Breaking Bad 5.14 – “Ozymandias”

Vince Gilligan might be a man who avoids spoilers at all costs, but by naming this week’s episode “Ozymandias,” he tipped his hand at least a little bit…if, that is, you’re familiar with a certain poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I won’t waste your time or mine by quoting it – you’re free to read it here at your discretion – but suffice it to say that there was little question that we’d be seeing Walt’s downfall continuing in earnest.

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Rather than leaping right back into the fray where things left off last week, we’re instead treated to a flashback to Walt and Jesse’s first cook. If this were another show, you might call it a sentimental gesture, given that it ties in to the fact that the big battle is taking place in the very same location, but it’s actually a scene that’s designed to spotlight the precise moment when Walt first began lying to Skyler.

Oh, sure, it’s also nice to see Walt and Jesse during happier times, to get the back story on how “Holly” came into contention as a name for the White’s daughter, and to hear the name “Bogdan” uttered again. (It also reminded me just how long it’s been since I watched the first season of the show: I’d completely forgotten that, at the very beginning, Skyler was also selling stuff to bring in extra income.) But it’s the lie that really matters. If it hadn’t been for that lie, which set up a scenario that necessitated more lies, then Walt might still have a family.

Instead, he has nothing.

Well, you know, except for about 11 million dollars. But that’s hardly a substitute for a wife and kids, now, is it?

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Laura Fraser (‘Breaking Bad’)

As “Breaking Bad” began winding down toward its inevitable conclusion with its fifth and final season, the series introduced a new character who has gone on to make a surprising impact for someone who started off all but shivering in fear at the prospect of what the future might hold for her. Laura Fraser may not be a familiar face to those who prefer their TV to be wholly American, but she’s done quite a bit of small-screen work in the UK, and you may recognize her from some of her big-screen performances as well…like, say, playing against Heath Ledger in “A Knight’s Tale.” Bullz-Eye chatted with Fraser about her current gig as well as some of her earlier roles, including a gig she was hired for but was subsequently replaced…and if she hadn’t ended up on “Breaking Bad,” she’d probably still be miserable about it.

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BE: So how did you first find your way onto “Breaking Bad”?

LF: Just a regular audition. I got sent a scene that wasn’t from the show, but it was, like, similar to the scene in the diner with Mike in the episode “Magical.” I had to make a tape, which I did, and I sent it to the casting director, who sent it to Vince Gilligan, who said it was great. And then Vince gave us a note and a real scene from episode 2 of Season 5. So I did that, and I got it from that. And I never met anyone! It was all on tape. So it was as if by magic. [Laughs.]

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Breaking Bad 5.13 – “To’hajiilee”

When Walt made assurances at the midway point of Season 5 that he was getting out of the meth manufacturing business, few were foolish enough to believe that he was truly finished, but when Lydia reappeared a few episodes ago to inform him that things weren’t going as well with the operation as he’d led her to believe they would, it still felt like an annoyance.

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To Walt, of course, it was an annoyance, the first of what would prove to be many ripples in his otherwise smooth return to a life of normalcy, but it was an annoyance to some viewers as well….or, at least, it was to me. For all his ghastly and increasingly morally bereft actions, I kind of wanted to see Walt get away with it, y’know? Of course, the moment Hank found “Leaves of Grass,” I knew that was never going to happen, but the decision to follow the goings-on of the meth operation during its post-Walt era…well, that just felt like salt in the wound.

Still, I knew it was a means to an end, so I just took a deep breath, accepted the updates on Lydia and Todd as a necessary evil, and waited for Vince Gilligan and company to make those moments worth my while, which is exactly what they did. I never would’ve guessed they’d lead us to where this week’s episode ended, but any annoyances I may have had in the past rapidly disappeared in a hail of bullets.

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Breaking Bad 5.12 – “Rabid Dog”

Last week’s “Breaking Bad” ended with Jesse roaring with anger and pouring gasoline all over Walt’s house, a decision which, while rash, isn’t an entirely inappropriate reaction to discovering that Walt was responsible for poisoning Brock. I mean, I’m not saying that I approve, but…I get where he’s coming from, y’know?

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Walt gets it, too…but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to confront Jesse without being properly armed. As he sneaks around the back of his house, though, we’re reminded once again that, although he might be a bad-ass as Heisenberg, Walt still doesn’t look all that comfortable when he’s packing heat, and as he walks down the hall, checking every room, he looks less like a professional criminal than a guy who’s learned everything he knows from watching “Starsky & Hutch” reruns. Despite the tension of the scene, it turns out that Walt never had anything to worry about, anyway: Jesse’s nowhere to be found. Any relief he might feel that his house hasn’t been burned to the ground, however, is overwhelmed by concerns of what exactly Jesse is planning to do, so he leaves him a voicemail in the desperate hope that he may yet be able to talk things out.

Unfortunately, the stench and squish of gasoline lingers, necessitating the call-in of a clean-up crew, but the situation’s so bad that even they can’t get rid of the smell before Skyler gets home, no matter how big a bribe Walt offers them. In an act of desperation by a man who – despite making millions as a meth manufacturer – still knows the importance of keeping one’s wife happy, he concocts the best plan he can manage on short notice, claiming that a gas pump malfunctioned while he was filling up the car, soaking him in gasoline. It’s such a shitty lie that neither Skyler nor Walt, Jr. buy into it, but she takes it in stride and waits for the opportunity to call him on it, and although Jr. reasonably presumes that the whole thing is cancer-related, the temptation to stay in an expensive hotel while the house is further cleaned is too great for the young lad to resist.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2013 TV Power Rankings

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When we published our first TV Power Rankings in 2005 listing the best shows on television, the revolution in TV viewing habits was well underway with cable shows like “The Sopranos” raising the bar for TV dramas. Meanwhile, DVDs and on-demand viewing started to change the way we watched our favorite programs and discovered new ones. Since then, the changes have only accelerated, and now many teenagers and people of all ages are addicted to streaming TV, watching everything by their own schedules. Many have even “cut the cord” and eliminated their cable TV subscriptions altogether. Water-cooler discussions about “must-see TV” have given way to shows aimed at niche audiences.

With these developments, the quality of the shows has improved dramatically. That may not be true for sitcoms and most of the stuff on network TV, but many have called this the new “golden era of television,” as the cable networks in particular have given talented writers and directors the freedom to create masterpieces like “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad.” Now with Netflix triumphantly entering the fray with the excellent “House of Cards,” the bar keeps getting raised even higher. I watch fewer movies these days as the quality rarely matches that of the best TV shows, which also have the advantage of developing characters over a much longer time period.

“Breaking Bad” has been one of our favorites for years, and it tops our list again as it completes its final season. When it’s all said and done, it will be part of every conversation of the best TV shows ever. Our list is dominated by cable TV dramas and we’ve left off reality shows. Some are entertaining, but none match the quality of the programs on our list.

We’ve kept spoilers to a minimum, but you might want to avoid some of the write-ups if you want to avoid learning about plot developments.

1. Breaking Bad

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Expectations for the fifth season of Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” would’ve been running high anyway, given that Season 4 concluded with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) bringing an explosive end to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) while also revealing just how far he was willing to sink to get things his way. It doesn’t get much lower than poisoning a child to trick your former partner into working for you again, but the knowledge that it truly was the beginning of the end (i.e. the final season) really amped up the adrenaline. With posters for Season 5 showing Walt surrounded by stacks of cash and emblazoned with the tagline “Hail to the King,” the question at hand was whether or not Mr. White would be able to keep his ego in check successfully enough to take over Gus’s meth empire. The answer: not entirely. Although Mike (Jonathan Banks) agreed to join the operation more out of an attempt to help keep Jesse (Aaron Paul) safe, he quickly grew frustrated and tried to bail out, only to end up in a terminal tussle with Walt. Meanwhile, the domestic situation in the White house has reached all new levels of tension, thanks to a power struggle of sorts between Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn). As the first half of Season 5 wrapped up, however, the biggest reveal of all took place, with Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), finally discovering that he’s the infamous Heisenberg. This show has yet to disappoint, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to start now. – Will Harris. Check out our “Breaking Bad” blog here and our Fan Hub page here.

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