Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad, Season 5, Episode 16 “Felina”

Wow. The final episode of this magnificent series is nothing short of a masterpiece. There are many reasons for its greatness, the first being that it neatly resolves all of the series’ plotlines, both longstanding and recent. In the end, Walt wins. He accomplishes most of his goals, or he does his best to see that they are carried out: he manufactures a way for Flynn to receive and even possibly accept the money Walt has left (even if he can ensure neither that Flynn will use it as Walt wishes, nor that its source will remain concealed)*; he settles scores with both Lydia and with the Aryans; he gets to say goodbye to his wife and daughter; he frees Jesse and makes a sort of peace with him; he dies on his own terms, and most importantly, he gets to keep what has always been most important to him - his reputation, and in turn, his pride. I’m sad Breaking Bad has to end, but an ending this rich and rewarding is worth much more than being unable to enjoy more new episodes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State”

I thought last week’s episode went about as far as Breaking Bad would go in destroying the lives of its characters, but the penultimate episode has proven me wrong, as this week, things fall to pieces even further: Walt must flee New Mexico and hide out in a cabin in New Hampshire; he loses what little connection he thought might still remain between himself and his family, as well as what little pride he had left in his accomplishments, and he also inadvertently invites into Skyler's life the threat of danger that so terrorized her when she first began to learn about Walt’s life as a meth cook.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias”

Many points of no return are finally reached in this week’s amazing episode: Walt finally tells Jesse he watched Jane die; Skyler finally listens to her conscience and breaks with Walt; Walt Jr. finally finds out the truth about his dad; Walt finally gets found out by the greater law enforcement community, and he also finally has stripped away from him the last vestiges of the illusion that he can survive the consequences of his actions with his family intact. These were plot points I hoped and suspected that Breaking Bad would hit eventually, but despite the show’s excellent track record, I was still unprepared for how stellar (and devastatingly) they would be handled. This episode is unequivocally the best of the season so far, and perhaps the very best of the entire series.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 13, “To’hajiilee”

This whole final season (in fact, much of the entire series) is like a five or six-way chess game, with characters making moves and counter-moves and thinking three turns ahead. Or perhaps a better analogy is that Walt is playing multiple games of chess at once, like a Bobby Fischer prodigy: currently, Walt’s game with Skyler involves keeping her placated by containing Jesse’s rage; his game with Jesse has always involved manipulating Jesse into doing what Walt wants; his game with Hank revolves around not getting caught, and he put Hank in check two weeks ago with his false video confession. This week, Hank and Jesse are maneuvering the pieces to try to nail Walt with evidence, while Walt sets up a defense, trying to flush out Jesse by contacting Andrea and Brock. Walt’s play with Andrea is a good one, and probably would have worked too, but Hank has foreseen it, and has preemptively put Jesse’s communication with the world on lockdown, snuffing out the threat.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 12, "Rabid Dog"

This is a sad episode for Walt, possibly one of the saddest of the series, as it shows how thoroughly Walt has lost the trust of nearly everyone to whom he’s closest. He’s manipulated everyone so fully for so long that no one trusts him anymore, even when he’s being genuine. He’s a bizarro version of the boy who cried wolf (bizarro because in his case, the lie is that everything has been normal, rather than calamitous). Admittedly, Walt has been lying a lot lately, as evidenced by the song and dance he does for Skyler and Walt Jr. when he realizes he’ll be unable to completely hide Jesse’s break-in from them. He pours gas on his clothes, splashes it in his car, and then makes up a half-baked story about spilling gas on himself at a gas station. The story isn’t even good enough to fool Walt Jr., who senses Walt is lying, but doesn’t understand why (he thinks it’s to cover up for passing out again). Skyler sees right through the entire story, however, and when she forces Walt to tell her the truth, she encourages him to kill Jesse. Saul does the same thing earlier in the episode, and each time, Walt is shocked and dismayed by the suggestion.