Breaking Bad 5.16 – “Felina”

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“My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to the AMC viewers now. There are… there are going to be some things, things that you’ll come to learn about me in the next five seasons. I just want you to know that, no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart. Goodbye.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what Walt said in the opening moments of the first episode of “Breaking Bad,” but as I sat down to write this, my review of the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” the paraphrasing seemed like as apropos a way to kick things off as any.

I’ll be honest: as much as I wanted to just let the events of the series finale wash over me and accept whatever Vince Gilligan wanted to give me, it was impossible to walk into the proceedings without feeling like a kid at Christmas, giggling and wondering, “What am I gonna get?” We knew the big-ass gun in Walt’s trunk and the ricin he’d retrieved from his house were both going to come into play, but we didn’t know how. Well, not really, anyway. The two big theories I kept hearing about the ricin were that he was going to slip it into Lydia’s tea or drink it himself, but I’d also heard convincing dismissals of both theories, so I really didn’t have any clue how things would play out. Besides, I’ve said more times than I can count that this is a series that never fails to zig when you think it’s going to zag, so there’s just no point in trying to guess. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get really, really excited about the prospect of finding out.

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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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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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Breaking Bad 5.11 – “Confessions”

As happy as I am that Vince Gilligan has been given the opportunity to take “Breaking Bad” to its conclusion on his own terms, allowing him to end it now rather than a season or two down the road, each new episode of this final batch continues to further cement just what a tremendous, gaping hole is going to be left in my television viewing habits when the series is gone for good.

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I’m not trying to paraphrase the immortal Stiff Records slogan here—there are plenty of series beyond “Breaking Bad” that most certainly are worth a fuck—but no other show on television has ever…and I mean ever…grabbed me the collar the way this one does, making me so profoundly love and so deeply loathe its characters, often shifting between the two extremes within the same scene.

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