Monday, September 16, 2013

LOOK ON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!  This week, conclusively and forevermore, the man who was Breaking is Broken. I find myself with terribly little original to say, given the professionals who provide such tremendous recaps on a regular basis.

But something about MZS' piece on how tv shows end got me thinking about how well this show is sticking its landing—no fake serial killers, no year-long dream sequence—and how much of this is a phenomenon for which we should be thanking the Lost creators. Lindelof/Cuse insisted that the show would go off the air when they were done telling the story they wanted to tell, that they would not stretch it out indefinitely so long as ratings were good (and demonstrated just how lame the stories would be if forced to stall). The Sopranos, too, demonstrated how a great show could weaken if forced to carry more hours than the story justified.

So here we are. Two hours to go, and not a moment will be wasted.

added: Alyssa Rosenberg:
[B]y “Ozymandias,” the real moral obscenity of Walt’s self-justification has become clear: Walter White has done more to harm his family than dying of cancer and leaving them impoverished ever could have. His conception of family as a hermetically sealed unit has, paradoxically, opened it up to tremendous harm....

I don’t know if the viewers who have watched and despised Marie, the woman Skyler once described to Hank as “my spoiled, kleptomaniac bitch sister who somehow always manages to be the center of attention,” can recognize what Breaking Bad did tonight, setting up Marie as the truest example of what really doing right for your family looks like. But I hope at least some of them do.


  1. The Pathetic Earthling11:07 AM

    One thing the commentary seems to be harping on is why Uncle Jack let Walt live, when he could have had another $11M. But once you see what they're doing with Jesse, I think it's clear that Uncle Jack will do the same thing to Walt if Jesse doesn't work out.

    I wish I were in some college media class so I could write some earnest essay about the parallels between Theon Greyjoy and Jesse Pinkman, because there really are some fun bits to explore: family abandonment, unrequited family piety, torture, enslavement, whoring. Attempts at self-absolution. But I don't think Jesse Pinkman gets to take the black to get out of this mess.

  2. Adam B.11:14 AM

    Related: if Todd just received $8-10M as his share from the barrels, why does he still care about running a meth lab business? Why not just retire and move on? Or is this about Lydia for him?

  3. Andrew11:29 AM

    He's not in the money business, he's in the empire business.

  4. Andrew11:32 AM

    I think that this episode clearly shows that the viewpoint of the series is not only that Walter White is a bad person who poisons and destroys everything he touches. I don't think this ends well for anyone. Or at least certainly not Walt, Skyler, or Jesse.

  5. Eric J.11:42 AM

    It's also possible as a very junior partner (and one who's never been "inside") he didn't get all that much. And there's still all those gallons of methylamine sitting there waiting to be turned into money. And I wouldn't discount the Lydia thing.

  6. I also kind of think Lydia and Todd are Walt and Jessie, Part 2, as if Gilligan in the end is going to say the story just keeps going on: People get thrown into this business and can't get out because of greed and power.

  7. Some of you may have seen my gut reaction on twitter last night, right after this episode ended: "That was the worst f*&%ing episode of Breaking Bad ever." And I believe I am literally the only person who watches the show who had that reaction.

    I haven't yet figured out why I reacted so viscerally to the episode, but almost everything about it felt *off* to me. It also made me retroactively hate the ending of last week's episode, for making Hank's death (and his phone call to Marie) such a damn cliche.

    I can think of a number of arguments to make why I hated the episode, and I can also see an equal number of rebuttals to them. My big thing is this: Breaking Bad has always been a show about actions and consequences, and has always smartly used violence - and yet, its last arc of episodes involves a gang of uninteresting Nazi thugs. That seems... beneath the show.

  8. I know. That is, of course, the correct rebuttal to my argument. And it makes sense in a lot of ways. It's just not the ending I *thought* the show was going to have, nor is it the ending I thought the show was telling me it was going to have for the first 4.5 seasons. But I'll reserve final judgment until I see the last two episodes, of course.

  9. Andrew12:31 PM

    And Linda Holmes takes this line of thinking and says it far better than I in the Monkey See piece that Adam linked to in the post.

  10. The Pathetic Earthling12:50 PM

    With any well-crafted anti-hero, the trick is to bring up the heat slowly enough that you understand each decision the anti-hero makes within the situation he's in. There was very little that Tony Soprano did that was much worse than anything he did before and none of it out of context for someone in his business. Garroting the ex-Mafia guy while taking Meadow on a college tour, ordering Adrianna killed, suffocating Michael. All of that made perfect sense if you accepted his premise that he couldn't leave the business and that protecting his family (and The Family) was all that mattered.

    Yet I was thinking about when I finally had enough of Tony Soprano. It wasn't really until he did something that was just seemingly gratuitous within his own frame of reference -- breaking that guy's upper jaw on the planter box because he said something gross to Meadow. Yes, of course, it's within his character to do something like that -- but it seemed violence that wasn't necessary to his goals. And there I finally wanted him to get his.

    Here, somehow, however awful Walter White is, I don't want him to lose. I want him to get away with it. Or at least die on terms that help him achieve his goal. There's nothing he's done -- awful as each thing he's done has been -- that's been out of context for him trying to achieve his goal given where he was a moment before making a choice. Letting Jane die, having Jesse kill Gale, ordering the hit on twelve guys in prison. If anyone needs a needle in his arm, it's Walter White. He's an accessory to, what, twenty murders and the actual trigger man on two.

    But whatever Vince Gilligan thinks about whether we should root for Walter White or not, nothing has broken me out of an understanding of where Walter White is and why he does what he does. And until he does, I'm hoping he lives free or dies nobly.

  11. J. Bowman1:10 PM

    Maybe there's some weird power thing going on where Todd has a plan to break away from his uncle and run a lab himself, but probably this is about two things:
    1) Lydia.
    2) More Money. Walt's been doing this for not quite two years, and had $80 million buried in the desert. Whether keeping Jesse around was just Todd's plan, or the whole gang is in on it, there's still a lot of money to be made.

  12. Nigel from Cameroon4:55 PM

    Because there is more barrels of money to be made.

    (And no way there is equal sharing of barrel money going on).

  13. I don't think I have anything to say as a Breaking Bad fan that hasn't already been said (except that everyone should rewatch the phone-call scene; it's even better when you know the whole time what Walt is up to), so I will just comment in my role as a telecom wonk: Walt thinks Hank and Gomey won't ever be found, but he's wrong. Their mobile providers know where they were. Even if typical three-tower triangulation wouldn't work out in the desert (because they may not have sufficient overlap), their devices almost surely had GPS chips, and were sending back their locations to Verizon or AT&T or whomever. And I suspect that Uncle Adolph didn't cover them up so well, so DEA should be able to find the bodies pretty easily. For what little that is worth to Marie, anyway.