Breaking Bad: ‘Felina’ – I wouldn’t change a thing.

NOTES:

  • There have been a couple of nice nods to the thriller/horror genre in some recent episodes. The shot with the knife block and the phone in the foreground in Oxymandias. The knife fight in Oxymandias. In this finale, the shot with Walt theatrically closing the front doors in the background while Elliott and Gretchen are in the other room completely oblivious. I half expected to see Jack Nicholson when he turned around, and then he delivered this line: “Elliott, if we’re going to go that way, you’ll need a bigger knife.”
  • It was great to see Badger and Skinny Pete!! And to have them discuss being concerned with the ethics of what they had just done was hilarious. I could listen to those two talk for hours.
  • When Lydia sat down in that same cafe again and Walt retrieved his ricin in a separate scene, I knew we were in for a treat. Well, those of us who despise Lydia. So, I sat there and enjoyed it as Walt came in to the background while Todd awkwardly tried to compliment Lydia. Walt stating that Lydia is always there at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays was hilarious because Lydia prides herself on being so stealthy. I was hopeful as she stirred her Stevia into her tea that she was the lucky beneficiary of the ricin since she avoided it last time.
  • The scene when Marie called Skyler was great filmmaking. I knew something was off, but I had no idea it was that Walt was actually in the room.

When Skyler says please if I have to hear one more time that you did it for the family and Walt says,
“I did it for me. I was good at it. And I was really …. I was alive.” That is when his character achieved redemption for me. That scene made me cry. Because it was cathartic. It was cathartic for Skyler’s character, and it was cathartic for me as a viewer watching this man that I actively rooted for in the beginning and have hated but still felt sympathy for at the end. I’m just so grateful for that scene because it brought me full circle on my feelings for Walt. I didn’t expect it at all, but it was a declaration of the self-awareness that Walt achieved after that endless time spent in isolation in New Hampshire. And it means that I interpreted the final scene of the last episode incorrectly. It wasn’t that Elliott and Gretchen brought Heisenberg back at all. It was that Walt upon seeing them finally came up with a scheme to get the money to his family that has a good chance of success because his motivations are finally sound.

I hope that Jesse’s final revenge on old dead-eyed Opie, Todd, won’t be a murder that weighs on him. I’m glad he survived. His character deserved to make it through after all the torment and pain he had suffered. And Walt saving him and giving him the chance to kill him was a nice touch. I certainly wasn’t surprised to see Jesse and Walt face off. Though I’ve been advocating for a Walt and Jesse showdown, I’m so glad it didn’t go down the way I had predicted. Jesse wouldn’t have been able to handle killing Walt under those terms. It ended with Jesse and Walt exactly as it should have. And Walt got his final revenge on Jack and Lydia. The nod Walt gave Jesse before Jesse drove off was subtle and fantastic. Walt: I’ve taken care of it all. (This scene, for me, was a little bit of a call back to Half Measures. I have no idea why. The tenor of the finale was nothing like that episode.) Jesse, go and live free. Walt’s got the “or die” part covered.

I was just so damn pleased when it was over. I found myself alternating between tearing up and smiling. Feeling giddy and feeling crazy-ass sad because I don’t know if I’ll be this excited about a show again for a long while. But mostly I was so very proud (yeah, I was that invested – weird) that Vince nailed that series finale. It was flawless.

Ed. Note: OK, I had one quibble. I thought Walt should have to face the music with the cops. However, when I saw the closing shot with him lying there I was immediately willing to go with this instead. It was a great closing shot. I’ll freely admit that I’m willing to sacrifice the stronger statement for a better closing shot. It was that close, and I still say: flawless.

Breaking Bad: ‘Ozymandias’ – Jesse’s under new management. This new work environment makes Gus Fring’s look pretty cushy.

Walt told Jesse about Jane. I thought we were going to have the full redemption arc with Jesse included, and then he goes and tells Jesse that he could have saved Jane but instead watched her die. He did it solely to crush Jesse and let that knowledge eat at him while he is interrogated by Todd and co. and eventually killed by them. No mercy whatsoever. The depth of Jesse’s betrayal stung him that much. It’s awfully hard to watch as a viewer because we know that Jesse betrayed Walt because he thought Walt betrayed him first. So, when Walt told Jesse about Jane, I actually gasped out loud. I couldn’t believe he shared that last ghastly detail. Brock was enough. But no, Walt had to throw that last punch. It speaks to how much he really did care about Jesse. I underestimated that. And watching Jesse plead with Walt to spare him while Todd’s uncle (I can’t be bothered with remembering his name because I loathe that damn character.) was preparing to execute him was heartbreaking. That scene was a nice parallel to the scene with Hank, Walt and Todd’s uncle where Walt was pleading with Todd’s uncle to spare Hank. Hank looks at Walt and tells him to be the smartest man he has ever known, he’s an idiot because Todd’s uncle made up his mind 10 minutes ago. Walt’s mind was made up about Jesse similarly. There was never a chance for mercy when Jesse stepped out of the car with Hank and Gomez. That betrayal was too much for Walt to ever forgive. And my hopes for a renewal of Jesse and Walt’s affection were shattered. (Ed. Note: I worded this incorrectly. I wanted a renewal of Walt’s affection for Jesse. I want Jesse to continue to seek revenge on Walt. I’m afraid Jesse might need that edge if he’s to prevail.) This sets up for the finale I’ve been hoping for in which Jesse and Walt have the ultimate showdown and Jesse kills him hopefully easing some of his emotional pain in the process. After all, I’d argue they’ve both been the protagonists in this madness, and it all began with the two of them in that RV out in the desert. That’s the scene they led with. It began with the two of them, and it has to end with the two of them. A showdown between Jesse and Walt certainly feels ultimately right. Dark vs. Light. Good vs. Evil. Strong vs. Weak. They are opposites. I’m sure I’m completely missing the boat, here, but I really hope this is where we are heading.

NOTES:

  • The scene with Walt rolling his barrel of money across the deserted land looking for some means of getting it back with that music in the background was pure genius.
  • I really kind of hated Marie when she was present during Skyler’s tell-all with Walt Jr./Flynn. I felt that was something that should have been private, and I realize that she didn’t think Skyler would tell him otherwise, but still, butt out, lady! And if you’re going to be in the room? Shut up and let them talk!! Of course the whole time I knew she was about to find out that Hank was dead, so I felt terrible for hating her.
  • Hank’s dying was painful. Glad they had him go out bad ass style. I think the flicker of respect he was able to finally feel for Walt was oddly helpful for him. I know that’s an incredibly odd thing to say. But Hank has an ego a mile wide. It would be even worse for him to die knowing that these events were brought about by an idiot instead of someone he ultimately came to consider an able adversary. It helped of course that Walt wanted to save him at all costs. Hank knew what it meant for Walt to offer up the cash. The ultimate gesture.
  • That phone call between Walt and Skyler started out just subtly enough that I thought “Hmmm, he sounds kind of deliberate.” Then, I finally caught on. I don’t know if Skyler will play along, but I think she will for the kids. And of course it won’t matter because Walt’s trying to blow town in Jesse’s rejected escape hatch probably means that she and the kids could be used as targets that someone can use to lure Walt back. Oh man, tell me Jesse wouldn’t do that… Of course, he’s got the picture of his own “family” pinned on the wall of his new workplace as motivation, so he just might do something that awful. And then I’ll have to change my definition of who is participating in the showdown. Then, it’s Dark vs. Completely Broken/Dark. That’s not quite the showdown I want to see, but it certainly sounds a lot like Breaking Bad. And I’ll still be firmly on Team Jesse.
  • Again, I have to say that the acting on this show is just incredible. I watch the show for the storyline, but I always want to watch it again to enjoy these incredible actors reminding me that I’m entranced with the storyline because they are so good at their craft.

Breaking Bad: ‘To’Hajiilee’ – Why settle for blue meth when you can have bluish-if-it-catches-the-light-just-right instead? Todd’s cook has a more subtle style, yo.

It looks like Todd might be crushing on Lydia, and since he can’t yet cook her that sweet blue meth she’s been trying to successfully deliver to the Czech market since Walt ditched the biz, he tries to make it up to her by making her a cup of her tea to her specifications. Something tells me that nothing is ever quite up to Lydia’s specifications, but tea isn’t what she wants Todd to focus on. The whole bit where they discussed adding dye to the meth to achieve the correct hue like they do with salmon was hilarious. Todd’s music tastes are a little antiquated, but “She blinded me with Science” as his ringtone was inspired in my opinion, though I know others will argue it’s too on the nose because of his focus on Lydia.

The car wash is such a great location for tense scenes to develop. It’s such a banal backdrop. And the juxtaposition of the mundane rituals of a local business with the disintegration of Walt’s carefully constructed underworld just makes the tension escalate before the action even starts. The beginning of the con on Walt to get him to give away the location of the money – the one thing that can actually bring about his demise – occurs while Skyler and Walt, Jr. are shuttling customers through the car wash with their tired “Have an A1 day” motto to “reinforce their brand.” Saul shows up and the tension ratchets up. We know something is getting ready to go down. About that, when Walt notices the bullet proof vest, it’s obvious that he doesn’t even consider that Saul is wearing it to assure that Walt won’t harm him either. It’s clear that Walt is more Walt in this scene than Heisenberg. Heisenberg would have been clear-headed, and emotion wouldn’t have clouded his judgement allowing him to conclude that Jesse might not have been able to discover his burial ground. I think he wouldn’t have fallen for the con. But Walt has those feelings for Jesse that set the con in motion. And Jesse lit the fuse because he knows what buttons to push.

Those last few seconds of heart-pounding gunfire are when you find out what you are made of. My gut reaction was interesting because it was instinctive, and I was seriously concerned to find that I only cared about Jesse. Hank had just shared that touching phone call with Marie. I’ve always loved Gomie. Even Walt’s character finally achieved redemption when he called off the hit realizing that Hank was there, too. I think ultimately he wouldn’t have been able to see them take out Jesse either, but we’ll never know on that one. But as the gunfire went on and on and on, all I could think was, “Is Jesse ok? Please let Jesse make it out of this unscathed!” I think I know why Jesse remains my weakness. Sure, he’s got his flaws, and he’s by no means an innocent. But, Jesse has been pulled along on this nightmare at Walt’s insistence. Nothing done has been of his choosing. And as you listen to Walt plead with and berate him during that call as he is racing to his hiding place, you hear Walt say exactly that. Hank and Gomez know the dangers they face in their job. But Jesse hooked up with Mr. White, his impossibly nerdy and nonthreatening chem teach, to cook up some meth for a lark. How could he possibly have foreseen that things would go this godawful bad?

Breaking Bad: ‘Buried’ – The early bird gets the fat stacks and a chance to meet the disillusioned Santa on the roundabout.

It’s great that Vince Gilligan is showing us the key scenes in their entirety now that we are in the end game. I’m glad we got to see the two gunslingers face off at Hank’s garage with their cell phone guns. Hank’s clearly got the faster trigger finger. That Walt didn’t immediately know that Hank was on the other line with Skyler shows that he continues to underestimate his adversaries. Hank and Skyler’s meeting was interesting. He didn’t understand how very carefully he needs to play her. He thinks Skyler is vulnerable and scared, but Skyler is very wily even when her world is falling apart. I believe she realized that Hank was looking for the upper hand with Walt by having the kids in his control.

I’m having some trouble sussing out when Skyler became a willing co-conspirator. She was drinking the punch bowl-sized glasses of wine and chain smoking her way to a title of widow. Now she’s keeping mum with Hank and even Marie, only allowing herself the luxury of a heartfelt “I’m sorry” but nothing else during Marie’s emotional come-to-Jesus talk. And she nursed Walt who was sick and exhausted after he dug his money grave while assuring him that she didn’t say anything to Hank. I just feel like I missed a key episode that explained that transition from fear and disgust to acceptance and even sympathy. (NOTE: When Saul’s intestinal-issues dude, Huell, turned his backside to Walt’s bed of green, I must admit that my initial thought was that he was going to do something of an unfortunate nature. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, but I’m very frightened about what that says about me.) It’s not that I don’t think this is a believable progression for her character. It’s more that I feel that they just needed to hit the notes a little cleaner. Small little criticism. And it’s even probable that the fault lies with me. I could have missed this playing out. It just seems that it wasn’t too long ago that I hoped Jesse and Skyler would band together, since, together, they have all the pieces of the puzzle. That’s clearly not going to happen.

When Lydia is out in the desert with all the boys, I knew something bad was getting ready to go down. As did everyone else. Lydia seems like such an underdog with her twitchy, nervous facade and yet she reveals herself to be ruthless underneath it all. The ambush she orchestrated was brutal, and she showed no qualms about being at the site when it went down. As long as she wouldn’t have to directly view the carnage. And Todd? He’s the scariest dude in all of Breaking Bad land for me. That Hee Haw exterior? Yikes! Every time he’s onscreen I hope his involvement in the scene is mercifully brief. He honestly terrifies me. So, yay. He’s obviously back. Thanks, Lydia.

Jesse and Hank in the interrogation room. Again. I’m really excited to see how that plays out this time.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Breaking Bad was on last night.

NOTE: Spoilers Below

You’ll mock, and I certainly understand, but I was looking forward to last night’s new episode of Breaking Bad like I used to look forward to Christmas when I was a wee little tot. Which, to clarify, means that I’ve been anxiously counting down the months, then days, then hours, and then FINALLY minutes until the episode premiered last night. Sure it’s sad, but everybody has a quirk or two. When I saw the flash forward before the credits ran, I didn’t really hold out hope that we’d see Hank come out of the room-where-privacy-is-essential with his whodunit knowledge all freshly acquired, so when the episode started with just that scene I was very surprised and appreciative. And watching him study Walt with that look of hatred+revulsion+shock+betrayal while quickly collecting Marie and getting out of there was fascinating, although I found myself hoping he wouldn’t give himself away to Walt. I was certain that we were in for a cat and mouse game, and I didn’t want Hank to show his hand to Walt too quickly.

How wrong I was! I certainly didn’t expect to see in the same episode the acknowledgement that Walt is Heisenberg and the ensuing confrontation between Hank and Walt. For that alone, I think Vince Gilligan deserves my undying admiration. The expected approach would be to play the cat and mouse game between Hank and Walt to take us through to the penultimate episode and then use the final episode to finish the series. It would be the easier route to take from a storytelling perspective. So, instead, Vince Gilligan decides to give the viewers the confrontation they’ve been looking forward to since Hank took his seat on the throne and saw Gale’s inscription to Walt. And the scene was just as thrilling as we could have hoped for. Hank got a nice punch in. Walt got to deliver one of his trademark Heisenberg lines, and the whole scene had such a wonderful tension to it. I can’t wait to see where we are going next. “Tread lightly.” Indeed!

Notes:

  • Good job on the smoking, Skyler. Walt’s cancer is back.
  • Jesse knows Walt killed Mike. I found it interesting that Walt wanted Jesse to say he believed Walt’s assertion that he hadn’t killed Mike/Mike was still alive. He really pushed hard on that with Jesse, and I felt like that made the whole thing so much worse. It seemed as if he wanted Jesse to betray Mike while reinstating his allegiance to Walt. Yet, it was lost on Walt that Jesse was merely repeating the words Walt wanted to hear.
  • My favorite character, Jesse, remains the most tortured. In Walt, he certainly couldn’t have found a more destructive father figure, and Walt killed his positive father figure.
  • Hank’s face as Walt drives up before the big confrontation scene at the end is so much fun. He’s clearly torn between being truly frightened and yet relishing the chance to tear Walt apart limb by limb. I think it’s fair to say that you can’t denigrate the acting on this show.

I’m grieving the loss of the show already.