In anticipation of tonight’s penultimate Breaking Bad episode, I did a little research by watching the pilot again and by watching Scarface. I wanted to briefly share what I noticed and end with some open questions for the final 2.
The whole show is right there in the pilot, but it is only in this last half of Season 5 that all the puzzle pieces start fitting together. From the incredible teaser with Hank’s first confession, the great Dave Porter music and the crazy camera work, we see the whole Breaking Bad signature that just got more refined over time. The episode itself was a nice mirror to the whole show – there is action, reaction, and transformation and it all fits in the 50-min without feeling rushed. I noticed the the RV was Jesse‘s idea – and come to think of it, lots of things were Jesse’s idea (yeah, science!). That’s why the bond between them is so strong – Walt is the only person that ever gave Jesse the opportunity to have self-respect. And yet, in that fatalistic Walt way, he also manipulates him and abuses that power. I think the most honest Walt ever was with Jesse was when he tells Jesse “I am awake” because after that moment, all his statements are pretty calculated. Also, when I looked at that early Walter White, there were several Heisenberg moments – the “Fuck you and your eyebrows” scene and when Walt avenges Walt, JR in the clothes store. The humor is here as well – when Skyler says “59!” at the end of the birthday hand job was classic as was the closing scene “Walt, is that you?”. Skyler also reveals the one thing that Walt does to her the ENTIRE time “Walt, the worst thing you can do is shut me out”. Lastly, the camera work was excellent – from the beautiful shots in the desert to the camcorder in the dryer and the first cook montage. Awesome. It just blows my mind how well this whole show is put together and knowing that Vince had NOT written the end of the show at this point, it is all the more amazing at how coherent the 59 episodes have been since. Another Easter egg in there is that Walt is moving a 50 gallon barrel at the car wash in the pilot…like the dung beetle sequence in Ozymandias.
Vince has stated on multiple occasions that the premise of Breaking Bad was taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface, so I decided to go revisit that monument of cinema for the first time in many years. I hadn’t realized that Oliver Stone is credited with the screenplay. Despite the music which sounds like it came from a cheap porn flick, the film moves incredibly fast. Unlike Walt, Scarface is already a bad guy at the beginning of the show but, like Walt, he becomes the kingpin for a very short time before succumbing to his own pride and excess. Pacino’s performance was spine-tingling and incredibly believable. I think this is one of the sleeziest roles in which I have even seen Michelle Pfieffer where she is so jaded and stoned all the time that all the violence and craziness just kinds of washes over her. The PanAm ad that Tony sees that says “What’s coming to you? The World and Everything In It” was an amazing image that echoes also in Breaking Bad (“I am not in the money business, I am in the empire business”). Like Walt, Tony is obsessed with power and relentless in his pursuit of it – one of the great lines being “In this country, you gotta make the money first, then you get the power, then you get the girls” which is mirrored in the fact that Walt’s sexual behaviour was heightened by his criminal enterprises. The final scene with “my little friend” was spell-binding and totally badass. Al Pacino has done so many amazing movies but I wonder if this actually eclipses his Godfather performances. If you haven’t seen it is a while, I highly recommend you do so.
Now, what remains to be answered in the Final Two?
1/ What was the Gus Chilean connection that had Don Eladio spooked enough to spare Gus after he killed Max?
2/ How does the DEA react to the missing ASAC Schrader and Agent Gomey?
3/ Who is the ricin for?
4/ Does Jesse find redemption somehow?
5/ What happens to the remnants of Walt’s family?
6/ Will something deservingly awful happen to the Aryan Uncles?
7/ What about Lydia and the Czechs?
8/ Where did that camcorder go from the pilot?
9/ What happens to Badger and Skinny Pete?
Oh boy, about 15 more hours until we see the next to last…
- All in the Family: Breaking Bad Is Really Just About One Thing (esquire.com)
- ‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Ozymandias (thinkprogress.org)
- 5 Questions: Breaking Bad “Ozymandias” (Spoilers) (manolith.com)
- #14 Breaking Bad-Ozymandias (seangallagher96.wordpress.com)
- Who will die by the end of ‘Breaking Bad’? An oddsmaker gives his take (popwatch.ew.com)