending was a cheat are completely missing the point. It was a cheat all along..."

So it was a cheat? You're just disagreeing about the timing of the cheat. Fair enough.

I don't feel 'cheated', but the plane crash was so bizarre and so unlike anything that has happened before on BB that it pulled me out of the story and left me thinking 'wtf are the writers doing here?'. Its a clever metaphor and all, but the story they are telling is far more compelling than the symbolism of the crash and the 'see how its all connected!' nonsense. I would have preferred a couple more minutes of Walt or Jesse or some other character or aspect of the story I care about instead of ending on a big, splashy, shocking moment that pulls me out of the story entirely.

Anonymous said...

I know of a factual but anecdotal event where a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer had some family members flying from the east to the west coast to give her emotional support.

The plane they were on went into the Towers in NYC and she ended up facing the grief of their loss along with facing her illness alone.

As the song says, "Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines in Pieces on the Ground." Think it was written by James Taylor during his junkie/rehab days.

Tom said...

That wasn't deus ex machina -- god didn't come down and resolve a crisis point in the plot.Well, okay, then, Gilligan admits it was a Lucifer ex machina moment -- the devil came down to create a crisis point in the plot. It still leaves the same aftertaste.

I agree with the poster who said the ending pulled him out of the story. The evils of addiction and drug dealing are potent enough to stand alone -- and were skillfully presented in the show. The writers didn't need to contrive a sequence of events to toss a midair collision into the mix.

The ending sullied an excellent drama with a touch of Reefer Madness-style over-the-top melodrama. At least in my book.

D4P said...

I don't think "Grieving father makes mistake at work" is contrived.

But I do have to wonder: given the mistakes that Jane's father made at work, what is the probability that two planes would collide as a result?

Anyone have any idea?

Anonymous said...

"Each character arc is going "anti" to what you'd expect.... Saul as an officer of the court, etc etc etc"
You obviously don't know many lawyers - Saul is the only character doing what you'd expect.

Hans said...

Ok I come a little late to the game, but I had to say this:

Never, never ever have I been fooled by a TV Show like this before.

Just watched the episode and I'm at a complete loss of words...

seriously, all I can say is garbfigha de qurifiglma WHAT?!?!

Eldritch said...

Anonymous said...
how is it walts fault that jane is dead? shes the one who made the choice to do heroin.
.

True, she did. However, in a previous episode, it was established that she made a point of sleeping on her side to protect against throwing up during sleep.

When she trained Jesse to do heroin, this was one of her teachings. Earlier in the same episode, in a parallel scene, much is made of propping Walt's baby daughter on her side to prevent her death in case she spit up while asleep.

When Walt enters Jesse's duplex, he and Jane were sleeping on their sides. It wasn't until he disturbed her that she changed position, which made her vulnerable. Then he didn't help when she began coughing up. In a sense he killed her twice. He made her vulnerable, and then he didn't help.

Hans said...

and I mean in a good way!

Tom said...

D4P:

"Grieving dad who makes a mistake at work happens to be an air traffic controller" is, I would argue, a contrivance. Melodrama, at the very least.

Anonymous said...

Tom, maybe all plot devices are contrivances, but I have to say: I don't really believe in fate, higher power, whatever mystical thing, yet I have had "coincidences" in my own life that are much more farfetched than this, and I've led a pretty boring life.

OK, to you it's just a plot device. Is it justified? Yes, because it seems to set Walt up for recognizing or willfully not recognizing the REMOTE and INDIRECT victims of his choices. His "career" depends on his blindness to the less remote victims of his choices.

The brilliance is in the multiple "causes" of each event, which is very realistic. Jane made a "choice" which caused her death, but her death could have been averted by Walt, who also made a "choice" to let her choke.

If there are only strangers on the planes, his reactions may be different. If any of his estranged family members are on the planes, that's bringing it all back home.

Anonymous said...

D4P at 4:15: I can't quote probabilities, but I live near an airport that has had several near-mid-air collisions, and the air traffic controllers said that such incidents were increasing. I think I remember seeing something like that on the national news. Some of the airports don't have enough runways for the arrivals/departures scheduled, which makes them circle more and makes it harder for controllers to keep up under normal circumstance.

I live in a flight path and I made a complaint when I saw an apparent violation of recommended air space, and they took it seriously enough to call me back and follow up. I would imagine that near-mid-airs happen more than formerly.

As I type this, my TV news is covering the once-in-a-million Air France material recovery effort.

Tom said...

Anonymous:

My beef with the coincidence-driven ending is that it was so unnecessary. Early in the show, we were with Walt as he picked his way through the human wreckage at a shooting gallery to find his best friend -- he does not need a midair collision he's tangentially responsible for to confront him with the reality of his decisions. In a way, this accident could let Walt off the hook psychologically. Ruined lives, dead young women, gangland shootings...those he sees and knows he's hip-deep in. But a plane crash? That's an act of God. Wha'ts a guy supposed to do in a world that f*cked up? (I won't be surprised if that's the attitude the writers have Walt take next year.)

Yes, this crash was the work of a Higher Power...that Great Show Runner in the sky. It took me out of the show right at the moment I wanted to be totally sucked in. I think it was a false note in an otherwise brilliant piece of work.

jon said...

I agree with what Tom said. I had the same reaction. I wonder if the effect would have been stronger or weaker without the hints and teases earlier in the season.

D4P said...

I was on a plane flying into Milwaukee a few years ago. The plane started its descent, and I could see out the window that we were very close to ground and would be landing in a matter of seconds. All of a sudden, the plane pulled up and flew back up into the air and circled the airport for nearly a half hour before landing.

I later found out that another plane was on the runway when we were trying to land and we would have hit it (and almost did) if our pilot hadn't pulled up at the last second.

Anonymous said...

D4P at 10:06 PM: I don't even fly very much as a passenger and I had the same thing happen to me once upon returning to SFO from the midwest. We were starting to land and we pulled up and circled for a long time and the pilot came on and told us that another plane had been too close. This was more than a decade ago and they have been talking about building more runways at SFO for years. I can only imagine these near-misses are happening more frequently.

It would be nice to have some actual pilots, ATCs, etc. weigh in instead of non-experts saying, no, never happens.

Anonymous said...

I can remember a plot device in an old sitcom that revolved around an eccentric married couple who were going through stress because of infertility and career factors.

The deus ex machina was that the woman let a coworker kiss her without sufficient foundation in her character. People hated the plot device. However, once the plot device was allowed to happen--woman kisses coworker and tells husband, husband reacts--everything that happened from then on was pretty realistic.

My partner and I watched the sitcom and recognized the reality of it (couple trying to have kid, infidelity, strained marriage, even exact dialogue) because we went through something similar.

To me it's not whether a plot device is realistic as much as what the writers do when the story unfolds.

Anonymous said...

Just a note about something that really moved me: Walt calling Jesse "son" when he's pulling him out of the shooting gallery. Really what Jesse's always wanted to be to Walt, which Walt has perverted into his exploitation of Jesse. So touched by Walt's remnants of humanity peeking through.

Brown Shoes said...

Anonymous - I so agree with you!
That entire scene (from the moment we saw Walt sitting in the car with 'the cleaner' until he was cradling Jesse in his arms) was just incredibly well done.
Special kudos to Aaron Paul, who was superb in this episode...for me, he is still one of the purest characters in the show and I can't help rooting for him to make it out alive and on a better path when this show ends.
Someone earlier noted that Walt's sweater matched the teddy bear - it was such an unusual wardrobe departure that I was wondering if it was asort of wink- wink from the writers/director since this episode resolved the big burnt-bear issue we have all been pondering all season long???
Great television - cannot wait for the fall season to begin!

Anonymous said...

Inspired by Alan's reviews, I watched Seasons 1 & 2 of Breaking Bad over the last week. Really great show. This is the third or fourth show I've picked up based solely on Alan's raves; it's great to have such an infallible source to rely on for my TV choices.

Just as a point of interest, after the finale I started Googling around for info about mid-air collisions. I found this one that happened in 2002 over Germany. What's really interesting is that the family of a Russian politician was on board one of the planes. After the crash, he hunted down the air traffic controller on duty at the time and stabbed him to death. For that, he spent 3 years in prison. Talk about life being stranger than fiction...

Anonymous said...

I love this quote from the savewalter site:

"He likes to cook because of chemistry"

Anonymous said...

I need to watch the episode again, but didn't Skyler take Walt Jr and the baby to her aunts? Were they on one of the planes that crashed into Walt's back yard?

Anonymous said...

Here is something to think about. I was watching Dexter recently and heard mention of something addicts go through called "pink cloud". its where the addict comes to reality and see he or she is a victim to addiction.

"Then comes a day, followed by a series of days or weeks, where the addict or alcoholic experiences acceptance. He or she is excited at the prospect of what recovery from addiction and alcoholism has to offer and feel as if they have grasped what it takes to maintain quality recovery."

I can only imagine what they are foreshadowing here!

J-rod said...

Didn't like the crash at first but now I'm on board.

I love how they've switched Walt and Jesse's roles from sympathetic to pathetic and vice versa.

Jim Leff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:26 PM: I believe the flights that crashed were being cleared to land, not to depart.

Also, the plane didn't exactly crash into Walt's yard, and I think people who have trouble with the "coincidence" miss that fact.

When the two planes collided, the long shot from the camera showed that large debris of the planes landed in two main plumes of smoky wreckage, and that lighter debris (teddy bear toys, small bodies and body parts, etc)fell over a wider area and landed in many people's yards (wide shot).

I'm not sure of the physics of this, but from what I'm learning about the French plane that went into the ocean as a one-plane crash (we believe), the debris field in a two-plane crash could be pretty wide.

I love that shot with the bear in the pool and the reflection of Walt wearing pink looking like he's in the pool too as he stands above. Love that.

Jim Leff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Leff said...

Jim Leff said...
I'd like to try to tie together some of the issues that have been raised.

Back in season one, Gilligan explained how he and the writers needed to be careful to have the series not glorify drug culture. Walt, in other words, would have to get his comeuppance.

As someone in this thread said, it certainly is not a given that Walt's life must break bad back at him. There are drug lords who aren't shot, don't go to jail, and don't have their lives fall apart (look at Gus!). As everyone over the age of four comes to realize, bad behavior's not always punished.

But the writers, otherwise superb at ambiguity and realism, will be constrained to force Walt into his just desserts, even though, as Gilligan himself says (in your interview), characters ought to be allowed to develop naturally, even if/when they fail to hew to the writers' agenda.

And as has been remarked upon in discussion of previous episodes, there's been an increasing religious tinge this season, peaking in this episode with its Lucifer ex machina. One gets the feeling Gilligan may have a secondary reason for squeezing this realistic drama - whose characters have previously been allowed to develop organically - into the narrowness of a cautionary tale.

The vague disappointment people are expressing re: this episode doesn't stem from a daft need to see Sky and Ted Beneke in body bags. It's that we've had our first naked glimpse of the sort of heavy-handed manipulation that may be steering these characters (or, at least, Walt) toward reaping precisely as they've sown...and driving that indelicately home to audiences.

Ok, maybe this time it wasn't SO heavy-handed. But coming after two seasons of remarkable fresh honesty and realism, where character integrity trumped writerly agendas, we've grown sensitive to such intrusion!

In the interview, Gilligan also says "If we're going to be honest about a guy who sets out to be a criminal, we have to see where it takes itself." Maybe that was the case for a couple years, but the writerly intrusion of the plane crash has turned a corner, and it's one we've sort of felt coming. Walt's not just transforming from Mr. Chips to Scarface, he's transforming from flesh and blood to a character in a morality play. Really, the device was neither Deus Ex Machina or Lucifer Ex Machina. It was Vince Ex Machina. And that indeed feels like a cheat.

Obviously, I'm not saying Walt must get off scott-free for this to be realistic. I don't need the series to go in any particular direction.....but I wish the writers could share that openness! Or, at very least, use a light touch. The real world has no concept of the word "deserve". People get better than they deserve or they get worse than they deserve, but no one outside fiction (the most simple-minded fiction!) ever gets precisely what they deserve!

Please, writers, just let it unfold. I know you're worried that audiences falling in love with shamefully-behaving characters thrust you, the creators, into a moral bind. But, Vince, please don't let your acknowledged twitchy anxiety compel you to indulge your puppeteer impulse. Stay the course!

Jeff said...

I hated the ending. It just felt hokey. I understand the connection between Walt's actions and the plane crash but it was just too sensational. Especially having it happen right above his home.

Anoel said...

I am really, really disappointed in the ending (with a side of anger). You can't just build up to a huge event ALL season and then be like SURPRISE, it doesn't really matter, you could never guess it and it's just a metaphor/karmic sequence of events. It took me way out of the episode and show which I was really loving up til now. And I agree with an above commenter that it wasn't enough Walt's fault in that Jane's father should no way have come to work but that of course could happen to anyone in a position like that. In the end, after all that buildup, I was expecting it to have direct consequences to Walt running a drug business or hurting people he knows and besides incidents that would have happened without the teasers in all the episodes, that didn't happen.

And this is where you see the quality difference in Breaking Bad and The Wire: no matter what I NEVER felt dissatisfied at the end of The Wire's seasons. I may have been dying to have something happen different, to save someone, to stop the chain of events (see S3 or S4 especially) but in the end, I knew that's how it had to happen, that the consequences had fit what happened and that all the buildup had led up to the right, satisfying conclusion. I don't take kindly to let's build up the audience's anticipation and then trick them into something that mean's very little to us or the main character(s). Plus it distracts from the other good stuff that's going on in the episode. Not happy at all especially at everyone who made me believe this season actually ended well.

Anonymous said...

The ending was very bad and not fitting of the show at all. This isn't suppose to be some sensationalistic bait-and-switch show.

And so what if Walt's actions caused the chain of events? People do realize that GOOD actions can also cause a chain of events that lead to bad results, right? There is no way you can say those planes crashing is directly Walt's fault. What if some kind person donates money to a homeless person on the street who then gets robbed by a junkie who uses the money to shoot up and overdoses to his death? Is the person who originally gave the homeless person money responsible?

Very silly, unrealistic, and pointless ending that sadly is puts a negative on what was a fantastic season prior to it.

Tina S said...

I started out quite liking the show, but the way that the creators are forcing reality to fit their plans for the story is really grating on me.

I've been disappointed by some clearly manipulative fakery that doesn't do anything to add to the integrity or interest of the show.

Cancer patients don't just lose the hair on their head when they undergo chemo: they lose every fast-growing cell. They lose eyebrows, facial hair, their nails crack and bleed, the cells on their intestinal walls die. They do NOT keep a mustache.

Anyone including high grade meth in their drug cocktail is going to be up for DAYS -- not passing out. I worked on a case of a murderer who was also a meth dealer, and meth addicts spend time AWAKE, not asleep.

No labor is going to last one or even 2 hours. Walt could never have missed his child's birth. Additionally, labor pains start hours ahead of the actual process of giving birth. The depiction of Skyler and Marie has made me feel like there are absolutely no women getting their voices heard in the writing room, and that ridiculous idea that he could miss the entire birth of his daughter confirmed it for me.

Lastly, the Lucifer-ex-machina thing was actually disappointing, rather than thrilling. Hitchcock explained the difference between surprise and suspense, and saw surprise as much less sophisticated than suspense. Guess which this was?

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Sarah Jane said...

My end-of-season reflections (although some were posted at the end of the discussion of the last episode, 'Phoenix').

It seems to me that we won't know how good Breaking Bad is (or has been) until it's all over. Remember the way in The Wire that something referenced in passing in Season 1 would turn up again in Season 4, and it was up to the audience to make the connection? At the moment BB has a few dangling story lines and loose ends, and we don't know if they are going anywhere, or if they'll just be conveniently forgotten.

Most important of these, I think, at least as regards Walt's character and motivation, is exactly what went on between him and Gretchen to make him give up his research and become a high school teacher (a job that seems to be synonymous with failure in the U.S., btw)? Even is he didn't want to associate with Elliott and Gretchen anymore, couldn't he have just finished his PhD and got a job in some university? What did her father and brothers say to him on that fateful night? Is his whole subsequent life based on some misunderstanding? Gretchen and he don't seem to share recollections or interpretations of what happened.

Other things yet to be taken up:

What about that bug we saw Hank removing from under Walt's car some episodes back? What was that about?

Is Marie's shoplifting going anywhere, or was that just to establish that she is 'flawed'?

I also think it was very James Bondish that Walt and Jesse didn't finish Tuco off when he was in the ground. "Let him bleed"??? Ok, but shoot him a couple more times first!

I wasn't disappointed with the season finale. In fact, in retrospect it's kind of funny reading all the speculation on previous episode blog entries. Everyone was fooled, ha ha. The chain of events leading to the crash, while tenuous, is just about enough attributable to Walt's actions to make it hurt (and so plausible and relevant within the storyline).

Further season will reveal if BB is truly great. But even if not, the ride has been fun.

Matthew said...

What you've all missed:

* Walt let Jane die because he loves Jesse.
* The conversation between Walt and Jane's father is the immediate cause of Walt going back for Jesse, and the idea communicated from Donald to Walt that you take care of your family was the moral support Walt needed to make his decision to let the harpy die.

Duncan said...

I know this comment probably goes into internet oblivion, but I'll leave one. I'm obviously way behind, but just finished watching the season 2 finale and read every recap by Alan after I saw each episode. I was initially dismayed by the end, but on reflection realize just how great an episode it was and the reasoning behind it.

Highlights for me.

Skyler finally acting like a real person and leaving Walt. They had been losing the Skyler character for me because she kept going back to a man that disappeared and lied, but her leaving redeems herself in my eyes and I can go on watching her scenes without rolling my eyes.

Jesse's complete breakdown over Jane.

Jane's dad having the look that he was prepared for this day. Not even one angry outburst at Jesse.

But mainly I loved what the writers did in building the tension and drama the last two episodes. Rarely have I felt watching a TV show so much worry and angst, but when Walt goes back in and "kills" Jane I was really hoping the dad wouldn't walk in and was on pins and needles.

And then this episode I kept waiting for the "explosion" or whatever at Walt's house and the hints that had been given all season. One example was that even Alan mentioned "Walt's glasses" at the scene in previous flash forwards so when Skyler asked Walt for his glasses before surgery I thought Skyler would go home with Walt's glasses and the place would blow up. Not so much. Just great writing and directing to make your mind think in a million different ways while on the edge of your seat

So glad I started watching this show. Absolute brilliance. I cannot believe how invested I am in Jesse's fate. Aaron Paul's performance is mind blowing.