More Breaking Bad Musings: More Podcasts, Walt’s Transformation, Drawing Parallels, and Knob Creek

This show is just so addictive and thought provoking. I listened to another two podcasts about Breaking Bad this week, After-Show Podcast and Behind the Cutting Edge. The former was very good – analysis on par with Bald Move’s Breaking Good. The latter, well they basically crack jokes and barely talked about the show. After waiting for 3/4 of an hour to get some BB analysis I gave up. Still haven’t gotten to listen to The Ones Who Knock (hated intensely by Breaking Good) or Breaking Bad ‘Cast because I can’t get them downloaded or streamed to my iPhone.

I watched S01E01 again and was blown away (again) by how well this story was initiated 5 years ago. The pre-Heisenberg Walt was painful to watch and yet there was so much foreshadowing in the show. The image of Walt aiming a gun at the oncoming sirens near the end of the episode will probably be mirrored at the conclusion of the show next year. I would gamble that we see a similar shot as this one but with Heisenberg instead. If you get a chance, watch the pilot yourself – you will not be left wanting.

From the very start, this show has been riveting television. In my opinion, they have never jumped the shark. It would have been so easy given all the incredible things they threw in (airplane collision over Albequerque, Gus’ face after the nursing home explosion, etc), but given the context and the way everything is written and shot, it comes off so easily. The pink teddy bear with the missing eye button was a perfect setup for the airplane crash and kept us guessing all of season 2. And at the end of season 4, Gus’ exploded face reminds us again of that one-eyes teddy bear. The precision of all the call-backs is razor-sharp and has, of course, kept me riveted year-after-year to the developing story and yet without ever having said, “shit, I can’t get behind that”.

The various podcasts picked up on how Walt has assumed pieces of each of his victims. I hadn’t seen that personally, but it does make sense. His meeting with Lydia is business like and his manner was impeccably business like – reminding us of Gus. Apparently, after the prison murders, we see him in a yellow shirt like Gus used to wear. He got swagger from Tuco, the Walt Whitman book from Gale, and the detached business-like manner from Mike. I think someone on the web counted 8 direct kills and over 300 indirect kills (15 plus the 200+ in the airplane crash).

That is certainly a lot of death for a chemistry teacher, but it all falls in place. I started drawing a parallel from him to Dexter, but more for the current S07 storyline where Deb has finally discovered who her brother really is and has to deal with it as an officer of the law – this is exactly where Hank is (well he is on the shitter , so I am speaking metaphorically here), but perhaps in this case it is even more sinister because Hank was crippled as a direct result of Walter’s transformation into Heisenberg.

 

Whereas at least in the last episode (S07E02) Deb wants to help “heal” Dex from his “addiction”, Walt also has been foiled time and time again by Walt and now has the entire (yet unprovable) truth laid out and we have no clue how he will react. In the next 8 episodes, it remains to be seen (and web opinion is fairly divided here as well) whether Hank (a) turns in Walt (perhaps after an underground investigation so that the charges stick), (b) confronts Walt directly (although unlikely and certainly not in front of the family), (c) he gives up and helps Walt get out (realizing that his treatment was all paid-for with Walt’s dirty money), or (and this is the worst case scenario in my opinion (d) he offs himself because he can’t get over the fact the “monster” he is obsessed with is his beloved brother-in-law and he cannot bring himself to expose the truth to the rest of the family. Mystery is certainly “Gliding over all” with the ambiguous season close. Perhaps the best cliff-hanger in Breaking Bad history.ble) trut

While I am on Hank for a minute, I wonder if there wasn’t a wee bit of shark-jumping when I think about the bugging of Hank’s computer and phone. Wouldn’t the FBI be regularly sweeping a commanding officer’s office and phone for bugs? Was that really a realistic scenario? I mean, Mike does send Walt back to remove them, but there was at least a few days that they stayed there in the office revealing loads of intel to Walt and Mike.

Another interesting parallel is to Boardwalk Empire’s Van Alden character. We have not seen Nelson come full circle yet, but we have seen him kill in a cold-blooded manner. He is no longer the straight-laced religious fanatic, but then he is not YET working for Nucky. The interest in this character – as in Walt’s at least in S01 and S02 – is how he has made some conscious choices that could become a slippery slope towards the Dark Side. I wonder if the cop forcing a bribe out of him at the Speakeasy in S03E03 will be a tipping point. I am really interested to see where he will land. The other thing that makes him one of the more interesting characters in Boardwalk Empire is that we really don’t LIKE him in the first season. In the second season, we feel sorry for him, as he loses everything he previously believed in. Now, we are rooting for him to come back and kill all his prankster co-workers and his sinister boss. Walt is going the other way with our sympathies. We liked him when he was a good guy, cancer victim, and only doing the meth thing to help his family. Now that he is killing in cold blood, all the way to the point of nearly killing Brock by the lily-of-the-valley and deciding at the last minute not to kill Lydia in broad daylight with the ricin, Walt has become hard to love. I like how the vectors of good -> evil are crossed with the character charisma. But then, with the hat, Heisenberg is totally bad ass.

In the Insider Podcast, Vince Gilligan reminisced about his choice of Bryan Cranston based on their work together on the X-Files episode “Drive”. Now, I have to confess that I never watched the X-Files. Shocking, I know. But, I did go out and get this episode and was well-rewarded for it.  Here Bryan plays a desperate victim of some government experimentation named Crump. When we first meet him, there is nothing to like – he is violent, angry, and vehemently anti-semitic. Mulder decides to help him and eventually Crump is transformed into a nearly sympathetic character. It was very well-written and well-acted and obviously paid-off big time for Cranston during the Breaking Bad casting. [A nit: about 20 minutes into that episode, Crump throws Mulder’s cellphone (the old Motorola flipphone – you remember those? I had one back then) out the window and Mulder is very annoyed, “Well that was (fucking) stupid!” and yet at the end of the episode, he is speaking to Scully on the same phone. Hmm, now riding at 100mph, how did he have time – in 2001 no less – to stop the car, get a new phone and new SIM card and continue driving? Or he had a spare?]

One last note before signing off tonight. I recently decided that I was old enough to try drinking whiskey. I used to not like the taste at all, but I have started to change my mind. A whiskey pro friend of mine had me try Oban and that was sweet. Due to a scene in Treme S02 where Janette throws a glass of it in the face of an anti-New Orleans food critic, I am actually drinking a glass of Sazerac right now as I write this. Well, the Breaking Bad cast seems to favor whiskey as well having featured Whistlepig this season as well as Knob Creek. I found the latter in a bar last night and tried it. Very nice. Now I have to try to find Whistepig over here…

Thanks for reading. I am off to Tokyo tomorrow, so expect some touristy posts soon 🙂

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About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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