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: ‘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.

I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I’m going to want to see Saul again after all.

I thought I was pro a Saul spin-off series. But now that we are so close to the airing of the Breaking Bad final episodes, I think I’m going to feel very “scorched earth” about anything related to it after it’s over. When I’m that invested in something (book, movie, TV series), I feel very protective about it. And if Vince Gilligan is giving it the ending it deserves, I’m going to want it to be over once and for all. I know they are talking prequel which negates that particular argument, but I know I’m not going to be interested in watching. Sorry, Vince. Of course, I suspect you’ll have more than enough viewers. You’re a superstar! Breaking Bad has certainly convinced me of that!

On a related note, I hate to wish the summer away, but COME ON AUGUST 11!!

Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 6, Episode Four

As Megan tells Don about her upcoming onscreen love affair, Don says, “Honey, I can tolerate this, but I can’t encourage it,” without a trace of irony. And poor, naive Megan says, “You’re perfect.” Ah yes, this is one of many examples of what I love about ‘Mad Men.’ Dear Don, you are a giant hypocrite. Strangely, I have considered you redeemable until this episode. Now, you are dead to me. Don, meet Walt. Aside to Vince Gilligan, please don’t do this to Jesse’s character.

So my thoughts in random order:

  • Harry is a knob. He comes up with something finally and thinks he’s now on par with Joan who has almost single-handedly been keeping that place running for years? Yeah, Harry, no. You’re a tool. Take your check from Bert and Roger, and consider yourself very lucky they didn’t laugh out loud when you again insisted you should be a partner. 
  • That was a pretty forceful swing proposal. And to have it come from your boss is awkward. Don didn’t bother to hide his disgust at their proclivity, but, um dude, glass houses.
  • Aw, Pegs. You earned the bird from Stan. Sorry ’bout that. I love ya, but I am surprised to say that I love Stan, too. But, congrats. That is one sweet campaign.