Breaking Bad 5.08: Gliding Over All

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Monday following a new episode of “Breaking Bad.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects and events that have occurred up to and including the episode discussed are fair game. 

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

There’s a ridiculous amount to discuss from “Gliding Over All,” the midseason finale of “Breaking Bad,” but for now we’ve just got to cut to it. What’s it? The chase. The ending. The cliffhanger. The biggest revelation by a fictional character since “Einhorn is Finkle.” That’s right, Walter White is Heisenberg, and Hank finally knows it, only Walt doesn’t know Hank knows. What else?

It was the single biggest Chekov’s Gun in a show full of seemingly nothing but. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click the link, or reread the quote up top. In any half decent piece of narrative art, there is no wasted space. When it comes to a show like “Breaking Bad,” that means not a single element is simply thrown in. Not a scene, not a line of dialogue, not a single shot, not a single piece of character background. When it comes to “Breaking Bad” specifically, that means the country’s best meth cook wasn’t going to not be found out by his DEA agent brother in-law. There was never not going to be a final confrontation between the two.

In case you missed any part of it, let’s recap: Just prior to the ending, Walt has more money than he knows what to do with and is finally out of the meth business. The family’s having a nice barbecue when Hank decides to drop a deuce. Once on the porcelain throne, he absentmindedly reaches back for some reading material to find a collection of Walt Whitman poems. Boring. Except that Walt was given this particular collection by one Gale Boetticher, his former partner, a man whose obsession with him bordered on religious.

You see, after he was killed, Hank was given Gale’s file to look over. What he found was enough to convince him that Gale was Heisenberg, a notion Walt helped back up with some insightful chemistry knowledge in the fourth episode of season four, “Bullet Points” (if you’ve got Netflix Instant, click this link and skip to the 20:50 mark). There was just one problem, the notebook included a dedication to “W.W.,” and for the life of him, Hank could not discern who it referred to. “Who do you figure that is,” Hank asks Walt, “Woodrow Wilson? Willy Wonka?” before jokingly adding, “Walter White?” Walt flipped the pages and found a spot where Gale had written down a poem, and told Hank that its author, Walt Whitman, was his W.W.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”)

You may or may not know this, but…Jonathan Banks is basically just as awesome as the character he plays on “Breaking Bad.” True story. I know this to be true because he proved it handily when he gave my daughter the chance to interview him in the midst of an interview he and I were doing for the Onion AV Club.

Funnily enough, though, while he and I clearly built a bit of a bond as a result of his conversation with myself and my daughter, we’d never actually met until earlier this month, when he attended the Television Critics Association Awards with some of his fellow “Breaking Bad” cast and crew members. I was giddy when I spotted him at the event, and I strolled over and said, “You and I have never met, but you’ve chatted with my daughter…”

His jaw dropped, and he said, “Son of a bitch.” Then a smile appeared on his face, he stuck out his hand, and he said, “How are you, brother? And how’s that little girl of yours doing? Oh, man, it is so good to finally meet you. Is your wife here? I need to say ‘hello’ to her, too!”

Yep. Jonathan Banks is awesome. Indeed, he’s so awesome that, although I couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t be up for doing a quick interview in the wake of Mike’s storyline coming to a conclusion on “Breaking Bad,” I still felt obliged to go through the proper channels to chat with him. As such, I sent a formal request to his manager, even as I admitted, “I realize there’s a pretty strong chance that he’s just going to say, ‘Well, if he knows how to get in touch with me, then tell him to get in touch with me, for chrissakes, but even so.”

Within 24 hours, I had a direct email from Mr. Banks, simply saying, “Call anytime.” And when I asked if he had a preferred time, explaining that I’d have an empty house from 8:30 AM EST onward because of my wife and daughter heading out to get their hair done, he said to call him at 8:30 AM EST…which was a little surprising, given that I knew he lived in California, but damned if he didn’t answer the phone right away.

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Breaking Bad 5.05: Dead Freight

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Monday following a new episode of “Breaking Bad.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects and events that have occurred up to and including the episode discussed are fair game. 

The Cold Open

The cold open for “Dead Freight,” the latest episode of “Breaking Bad,” was a strange one at first glance. It showed a young boy riding a dirt bike through the desert before stopping to scoop a tarantula into a glass jar. Then bam! All of a sudden, well, that was it. At first glance. It was a surprising and seemingly dull way to begin an episode that had been the subject of a great deal of hype, including Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse) tweeting that “On tonight’s episode of Breaking Bad shit gets crazy.”

Of course, by now we all know that “dull” opening set up the first real “whoa” moment of the show’s fifth and final season, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s consider that just before cutting to the title sequence, a train whistle could be heard in the background, foreshadowing the arrival of the episode’s all-important locomotive. Not to mention that the scene included point of view shots of the dirt bike’s handlebars, later echoed by similar shots of the oncoming train just prior to the robbery (like the one seen above). That’s just damn good directing. And how crazy is it that “Breaking Bad” has so warped my mind that as soon as I saw that innocent child I was positive he would die or be the victim of some horrible fate? I know I’m not alone in that.

Say What You Will Mike, Walt (and Jesse) Might Just be Jesse James

When the commercial break ended, the first scene of the episode showed Walt strolling into DEA headquarters, ostensibly to discuss his marital troubles with Hank. Of course, the truth is that the man we knew as Walter White (you know, this guy) is all but dead. The criminal mastermind Heisenberg is now occupying his body, and it was he who took a page out of Gus Fring’s playbook by walking into the office of the very man hell-bent on finding him out.

Mike may not be giving Heisenberg enough credit. Walt knew that if he shed a few fake tears, Hank would duck out to avoid the perceived awkwardness of a man displaying outward emotion. As soon as he’s out of the room, Walt’s pushing wires into Hank’s computer. Then, in another moment of foreshadowing, he’s still struggling to plant a bug behind a photograph as Hank’s walking through the doorway, completing the task just in time to make it look as if he’s studying the picture—a symbol of Hank’s “perfect” marriage—and yearning for better days with his own wife. Heisenberg is a man who refuses to let the unforeseen hiccups of reality disturb his perfectly thought out plans, whether that means planting the bug in the nick of time or refusing to stop the train robbery before he gets exactly the 1,000 gallons he set out to obtain. Ah yes, the 1,000 gallons of methylamine, that whole train robbery thing, let’s talk about that.

We’ve heard the name Jesse James thrown around more than a few times this season. So when our favorite meth-making trio make the decision to rob a train, it’s almost expected. Almost. I mean, of course that’s what Heisenberg would do. After all, he fancies himself quite the criminal mastermind. He’s Don Vito, Jesse James, and a Nobel-level chemist all wrapped into one. He’s invincible, or so he thinks. Last week, he made it clear that nothing would stop the train that is their production and distribution of methamphetamine, and this week, we found out that meant not even literally stopping a train.

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The Light from the TV Shows: “Breaking Bad” is about to do some more bad-breaking

If you’ve frequented any pop-culture website or picked up an entertainment-themed publication at any point in the past week or so, it’s highly unlikely that you’re ignorant of the impending return of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” I’m not saying you’re necessarily a fan, but you’d be hard pressed to be unaware of the fact that the show’s coming back, since every TV critic and their brother wants to make sure they get in a story or three about the fact that this is the last season of the show…except it really isn’t, now that they’ve decided to split the 16-episode final season into two eight-episode seasons instead. But, hey, po-tay-to, po-tah-to, a story’s a story’s, whether it’s 100% accurate or not, am I right?

Regrettably, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be blogging each and every episode of this season I have over the course of the past couple of years, but that’s not to say that I won’t still be offering up the occasional piece about the show. I mean, after all, I meant it when I said – repeatedly – that it’s the best show on television, so I’m rarely without something to say about it. Indeed, having been fortunate enough to check out a screener of the Season 5 premiere, I thought I’d devote this week’s column to desperately avoiding saying too much about what goes on while still giving you as many reasons as possible to make you want to tune in.

But first, AMC’s official look at what’s ahead:

Now that you’ve watched that, prepare yourself for a list of 20 things that you probably won’t want to read if you want to go into the episode being as surprised as possible. Trust me, though: although arguably all 20 things qualify as spoilers on some level, I really haven’t told you much of anything…which you’ll realize after you’ve watched the Season 5 premiere on Sunday night. Once you have, I hope you’ll check back in. I’m curious to know what you think.

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Breaking Bad 4.13 – Lily of the Valley

In last week’s blog, I wrote of Walt sitting poolside, “We see a man who’s spinning both his firearm and his wheels, waiting to figure out how little future he has left. When the pistol spins toward one of the potted plants, however, it’s clear that Walt has gotten an idea.” If only I’d recognized that plant as a Lily of the Valley, I could’ve been a hero among my peers. Damn my insufficient knowledge of botany! Damn it all to hell!

Ahem.

When we first see Walt this evening, he’s making a mad dash through the parking garage to remove the bomb from the underside of Gus’s car, which he promptly carries into the hospital and up to the waiting area. It’s an unabashedly slapstick moment when the magnet on the bomb sticks to the elevator door, followed by a hilarious back-and-forth between Walt and Jesse about the decision to bring the bomb with him (“What, was I supposed to leave it on his car?”), but things get serious immediately thereafter, with the ABQ police showing up and requesting an audience with Jesse about his statement. As the boys with badges walk away with Mr. Pinkman, Walt looks positively pale. Is it just from being in close proximity to the cops?

The conversation between Jesse and his new friends is predictably tense. “We’re just talking.” “So if I get tired of talking, I can get up and leave?” Sure, that’s how it always works. Jesse’s being seriously grilled over the fact that he offered up a very specific poison as what was causing Brock’s illness. His explanation? “I musta seen it on ‘House’ or something.” Awesome. Time to call Saul, but there’s so much shredding going on that his secretary can’t hear the phone when he calls…or when Walt calls, for that matter, as we discover when he busts through the bottom pane of the front door in a desperate effort to find Saul. It’s an unexpectedly hilarious scene between Walt and H.T. (as Saul dubbed her last week), particularly when Walt is initially completely oblivious to the fact that the $20K pricetag for the repairs ain’t nothing to do with repairs. Okay, so it was a little slapstick-y when Walt left the office the same way he came in, but that didn’t keep me from laughing, anyway.

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