“Felina” – Breaking Bad

5x16_-_Felina_PROMO_5“Felina” is the last episode of Breaking Bad, quite possibly the best television program of the last few years. As such, there’s always going to be a tendency on the part of the audience to view it as the crux of the series; to look upon it as the series’ glorious magnum opus. This is, sadly, not true. I ran the numbers and, when you take away the hype, “Felina” was excellent, but perhaps not the best episode in the show’s history. If you’d like to see the rough work, I’m sorry, but my dog ate it. Just trust me.

I’d like to take a second to ask the burning question: “How is life going to go on without Breaking Bad?” Well, hopefully, we’ll be able to enjoy the proposed Saul Goodman spinoff, Better Call Saul, but I’m surely not the only one with a secret fear that it will contract spinoff-itis and be cancelled after the first season (like mercy killing a deformed clone in its infancy), just like Friends spinoff Joey. I’m not saying it’s likely, but I’m still concerned. Having the new series feature Lavel Crawford and Bill Burr as Huell and Kuby, respectively, will go a long way to quieting my fears.

Back to “Felina” – something I really loved about this episode was the return of Walt’s MacGuyver-esque persona, a combination of Bill Nye, Rube Goldberg and the Warden from Superjail! (a show that I’d highly recommend). This part of Walt, the most dangerous side to his character, is representative of two things Continue reading

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“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 Continue reading

“To’hajiilee” – Breaking Bad

breaking-bad-tohajiileeI’ve never needed to pitch a TV show before but, if I had to have a pilot script ready for tomorrow morning in the most unlikely gun-to-your-head scenario imaginable, my title would be Huell & Kuby: Mystery Team. Spin-offs generally suck, with the notable exception of Frasier and Angel, but I think these two characters, with Lavell Crawford and Bill Burr playing their Breaking Bad roles in a more lighthearted buddy-comedy/drama would actually be much more entertaining than most of the dreck being made today. For one thing, it’d be nice to see Crawford on TV more, since I genuinely worry about his career once Breaking Bad ends. But I also want to see that show because both of these men are incredibly funny comedians. Bill Burr is, of course, the much better known of the pair, but I made a point of watching a couple of Lavell Crawford’s stand-up routines, and was pleasantly surprised to have my sides rent in twain by a very large, black gentleman. (And no, not in the way you’re thinking.)

A little something extra filling me with glee this week was the discovery that Todd “Ricky Hitler” Alquist’s ringtone is Thomas Dolby’s 1982 single “She Blinded Me with Science” – in my opinion the second most underrated song of that year, the first being “Da Da Da” by Trio. I have a vague feeling that this may be foreshadowing of some future event, wherein someone, most likely Lydia or Skyler, literally blinds Todd with science, accomplished via a beaker of corrosives to the eyes. I have nothing against Jesse Plemmons, but he does have that sort of face that would make this outcome seem less like a horrific maiming and more like slapstick gold.

And with two paragraphs of fun out of the way, it’s time to move on to the meat-and-potatoes that is the actual review of this week’s episode, “To’hajiilee”, hereafter referred to simply as “Unspellable”. Why? Because it fucking is! I’d prefer to refer to the location using Walt’s oft repeated GPS coordinates than type out “To’hajiilee” repeatedly, checking against my title for spelling errors. I’ve had to do that twice already, and I’m not doing it again.

So “Unspellable” is one of those episodes where Continue reading

“Rabid Dog” – Breaking Bad

3a60694327a35c9e7bf0dd5b1109554f-1Jesse Pinkman is far less street than I thought. Why do I say that? Because he’s clearly not familiar with the cardinal rule of being a gangbanger – ’Live like a snitch, you gon’ die like a bitch’. I call this the Stoolpigeon Axiom of Crime. I’m the sort of lad who’d bet the keys to the kingdom that it holds true, in real life or in New Mexican crime drama. I’m going to call it right now: Jesse will die. Mark my words.

“Rabid Dog” does, however, bring up more interesting points than Jesse’s new role as DEA informant, and I’m going to write about them in no particular order because this is my review and you’re just the plebeian sheep grazing on my ramblings. If you’re still reading now you’re not an easily offended little bitch and we can be friends. To commemorate this wonderful new friendship, let’s talk about Hank.

Hank is, for want of a better word, a bastard. Walt’s murdered people, Skyler is a bitch (again. Her grace period didn’t last very fucking long, eh?), Walt Junior is to breakfast what Bobby Brown was to crack, and Todd is some kind of Aryan chaotic neutral, even more terrifying for his unpredictability. But Hank really is a user. He’s happy as a pig in plop to send Jesse to his death in order to serve his own interest, despite repeatedly ensuring him that the might of the DEA would keep him safe.

Surprisingly, even after this, Jesse still Continue reading

“Confessions” – Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad 5/11Appropriately enough, I’d like to make a small confession before I begin – this is the first time I’ve legally watched an episode of anything before reviewing it. Yeah, I sold out and went straight.

Casting my gangster history aside, it’s good to finally see shit getting real on Breaking Bad. This definitely isn’t the best episode of the show’s run, but it’s in the Top 15, guaranteed. Let us begin by analysing the complex relationship between people and chain restaurants raised in this episode. Or maybe it was just raised in my mind. Whatever. Shut up and listen.

People like chain restaurants because they’re easy and, much like Western movies, they’re all the same. From coast to coast, and sometimes across continents and oceans, you can find pretty much the exact same fare in every outlet of that chain and, sometimes, it doesn’t even taste that bad. But people hate chain restaurants, because chain restaurants suck. Sorry, but generally true. Corporate, cheesy and exactly where a self-respecting human never, ever wants to go. So what do you do when you find yourself somewhere like Gardinios? The sort of Mexican-themed hellhole where no Mexican would dare enter? Well, in this writer’s opinion, you should stab the cheery shit of a waiter (Todd Duffy, playing pretty much the same character as he did in Office Space) right in his pasty, pencil thin neck. Phew… Sorry, this is a touchy subject for me.

So, the restaurant scene. I liked this. I liked the Office Space references. I liked the tension. I liked Continue reading

“Buried” – Breaking Bad

breaking-bad-season-5-episode-10-promo-buried-previewThe return of Ricky Hitler, Skyler’s redemption, Walt going full-on pirate out in the New Mexico desert, and the inevitable result of Jesse Pinkman’s mental breakdown.

Just a few things we saw in “Buried”, the second of eight final hours of Breaking Bad, possibly my favourite TV show. Ever. And it was a pretty good hour. Entertaining television that was, as usual, tense, funny and – even though I sometimes forget this – amazingly well shot.

Case in point, the scenes out in the desert as Walt buries his meth-booty. That rolling barrel shot is simple, but effective, and reminded me more than anything of the opening sequence of Nicolas Cage’s seminal Lord of War. I mean, it’s not innovative, it’s not cinematic genius, but it looks really good, and I like that in a show. Pleasing visuals, we’re wont to forget, are sometimes hugely important. And the first person perspective of the soon to be smashed GPS device… that was pretty cool, too. For a scene with no dialogue (besides the muttering of numbers) and questionable music, it worked really well.

Speaking of dialogue, I think this may have been the first episode in which Continue reading

“Blood Money” – Breaking Bad

breaking-badNo meth being cooked, no sign of Todd ‘Ricky Hitler’ Alquist, and not much in the way of action. So begins the final run of the best little show about amateur chemistry since Bill Nye the Science Guy. And I actually didn’t mind the slow pace of “Blood Money”. It’s a nice easy intro into what’s bound to be a blood-drenched season and, at the very least, the showrunners didn’t drag out Hank’s discovery of Walt’s secret identity. But more on that later.

Right now, I’d like to talk about the flash-forward intro to the episode. In case you haven’t seen it (and, if you haven’t, Spoilers!), Walt, now disguised and living under an assumed name, returns to his home in suburban Albuquerque. Derelict and fenced off haphazardly, we can safely assume that it’s been some time since Walt (and his family?) went on the lam. Walt looks around, admires the graffiti in his former living room, and picks up the ricin he kept stashed in his bedroom. It’s clear that Walt’s identity as “Heisenberg” is now public knowledge, and the mere sight of our favorite clandestine chemist frightens the ever-living shit out of his former neighbor. So what can we take from this? Well it raises more questions than it answers, but we can at the very least say that: (A) Walt won’t be using that ricin on anyone this season (or, as it’s the last, ever): (B) Walt likely makes his disappearance before he’s imprisoned, but the fact remains that Hank must at some point decide to try and prosecute him, prompting him to run in the first place; and (C) life on the run has not been good – Walt is gaunt, worn down, and looks homeless. Somewhere along the line between the events of here and there, most of Walt’s money vanishes right along with him. And there’s someone he needs dead.

Returning to the present-day events of the episode, we turn to some of our other regulars.

We were never told what Jesse planned to do after retirement. It turns out Continue reading

Breaking Bad – The Beginning of the End

breaking_bad_walter_white[InteriorPond Hopping Girls head office] I made my way into K’s office through a cloud of cigar smoke, taking the seat opposite a Rottweiler chewing on what may once have been an intern’s arm. She peered at me over a copy of The Wall Street Journal. “You’re late”, she growled, voice low and smoky. “You said you’d have that piece for me by Wednesday.” I was squirming a bit in my seat already. Not happy with the answer I was about to give, but having no other, I stuttered: “I-I’ve been, uh, busy…” She dropped the paper and tossed another lump of meat in the general direction of the great, snapping hound (oh! sweet Jesus, is that a tattoo?!) “Get it done by tonight,” was all she said. I didn’t need to be told twice. I got up, thanked her and made my way to the door. “And tell the boy to get in here,” she shouted after me. I didn’t need to. Fabian, her A&F model of a secretary had already gotten up and squeezed past me in the doorway. He was carrying a bottle of massage oil and some exotic cocktail. He looked a bit scared. I understand why.

And so:

With much applause and bated breath, everyone’s favourite show about meth comes back to the air tonight. With Season 5 (part II), eight episodes are coming our way and bringing with them, of course, the end of one of modern television’s greatest achievements.

For those who’ve not yet watched Breaking Bad, allow me to make a few declarative statements to bring you up to speed. Breaking Bad stars Brian Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle; yes, that one) as Walter White, vastly over-qualified and equally under-paid high school chemistry teacher. The series pilot revealed that Walter had inoperable lung cancer. In order to provide for a family he felt would soon be bereft of him, Walt started cooking large amounts of high grade Crystal Methamphetamine (as in the Dom Perignon of crank, the real good shit). Series creator Vince Gillian has been heard to say that his goal was “to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface”.

He’s succeeded and honestly, in my opinion, he’s gone much further. Walter White, drug baron, is genuinely one of the most deeply complex characters on TV, with a moral compass ceaselessly swinging from pole to pole and Continue reading