Breaking Bad

Great points. I actually forgot to address the PTSD criticism because I got too preoccupied with how to properly structure and gel the multiple points I wanted to get across. I'll probably edit this in though because I agree. The PTSD aspect is definitely an oversight on Vince's part, especially since it would help balance the uncertainty of Jesse's well-being (which is the ending I believe he's going for) considering there's no geographic solution to a psychological/emotional problem. I'm sure if Vince Gilligan was asked, "Wouldn't smuggling Jesse all the way to Alaska in that tight space be a harrowing experience for him specifically?", his answer would be yes. Maybe he thought the audience just didn't have to see that and maybe his adoration for his own character got the better of him, but it is a misstep for brushing that aside.

Your second point is definitely a thinker because I still feel like it worked on some level. I think that whole scene is meant to challenge our perspective of him. I mean yeah, the explosion was a bit much. In terms of the gunfight though, it shows that Jesse may pull on our heartstrings but he's not exactly the tragic saint we chalk him up to be. Like Mike, he's walking into this situation with a code, but code or no code, he's still a killer (Better Call Saul has shown that even the older, wiser Mike doesn't have all his bases covered and doesn't think everything through).

It's three people Jesse's killed prior as you've said but how many bodies has he buried/dissolved? How much death and murder has he seen altogether? I can't imagine how desensitized he must be from all the shit he saw and took part in throughout the series. Also, Walt didn't make Jesse murder Gale. Jesse chose to go all the way over to his apartment and pull that trigger despite the tears that would follow. That particular moment is like a nightmarish johari window of finding out something horrifically unknown about yourself (of what your capable of).

That's what I feel like the movie is about. He didn't shoot Todd and I think he feels pained that he wasn't even enough of a human at that point to take that stand. He didn't shoot Neil and Casey when under the disguise of police officers (again we're reminded in that scene of how he can't muster to fight for himself as they show a vision of Todd reaching for his gun again). He keeps not pulling the trigger and it only gets him restrained (not that he would have shot cops). But now he knows who these guys are and what they've done to him. I don't think its so much that he needs to become a badass to earn his freedom, but by putting himself in the position to pull the trigger again, he's coming to terms with himself in full transparency that his life has worth and this is who he is and this is what he's done. If he has to kill anyone who takes a shot at him and feel bad about it, that's the hell he knows.

You know, I dunno either though lol. I'm taking the opposition on this just to see what we might be missing. I think it's a messy, morally gray scene for a reason but it is a valid point you make. Perhaps we should have seen him struggle with it though, which again goes back to the PTSD thing.
 
yeah i don't mean to imply he's some innocent babe throughout everything, just that his choices to kill previously were always, at least in his mind, life or death (don't forget that if he doesn't kill gale, walt would definitely have been killed). in this case it was for a relatively small sum of money and possibly revenge? and honestly all they would have had to do to make alter the context would be to have him try to sneak in and steal the money but get caught and be forced into a fight. waltzing in like he did is what really felt off to me
 
I finally saw El Camino. The Jesse/Todd flashbacks are extremely poignant character studies and I loved them, and everything else surrounding it feels like your typical Breaking Bad episode. Not that that's a bad thing, it did exactly what it was supposed to do in closing Jesse's arc in a meaningful way, especially with his Walt-esque sendoff towards the end (though the lead up to the gun duel is a bit messy, Jesse's shot is legitimately well done). I do find it a bit amusing how the whole plot hinges on the fridge money though.

Does it need to exist? Not really, but it's more of the character-driven BB I adored so I sure am glad it does. In addition to that, the whole thing is a testament to how brilliant of an actor Aaron Paul is when he can carry the whole movie without Cranston and go toe-to-toe with him as a larger than life screen presence. But if you've watched the series at all, you knew that well beforehand.
 
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yeah i don't mean to imply he's some innocent babe throughout everything, just that his choices to kill previously were always, at least in his mind, life or death (don't forget that if he doesn't kill gale, walt would definitely have been killed). in this case it was for a relatively small sum of money and possibly revenge? and honestly all they would have had to do to make alter the context would be to have him try to sneak in and steal the money but get caught and be forced into a fight. waltzing in like he did is what really felt off to me

If he doesn't kill Gale, Walt would be killed (and him as well), but it's still quite a leap to kill a relatively innocent person without considering other options, even when faced with life or death. What's the point of living if you compromise yourself completely? Unless deep down its not as compromising? Walt is certainly okay with this but Jesse too? And let's not forget Walt wouldn't be on the chopping block if he didn't save Jesse from trying to kill those dealers in "Half Measures", which Jesse was dead-set on doing. No matter how strongly Jesse felt that those guys needed to go, it's still (as Walt mentions beforehand) a pointless exercise. Not something I would consider life or death even in Jesse's mind.

My point being, I think revenge has always existed in Jesse's DNA and that's the achilles' heel that always put him in a worse place. It's what prevents him from moving on to Alaska the first time around when he aims to burn Walt's house down instead (not even checking if the kids are in any of the rooms ironically). If Hank wasn't there to stop him, he would have went through with that too. Granted, he was under the influence of drugs and in an emotionally livid state (both in "Half Measures" and "Confessions" endings) compared to the more level-headed, premeditated shootout in the movie, but still, is there not some leeway for the imprisonment/torture he endured for six months which these guys were cruelly and consciously complicit towards? (Neil and Casey specifically)

I know the money is small but I would argue this situation is life or death (at least moreso than the pointless revenge trips of the past he's been drawn to). Jesse locked away in a cage (which is something he'd associate as a place where he's not even a person anymore), in my opinion, is death for him especially with the trauma that comes with it. It's certainly no way to live and sure, he can try his luck as an outlaw on his own, but he's so close to the much more promising future. That $1,800 might as well be a $1 million because it's not like he can just get a job for a couple of weeks and he's not looking to rob and do harm to any third party. If he has no choice though, it might as well be these guys. Wouldn't you say worse comes to worse, killing anyone who steps to him here, is much less compromising than his choice to kill Gale?

Also, personally, I don't know if I can picture Jesse trying to stealth his way into the welding place to steal the money, because look how much of an ordeal it was to find Todd's cash even when he had a pretty good idea that it was at least narrowed down to that apartment after spending a significant amount of time getting to know how Todd thinks. I don't think Jesse would have wanted to waste an exponential amount of time trying to find Neil's hiding spot in whichever location that could be (without being seen, no less). The guy is a welder/engineer so you know he could have had it in a much more secured, clever spot. It was a stroke of luck to be told truthfully it was in the duffle bag but I guess that's good karma for being upfront and honest to begin with. Overall, I'd say that approach was Jesse's best bet. I guess the question is what would have happened if they declined his request and allowed him to leave?
 
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good point on his previous tendency to violent revenge. i hadn't thought of those cases. though i will say, in both those instances it was shown as an incredibly emotional, well, "rabid dog" type response. this was calculated and calm. there's also, of course, three other guys in there that he knows nothing about and that may just be welders with zero inclination into the terrible shit the main two guys are involved in. and going in like that, he'd have to know it's entirely possible he'd end up having to kill those guys too. i dunno, i guess ultimately it boils down to a personal opinion. it didn't *feel* in character to me :gatorshrug:
 
Rewatching the scene on youtube, Jesse does seem to flash a brief expression of inner-turmoil after having killed the two guys (probably mixed with adrenaline) before focusing his attention on the last three. So yeah, you make a fine case for those extra guys being assumed by Jesse as potentially expendable and I guess it is problematic because while the scene *feels* right enough to me, I can't necessarily give you a clear reason why he'd be okay generalizing them all into one big villainous ball.

One thing I noticed is that one of the guys pleads, "I have kids" and Jesse responds "Like I give a shit". For me, that could be a nod to the hypocrisy of the scene altogether. The same Jesse who was playing peacefully with the beetle (callback to season 2's "Peekaboo") is the same who just blindly walked into a room with an intention to kill anyone under self-defense. I think you're right though. There is a bit of a hole here. It's just, in my opinion, I feel it's a hole intended to make you question where Jesse's murky sense of morals lie in this particular situation which is kind of how I've always seen him throughout the show.
 
SO, I finished the show today. This show is amazing, the greatest show I have ever watched. Season 1 is very weird but awesome, very weird in the fact like how The Simpsons had a weird season one, it's forming, Walter has no goatee, Marie has blond hair, Jesse is a loser but still loveable.

Season 2 is really good, Peekaboo is one of my favorite episodes of the whole show, along with Better Call Saul, Four-Days-Out, the plane crash is annoying overall, but considering the show could've been canceled due to low ratings, this being an ending would've been meh.

Season 3 is a massive step up from these first seasons, but I like season 2 more than 3.

Season 4 is quite boring for the entirety of the middle portion, But crawl space takes the season to the highest degree, and ends amazingly.

Season 5 is the best season of television, no need for me to elaborate.

I will be watching El Camino next weekend, then gonna start BCS a little later.
 
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Blazed through Breaking Bad, El Camino, and Better Call Saul over the past three months. Suffice to say, it was one hell of a ride. Better Call Saul in particular is absurdly great - pure Shakespearean art on screen - and I won't soon forget it.
 
Might as well share my review of the first episode for potentially interested parties.

Pilot

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Walter lives a relatively average life. He works as a chemistry teacher and as a side job washes people's cars. He also has a wife and a son at home. But his course is about to change forever...

He turns 50, which he doesn't feel too happy about. To make things a lot worse, he finds out his constant coughing is the result of him developing lung cancer. An inoperable one at that. And he doesn't even have insurance to cover the medical bills.

Luckily, he spots a familiar face during a ride-along and gets the brilliant (Or maybe horrific?) idea to start a meth lab.

Right away you're drawn to Walter's personality. Cranston provides a very natural likability and sells you on the dark reality of the situation while at the same time showing you a man who isn't gonna give up that easily. The cancer diagnosis at first leaves him distressed and heartbroken, and you eagerly anticipate where he's gonna go from there.

I like the idea of bringing in an old student instead of Jesse just being a random rogue he finds on the street. It adds an amusing layer of him trying to be a straightlaced teacher while at the same time consciously leading a student down a potentially dangerous path.

The chemistry between the two as well is so damn entertaining, with Jesse's immature comments towards Walt being especially funny.

Walt Jr. So far doesn't make the strongest impression, but there's room for development yet. The scene involving him I liked the most is when he gets teased by a group of bullies at a clothes store for walking with crutches, and initially it looks like Walter's so embarrassed he has to walk away... only to come back in with a fury threatening to leave one of them in a crippled condition. This is obviously Walt feeling protective of his son, but I think there's more to it too. He feels emasculated ever since finding out he has cancer, so in a way he's also defending his own dignity.

Skyler stands out a bit more, although I suspect the reason I like her is because she reminds me of Carmela. The way she speaks and interacts with other characters is strikingly similar. I'm sure she will develop into someone more unique over time though.

What makes the pilot most compelling however is the storytelling. The progression of Walt from a normal family man to a criminal on the run is handled so smoothly his gradual personality shifts never feel jarring.

We see hints of a possible dark streak early on when he seems a little too interested in the drug bust shown on TV, asking about how much money they possessed instead of condemning the crimes. He's not afraid to use violence either, as we see him enthusiastically beating up teenagers in front of his family.

And finally,  the most damning sign of his upset psychological state is when he tricks two dope fiends into thinking he's gonna cook crystal meth for them, and it turns out to be an explosive formula guaranteed to kill you if you have no protection.

Granted these two could have very well murdered him and Jesse in return, but the cleverly calculated way he trapped them tells us that if he's not careful he could end up in a dark hole he might be unable to dig out of. Additionally, it brings some tension into his newfound profession, since already it's attracting the wrong types of people. 


Besides the writing, the production values are top-notch. The cinematography throughout is gorgeous, particularly during outside scenes. The decision to shoot it on 35mm film adds a lot of character and makes it feel more cinematic as a result.

It's never too late to discover a quality show. And Breaking Bad certainly looks like it will be one. 9.1/10
 
I might give this show another try since you’re watching it now. I’ve said before I basically watched the pilot, went “neat” and then just moved on to something else. Would be easier to watch it now removed from all the people yelling about how I absolutely have to watch it. Plus I really want to know for myself just how much people are exaggerating Skyler White being so horrible.
 
Cat's In The Bag...

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Last time Walter and Jesse got in trouble with two scary drug dealers. Walter "took care" of the problem out of concern for their safety. But to their shock and horror they discover one of them is still alive...

This episode is nothing like what you might expect. The stakes do get raised, that's for sure. But instead of being dark and heavy it turns into a sinister black comedy. And I love it.

Bryan Cranston was mainly known for comedy, and here he gets to demonstrate that to full effect. His facial expression when he discovers the surviving drug dealer Krazy-8 running in the middle of the row absolutely killed me. He literally looks like he's just seen a ghost. His unconvincing lying such as when he tells Skyler that Jesse sells him weed and he kinda likes it is another comedic highlight.

His scenes with Krazy-8 are on the more subtle side, but still got to me. For some reason the funniest part is when Walt slips him the toilet paper. Always thinking about every detail.

Speaking of Jesse, he was already pretty funny in the pilot and here he gets to shine even more. His and Walt's interactions are superbly entertaining, with the latter growing increasingly tired of his partner's bumbling incompetence.  This eventually climaxes in a gag so grimly hilarious that I have to applaud the entire crew involved with it. Remember to pick the right place to dispose of a body. 

Skyler however is the biggest wild card in terms of laughs. Her confusion as she checks Jesse's website and asks what a "MILF" is and her confrontation with him later on after believing what Walter told her show an endearing naivety as well as a protective quality that immediately wins you over her character. If only she knew Walt's already in *way* worse trouble than she's aware of. The moment where he tells her to get off his back after begrudgingly telling her a false lie shows a disturbing level of entitlement where he considers it annoying Skyler is rightfully suspicious of his strange behavior. It's hard not to feel bad for the poor woman.

While the humor is the main source of my enjoyment, you're still invested in the story and want to see how far our teacher/meth-odist is willing to go to keep up his double life. And even though Walter is fully set on continuing his risky profession, there is a moral scruple he's not ready to deal with.  Emilio's dead, but the other guy he tried to get rid of isn't. Should he give him a second chance or make sure to finish the job?  It's a fascinating dilemma I look forward to seeing how they deal with.

An excellent follow-up. 9.8/10
 
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.

...And The Bag's In The River

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Emilio is dead and soon also buried. Krazy-8 is still down in the basement and Walter struggles on deciding what to do.

The opening sequence intercuts between Walter and Jesse cleaning up the gruesome remains of Emilio and Walter as a young lad laying down the body's chemical composition to his female lab partner. A solid example of the series' special brand of black humor, but it's also interesting seeing what Walter was like in his youth. There seems to be more of a genuine enthusiasm and energy to how he's describing the human body's makeup. You also end up curious over what the relationship between him and this woman is like. Are they simply fellow students or is there a deeper connection underneath?

Besides what we just saw earlier, Jesse doesn't even want to help out this time. Fed up with how slow Mr. White's decision-making regarding their krazy prisoner is, he takes off. Pinky almost comes across as a little cold, like it's no big deal to just kill someone again.

The scene where Walter angrily tells him to stop smoking up their stash and flushes it down the toilet is very funny. Especially because it was completely unnecessary, he could've just put the rest of it up for sale.

Nevertheless, maybe letting a junkie be responsible for all of their drugs isn't the brightest idea.

Skyler asks her sister Marie indirectly if someone could start acting differently if they smoked a lot of pot. We know she's referring to Walt, but Marie gets the wrong idea and thinks she's talking about her son.

Then despite having no evidence she calls her husband Hank to have a talk with Walter Jr. To scare him away from doing drugs. ... While proceeding to steal shoes from a store.

Wow, they are really creating a character that you know the fans will just hate haha. All from her brainless gossipy way of thinking to the hypocrisy of shoplifting after she goes moral on Walter Jr. Smoking weed. And yet, I don't hate her... writing-wise. She's obviously a horribly annoying person, but how Betsy Brandt plays her and the portrayal of Marie's sheltered attitude makes those moments entertaining. It shows that at least Skyler only goes off on what she has heard, while Marie has already made up the truth in her head.

It also leads to the funniest part of the episode, when Hank takes Walter Jr. To a risible part of town in order to teach him a lesson. He uses a crack-addicted prostitute as a demonstration of where might end up if he's not careful. The misogynistic remarks Hank makes towards her are so childish that I laughed out loud. The grin he makes after telling the hot dog joke is a splendid bit of humorous acting from Dean Norris.

The main story is where the brilliance truly lies however. Walter and Krazy-8's interactions reach a level of heartfelt sincerity you would never expect with such a minor character. The difficult moral dilemma is presented fantastically. He knows the risk of letting this guy live, but also knows it would be harder to live with himself if he went through with killing him. There's even hints of a bond striking up as they have beers together talking about their past and what they dream of doing in the future. Perhaps they could've actually been friends if things had gone differently? The performances from both Cranston and Max Arciniega blow me away. Both of them deserved an Emmy for their work here.

The revelation towards the end is *such* a heartbreaking twist. Earlier while coming down the stairs with a sandwich on a plate, Walter dropped it and it shattered to pieces on the floor. He picked everything up and went downstairs to make a new sandwich. Later on after Domingo (Krazy-8's real name) has successfully swayed Walter into letting him go, he goes upstairs to fetch the key. For reasons unknown he checks the trash and discovers not all the pieces are there. Domingo has stolen a shard to cut him with.

This puts everything we've seen so far into question. Did he really start to like Walt or was it all a ploy in order to kill him in revenge as soon as he got free? Secondly, why did Walter out of impulse check if all the pieces of the plate were there or not if he'd already decided to release Krazy-8? The moral ambiguity of these contradictions causes your mind to wander and theorize about what's been shown, which is the mark of a talented television writer.

Walter's killing of Domingo is bleak, depressing and left me with a haunted feeling afterwards. His instant remorse makes it even harder to digest. He's just taken the life of someone who he started seeing as a person. More than just an obstacle in his grand plan.

It's then punctuated further by him returning home seeing Skyler crying by the bedside, confused and miserable about her husband's neglect of her. With a mournful look he says there's something he has to tell her...

We also cut back to the flashback we saw at the start. Walter finishes talking about the different percentages of body chemistry, with his lab partner asking one last thing: Where is the soul? He matter-of-factly replies that there isn't one. It's just chemistry. It symbolizes how current Walter is gradually losing his soul.

Even now when writing this review some of that emotion is coming back to me. 10/10
 
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In a Breaking Bad critical companion book I own, the foreword is by Damon Lindelof (showrunner of LOST, The Leftovers, HBO's Watchmen) and he describes this third episode of BB (particularly due to the plate moment) as the one where he knew this series was going to be on another level. Glad you're enjoying it.
 
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