Monday, September 16, 2013
Breaking Bad - "Ozymandias"
Any Breaking Bad fan who still roots for Walt is a complete psychopath. No two ways about it. Let me put it this way: if you still find Walt’s goals admirable I don’t want to know you. Not that I’m completely unsympathetic to those who took a long time to come around to the “fuck Walt” team. With Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan wants to show the allure of ill-gotten riches; he recognizes the vicarious thrills we experience while watching gangster entertainments. As stated numerous times, the man created Breaking Bad with the intent of transforming his main character from Mr. Chipps to Scarface over the course of the series. Yes, Tony Montana engages in activities we would never condone, but it sure is fun to watch him.
But rather than reveling in such details, ala Scarface, Gilligan critiques the crime genre; he shows the rottenness at the core of such desires. Not to get political, but I can’t think of a greater repudiation of the single-minded pursuit of riches in a capitalist society, as represented by the gangster film, than Breaking Bad. Indeed, while watching tonight’s episode, and while watching a great many Breaking Bad episodes for that matter, a Citizen Kane quote kept coming to mind: “Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money...if all you want is to make a lot of money.” With this quote, delivered in an offhand manner by Everett Sloane, Welles was saying, yeah, if you’re willing to destroy your soul, scorch the moral earth, sure, you can make a lot of money. If you can live with yourself, with what you have to do get there, fine, you can be rolling in the Benjamins.
And so, with Breaking Bad, the more wealth Walt accumulated throughout the series, the further he retreated from decency, from relatability. You can get a good idea of someone's moral compass by asking them when they turned agin' Walt. As you know, he lost my sympathy some time ago (oh how noble of me), so he’s been my villain since about season two or so. With "Ozymandias", Walt has finally burned every bridge, destroyed any moral underpinning he once had, the pre-credit flashback sequence throwing into stark relief the extent of his descent.
Which is why I was on the verge of tears throughout the majority of the episode—not necessarily mourning Walt’s emotional death so much as worrying about the fates of all those who had the misfortune of growing close to Walt: Walt Jr. discovering the truth about his dad, Skyler bawling during her explanation to Walt Jr., Marie learning of Hank’s death, Todd snatching Jesse for torture with Walt’s approval. Which is worse: Walt giving up Pinkman, or his informing Pinkman that he was responsible for Jane’s death, knowing that this will be one of Pinkman’s final thoughts before being tortured to death by sick fuck Todd (fuck Todd).
And while we’re at it, just wanna say, ‘cause I know there are a lot of Skyler-haters out there, if after watching this episode you still love Walt and hate Skyler, I think you should be arrested. Much as it deconstructs the pathology at the core of winner-take-all laissez-faire capitalism, Breaking Bad also deconstructs machismo bullshit. In the horrifying domestic violence interlude at Casa Heisenberg and during Walt’s subsequent phone call to Skyler, Walt spouted not just the typical ramblings of an abusive husband but the dying gasps of the stone age misogynists who can’t come to terms with 1) the welcome decline of our male-dominated culture and 2) the inherent pathology of such machismo. Middle-aged Walt is a relic of a dying culture struggling to hold on to dominance, dragging down all those around him as he gets sucked down to hell.
As you know, I don’t like to hypothesize on future Breaking Bad shit, but since I was right about my earlier Hank-Jesse team-up theory, I’m gonna go ahead and pontificate. Ok, logic says there’s no way Jesse will survive after he’s done a few cooks for Todd. And given that he knows Uncle Jack’s men will kill Andrea and Brock if he doesn’t help, he’ll have no choice but to comply. However, it is my fanboy wish that Jesse somehow escapes Todd by killing the fuck out of Todd, maybe in some sort of smoking in the meth room explosion. After which, Jesse goes into rampage mode searching for Walt. I'm talking full Omar.
Here’s what we know. On his 52nd birthday, Walt returns from hiding in New Hampshire (which, I wonder if Walt’ll even make an appearance in episode seven). Meaning, something grabbed his attention to draw him away. Meaning, maybe Jesse did something to Walt’s family—though I sure hope none of them die. Jesse is the only one who’d want Walt to return from hiding. But since Jesse has no way of contacting him, he’d have to do something extreme enough to draw national attention, like getting on the news and shit. What that could be, I don’t know. But he sure destroys the fuck out of Walt’s house.
Unfortunately. It’s looking more and more likely that my initial theory about a confrontation between Walt and Uncle Jack’s crew will come to fruition, which will be a bummer because I’ll have no one to root for. I’ll want all of them to die. Undignified deaths. No blaze of glory for any of them assholes.
By the way, I’ve noticed that the opening shot to every episode this season acted as a harbinger of something to occur later in the episode, usually in the climax.
Episode 2: With “Buried” a man leaves his house and finds a money trail leading to Pinkman. In "Buried’s" final scene, the cops have arrested Pinkman for having a fuckton of cash in a duffel bag.
Episode 3: In “Confessions”, we see a close-up of Todd lighting a cigarette. In the finale, when Jesse grabs his cigarette pack, he realizes the ruse Huel used to switch his ricin cigarette pack back in Season 4.
Episode 4: “Rabid Dog” opens on a fire hydrant. No further explanation necessary.
Episode 5: With “To’hajiilee”...ok, I’m not sure about this one.
Episode 6: “Ozymandias” opens with a meth flask cooking up some shit. It’s a flashback to when Walt was teaching Jesse and warning him not to smoke in the meth room. Later in the episode Jesse will be forced to train Todd on the cook.
Episode 1: The only other opening I couldn’t figure out was “Blood Money”, a close-up of Walt’s empty pool, now occupied by skateboarders. Seeing as it was the first episode of the season, it could presage something in the finale, something involving Walt’s pool. What, I haven’t the foggiest.
When this episode began with a flashback to Walt and Jesse cooking in Season One, I was hoping that Gilligan took me up on my suggestion last week—because obviously he reads my blog, and he shoots and edits episodes the week before they air, duh—and decided to turn this episode into a clip show.
Skyler wanted Walt to bring home pizza. I hope it’s the place that doesn’t cut slices. Because, you know, they pass the savings on to you. By the way, isn’t that so nice about them deciding on a baby name for Holly? Such a sweet little moment for this couple. I’m sure nothing will happen in the rest of the episode to change my mind about wonderful family man Walt.
This might be a stretch, but at the end of the flashback opening scene, when everything started disappearing, I was reminded of the ending of L’Eclisse, in which Antonioni presented us with lingering shots of all the now-empty locations in which we previously saw our now-separated lovers: the emptiness reminding us of the passage of time, of the deterioration of bonds.
Gomey’s dead and they shot Hank. Man, Breaking Bad doesn’t fuck around. Which, not that it matters, but I’m glad Hank didn’t beg that piece of shit Uncle Jack for his life. I love that he was defiant until the end.
Now obviously Uncle Jack isn’t a softie; he gave Walt a barrel of money just so he wouldn’t have to worry about Walt trying to get revenge. Not that he’s afraid of Walt besting him; he just doesn’t wanna deal with the nuisance. Anyway, I’m just glad Walt lost most of his money. Fuck Walt. Unfortunately, now Uncle Jack and his men have a lot of money. Fuck them.
Fuck you, serial killer Todd. All kinds of fuck you.
Walt has a single tear while he looks at the body-buryin’ spot. Still doesn’t change my opinion of him.
Wow, the opening credits ran through the middle of the episode. I wonder if this is Vince Gilligan’s homage to the extra long credit sequence at the beginning of Once Upon a Time in the West. I know the man’s a fan of Spaghetti Westerns.
I’m glad they didn’t actually show Todd torturing Jesse. That would’ve been too much to take. Even seeing him beaten and bloodied made me want to cry. This was one of the most gut-wrenching episodes to date. It was so emotionally taxing, in fact, I was shaking by episode’s end. Why do I do this to myself? I need to watch the next episode like right fucking now.
Notice the handheld camera as Skyler arrives home, finding Walt’s new pickup in the driveway. This is a technique so seldom employed by Breaking Bad that it really packs a wallop; it unsettles us even before the chaotic domestic violence to follow.
Walt uses Heisenberg voice with Walt Jr. That’s a first. Not a good sign.
How many other people started to think “Where’s Wallace?” when Skyler asked “Where’s Hank?”
Hey, Walt, eat a dick.
“Yeah, like you’re an idiot.”
“You bet your ass the cavalry’s coming.”
“How about it, Hank, should I let you go?”
“My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself.”
“You’re too stupid to see, he made up his mind ten minutes ago.”
“Sorry for your loss.”
“Also, you caught me in one hell of a good mood. So what’s gonna happen is your gonna get in your car and get the hell out of here.”
“If you can find him, we’ll kill him.”
“Wait. I watched Jane die. I was there and I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I coulda saved her and I didn’t.”
“I mean why would you go along?”
“I’ll be asking myself that for the rest of my life.”
“He was in handcuffs. Hank had him in handcuffs.”
“You took my child.”
“Because you need to learn.”
“You’re never gonna see Hank again...He crossed me, you think about that. Family or no, you let that sink in.”
“I’ve still got things left to do.”