“Ozymandias” – Breaking Bad

br11“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ozymandias, Percy Bhysshe Shelly

 

I’m rarely, if ever, speechless. I’m something of a loudmouth, and I’ve got an opinion (that I’m more than happy to share) on most everything, but writing this piece is tough. It’s not often that television shocks me, that I’m left at a loss for either praise or criticism, but “Ozymandias” threw me for a very wide loop. So much of the series has changed over the past few episodes, and characters have developed so fast and so drastically that it feels as if it’s an entirely new show. And I’m disappointed. Not with the writers, or the actors, or the producers, but with Walt. The last thing I could ever have imagined him doing was abandoning his family, leaving them so badly in the lurch, near penniless, and traumatized (Walt Jr in particular, but we’ll come back to him) – leaving to begin a new life without them. What a bastard.

I think I’ve said before that Walt has always had the survival instincts of a drowning rat, but I never once would have thought that he had the morals of one. And yet his transformation is complete. No longer is any part of the old Walt – the man who became a criminal to provide for his family – left living. It’s as if all of that, all of the ‘anti-hero’ qualities that I loved about him, was burned away by greed and hate, and now only the cruel, greedy, slimy heart of darkness is left. I’ve stopped rooting for him. Season 5 has no real villain left. It’s just Walt. It’s just Heisenberg.

We never saw Gomie die. Somewhere between the last episode and this one, he ends up flat on his back, shot down more as collateral damage than anything else. Hank, on the other hand, was at least given something of a noble death. I’m not saying that being capped in the skull, on your knees in the desert is noble, but he, at least, went out with a shred of defiance, a shred of dignity left. The sad thing is, I think, that Jesse doesn’t have that anymore.

Have you ever thought about the word enthralled? I mean, thought about it in the etomological sense? It comes from Thrall, the slave class of Viking culture, and while today it means captivated with something, at one point it meant being literally enslaved. I think you know where I’m going with this. There’s no dignity in being held captive in a tiger cage, forced to make meth for Nazis. And, in a lot of ways, that’s worse than death. Jesse is a broken man after the torture – both physical and emotional (“I watched Jane die.” Really classy thing to say there, Walt) – and the subtle (but very real) implication that his escape, his resistance, might kill Andrea and Brock has rendered Jesse a declawed tiger – pitiful, despite once having been so powerful.

You might notice, at this point, that I’m not trying to be funny. Usually I try to pump out a few giggles from the people who read this, and I tend to keep things rather light. That’s hard to do when the subject matter is so grim. “Ozymandias” had no comic relief, no lighter side. No Jesse acting like an idiot, or Saul Goodman selling snake-oil, or Kuby and Huell being awesome. Nope. Grim, shocking, gritty TV. That’s what I’ve got. Go look at some cute puppies for a bit. I’ll wait.

Ok, we good? Not depressed anymore? Well, just a bit more grim stuff. Walt Jr – he never knew, he never had to know, that his father was, arguably, the worlds best meth cook. Until now. And I don’t like how it was done. It felt rushed. RJ Mitte is a great actor, and I’ve always imagined the scene in which Junior finds out that his old man is an underworld celebrity chef would be better, would feel less hurried. Bad form for not letting us see more of that reaction. Grief comes in stages, as I’m sure you know, and all we saw of Junior’s mourning of his father (or, rather, his image of his father) was the first stage: denial. This doesn’t do justice to the character, much less the actor and, aside from the humorlessness and horror that has been draped (not unlike a wet towel saturated with the tears of orphans) over this episode, the limitation of Junior’s role is by far my biggest gripe.

So what do I think? I think it was excellent television. Dramatic, well shot, beautifully soundtracked, and fantastically scripted. But did it have to be so fucking bleak? I’ve seen Serbian art films that were more cheery. I mean, fuck me. It was like a tour of a cancer ward in a veterinary hospital. One that only treats baby tapirs and puppies. The cool thing about Breaking Bad is that, up to this episode, it’s mixed seriousness and badassery with acerbic humor. Say what you want, but every episode had its laughs, and that’s cool for a show about a dying man producing an horrifically addictive drug. “Ozymandias” was great, yeah, but another episode like that and I’ll have to double my intake of anti-depressants. And I mean, yeah, they’re yummy, but that’s a major expense for me. I might need to turn to criminality to cope with those crippling medical costs. Just kidding. I’m writing this in Europe. LOL. – J

Quoteworthy: “My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself.” – Hank, to Jack, before he’s shot

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