Monday, September 3, 2012
Breaking Bad: "Gliding Over All"
So frequently does Breaking Bad drop a bombshell on us within the final frame of each episode that it’s damn hard not to just start the reviews blurting out, “oh shit, can you believe what just happened” comments. So, hard though it may be, I’ll try to edge as long as possible before ejaculating, “Oh shit, Hank is finally on to Walt. Did you just see that shit?” Damnit, I couldn’t hold off. I guess I’m just a two pump chump.
Well, I guess I’ll backtrack and talk about the rest of the episode. It never ceases to amaze me the extent that Vince Gilligan’s show toys with expectations, with the conventions of dramatic, serialized storytelling. And last night we were witness to that with the tour de force jailhouse murder sequence. I can’t be the only one who saw just a slight homage to Michael’s orchestrated string of murders during the baptism finale of The Godfather. At arm’s length, Walt set in motion an elaborate scheme to off, within a two minute interval, all nine of Fring’s former employees (well, ten including Mike’s lawyer), and thus sever any ties between himself and Gus’ organization, as well as assert power. Walt will be the new king in town.
So, it was rather a shock when this sequence occurred halfway through the episode. Generally, this is the sort of sequence that would mark the end of a TV season: portraying Walt’s new dominance, it would set the stage for a bloody season to follow. But no, that’s not the Breaking Bad way. As is always the case with Breaking Bad, we witness the aftermath of violence. Unlike previous instances, however, this aftermath is good—seemingly.
You see, Walt’s on top finally; he’s where he always wanted to be; this is what he has been working for the whole time: dominance. So, now what does he do? When it comes down to it, this is just another job, another routine. Once he reaches stasis, inertia, he has an existential crisis. As Peggy Lee said, “Is that all there is?”
And that was one of the themes of last night’s episode: inertia. Which is funny, because Breaking Bad is one of the few shows on TV for which inertia is anathema. This show is all about change, the process of transforming a good character into an evil character. So what happens when that character reaches the endpoint, when there's no more change possible?
Walt, it seems, much like the show, craves change. Maybe it's just that he’s addicted to stress, but when things reach a stasis, the man becomes numb; he needs something else. So, he becomes nostalgic for the early days: when he and Jesse cooked in their crappy RV. (By the way, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a tinge of sadness/nostalgia when the two reminisced over their RV past. Goddamn, how many other shows are able to dredge up those kinds of emotions?)
And so he meets Jesse, to make amends of a sort. This is one of the few times, incidentally, when it seemed as if Walt was being genuine with Jesse. I couldn’t detect any subterfuge, any attempt to manipulate the poor kid. In fact, Walt seemed genuinely concerned and guilty when he saw Jesse hiding the bong. Is the kid gonna start tweaking again? Would it be Walt’s fault? Unfortunately, Walt’s attempt at making peace—giving Jesse his share of the loot—has an unintended consequence. Jesse has associated that money with all of his past misdeeds, and now it has come home to mock him. Note the loud sound of the heavy bags falling to the floor as Jesse collapses. It is a moral weight that is almost too much for him to bear.
And, of course, I can’t leave without bringing up Walt’s doctor visit. Although no reveal is made during the episode, I can’t help but think that Mr. White got some bad news during his recent tests. This must be the final straw that led him to the decision to give up the life. When the show began, Walt chose meth cooking because he wanted to leave something for his family. He didn't want his loved ones to remember him as the person who brought them debt. But now, now that Walt has more money than can be spent in ten lifetimes, he reaches a new epiphany: he doesn't want his family to remember him as the drug dealer who got rubbed out or incarcerated; he doesn't want to be the man who brought his family shame. So he's out.
And things are gee gosh golly good now. The loving family has gathered in the backyard. Things will surely stay this good forever. Nothing could possibly come along and gum up the works...
See y’all next year in New Hampshire.
There’s a fly again. Walt is one obsessing motherfucker.
We all end up in barrels sooner or later—metaphorically speaking.
Note Walt’s proud grin when Lydia realizes he offed Mike.
Am I the only one who noticed that weird bit of ADR during the long shot in the coffee shop when Lydia explains that her people on the other end in the Czech Republic are trustworthy? It seems as if maybe this was a plot hole they didn’t realize they had until they finished filming, so they had to dub it in later.
There’s that ricin vial again.
Note to self: never do anything remotely bad. Prison is not a nice place.
Great cut of Walt bending down at Hank’s and then coming back up with the hazmat suit on.
How long do you think Gilligan has been waiting to use “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?
Note that during Marie’s speech to Skyler she kept careful to keep saying “we” rather than “I”.
I forgot; did Walt smash that paper towel dispenser in season 1?
I need to watch the next season immediately. I need my fix now. I can’t wait a whole damn year.
“It’s pretty cool the way they do that, just turn the car into a cube.”
“I don’t wanna talk about this. It had to be done.”
“We? Who’s we? There is no we, Jesse. I’m the only one left. And I’ll handle it.”
“You seem a little confused. This here’s a buyer’s market. I got eight other assholes like you, four of ‘em within a hundred feet of here. I also got Dan the douchebag lawyer who’s gonna give me the money and Ehrmantraut. So settle in, Dennis. Enjoy your new home. I’m gonna go rattle some cages.”
“I think this’ll play just fine, and I’m not thirsty.”
“Lydia, learn to take yes for an answer.”
“Surgical—that’s the way it’s gotta be.”
“Wacking Bin Laden wasn’t this complicated.”
“It can be done exactly how I want it. The only question is, are you the man to do it?”
“Every day I’d go back, hike in, pick up where I left off.”
“Tagging trees is a lot better than chasing monsters.”
“How much is this?”
“I have no earthly idea.”
“There is more money here than we could spend in ten lifetimes.”
“Tell me, how much is enough? How big does this pile have to be?”
“We had money. Why’d we keep it? Why’d we have to have the world’s shittiest RV?”
“Yeah, yeah, inertia.”
“I left something for you.”