Thursday, June 13, 2013

WHICH ONE?  I finished season two of Breaking Bad last night. We need to talk.

Holy shit. It's not like you're rooting for Walter White to succeed, but when a woozy Walter en route to surgery said that in response to Skyler's asking him where his cell phone was, and you saw in Anna Gunn's reaction the complete recognition of what that meant ... it's hard for me to think of a moment on tv recently which made me shudder like that, with all the implications of what might follow—and, indeed, did follow just minutes later. Skyler's indictment of him was just devastating, all the "lies on top of lies on top of lies" being exposed, and falling apart. Whatever the truth is, she is properly afraid to know.

So many memorable moments these past few episodes -- the gears turning in Walter's mind while letting Jane asphyxiate on her own vomit, like Tony Soprano in "Kennedy and Heidi"; Jesse's floating in a heroin haze; Walter's making Flynn do the tequila shots (and Hank's confrontation re: same -- "My son! My bottle! My house!"); "Smoking marijuana, eating Cheetos and masturbating do not constitute plans in my book"; Walter and Jesse in the desert with the scientfically-possible MacGyvered battery; the introduction of mild-mannered chicken magnate Gus Fring, which I know is something which will matter long-term; Walter's well-meaning? selfish? efforts to shake Jesse out of his junkie-dom; that bar scene with Walt and Jane's dad and his traumatic falling apart over the final episode; Walt missing Skyler's labor which could have been a cliche, yet still felt like a gut punch; I woke up. I found her. That's all I know. And then Walter got his biblical comeuppance raining down on him from above. Literally.

[I am not yet crazy about Saul Goodman. A bit too comic for this universe. But I'll deal. (Also, what happened to the Mexican cartel which decapitated Tortuga?)]

This show is just gut-punching in terms of realizing how far Walter White has gone, so quickly, though I kinda wish there had been 2-3 episodes before the pilot so we could have seen Decent, Meek Walter before the storm. That man is long gone now, and I love this Vince Gilligan quote from the postseason interview with Sepinwall:
In that moment, at the end of season two, he doesn't realize it, but he's responsible for the whole world figuratively coming to an end around him. It's not deus ex machina, there's another term we were talking about, Lucifer ex machina, "Devil from the machine" -- it's the opposite. It almost could feel kind of random, but it's not. It's a butterfly effect. All these gears have been turning, this particular outcome was stuff Walt put into motion a long time ago by choosing to cook crystal meth.
I'll start season three tonight as soon as the NBA Finals get boring.


  1. One of my favorite lines from the show, Jesse to Walter: "You don't need a criminal attorney. You need a *criminal* attorney."

    The moment where Walt lets Jane die was a turning point for me. He doesn't actively kill her, but he doesn't prevent her death, either. It was probably the moment where he lost the last of my sympathy and started to become a villain for me.

    I read an interview with Vince Gilligan after season two (probably with Sepinwall) where he points out that each of the season episodes that featured the before-credits hints about the plane (the teddy bear in the pool, etc.), the titles string together to read: 747 Down Over ABQ. Pretty cool, and it made me realize just how cleverly season two was put together from start to finish.

  2. Duvall11:33 AM

    "I kinda wish there had been 2-3 episodes before the pilot so we could have seen Decent, Meek Walter before the storm."

    Walt may have been meek, but was he ever decent? He certainly carried a lot of resentment towards Gretchen for a long time.

  3. Alan Sepinwall12:18 PM

    He actively kills her, actually, albeit without realizing at first that he's doing it. She is lying on her side, because she's a trained junkie who knows there's a real danger of her puking in her sleep. When Walt tries to nudge Jesse awake, he winds up rolling Jane onto her back, so when she vomits, she chokes on it.

  4. Alan, yes, thank you - I had forgotten that detail.

  5. I'm admittedly further behind than Adam is on watching, but to me, the first big turning point is when he strangles Krazy 8 with the bike chain. Up till that point, Walter is driven by a degree of rationality. (Heck, he even makes a long pros and cons list when he's debating killing Krazy 8.)

  6. Adam B.12:54 PM

    Matt, listen to me, get out of here and move forward with the show. This post never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.

  7. The Pathetic Earthling1:52 PM

    I actually expected Walt to put a pillow over her face before she ended up vomiting. He wasn't going to leave that house with her alive.

  8. lisased2:23 PM

    That was the turning point for me as well. And then there were so many more after that.

  9. James A. Bell IV5:28 PM

    Season 3 is even better. Hard as that may be to believe now.

  10. It gets so, so, much better. And, yes, the cartel will be back. I actually think ABQ is among my least favorite episodes, just because the climax is so metaphysically on-the-nose. But it's easily forgiven. Man, I love this show.

  11. janet9:00 AM

    I'm caught up to the same place, so thank you for this timely post. I'm still struggling between fascination and revulsion. There's a part of me that doesn't want to know about the world of crystal meth or murder, and that part fights with the part of me that is increasingly intrigued with the people I'm coming to know. I had much the same reaction to the worlds of The Wire and Deadwood at first -- not at all liking what those people did, but in the end won over by the brilliance of the manner in which these worlds are presented, and the sides of humanity I would never have learned about if I had written off the people (or shows) just because of the subject matter.

    I've come to trust those of you who so highly recommend these shows, so thanks to Russ and James and everyone else who says it gets better!

    And the turning a body on its side to prevent choking was so beautifully set up with the baby at the beginning of the episode. I wondered at the time whether it was there as random Baby 101 or meaningful information , but realized it was the latter when Jane teaches Jesse the same thing. I never saw the ultimate payoff coming.