Sunday, April 11, 2010

Breaking Bad, "Green Light": Half-and-half

A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as I remember that the dude's name was Mel...
"Sometimes, it doesn't hurt to have someone watching your back." -Mike
"Breaking Bad" has tried to walk a fine line between black comedy and straight drama, and as Walt's heart has gotten darker, so has the show. This season has had its funny moments (roof pizza!) and of course promoted Bob Odenkirk to regular cast status, but on the whole it's felt more serious than before - not less interesting, because Cranston, Paul and company play both sides equally well, but with its feet more firmly planted on one side than the other.

With "Green Light," the funny returns in greater doses. Saul is more at the forefront, Walt is more pathetic than monstrous for most of the hour(*), and the comedy duo of White and Pinkman briefly reunited.

(*) I found it a particularly nice touch that we only heard Walt and Skyler's argument as Mike and Saul were listening to the tape of it in Saul's office. Had we watched it unfold in the White family kitchen, it would have been as ugly as much of the Walt/Skyler interaction has been this year. Seen through Saul and Mike's eyes, though, Walt's a clown with no impulse control.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the show took a darker turn after Jesse turned to heroin, not only because there's not a lot that's funny about that situation, but because it drove a wedge between him and Walt. So much of this show's comedy, even in otherwise bleak episodes like the one at Tuco's house or the one in the desert, comes from seeing these two characters drive each other crazy as they try to solve their latest potentially-fatal problem. And since Jane's death, they've been at peace with each other, but that was largely because neither was cooking meth at the time. No professional friction, just a surrogate father-son dynamic - note Walt telling Jesse, "You're good at a lot of things, son" while trying to talk him out of cooking.

But as soon as Jesse takes out that bag of blue Heisenberg meth, all paternal instincts go out the window. Walt the mentor is overtaken by Walt the aggrieved party, the man whose entire life can be blamed on others, whose stubborn pride eventually poisons every part of his life. Walt should have been proud that he had ultimately turned out to be a good teacher to Jesse - that he had taken the idiotic Cap'n Cook and turned him into an effective Heisenberg substitute. But of course he had just blown up his teaching career by hitting on the principal, and all he could see with that blue bag was that Jesse had stolen from him, in the same way that Gretchen and Elliott made their fortune on his work, and it made Walt go ballistic - and very, very funny.

Cranston's comedy bonafides got a workout in this one, not only in arguing with Jesse, but the whole scene outside Ted Beneke's office (where he assures Skyler everything's fine even as he's hunched over the potted plant he's trying to hurl through Ted's window), his lame brawl with Saul (with Mike picking up Walt like a father might pick up a child throwing a tantrum) and his disastrous attempt to seduce Principal Carmen.

But if Walt was a clown in this episode, he was the sad clown. He's lost his marriage, lost his teaching job, alienated the closest thing he has to a friend in Jesse, and even fired his counsel and money launderer. He's got nothing and no one, and something tells me Gus Frings will never have to tell him about the Cousins (even as the Cousins leave another warning on Walt's street) to get him to resume cooking. Heisenberg is the only thing Walt has left.

Jesse, meanwhile, continues to embrace his inner bad guy, potentially ruining the life of that poor girl at the gas station with his testimonial about the awesome splendor of crystal meth, just because he didn't think to check his wallet before filling up the RV. Aaron Paul has been a revelation as this dead-inside, unapologetic villainous Jesse - we knew he could act, but to be able to take the character to such a different place while still seeming clearly Jesse is no small thing.

And the gas station deal (another one of the show's marvelous short-story-as-teasers) looks like it's going to blow back on Jesse after Hank uses the return of the blue meth as an excuse to get out of his terrifying reassignment to El Paso. Hank struts through the episode being just as self-sabotaging as Walt (talking to Gomey in a similar manner to how Walt treats Jesse), because he's been to the border, and south of it, and he can't do that again - just as he can't admit to that until cornered by his boss(**). He doesn't quite wreck his career the way Walt does, but he's killed any real chance of upward mobility. (And, not that Hank realizes it, but catching Heisenberg won't do him much good, since putting the bracelets on the brother-in-law you didn't realize was the area's most notorious supplier isn't a great resume item.)

(**) Loved the moment where Hank's supervisor forces him to leave aside the macho bluster and confess that he can't go back to El Paso... and how, after a moment, Hank's personality reboots and he tries to act like the confession never even happened.

Walt's got no one, Hank's got no future prospects, Jesse's got no soul, and Skyler may as well put on a scarlet letter at Beneke after Walt's outburst. Not a good place for any of these characters to be, even if "Breaking Bad" rediscovered its sick funny bone while putting them all there.

Some other thoughts:

• What a great addition Jonathan Banks has been as Mike, whose loyalty is again confirmed as to Gus first and everyone else a distant second. His unflappable, completely professional demeanor stands in stark contrast to the excitable, bumbling amateurism of Walt, Jesse, and even Saul, who's only slightly less in-over-his-head than his two favorite clients.

• Is it any surprise that Jane's father would attempt suicide after all he's been through (and caused) over the last few months?

• And is it any surprise that, while Mr. Margolis would respond to the Flight 515 tragedy by trying to kill himself, Saul would try to make a buck off of it?

• Very nice transition between Skyler standing over the copy machine, realizing how much all the women at Beneke hate her, followed by the copy machine's whine intersecting with Skyler and Ted's moans during sex as the camera passes over pictures of Ted's kids.

• A mark of how effective the teaser was: I was actually relieved when Hank went to the gas station and it turned out the girl gave the meth away after sampling a little. On the other hand, it does metaphorically take Jesse off the hook for what he just did. If there's one area the series has shied away from, it's showing the effect of Walt and Jesse's product on its users (unless we count Skank and Spooge). We get to see how their behavior destroys the people immediately around them, but are kept from having to confront the broader destruction they cause. The users of the blue meth are as abstract as the people on the plane.

What did everybody else think?

88 comments:

bmfc1 said...

Thanks for the recap and the insight. (In the second starred paragraph, I think that the reference to Walt should be Hank.)

Anonymous said...

Great recap and observations Alan.

FYI - couple spots where you refer to "Walt" but I think you mean "Hank". Its in the ** section and the paragraph above it.

Media Mindset said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ambition said...

"I don't like shows that dissolve people in acid."

Have you ever seen a show that dissolves people in acid? It can be...gory at times, but it's so well done you really should watch it.

Rollie said...

For me, there will never be a funnier moment on the show than during 4 Days Out, when Jesse guesses "A robot?!" Let us leave that to personal preference, as there's something inherently funny about robots to me when used for comedy fodder. This episode, however, had me in hysterics. (The plant, inferior product, etc.) Though I have loved this season, I look forward to the day when Walt and Jesse are back together. I have always had it in my mind that they will eventually save each other, and while Walt have his ticket to be ferried across the river, I'm hoping that there is some sort of redemption left in him. And take Jesse with you, Walt.

I also noticed this blog post was 90 words more than the last. Keep it up! (thumbsup)

Anonymous said...

I think there's just as much "Moby dick" in Hank's motivations as there is fear of El Paso. Recall he was about to board a plane when the call came in about someone busted with blue meth. If only Hank knew his whale was so White . . . anonymoose

ambition said...

""A robot?!""

That's my favorite comedic moment too. Or maybe when Saul says, "You two suck at peddling meth, period." But probably the robot.

Anonymous said...

It's admirable that the producers aren't sugarcoating what Walt's become, but I'm wondering if they've gone a bit overboard? Because Walt has pretty much been an unrelenting douchebag for about half a season now (ever since Jane died basically).

I'm not saying they should change his overall arc, but it would be nice to have some Season 1 type moments when he would have some random victories (e.g., the clothing store bully, the bluetoothed sportscar driving a-hole) that really helped build up sympathy for the character.

At the very least, it would be nice to have some sort of positive interaction between him and Walt, Jr.

I'm sure it's not a problem for people who've watched the entire run, but having such an unlikeable protagonist has to make it hard to draw in new viewers.

I'm curious, is there anyone out there who just started watching this season who actually likes Walt?

oz

p.s. if you haven't seen the first two seasons, you really should ASAP, because

(A) you only need to catch up on 20 episodes, and

(B) they are arguably the best first 20 episodes of any TV drama ever (even the holy HBO trinity)

Anonymous said...

I like when Hank does good detective work. He comes across as a ham-fisted vulgarian a lot (e.g. trying to get Walt Jr laid, the Tortuga incident, almost shooting his wife, the way he laughs,etc.) so it's nice when they show us Hank's not just thinking about Schrader brew or his anxiety all the time. That atm camera was a brilliant plot point. If Jesse had actually used it instead of bartering with the meth, they would've had a face and his goose really would've been cooked. I love the way they make use of all the close calls walter and Jesse have. The scythe!

Anonymous said...

If Jesse had actually used it instead of bartering with the meth, they would've had a face and his goose really would've been cooked.

I agree that it's effective for them to show why Hank is capable of being where he is in the DEA food chain but I think in this particular case if Jesse had been able to use the ATM the drug trail wouldn't have led back to that food mart. It's also useful for them to show that Jesse's still a dufus who would be forced into that position. The big question is whether Jesse knew that the fairly obvious camera wasn't working. I think he just dodged a bullet since Hank couldn't tell that it wasn't working by looking at it.
- anonymoose

Anonymous said...

At first, I couldn't figure out why the camera focused for so long on the police car at the end of the first scene (Jesse leaving the gas station). Upon seeing the scene again during the encore, it made sense. The ATM camera couldn't make out the RV's license plate, but the camera in the police cruiser could have. It was pointing outward and in perfect position to capture it. We'll see if Hank knows where to look.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else think of Mad Men's Season 1 episode "The Hobo Code" when that scythe showed up?

Anonymous said...

"Saul would try to make a buck off of it?"

Alan, have you seen the stuff Odenkirk did for bettercallsaul.com ? One of the shorts is about Wayfarer 515 (though I also wasn't sure whether they'd bring that into the show universe).

"On the other hand, it does metaphorically take Jesse off the hook for what he just did."

Well, it could also be viewed as a statement of its own. As much as Jesse and Walt *are* responsible for peddling it, people make their own choices to use it too.

dronkmunk said...

I don't think Jesse "just happened" to forget to bring cash. His plan all along was to trade gas for that blue stuff.

Rufus said...

The scythe on the blacktop in front of Walters house reminded me of "The Hobo Code" in Mad Men where the scythe was code for a dishonest man.

As this series continues we see the results of Walt's choice to make money for his family before he dies. He no longer is the man Skylar loved and he has become more self interested. His reasons for cooking meth have become little more than excuses for getting what he wants. What Walt wants is now evolving as his life is extended.

Gus is becoming a more interesting character as he is becoming more complicated. Just what does he want with Walter past a perfect product?

Julian said...

I love how Gus knows Walt better than anyone and that initiating the buy from Jesse will push Walt and his ego into cooking again.

Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

This was probably the worst episode of Breaking Bad I've ever seen. Watching these guys "cook" was the fun part because it was always such a process that involved many obstacles. Jesse just cooking out of nowhere felt rushed. I realize this the calm before Walt's cooking storm, but c'mon... Oh, and I hope the cousins off Skyler.

Anonymous said...

I love how Walt & Jesse have now switched places from the beginning of S1. Jesse is now the one cooking and going to Walt to find a connection to sell the product. And Jesse is also the grownup, while Walt has gone completely off the rails. This show is second only to The Wire for me in all time greatness.

tribalism said...

There were so many awesome one-liners in this episode:

“You just bought yourself and $300 suit, psycho.”

“A) These things cost $800 a piece B) You’re not that interesting.”

I really love Gus more and more each time we see of him. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who really has the option of persuading people through physical intimidation, but I have to believe that fear is part of his game no matter what he says to Mike.

The writers wisely took their time re-integrating Jesse back into Walt’s life. Although I’m anxious to see more interaction between Gus and Walt, I know that it will be great when Mr. White goes to the chicken man. Walt's continued to rationalize his meth cooking as some sort of altruistic act, but now that he's been given a literal and figurative green light, I think that he's going to get back into the game simply because it's something he's actually successful at.

If anyone is interested, you can find more of my thoughts on this episode on my blog where I go into detail about the parallels between Walt and Jesse and what it means for any renewed partnership. Click my username for the link.

Brian said...

I second the "300 dollar suit" line as the tops of the ep.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Saul line was "These things happen. One time I walked in on my *second* wife having sex with my stepfather!"

belinda said...

I'm still not convinced entirely of why Gus is 'helping' Walt out so much. I get that Gus wants Walt to start cooking again because he's the master chef, but I'm not sure why it is so important for him - enough to risk his relationship with the cartel and to keep such close tabs - just to have Walt (and not anybody else) be his manufacturer. He even checked to see if Walt is good healthwise for a few years. Is it really all because as far as manufacturers go, Walt, a (ex)teacher with a mostly squeaky clean past, would be the easiest to control? (Whereas a user, or someone more 'dodgy' would not be.) Is it just because of the money? Is it just because Gus wanted a perfect batch of meth? Either way, it would be interesting to see just what Gus's motivations to keep Walt alive (and cooking) are. Walt wasn't THAT professional or calm as a business associate.

Aw, poor Hank.
Jesse was positively chilly in this episode - but it was also nice to see him be a little like the old Jesse (at the end when Gus' henchman basically stiffed him).

But, love that bag of money just flying into Walt's arms at the end. Hee. Don't we all wish that would happen to us sometimes? :)

Anonymous said...

It seems like all Skyler ever does at work is Xerox the same page over and over again.

Edward Copeland said...

Banks is a great addition. I'd almost like to see an entire episode that just follows Mike and shows what a typical day for him is like.

JanieJones said...

Great recap!

Jesse was chilling in the opening scene at the gas station. I've always thought Aaron Paul has performed great work but he just keeps getting better.
*I was also glad that the young lady at the gas station did not become enamored with the meth.

I have to echo everyone's comments regarding Saul, Gus and Mike.

I found it highly interesting that after Skyler and Ted had sex, he asked her what went wrong with her and Walt. Or more pointedly what did Walt do and Sky did not betray Walt's side job but she said that Ted could not possibly do what Walt did. She is helping him cook the books for the supposed "good of his family and the business."

I've seen some strong Skyler dislike this season but to me, Anna Gunn is owning her part.

Lisa said...

Up until now, Hank's character has been largely an annoyance to me, but thanks to the brilliance of Dean Norris, I'm starting to change my view.

I can't take my eyes off this parallel meltdown going on with Walt and Hank. I can't wait to see what happens once he finally makes the discovery about his brother-in-law. As you pointed out, Alan, finally catching the murderer/drug lord you've been eating Sunday dinners with for two years wouldn't be much of a career-booster for Hank.

So then what? Will Walt and Hank get practical and go off to exterminate Walt's enemies? That not only gives Hank a way to save his career, but it potentially makes him a legend in the bureau. Imagine him rubbing out (face it, he can't let these guys live) all the criminal elements in Walt's life without actually pointing the finger at Walt.

So Walt's skin is saved -- but then what?

Does Walt simply walk off into the sunset for more chemo or does he reclaim the Life of Heisenberg, the only choice in his life that's given him real power? Thanks to Hank, he'd have no barriers in the marketplace to become bigger than ever.

Gee, that's a toughie.

Man, if Vince Gilligan were here, I'd kiss him on the mouth. This is such a great show.

Hutch said...

I agree with dronkmunk that Jessie did not accidently forget his money and that he was experimenting with a barter system - meth for services rendered. This added an even more sinister element to an already chilling scene.

Skylar's photocopying at work is becoming a clunky metaphor.

I found Hank's scene with his boss during which he finally admits (almost under his breath) that he won't be going to El Paso very poingnant. The scenes with his wife felt so empty. They don't have any real connection as a couple. I felt the same lack of connection particulary in the early episodes of BB in scenes with Walt and Skylar.

Anonymous said...

how true, janiejones. i detect a certain loathing of anna gunn's character, skyler. this can not be a result of the actor's actual performance which is stellar. hmmm... i am a male. i have been on both ends of a cheating relationship and yet i find the vilification of skyler here somewhat disturbing. some seem to think that walt's manufacturing and selling of meth to be LESS an assault on the marriage than her dalliance with beneke. the preview seems to suggest that skyler will, finally, head over to the dark side to join walt, if only for the money. i wouldn't be too surprised to see gus and banks address the beneke problem. this is anna gunn's year, her chance to make a run for an emmy. don't begrudge her that. she has done a fine job. way to go, anna!!

DonBoy said...

There was all that stuff last year about how very, very careful Gus is. And yet he lets people deliver thousands of dollars in drug money in Pollo bags?

Anonymous said...

the music for the episodes reminds me of "Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan," formerly on xm radio. is the bobster moonlighting from his Never Ending Tour??

Anonymous said...

the music selection seems to have been inspired by "Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan." Bobby always finds that perfectly obscure Hank Williams tune.

Dan Jardine said...

I want to run in the face of popular opinion and (a) second the huzzahs for Anna Gunn's performance, and (b) express sympathy for her character. And this from someone who didn't dig her work in Deadwood. At all. Gunn has really lifted her game here, and filled Skylar's character with all sorts of levels of humanity. Gunn captures all of Skylar's rich array of reactions to this impossible situation. Horrified, terrified, numbed, frustrated, infuriated, embarrassed, confused, aroused...Gunn gets and gives it her all. Stellar work.

Seems to me there is a rather large dose of misogyny poisoning the office's drinking water. Skylar's character is in an impossible situation, and is dealing with it in the only way(s) she knows how--however ineffectual and blinkered her response may be, it is completely believable and plausible.

Sandra said...

Yeah, the Skyler hate is really starting to ruin my enjoyment of the show. I find the obvious sexism of some of the fans very disturbing, and if these people make up the majority of the fans, I don’t know if I want to be associated with them.

Anonymous said...

skylar is a pain because of anna gunn. any coincidence that she was also a stick in the mud on deadwood??

Anonymous said...

skylar is a pain because of anna gunn. any coincidence that she was also a stick in the mud on deadwood??

Anonymous said...

DonBoy said...
There was all that stuff last year about how very, very careful Gus is. And yet he lets people deliver thousands of dollars in drug money in Pollo bags?


you do realize its a great way to do since its a fastfood chain and their bags would be everywhere???

Lisa said...

I think one of the things I love most about this show is that Vince Gilligan has taken everyday events that affect most of us -- a near-Depression and a lousy healthcare system -- and turned them into the catalyst for an incredible morality play. If Walt hadn't gotten sick in the middle of a crappy economy, would we have seen him turn into this hideous, manipulative character? Would we have seen Skyler do the same?

I'm not going to step into the Skyler/anti-Skyler debate, but I will say Anna Gunn is doing a great job of making her character into a mirror image of Walt. Tough times have turned her into a master manipulator as well. If these were better people, would they have made these choices? My guess is probably not.

I think eventually everyone in Walt's circle is going to be drawn into serving Walt for their own survival. I think Hank will be drawn in to preserve his career once he figures out it's been Walt all along, and I think Skyler is going to be laundering the money through Ted's business now that she's manipulating him sexually just to make sure her kids have a home to go to. It's going to become a family business, and that's going to enable them to get rid of Saul, Gus and Mike and by extension the Cousins...until the next set of bad guys come along.

The question is whether Jesse and Walt will still be a team when the show is done. Didn't Vince say he wanted to go four seasons and end it?

kosmonaut said...

It's not all misogynist hate, though. My wife cannot stand Sklyar, and has had that opinion from pretty much the entire run of the series.

Anonymous said...

I'm going from memory I think that Jesse's conversation with the clerk in the store mirrors his first conversation with Jane when he was trying to rent the apartment and was asking her to waive the requirement for employment and bank info and she said "I would but my Dad is such a hard ass."

Dan Jardine said...

kosmonaut, women can be misogynists too.

Tina said...

Dan beat me to it. Women are often our own worst enemies. Agree with those who say that Anna Gunn is amazing this season, and that this show's rendering of characters in gray areas is terrific.

Has Walt lost any moral ground he might have had now that he (clumsily and unsuccessfully) attempted to cheat on his wife?

FreeWade said...

I like how Gus is basically forcing Walter to be a drug dealer (correction- "manufacturer") by making Walt a beneficial, albeit unwilling, participant in the transaction with Jesse.

Jeff said...

Count me as a huge fan of the "shows that dissolve people in acid" genre. :)

AuntiePam said...

Lisa, I love your take on where the show might go. From your mouth to Gilligan's ears!

I wish everyone who dislikes Anna Gunn could have seen her a couple weeks back doing a bit on The Soup with the actress who plays Marie. They were both giggly and funny and -- surprising for Anna Gunn -- she came across as someone you could happily drink a beer with. I don't get that vibe from Skyler but I did have that vibe from Martha Bullock -- she was very warm and nurturing (except when she was ranting at Seth). The difference between the two characters lets Anna show her chops -- she's got 'em.

I don't like Skyler continuing with the affair because it adds another complication to her life. If I were her, I'd grab some of that cash and leave. Good thing I'm not writing for the show!

Anonymous said...

The question is whether Jesse and Walt will still be a team when the show is done. Didn't Vince say he wanted to go four seasons and end it?

I think he said he'd be comfortable doing four seasons, but didn't want to restrict himself.

The way I see it the show is going strong as ever, and I can see them doing five, maybe six. I'm not too sure about six though, the writing has to remain really strong if they want to go another two seasons.

Anyway, this was another great installment. This season is even better than anything before so far in my opinion. The character stuff is awfully compelling. I can't believe how much I've come to care about Hank. He's evolved into a truly interesting guy, that's a great accomplishment itself and to me sort of stands for all the things that were at first somewhat hard to figure out where they were going with it.
They started to involve all the secondary characters much more, and it makes everything move smoother and gives the show even more a sort of Sopranos feel.

I cannot wait to see where they're taking this season. I guess this episode, as the title suggests, is a little turning point for Walt. It's time to become more active again.

Anonymous said...

And yet he lets people deliver thousands of dollars in drug money in Pollo bags?

*********for those of us in the Los Angeles area does anyone else remember the rumor, circa 1985, about the genesis of POLLO LOCO'S business being from drug money?? Maybe Vince remembered it too.

Sydney

Kujo said...

Yeah, Jonathan Banks has been sensational as Mike. Easily one of my favourite characters on the show.

Great ep as usual. The Walt/Jesse blow-up in the car was a great scene.

Trilby said...

"Because Walt has pretty much been an unrelenting douchebag"

YES! I was not so much seeing humor in the episode. Humor? Really? I found Walt almost unwatchable this ep. I actually think I prefer and have more empathy for Hank now, and that's saying something. (I loathe Hank.)

To all the people who went on last week about how "sleazy" Ted is: as a woman, I'm not seeing it. In a contest between Walt and Ted, Ted wins hands down.

The Anna Gunn hate? I think it is due to her kind of heavy mouth area. Her sort of turned-down frog-like mouth makes her look like a spoil-sport. Otherwise, I find her a pretty sympathetic character in a very tough spot.

Poor Walt Junior!!!!! How is he going to survive in that toxic household?

And how about Jesse, for the first time really rocking his handsomeness on the defenseless gas station girl. Did you guys see the article about how Aaron Paul was first thought to be too handsome to play Jesse. I found that so interesting because I watched all of season 2 (then season 1) without realizing till near the end that he IS very handsome. Jane was so beautiful, I kept thinking what does she see in this little weasel? And then I started to notice, he is really very good-looking. But he hasn't used it to his advantage until now, when he made the meth-for-gas play. I would have taken the meth too from those dreamy eyes.....

Kaitlyn said...

1013 Productions nod at the end with Walt listening to the car radio at 10:13am. I mean, I hope it's a nod. Gilligan and Shiban, and all. Why wouldn't it be? :)

PanAm53 said...

I don't think that the drug money is routinely handed over in Pollo's bags. It didn't look like the money paid out to Jesse was in a Pollo's bag. I think that they packaged Walt's money in a Pollo's bag to make sure he knew who the money was from.

JoeInVegas said...

I really like the show but have to admit that I resisted watching it the first season because I really had a problem with a show that might potentially glorify the meth trade. I still wish that Vince would show some of the ugly side of what happens.

Why let the gas station girl get out unscathed? I would have liked to see her disappear and then say next season, when Jessie is kickin it back at the ho-tel he runs into a nasty string-bean ho. She lets Jessie know she would do anything in order to score and Jessie is just disgusted by the meth mouth, scabs etc when she recognizes Jessie and lets him know she was the gas station girl....

Or better yet as Walt gets more involved in his hell, he kinda loses track of Jr. And after a few episodes pass maybe he comes home early and walks in to find Jr and Louis smoking up some of that blue stuff.

Who says that this has to go four seasons or longer? What a head trip if Vince wraps this up in seven more eps?

SJ said...

Best show on TV. I just love the way the episodes are directed...free from melodramatic music and just raw emotion and beautiful sweeping shots at times

Anonymous said...

how can anyone say `lets wrap it up in seven episodes ?
Nah , I'm still suffering from losing `The Wire & Sopranos `....
so talk about ending the finest drama show since 'em two jewels ended is nightmarish to say the least .

Congrats Alan on a wonderful blog , so glad i found you .

bleibtreu said...

"Why let the gas station girl get out unscathed? I would have liked to see her disappear and then say next season, when Jessie is kickin it back at the ho-tel he runs into a nasty string-bean ho. She lets Jessie know she would do anything in order to score"

Best reason to avoid that approach, and why I'm glad it wasn't taken: it'd be terribly, boringly cliched.

And the fact is that meth, like any other drug, doesn't automatically turn anyone who tries it into a addict in a death spiral. There's nothing hard to believe at all about a young person like that character, who is intrigued and tries it once but "doesn't like it," or is even scared away by what they do feel.

bleibtreu said...

That point has come up a couple of times, and I realize that Saul himself planted that seed. It's probably true in TV worlds, but in the real world I don't buy it.

Seriously, a cop who does that -- catches and turns in a close relative -- is typically regarded as a hero who put "doing the right thing" ahead of personal ties.

You know, there's an old saying about "he'd arrest his own mother..." The implication of that it's rare not to turn a blind eye to the discretions of one's close family. Being the exception isn't going to hurt any law enforcement career.

cpennylane said...

I'm trying to figure out why, if someone dislikes a female character, he or she is labeled as misogynistic.

Skyler is self-righteous and judgmental. We've seen that since the beginning. Now she's hypocritical. She's in an impossible spot and yes her life pretty much sucks right now. But do I have to like someone just because their husband is dying of cancer? Do I have to like someone just because she has a new baby and a teenage son? Or because her husband lied to her and became a drug dealer?

No. I don't have to like her. And I think it's a strength of the writing that it's possible to still dislike someone who is going through that much stuff.

At this point, I'm fairly certain that the only likable character is Holly. And even that is iffy.

Edward Copeland said...

The Wire got short-changed with that truncated fifth season that made everything seem rushed but, as much as I loved The Sopranos, I think it overstayed its welcome, especially with its lengthy hiatuses. By the time they were rolling into the fifth season and the first half of the sixth, it seemed as if they were just spinning wheels to keep it going. The only weak link I think Breaking Bad really has is Betsy Brandt. They had that brief bit with her kleptomania and then nothing more and she doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose since then.

Dirk Digler said...

Can anyone explain why all the videos on http://www.bettercallsaul.com, which seem clearly made by either Odenkirk or the producers of the show, and put on a website to promote Breaking Bad, seem to be alleged DMCA violations and have been taken down?

Patrick said...

"At this point, I'm fairly certain that the only likable character is Holly. And even that is iffy."

Yeah, she cries a lot...

Trilby said...

I've got to watch this episode again, even tho' it made me so uncomfortable....

I'm going about my day and the more skin-crawling scenes flash through my mind, like Walt trying to put the moves on the school principal. WTF was he thinking! He was totally nuts in this episode.

And Junior floating the idea that Skylar leave Holly with Walt???!!!

And Jesse's angelic face when he proposes that the sweet innocent gas station girl take up smoking meth. No, it's not addictive, that's just the media talk.

Hank's boss making him finally say the words no, he's not going to El Paso.

What a show. I can't believe people are still sitting back not watching it. Only Holly is likeable-- that's true!-- but I can't look away.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who is hoping the baby's first words are "dada"?

dez said...

It seems like all Skyler ever does at work is Xerox the same page over and over again.

You don't have to do much more when you're shtupping your boss, heh.

thelesseroftwoequals said...

I predicted Jesse was going to be dead inside this season, but I wasn't in any way predicting Aaron Paul would be so good at it. He didn't move once during that opening scene, even when the cop was behind him - he just didn't give a sh#t. Though I think we'll see some more outbursts from him, especially now that he sees how entwined he and Walt are in the business. That is if Walt will have him back - apparently Walt never took to heart the old saying that the best teacher is one whose student can surpass him. (Speaking of, seeing his "World's Greatest Teacher" mug shattered when the box fell was priceless.)

And bonus points to Mike during the fight with Saul. He just watched it for a minute and then sighed as he entered the fray, a man bored to tears who would really rather be anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a credit to Anna Gunn's acting that her character has caused so much derision. No, I wasn't crazy about her in "Deadwood" but I truly hope Gunn is truly in Emmy competition (not just in name) for her performance thus far.

We have seen some of the effects of drug addiction-Jesse (S1 & S2) and of course, Jane. Jane, who was clean and sober, gave into her triggers. Walt, allowing her to die instead of being proactive, was very painful for me to watch.
Walter's narcissism is at such heights that I don't think it ever occurred to him that his "chemistry" skills have caused many addicts to spiral out of control and some have most likely died. He is only after all, a cook > insert sarcasm. Walt knows that he is responsible for Jane's death, the indirect cause of the horrific plane crash. He cannot even listen to a report regarding Jane's dad suicide attempt.

Several days after, I'm left to think about the Breaking Bad-the choices, consequences, betrayal, drug trade, evil and humour.

Vince Gilligan could not done a better job if he tried at capturing so many things.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out why, if someone dislikes a female character, he or she is labeled as misogynistic.

It isn't that you dislike *any* female character. Its that the one you dislike *isn't* that unlikable. I *like* Skylar. If I were her I'd be even more judgmental than she is and Walt would be in jail right now.

And, many of the anti-Skylar posters, within the same post, will root for Walt. Even if you think Skylar is too judgmental, Walt is in a completely different category of bad. He is, both directly and indirectly, causing a lot of serious human suffering by his actions.

If there is any situation in which a person *should* be judgmental, its the one that Skylar finds herself in. If anything she is not judgmental enough for her own good.

Anonymous said...

Oz asked: "I'm curious, is there anyone out there who just started watching this season who actually likes Walt?"

No, I don't much like Walt, but that doesn't mean I don't still root for him in a strange sort of way. I can understand the frustrations and feelings of impotence and ego and anger that have led him down such a destructive and insane path. I don't like him, but I feel for him and that seems to be the right balance for me.

I couldn't watch the show at first and it was mostly because I did like Walt and that was a problem for me. He was such a tragic everyman at first; he seemed too much a victim facing a terrible future. Watching his descent into human degradation was unpleasant enough, but when coupled with his need to believe he was salvaging something noble, it was just too much pathos for me. There were just too many elements of tragedy - the cancer, the disabled son, the clueless wife, the lost, screwed-up but endearing kid side-kick - all of it. It just made all of it too rife with immanent and unwarranted disaster for me.

While I could be touched by Tony Soprano, I could never lose sight entirely that at the heart of it, he was still a sociopath. It may have been that his die was cast by birth, but he was who he was long before we met him. At the outset I could separate myself from him enough to be an empathetic observer because his life would always be far distant from mine.

Here with Walt, it felt like I could BE him if given the same set of circumstances and initially that was too close for comfort for me.

I was home all weekend before the premier of S3 and they ran a marathon of S2, so I tried watching again. I found that once I understood Walt better and could see that he was much more than the hapless victim he'd seemed, then I was able to embrace the show without feeling too fatalistic about the overall premise. I can watch the catastrophe he's created and appreciate the colors and complexities of it without feeling too on-edge about the inevitable disaster of it all.

For me, a likable protagonist was a burden. The show and all the characters got much more interesting for me when I could embrace the element of 'the bad guy' in each of them. It doesn't blind me to what can be good in them, it just relieves me of feeling that good as victimized and tragic. I still have hopes for the good, I still have vague notions of redemption - but at the same time I can know they are not on the side of the angels and can look at what that will likely mean in the long run. Now whatever comes doesn't seem unwarranted for any of them and that's a much better equation for me.

Anonymous said...

I think it's really interesting that both top tier AMC shows - Breaking Bad and Mad Men - involve charismatic men who do terrible things, and yet nobody likes their wives. Kind of funny, that.

Rick said...

I agree, minus the part where you imply that Walt is charismatic

Anonymous said...

"something tells me Gus Frings will never have to tell him about the Cousins (even as the Cousins leave another warning on Walt's street) to get him to resume cooking."

I think you're right. Notice that Gus only gave the go-ahead to make the deal after he heard that Walt and Jesse were on the outs. Devious bastard knows exactly which buttons to push.

Anonymous said...

I am curious. How did Ted's receptionist know to not let Walt in? And what did Ted say to her that wouldn't have sounded very weird indeed?

On another matter, while this is a morality play, will everyone just continue to Break Bad in their own way (apart from Walt Jnr and Gus)? Or will any of them wise up and start making some better decisions? Jesse is a little more strategic, but swapping meth for fuel is pretty stupid. And so is buying petrol without checking your wallet. In fact who leaves home with no money?

Lastly, if my partner had been cooking meth to get out of a dire financial situation, I would be a bit more like Skyla was with Ted: make the best of a bad situation. But if I had given my partner months to stop the lies and then discovered why, it would be the deception I would find hardest to deal with.

Patrick said...

I think it's really interesting that both top tier AMC shows - Breaking Bad and Mad Men - involve charismatic men who do terrible things, and yet nobody likes their wives. Kind of funny, that.

5:22 PM, April 13, 2010
Rick said...
I agree, minus the part where you imply that Walt is charismatic


I agree that Walt is not necessarily charismatic, but I think that (like Don Draper) a lot of male viewers sort of live vicariously through him.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is mysogeny unless you actually blame an actress for her character's storyline. Hatred of Skyler is not that at all.

One needs to understand that a marriage is a trust to a woman, who would consider action outside of the "partnership" almost tantamount to cheating. Skyler considers Walter's actions outside of their marriage, namely cooking meth instead of accepting help from his old girlfriend and her partner husband, as an affront to their marriage vows.

On Skyler cheating: People often have urges that they refuse to act on in the workplace. Perhaps it is the hot new employee who is a bit too friendly. In a good marriage, one refuses to act on these urges. Skyler, unbound by Walt's lying to her, feels unbound to her own moral code, so she acts on what SHE wants. She also knows that this will hurt Walt and possibly make him leave in disgust.

On Jesse and the convenience store girl: This is exactly why Gus doesn't wish to do business with Jesse. Jesse is more of a free spirit than Walt. He sees what he wants and goes for it. Gus would be horrified at the thought of a master "cook" trading a bag of meth for $75 in gasoline, and rightly so. Walt is a known quantity, which is why Gus prefers him. He is Scientifically driven, almost mathematical in his actions, which makes his "Jesse-like" outbursts amusing, as in when he yells at the Police officer and earns a dose of pepper spray.

Jesse will be Walt and Gus' downfall, and both probably know it. Only Gus is realistic enough to admit it verbally.

On Walt's "change" over time: Walt's initial actions were for his family, but also for himself. He wanted to provide for his family as any husband/father would, but is too proud to accept the help of those who he sees as his betrayers.

On Hank: At this point it is obvious that Hank wants to be a huge fish in a small pond. He knows how he was treated during his former stint in El Paso. I agree with one comment about Heisenburg being Hank's "White Whale" who he will fervantly chase to the end of the world. Little does he know but that what he finds may also be his undoing. His reaction when he eventually does discover the truth will likely be a strange combination of rage and sadness.

The Chicken connection: In this season we see the connection between the Mexican drug runners and Santeria, where chicken are sacrificed in their pseudo-christian/voodoo religion. This also ties into Gus' business, which is a chain of fried chicken restaurants. Will the "chicken" that finally gets sacrificed be Gus?

Socrates45 said...

I personally liked how Jesse and Walt despite self destructiveness continue to be the luckiest cooks ever. I personally enjoy how Gus has decided that he will deal with both of them as a team, regardless of their reservations. I continue to enjoy his professionalism while everyone else remains bumbling idiots. We know this will not end well, especially if skyler the moral compass continues to break bad, like the teaser shows.

bleibtreu said...

"I personally enjoy how Gus has decided that he will deal with both of them as a team, regardless of their reservations."

I don't really think that's his goal. He'd still rather have Jesse out of the picture; as he repeated right before re-thinking and telling Mike to make the deal, "I don't do business with junkies."

The way I see it, he figured out just what we saw: that knowing Jesse was manufacturing on his own would infuriate Walt, and that he'd fear the "inferior product" being linked to him. So that's just what Gus is doing: making it clear that the link is there. Walt can't get out, even if he does nothing he's not out. So he might as well just go all in.

bleibtreu said...

"connection between the Mexican drug runners and Santeria"

Just a point of clarification: that wasn't Santeria, but Santa Muerte. Santeria is primarily West African and Caribbean, while Santa Muerte originated in Mexico.

And among the items usually pictured with Santa Muerte, by the way? A scythe... like the one drawn in chalk on Walt's curb.

vortexgods said...

It's true that Santeria and Santa Muerte are different, but they have some things in common. Santa Muerte started out as a synchretic religion (just like Santeria, except rather than Voodoo Loa, she represents some old pre-Columbian goddess), although lately they've started to cast off the shackles of the Conquistadors' religion. Hey, the Church is trying to make them choose between Santa Muerte and Holy Mother the Church, and frankly Holy Mother the Church is looking a little bad lately...

I remember when I was a kid, my Dad was learning about Santeria for the police department. Apparently, it was helpful in looking for clues on suspects and figuring out their affiliations and such. This was primarily with Cuban gangsters, who had come over recently.

Also, I thought that when they used Jesus Malverde last season, it worked as shorthand for how "Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now" things had gotten in El Paso, with the DEA agents having gone native to an extent. (The Sun Tzu thing was just an excuse, I believe that agent kept the statue around for the same reason someone like Tuco would, supernatural protection... for all the good it did him.)

Anoel said...

I have to disagree about showing more of the effect. For one, it's the same thing as The Wire: showing that is another show like The Corner. And they have shown the effects in the atm Jesse episode with the junkies. Two, I don't see them as having much effect besides Jane and the girl at the gas station because meth addicts are already addicted and will get their fix anywhere, superior product or not so it's not as if they're causing them to get addicted.

Angela said...

I don't have much to add but wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading everyones thoughts and opinions! I wish many of you would leave *any* name so I could reply to you directly.

I'm playing the waiting game on something I am pretty anxious about and I was surprised on how easily reading these posts took my mind off of it.
Thanks!

And yes! "A robot?" was the funniest line to me too. And the best episode if I *had* to pick one.

My 2 cents, I have really liked Hank's character, almost from the very beginning. Odd I am so alone on that one. I mean, he would probably drive me nuts in real life, but he acts the part so damn well! And his character rings so true for me, and he does have a heart. Something lacking in the other characters.
I don't think it's just Hank wanting to be a big fish in a small pond. Who wouldn't be afraid to go back to El Paso? Yes he was way out of his element, and he knew it, and it's an awfully uncomfortable feeling to deal with. And if not for his fear, he would be dead. Why would he want to go back?
And panic attacks keep some people hidden in their bedroom, afraid to even go out their front door they are that terrified. Yet he is still working, and doing good work.

Cool point someone made about the possible cop car camera seeing the license plate. I wondered why that frame was so long.

And god, I hope they don't wrap this up in 4 seasons. That would be tragic.

Anonymous said...

"I am curious. How did Ted's receptionist know to not let Walt in?"

I think it's that there's no reason for the husband of a random accountant to be meeting with the boss. At least initially.

She would also probably be aware Skylar was having marital troubles, since she's been bringing the baby to the office every day.

W. Blake Gray said...

I will watch any show that dissolves people in acid.

Bonus points if the victims are people who comment on websites devoted to media they don't watch!

Mike Schilling said...

The drawing of the scythe in front of Walt's house was in yellow chalk, which reminded me of something. It took a while but eventually it broke through - the "Moscow rules" tradecraft in Smiley's People. Almost certainly a coincidence, though.

HMM2 said...

SPOILER WARNING:

The LA Times has an article about the Moncada Brothers ("From Prison to 'Breaking Bad's' Set") that has a relatively mild spoiler toward the end that I wish I hadn't have read.

Angela said...

Dan Jardine: Who did Anna Gunn play on Deadwood? I loved Deadwood but I'm clueless as to who she played. She looks like Trixie to me, but that was Paula Malcomson.

Also off topic. How do you know when someone has posted a comment here? I've tried Blogger, but that didn't help. Will an RSS feed show comments? Any advise? Please?

dez said...

Anna Gunn played Martha Bullock, Sheriff Bullock's wife.

Anonymous said...

How is that the ATM camera captures the image of the RV but not Jessie walking to and from the convenience store after filling up?

Anoel said...

I would diagree that they're making that much of a bad impact on the actual users. Besides new people they recruit, the people getting the drugs would get it from SOMEONE even if it's not from Walt or Jesse. So it makes sense not to show that impact much.

Sarah Jane said...

I didn't like the 'Jesse in the gas station' teaser scene. I thought there'd be come catch, but it turned out they were playing it straight. Not even Jesse is that stupid, no matter how ballsy he thinks he's being.

Sarah Jane said...

I didn't like the 'Jesse in the gas station' teaser scene. I thought there'd be come catch, but it turned out they were playing it straight. Not even Jesse is that stupid, no matter how ballsy he thinks he's being.