"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Monday, September 16, 2013


so many thoughts on last night's mind-blowing, stomach-churning, fever-inducing episode of Breaking Bad. [WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!]

1.  the first is that BB is unarguably THE best show i have ever seen, or will possibly ever see. it has ruined TV for me. last week's episode began tickling at this suggestion; this week's episode firmly confirms it. all bow down to the crew of directors and writers and actors involved in making this masterpiece.

2.  how great was that opening shot? a close up on boiling water in a coffee pot -- that volatile state when water (calm, still, untainted and soothing) rapidly transforms, spurting, jumping, wailing, able to burn, sting, and scar -- and a key part to "cooking." we realize in that visual the ways in which the process of cooking is a greater and more appropriate metaphor than we had ever realized, illustrating the changes that have taken place in Walt, and foreshadowing the sudden reaction point the show's narrative will reach by the end of the episode ("Boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid, which occurs when a liquid is heated to its boiling point, the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid is equal to the pressure exerted on the liquid by the surrounding environmental pressure." -Wikipedia)

the image also made me recall Walt's clever use of a coffee maker to escape earlier in the series, a devasatating juxtaposition with what transpires in the next few minutes (no clean escapes here; Walt is stuck, once again in handcuffs, and forced to see the damage of his decisions, unable even to bargain for Hank's life -- the first time he is rendered utterly powerless in the show's history)... BB is great at developing the significance of recurring images... as in later in the episode when Walt's pants are rediscovered in the desert -- hilarious and brilliant, and a bit of a wink to fans of the show.

3.  Hank's last words to Walt are brief, typically Agent Schrader, and one of the few moments of courage we see in this episode (the others being Walt Jr.'s defense of his mom -- see below -- and later, Walt's phone call to Skyler -- theories on that in another post...): "You're one of the smartest people I've ever met. But you're too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago." Hank leaves us with the overarching moral of the story: Walt is someone who foolishly overestimates his own control over things, unable to see the inevitability of his destructive decisions. finally someone is able to point out the stupidity underlying Walt's illusions of glory and triumph.

4.  the flashback to Walt and Jesse's first cook is a good one, but not in the most obvious way. true, we witness Walt's "first lie to Skyler," and this is an innocent, more naive time, when Walt merely wanted to protect his family, soothe things over, mollify his pregnant wife with dreams of pizza.
*all images and screenshots taken from AMC's Story Sync*
but this is also an origin story for Heisenberg, whose noble intent was always the protection of his family, whose guiding mission and motivation was to provide for them -- from pizza, to Empire.

the image we see at the beginning of this episode of Walt is a vision from a happier time, which hurts all the more when later in the episode, Walt's one moral code -- don't hurt family -- is violently, perversely violated with the loss of Hank. and then later, when even Walt Jr. (whimpering as he defends Walt's reputation against his mom and his aunt) physically stands up to Walt in order to protect Skyler. this was a huge moment -- Walt standing back while his family cowers in fear of him, sobbing to himself, "But we're a family!"
does this look like a family to you?

the evolution of Walt has come full-circle, and the cruel contrast between the first and final seasons (or the terrifying notion that these two personas are, have always been, the same man) feels like a knife twisting in our stomachs, the two scenes acting as frames of reference for each other -- placating with pizza to a living room knife fight. look how far we've come.

this whole episode is a searing look into what Walt's passions and plans have wrought. even with his strategic care, his meticulousness, his ferocity (or perhaps because of them), he has managed to become, in the end, what he least wanted -- a disease on his family, their greatest fear, the source of the deepest, darkest pain and suffering of all.

and yet, what hurts the most for Walt is perhaps the realization that he is suddenly alone -- no, that he has always been alone. his family never wanted this -- pizza was once enough of a happy thought to unite the family -- but Walt set his sights on Empire, on greed ("what's with all the greed? it's unattractive" -Uncle Jack), and on his real priority: #1, his ego (or his id?), Heisenberg.

it's painfully clear, to Walt and to the audience, that he was always alone, that the thing he wanted the most was something he destroyed piece by piece with his own hands. the presumed marital bliss, the ease of a harmonious family life, the comfort of having a loved one on the phone -- these are things that will never be recovered. Walt is left with nothing, realizing he is unfit to take care of Holly, the only family member left who could maybe survive all of this without judgment of him, but who incessantly cries out for Skyler.
again, another recurring image: Holly being abducted by someone in the family.
contrast Walt's taking of Holly to Marie's attempted kidnapping (and Hank's talking her down), and Skyler's despair in reacting to both.
so the episode ends, with Walt being driven away, nothing left for him in the ABQ.

it was an episode befitting of its namesake, "Ozymandias," a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and which managed to bring the show full-circle. for those who missed it, one of the promos for Breaking Bad released over the summer showcased Bryan Cranston reading the poem in Heisenberg's snarling voice, while images of Albuquerque flash before the screen, ending with a shot of the infamous hat alone in a desert of swirling sand.

watching it will give you full-body chills as you realize just how perfect Breaking Bad is, right down to the shortest promo.

"Nothing beside remains..."

No comments: