My last Breaking Bad post, Bitches

This will be, I’m almost sure, the last post I will ever write about Breaking Bad, covering from the Pilot to Felina, so if you’re not caught up, you know the drill.

I started watching Breaking Bad when it premiered in 2008 because of Mad Men, which started in 2007.  I loved Mad Men and I fell for those “Story Matters Here” ads AMC ran.  Story matters to me, too, and I hardly ever get it from the movies anymore, since comic book characters don’t do it for me.  I was going to give any original show AMC ran a try, although Rubicon tested that theory.

AMC-logoAnd Low Winter Sun, too.


Less than a million people watched the pilot.  Viewership only went over two million once in the first four years.  It was in danger of not getting renewed.  They were lucky they were on cable because the networks would have jettisoned them after the first seven episodes.  Then, salvation happened in the form of Netflix, and by Season 5B, viewership had grown to a respectable 5 million or more an episode.  People like me caused that by telling everyone in the world they had to watch Breaking Bad, the best show ever on TV, and enough johnny come latelies joined the party to ensure its success and turn it into the phenomena it became.

I’ve read so many people who were unsatisfied with the ending, and with the flash forwards.  They didn’t think Walter paid a steep enough price for the monster he became. They thought the flash forwards gave us too much info while painting the writers into a corner.

I agree with none of that, which could be the difference between people who have known Walter for a month and people who have known Walter for six years.

I think the flash forward in Live Free or Die was one of the smartest moves the writers ever made.  It led to two seasons of people trying to dissect what would happen.   It led to endless speculation and news stories and a huge spike the ratings never had before.  Being painted into a corner is where these writers thrive.  People complained the writers had shown us Walter was going to be alive in the finale.  Oh, please.  Of course Walter was going to be alive for the final episode.  George R.R. Martin is not on their writing staff.  Monster or no, I don’t care how many times Walt crossed the line, I never stopped rooting for him.

Stephen King has a habit of telling his readers in advance that so-and-so is going to die before it happens.  “And that’s the last time they ever spoke,” he’ll write.   He does that in many books.  Markus Zusak, too, in the Book Thief.  (You have read that by now, haven’t you?)  I used to be annoyed by that, thinking just tell me when it happens, don’t ruin the surprise.  After having read through so many of them now, it is sadder knowing it’s coming.  The shock of reading a death is momentary; the terror lies in knowing it is going to happen on one of these pages.  Showing us the ricin and the machine gun increased the tension through every episode they weren’t used.  The one thing Breaking Bad should have taught everyone by the finale was to Stay Calm and Trust Vince.

Vince GilliganHis new cop show, Battle Creek starts in 2014, although why he’d want to go back to network is beyond me.

Random final thoughts:

**You can ride around New Mexico with captives in your trunk, with dead bodies in you trunk, with a kidnapped baby on your lap, with body parts in your bumper, with body parts in your bumper as you take your driver’s license test, and the police do nothing but God help you if you have a cracked windshield.

**Vince Gilligan never took a chemistry class, but during the course of the show, Walt made meth, phosphine gas, fulminated mercury, thermite, ricin, a battery and a bomb.

**I’m glad they got out of the habit of using old movie quotes as episode titles.  Except for A No Rough Stuff Type Deal, which I knew was from Fargo, I had to look up The Cat’s in the Bag and the Bag’s in the River (Sweet Smell of Success), Bit By a Dead Bee (To Have and Have Not), and A Crazy Handful of Nothing (Cool Hand Luke.)  The ones like Gliding Over All and Rabid Dog were better.  And I did not figure out 737 Down Over ABQ until I read about that later.

**I read  when people are rewatching Breaking Bad, the episode that gets skipped the most is Fly.  I love Fly.  It’s hIlarious the first 30 minutes and terrifying the last 15. I don’t need the roller coaster going down all the time.  The story doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t go up now and then.  The parts I always skip are when Skyler and Ted start going over the books.  I got the gist the first time through.  I can’t do bookkeeping talk a second time.

**On long-running shows, they often bring in new characters as it’s winding down, and sometimes it works (like West Wing) and sometimes it doesn’t (like Lost.)  There were so many new characters introduced in Season 5A (Lydia, Todd, the Nazi Uncles) and they ALL worked.

**I never had the money or a reason to do it, but I wish I could go back to the time of flip phones and snap mine in half so no one could trace me.

**Best first line by any character: Skinny Pete.  Combo and Pete were at Jesse’s house after the bathtub fell through the floor.  Combo pointed it out and asked what happened.  Pete said, “Yo, my Pops could fix you up.  He’s like a contractor, or something.”  Oh, Skinny Pete, you had me from Yo.

SkinnyPete_photoby-David_Baker1

**Someone at work told me they watched the pilot and that was it because it didn’t look interesting.  I wondered if it was the RV bouncing up and down on a dirt road with two gassed drug dealers sliding around on the floor, while Walt, in his tighty whities and gas mask on crashed into a ditch, then with the cops on the way, Walter tried to kill himself because he was still afraid at the time but didn’t know how to work a gun that made them think it wasn’t interesting.  Tough crowd.

**As much as I love Breaking Bad, I do have a few nitpicks for them: A.) When they were stealing the methylamine (from the warehouse, not from the train), they tied that security guy in the port-a-john and he did not hear any of it.  Unless they make soundproof ones in New Mexico, he would have heard their footsteps and the rope going around.  B.) If you’re trying to hide a cellphone, putting it in the ceiling of a classroom is nothing a brilliant man like Walter would have done. C.) In One Minute, Gus called Hank telling him two men were coming to kill him in one minute.  I know Hank is a bad ass, but who in their right mind would not drive out of the parking lot then?   D.)  Right as Mike was about to shoot Walt in Full Measures,  Walt gave him Gale’s address as proof Jesse was going to kill Gale before Mike killed him.  This one, as well as all the others led to great television, but there is no way Walt would have said the address, giving Mike time to call and warn him.  E)  It’s an awfully big leap to believe Tyrus would be casing the DEA when Hector showed up in Face Off.  F.)  When Walt went over to Jesse’s to help him look for the ricin cigarette and Jesse found it in the Roomba, Walt took it and flushed it down the toilet.  Walt knew it was salt, and we knew it was salt, but Jesse thought it was ricin so maybe putting a lethal toxin in the water supply is something he shouldn’t have done.

**When you think about the supporting characters in the show, it is almost impossible to say who is the best actor.  Skyler, Hank, Gus, Marie, Mike, Saul, Pete, Badger, Lydia, Todd, Tuco, Tio, not to mention that little boy from Peekaboo.   You could make a case for any of them, and probably would for Gus and Skyler, but that discounts how great Tuco was and how Tio made such a memorable character out of practically nothing.  Their supporting characters are better than the leads in most shows.  (I know, I watch Scandal.)

**The ending was satisfying.  I made my predictions before Felina, and got a lot of them wrong.  Some of my predictions would have been terrible.  We needed Walt to get revenge on the Nazis and Lydia and the Schwartzes.  We needed Walt to come clean and make some kind of peace with Skyler.  It would have been awful if the cops, or the cancer or Jesse killed him at the end.  Guess he got what he deserved.

And a few random lists:

Best Songs use — not really the best songs, but the songs that were a perfect blend with the scene they were showing.

**Who’s Gonna Save my Soul now?, by Gnarls Barkley.  Used as Season One ended, right after Tuco beat up No-Doze for no reason at all, and the guys were coming to grips with exactly who they were in business with and what they had done to get there.

**Peanut Vendor by Alvin Red Tyler.  Played as Jesse directed his dealers, Combo, Badger and Skinny Pete as they made their way around town selling their teenths.  Everyone was so happy and smiling and it takes you back to a point in the show where it was almost light, before Gus and Jane, before Skyler knew.  Back when they were doing it on their own, with no one trying to kill them.

**Enchanted, by the Platters, where Jesse first tried heroin and floated up to the ceiling.

**Windy, by the Association, Wendy working it and bending down to give me a rainbow.

**Freestyle, by the Taalbo Brothers, a perfect song to burn the lab down to.

**And, five minutes later, Black, by Dangermouse, as Season 4 came to an end.

**Bonfire, by Knife Party.  It sounds like it was made to rev engines to.  It’s nice a song like that can have a purpose, because I can’t see any other purpose of music like that.

Baby Blue- Just perfect.

My favorite episodes, in no particular order other than chronological:

**The Pilot-I don’t know how anyone could watch that hour of TV and not be hooked instantly.

**Mas- Just four weeks after no mas, this was the episode where we first saw the super lab.  I love watching Gus manipulate Walt into cooking again. First by showing him all the shiny new toys in the lab, the secondly, after Walter tells him no mas a second time, by explaining to him what a man does.  Or, really, WHAT A MAN DOES!  Is there any man that doesn’t work on?

**One Minute

**Full Measure

**Crawl Space-After Skyler told Walt there has to be no more secrets between the two of them, she gives money to Ted without telling Walt, and learns what her secrecy cost and maybe understood Walt a bit more.

**Face Off -They weren’t sure if they’d be picked up for Season 5 so they ended this one nice and tidy, just in case it ended up being the last episode.  Walt was in full Heisenberg mode, not caring who he killed in a nursing home, in a hospital, in the lab, not even his elderly neighbor.  I was so glad Tyrus died with Gus so I never had to look at his smirk anymore.  It ended without a cliffhanger and it could have gone anywhere, especially with no big bad guy left, but it only took five minutes into Live Free or Die for the story to become terrifying again.

**Everything from the last four episodes.

Most Shocking Moments:  I’m not counting things like Gale’s murder, because we could see that coming.  Just moments that made us gasp.

**We’re watching to see if Tuco is going to eat the ricin-laden burrito, when Tio rang the bell for the first time.  Jesus, that was some good TV.

**Jane dying.

**After the explosion in the old folk’s home, we see Gus walking out of the door.  How can he be alive?  He came through the door, straightened his tie as the camera move to full frontal.

**The close-up on the Lilies of the Valley.  A “does the word mind-fuck have a hyphen in it?” moment if ever the show had one.

**When they were at Old Joe’s junkyard and the magnets made the computer fly.  Yeah, bitch.  Magnets!

**Todd killing that little boy.  Tragic, and it led to the final break between Jesse and Walt, but it set up the ending.

**The last five minutes of the Gliding Over All.  I should pick Hank finding Leaves of Grass, but I was more shocked at Marie wearing yellow.

marie-yellow-breaking-bad

Cooking Montages:

Dead Fingers Walking, by Working for a Nuclear Free City (Walt and Jesse)

Uh, by Fujiya & Miyagi (Jesse and Badger)

One by One, by the Black Seeds (Walt and Jesse)

Ginza, by Vince Guaraldi (Walt and Gale)

Shake a Bone, by Son of Dave (Walt and Jesse)

On a Clear Day, by the Peddlers (Walt and Jesse)

Going Down, by the Monkees (Walt and Todd)

Crystal Blue Persuasion, by Tommy James and the Shondells (Walt and Todd)

The clues Hank got but could never put together:

1. The gas mask from the cook site came from J.P. Winn school, Walt’s school.

2. After he saw the tape of the thermite being used for the methylamine heist, Hank said, “They know chemistry, but have no street smarts.”

3. When Badger was arrested, he described Heisenberg.  He told Hank Heisenberg was bald.

4. Hank and Marie knew Skyler asked for a divorce and didn’t want Walt seeing the kids.  Hank was thinking second cell phone and an affair.  But why would that account for Walt not being allowed to see his children?  It sounds like something bigger than affair to me.

5. Hank beat Jesse up after following him to the RV and getting the fake phone call.  As he was beating him, he said, “You had my cell number?  You knew my wife’s name?   Who are you working with?’  Think, Hank, think.

6.  “W.W.  Who do you figure that is?”

Walt explained chirality to this students and the show was filled with mirror images, from the fly, beetle, oranges, pants, dented towel dispenser, Walt starting both of his taped confessions, “”My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104,”  “learn to take Yes for an answer,” “We’re gonna make a lot of money together,” but my favorite will always be the pizza that was delivered to Jesse’s three-day drug binge with his friends when he couldn’t handle being alone after he killed Gale.  The pizza wasn’t cut, just like the one Walt threw on the roof.  I can’t tell from their website if Venezia’s in ABQ sells them that way.

If you’re having major withdrawal, you should watch the entire series again like I just did.  It’s great watching it with hindsight because you can see Walt manipulating Jesse from the get go and stop thinking Walt cared about him, although he did a little, since he would never listen to talk about killing him, not from Gus, Saul or Skyler.  Not killing someone counts as caring in Heisenberg Land.  You can marvel at the acting, the cinematography, the directing and the soundtrack.  you can wonder if Walt Jr. ever got miffed that he had no story line for six years, although we did get to see him eat breakfast 15 times.  You better call Saul at 505-503-4455  and Press 6 if you’re a Wayfarer 515 victim.

Watch it all again.  I’ll let you count how many times Walt was in his tighy-whities and how many times Jesse got beat up.  You’ll enjoy it all the more in hindsight.  And when you’re done, go read The Book Thief.  It will restore your faith in humanity that Breaking Bad robbed you of.

breaking bad

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