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"Breaking Bad" — "Blood Money": Can't Find the Truth in a House of Lies, and You Can't See Tomorrow With Yesterday's Eyes

By Daniel Carlson | TV Reviews | August 12, 2013 | Comments ()


Breaking-Bad-5-9.jpg

Exactly what are we doing here? I mean you and me and everyone else, the people who love this show. What do we want to get out of this?

I’m privileged to be writing about “Breaking Bad,” a show I genuinely love and one that I cared about before doing any kind of weekly piece on it. This is not “The Newsroom,” whose coverage is defined almost exclusively in terms of the strength and commitment it took respective critics to get through another preachy hour. This is a show I actually enjoy watching, you know? So I find myself thinking about how we consume and discuss the show, and the degree to which that dissection becomes a part of the product itself. There are hundreds of places — easily — where writers spend thousands of words on each hour-long chunk of this story, looking for new ways to restate basic theses that have long since made themselves known both in the show and in the commentary surrounding it. Maybe it’s because our shared tastes have bred similar modes of expression, or maybe it’s because we all wind up reading the same thing and internalizing it. Maybe there are still pesky strains of infection running through us; maybe we’re still paying for the sin of reading Television Without Pity; maybe we’re just doing this the same way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

What I’m trying to get at here is: I might wind up experimenting to some degree in this space, writing about this show. Or at any rate, I’d love to try. Film reviews, templated as they may seem, can still take so many shapes, but it feels like what we think of when we picture “modern TV criticism and weekly coverage” is starting to blur together. The same words, the same formats, the same types of jokes or reactions or anticipatory gags. I want to find ways to talk about the shows we love (and those we don’t, and those we just kind of watch) that feel fresh. I’m just still in the process of getting there. I worry about falling into traps in my weekly TV reviews, gimmicks of style or execution that can set in after too many episodes. I know I’ve done it in the past. I spent so many years writing terrible pieces about “Lost,” big ugly lumbering beasts that missed the entire point of TV as experience and what criticism of it should really do. I don’t want to go back there, even accidentally, so I find myself more willing to fail if it’ll get me closer to an ideal I can still barely define.

For what it’s worth, this is all coming off the cuff with zero editorial feedback or clearance from anybody else here at the site, so know that I speak only for myself, my own feelings, my own wonderings if we can make this look different. One of the (many) things I love about Pajiba is the way every author is pretty much allowed to figure their own thing out, so what works for me re: TV writing might be a totally bad idea for somebody else. I am typing these thoughts as I have them. I don’t even know if I should be putting this in the piece. We’ll have to see.

Anyway:

Two things stuck out in “Blood Money,” the ninth episode of the fifth season of “Breaking Bad” and the first installment of the final eight episodes of the series. And in “Breaking Bad” fashion, those things seemed both to contradict and support each other.

The first was the eerie, beautifully uncomfortable sense of foreboding in every second of the episode. “Breaking Bad” has repeatedly demonstrated that crime does not pay and that nobody ever gets away with it for long. Walter White’s journey has been about making others pay for his greed and mistakes, but now things are finally starting to close in on him. It was as simple and as small and as damning as the hubris that caused him to leave his copy of Leaves of Grass in the bathroom where anybody — including his federal agent brother-in-law — could find it. For things to happen any other way would feel inorganic, and worse, out of line with the steady drum beat of death and destiny that creator Vince Gilligan has been beating since day one. This sense of finality, of everything clicking into place, showed up everywhere. Bryan Cranston directed the episode with wonderful tension and grace, using slow pushes in and out to play up the tension. The episode starts with a slow move in on the bathroom door behind which, we know, Hank is sweating and worrying and wondering what to do with the realization that his milquetoast brother-in-law is a mass-murdering drug lord. And then at the end, when Walt and Hank stand facing each other, we get a nice reversal of that move, a slow pulling out and back as we watch these men lock in.

The other thing that stood out was the show’s unpredictability. “Breaking Bad” has never felt like a conventional story, from its relentless commitment to one basic narrative thread (“What will Walt do next?”) to its slow but steady depiction of moral decay. So it makes sense for the show to avoid the kind of boilerplate cat-and-mouse game that you might see in a more modest thriller or procedural series. It wasn’t just that Hank figured out this “early” that Walt is, indeed, Heisenberg. It’s that Walt put a card on the table by pulling out the GPS tracker Hank had used, and then that Hank called Walt on his deeds, and then that Walt essentially confessed to the crime while hedging his story and laying the groundwork both for a path of compromise (“I will never see the inside of a jail cell”) and one in which he defends his castle to the end (“Tread lightly”). The fact that Walt and Hank could talk so openly, even to that degree, of what’s gone on was startling and invigorating, and another sign that this series will continue to tell its own story, in its own way, until the screen goes black for the final time.

And yet we also know things will end in a way that none of the characters can probably anticipate right now. A few months in the future, Walt will return to his abandoned home and see the name “HEISENBERG” spray-painted in the living room. His identity is going to get out, and his name — the real one — will become tainted despite his years of effort to keep it clean. Jesse’s losing his grip, too, driven mad by guilt and fear and worry. He’s a bombed-out shell of who he used to be. It looks like Walt’s in line to go through the same thing.

This is the beginning of the end, and it’s a bittersweet feeling for a viewer. “Breaking Bad” has demonstrated the kind of precision and power that few shows ever come close to capturing, and knowing it will end in a few weeks is a little sad. But believe it or not, there’s a happiness to watching something this good end. It means you get to watch storytellers and directors and performers at the top of their game go out grandly, instead of spinning their wheels or trying to bring life back to something that’s died. I can’t imagine a better seat in the house than mine, than any of ours, as we watch the ballad of Walter White call down one last refrain.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a member of the Houston Film Critics Society and the Online Film Critics Society. You can also find him on Twitter.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • knockloud

    "All truths wait in all things." - WW

  • Clitty Magoo

    This is going to be a tragic ending. I know. That's the most obvious point to make, but it wasn't until S5E9 that I realized that nothing good is coming. The end is going to be as brutal as it will be inevitable. With every well-written remaining second of the show the inevitable becomes more clear.

    Walt is a monster. I sure wish things were different.

  • Gill R

    I've watched all the previous seasons in huge, gorging marathons (thank you, box sets & netflix :)) In fact, I haven't watched ANY TV series any other way for 8 years. But I've got so paranoid about spoilers that I've just watched S509.

    Blown away doesn't cover it. Superb script and acting performances to match the best you'll see anywhere. Can we nominate Dean Norris for an award simply on the strength of this one episode?

  • TheAggroCraig

    I was in the process of folding up a tray table and getting ready to put it away, and then Hank closed that garage door, and I just stood, clutching the table, unable to take my eyes off the screen. And I cheered when Hank slugged Walt.

  • chanohack

    So can we talk theories for a sec? This episode begs this question: what does (fifty-two-year-old, "future") Walt have planned that he needs a BIG ol' gun AND a vial of ricin? These weapons are at opposite ends of the "subtle" spectrum. Is he trying to waste somebody in a really obvious and effective fashion or poison them from afar and get away with it? Obviously he has more than one enemy to deal with (we assume), but it's still mysterious.

    Boyfriend thinks he's going to use the vial on himself. Because Walt is so proud, and such a control freak, that he might rather off himself than let anyone else-- including cancer-- decide when he goes.

  • GDI

    Ricin can take days to be effective. So he's probably going out in violent fashion, with the ricin as insurance.

    Now, I wanna know where he got an M60. And kinda surprised he didn't end up with a M240B or an M249. More reliable.

    I'm calling it now; his weapon is going to jam in the middle of a firefight with the DEA and/or APD. He may not end up dead as result, somehow. But that jam is gunna happen.

  • dizzylucy

    Good write-up, I like your take on reviewing the show.

    I couldn't believe how quickly Walt basically admitted that Hank was right. Jesse's guilt, the garage door going down, and the punch were amazing. And the words "tread lightly" have never been so chilling.
    There have probably been other shows I loved more, characters I cared about more, but there's no question that this is the best show I've seen. Everything is flawless, and there's nothing I wish they'd change. It is wholly their story and I love that they're telling it how they want.

  • Bux112

    I know this is going to be horrendously simple, especially when compared to the article above, but last night's Breaking Bad was by far the BEST episode of the series.

  • SchmidtUltra

    [SPOILER] Highlight of last night's episode: http://imgur.com/2Mlqexx

  • chanohack

    I watched at a viewing party at a brewery in Albuquerque that the cast and crew sometimes frequented after shooting. It trotted out some themed beers and the walls are covered in pictures. It was so exciting watching it with a crowd-- when Hank closed the garage door people were beside themselves, but it was nothing compared to the freak out when Walter finally gets punched in the face. The place errupted. The few people not there to watch were startled. It was the. Best.

  • Meg

    I saw it at a viewing party too, and it was GLORIOUS. The whole last ten minutes people were freaking out and then the punch happened and the whole place was just cheering and applauding and going nuts. They didn't have any themed beers but there were "blue meth" cupcakes and they were DELICIOUS.

  • chanohack

    The beers were "Walt's White Lie" (which they promptly ran out of) and "Heisenberg's Dark." So fun.

  • Re: Talking Bad, when asked about jumping right into things with Hank and Walt, Vince Gilligan said it was because they (writers) had to get where they were going in a very short time (8 eps); so it was basically pragmatism. And I love that some of the things that have happened were such decisions--and give us some great scenes.

    My hope is that Hank will realize Jesse is the key and our two faves will get together to take down Walt. We know Hank has figured out it was Walt who faked the Skyler's at the hospital call, but I don't think he's figured out the One Minute call yet? I believe that when he was flipping through the pics we saw one of the cousins--or was it Hank?--lying bloodied on the parking lot ground.

  • King Push

    It was actually Gonzo, from the junkyard crime scene. He sent the same picture to Walt from his cell while he was planning on dealing with Tuco.

    http://i.imgur.com/Bphjjrp.jpg...

  • seth

    The barn door's open.

  • Ringo183

    Made me LOL, Saul's happy ending! Wondered why the waiting room was so crowded....

  • Ringo183

    I can't stop thinking about when Carol drops her grocery bag and the oranges roll out of the bag. Wasn't there some foreshadowing before with oranges? Ted had oranges fall on him when he broke his neck, somehow connected to the Godfather movies when Coppola used the fruit in some death scenes?

  • mzbitca

    Gilligan has had several throwbacks to the Godfather movies. The question is who's death do the orange's symbolize

  • Archibald Spudge

    I'm not that bothered about good-better best arguments. There is a category of art where debate about quality gives way to debate about content and meaning; where critics go from being distributors of ticks and crosses to enthusiastic curators pointing out interesting aspects of a particularly exciting exhibit. Breaking Bad belongs here.

    Also: Dean Norris kicks ass.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I gotta tell you guys, sitting for three hours straight watching Breaking Bad, True Blood, and Dexter apparently leads to some bizarre mothereffin' dreams.

    The reason I'm going to miss this show so much, though, is the care Gilligan (and the rest of the team) takes in everything. Like when Walt almost instinctually starts to replace the cover plate on the outlet after removing the vial. Or the paralleled greetings to his neighbour as she's watering her flowers. Remnants of the "old" Walt showing through, perhaps?

  • Bert_McGurt

    I've also got to give FX some credit for the little details - like consistently running WINDSHIELD REPLACEMENT ads during the lead-in marathon yesterday. Just brilliant.

  • mswas

    I loved that Walt repeated, "I need you to believe this," to Jesse, who knew damn well the truth.

  • Wigamer

    And poor Jesse had to sit there and pretend to swallow it. Walt needs Jesse to believe it so he doesn't have to kill him. Screw you, Walt.

  • emmalita

    I came to Pajiba looking for the snark, but have stuck around for years for the writing. Experiment away.

  • maydays

    " What do we want to get out of this?" I initially thought you were going in a different direction with this piece....as in, do we really want to watch this go down? My answer is "YES!" as I'm in the camp that believes this is the best show ever, but last night's episode was a very strong reminder of how hard this is going to be. How much darker it will all become. It feels a bit masochistic....I have that horrible knot in my stomach every time Jesse is on screen.
    I agree with emmalita: even knowing that Hank's rage would be immense, it was hard to watch.

  • stryker1121

    Harder to watch was Hank's rage wash away and be replaced by a sickened, hollow look when he was contemplating his monstrous brother-in-law.

  • Mrs. Julien

    as damning as the hubris...

    Since all I do on these threads is talk about Walt's hubris, my work here is done.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Also, "Look at us two normal people running our car wash. No one who wears this much beige can be evil."

  • birdgal

    Color coordinated beige!

  • emmalita

    Beige is the most passive-aggressive color.

  • chanohack

    DO explain. Don't leave me this way.

  • emmalita

    It disguises itself as a color, but it isn't really. It doesn't want to be seen as the decision maker, but once it's there, it undercuts the authority of all the other colors.

    I'm paraphrasing this description from a friend who wrote an eloquent post on beige as a passive aggressive wall color. she asked for a divorce a few weeks later. The post wasn't really about the paint. I've never been able to see beige as anything other than passive aggressive since.

  • Wigamer

    Dean Norris blew me away. The scene between Walt and Hank was probably the best moment of television I've ever witnessed. Hank's nearly inarticulate rage, the dumbfounded tears in his eyes--it was perfect. And I have nothing but hatred left for Walt, so mission accomplished, Gilligan.

  • Sirilicious

    It was a great scene. I hate that i was quite distracted by that weird (fake?) stubble that Hank had going on.

  • emmalita

    I was shocked by Hank's pain and rage. I was expecting it, and I was still shocked.

  • Wigamer

    And his first bargaining chip was "bring Skyler and the kids here, then we'll talk." Think about how devastated he'll be when/if he finds out Skyler isn't some innocent bystander...

  • Mrs. Julien

    It was magnificent, wasn't it? Perfect for the character and beautifully acted.

  • emmalita

    In comparison with the bluff, blowhard Hank used to be, just beautiful.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Plus during the confrontation when he couldn't even look at Walt and in return Heisenberg was sizing him up which brings us back to hubris and the tracking device. Glorious.

  • Wigamer

    That just killed me, when Hank couldn't even stand to look at him--because big-mouth braggart that Hank could be, he loved Walt. He was family. It's such a betrayal on every single level.

  • emmalita

    And you know Walt is thinking he is the stronger man, that Hank's emotional response makes him week. Hubris indeed.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Now the show has added Chek(h)ov's guts to the mix, does this mean someone will end up dying from something they eat? Something with ricin in it, perhaps? Are Chekov's guts simply a reference to Walt going through chemo, or is someone going to get disembowled (or destroyed from the inside out).

    Checkov was the security chief and about the 4th lead. He was working with Scotty. Based on Badger's story, this feels like Hank is going to secretly team up with Jesse but die during a "contest"/showdown with the one who never loses; the one who is brilliant and logical (and, incidentally, is a walking contradiction re: his "humanity"). The death occurs because the plan goes awry due to the interference of a woman (Skyler?).

    [edit: credit to a commenter over at uproxx who pointed out that the transporter doesn't work without the HEISENBERG Compensator http://en.memory-alpha.org/wik...]

    Or is Gilligan just outwardly fucking with us now, particularly with the Chekov story being nothing more than "fan fiction".

  • emmalita

    I felt like Gilligan was 'laughing with us.' I don't think we can take Badger's scenario as a road map for what will happen this season.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Probably, but why did they make it a point in the story to switch from Tullaberries to BLUEberries. You got this machine just replicating the stuff (meth) . You got Kirk losing when it was down to 3 (Gus Fring was the number one before Walt/Spock usurped him), leaving Hank as the last challenger. You got Hank/Chekov trying to expell/destroy the blue stuff as fast as it comes in...
    THIS MUST MEAN SOMETHING DAMMIT.
    Okay, new theory. Saul is Scotty, Walt is Chekov ... No, no, hear me out ....where you all going?

  • emmalita

    It means Vince loves you, L.O.V.E., it means he loves you and wants you to know your fan fiction is appreciated and not at all creepy. And that clearly someone will die in a pie eating contest, because ricin.

  • GDI

    NVM. Your edited post is a lot more elaborate and eloquent.

  • Leland Eidson

    I really enjoyed reading this, it's good to see something experimental. I was particularly struck, as I believe many of us were, by the White home, a ruined shell. I loved the graffiti, prove that the stain of Walt's sin has infected every aspect of the castle he could not protect. More than that though I felt it invoked something more, especially with the kids outside. Perhaps instead of marking sin it was meant to identify the holy alter of Heisenberg.

  • WillSmithSpreadsAids

    I'd like to add that during that scene, Walt was literally standing between the S and N. This episode was straight-up perfection from the pacing, callbacks, visual details, and most of all...the writing.

  • junierizzle

    Great piece. This isn't just another show, it's Breaking Bad. BEST.SHOW.EVER.

    I know the consensus for best show ever is The Wire but I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it and I can guarantee it isn't as good as Breaking Bad.

  • Wigamer

    I've only watched season one of The Wire so far, but I almost feel like the two shows are so vastly different in scope & purpose that they shouldn't even be compared. Breaking Bad is sort of Shakespearean in its narrative of a single character's downfall, whereas The Wire is (to me) an effort to document a whole city, with a lot of social criticism. I enjoy both shows, but prefer Breaking Bad because that's the kind of storytelling I enjoy.

  • GDI

    With a breakdown like that, perhaps The Wire really is more my speed.

  • TheAggroCraig

    Completely agree. They're both excellent, excellent shows, it's just that they're good in very different ways.

  • junierizzle

    Or maybe I should say it isn't better than Breaking Bad.

  • GDI

    I myself haven't seen The Wire (I'll rectify that and possibly watch Rectify), but this over-exaggerated, googly-eyed love for the show is what puts me off from calling it the greatest show ever. I know it shouldn't factor into the way I personally feel about the show, but it does. It makes me what to find the faults and the mistakes. And Breaking Bad certainly has them.

    -Most of season 1 is far too slow, with the shots of some scenes being incredible long. It felt like a film student attempting gravitas through an inherently lazy method of just leaving the camera in a fixed spot for far too long.

    -Walt's transformation is kinda stilted. He's an asshole responsible for a lot terrible things, but he still hasn't embraced the dark side until far too late (imo). He doesn't really become Heisenberg till the end of Season 3.

    -The Tarantino-esque/Lost flash-forwards of Season 2 were frustrating and I don't believe the payoff was even close to being worth it.

    I'm a bit peeved at the start of the new episode, but it shows some promise.

    -Jesse's meltdowns. I just hate seeing him in a miserable and confused state. I do realize it's to garner sympathy, but it really bothers the fuck out of me. That directing of emotions is too damn obvious for a show this subtle.

    -Gus escaping that parking lot scene. Really? Sure, living through Pinochet-era Chile could've provided some sense of caution for the Gus, but near-clairvoyance? C'mon. I guess they needed a false cadence to up the tension. Or pad the show an extra episode or two.

    -Skylar is in the right for most of the series, but I can't stop hating her. I'm not sure how to tackle this issue. Can it be fixed?

    I love the show, but it does not need to be put on a pedestal. No show does (aside from Arrested Development; that show is perfect).

  • Meg

    I can relate to the wariness against all the people who rave about Breaking Bad being THE BEST SHOW EVER OMGGGGGG. For about the first three years of the shows existence I literally could not stand the show. It took me about four tries to even make it through the first couple seasons, and I thought everyone who gushed about it so much was a sanctimonious asshole who simply hadn't watched enough tv to know what they were talking about (which yes, I know makes me a sanctimonious asshole myself.) But seriously, it became lumped in with The Wire and Deadwood and Mad Men, one of those shows that elitists who normally thought tv was for pleebs could say they liked without fear of ridicule.

    Most of my ire though came from the fact that everyone, at that point, still loved Walt. He was a badass! It felt like the show wanted us to root for him and I couldn't take it because I fucking hated Walt with a goddamn passion. Walt is the worst, and while almost everyone is pretty much on that page now, it certainly wasn't like that in the beginning.

    Everyone ignored his selfishness, his wounded masculinity, his insecurities, his manipulative and abusive nature, and how his constant need to be the one in charge, his need to be recognized as the genius he sees himself as, was destroying everything and everyone around him. Or worse, they did see all of that and it just didn't matter. Once the show and the fans finally moved on from the "Oh this poor shlubby science teacher with cancer is breaking bad so he can provide for his family!" and was seen more as a villain than an anti-hero, the show got a lot easier to watch for me.

    And in fact I've now become one of those BREAKING BAD IS OMG SOOO AMAZING people. It's not perfect, it's not my favorite show, but it is pretty fucking great and one of the most cinematicly beautiful shows currently airing. I'll never ever understand the love/hate that certain characters get, but then I tend to feel that way about a lot of the tv I watch.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I do agree that Walt is pretty terrible right from the start, which is what I think makes the show work so well. He's never all that great a guy-- he's clearly the asshole teacher we've all had. There's certainly a division in terms of whether you perceive his finally "taking charge" when he breaks bad as sympathetic or not, but I think in either case that the ultimate destination is equally fantastic either way. If you see him as sympathetic, it's this slow burn to where your own morality kicks in and says, "Fuck. No." If you don't, it's watching everyone else in the show realize what he is, and watching as he inexorably heads for some kind of comeuppance. It works both ways.

    But what I love, truly, truly love, is how I'm still not certain just how much of a sociopath Walt is. Terrible person? Yeah, basically, of course. Monster? Oh, sure, utterly given at this point. But he seems to care for his family, even if they weren't the real reason for cooking meth. When he kills Mike he seems to genuinely regret it, when there's precious little reason to fake it (as he has with Jesse). He seems to care about Jesse, even while he will freely manipulate the fuck out of him at the same time. And man, this episode? That last scene? Maybe (even probably) he's pure, brilliant sociopath who doesn't realize that's what he is, but the way the "tread lightly" line was delivered? Equal parts cold intimidating threat and backed into a corner, very sorry to have to say this brother-in-law who's in over his head. It keeps the viewers questioning Walt's core moral stance, even as he is functionally confessing to being Heisenberg and totally threatening Hank to back the fuck off.

  • GDI

    Walt does shift through moral ambiguity like a snake shedding it's skin. He is quite amorphous, which is I agree is probably the greatest strength of his character. Who is he, really?

    However, throughout all evil and terrible things that he has done in the series, Walt jerking Jesse around is what really irks me the most. And sure, Jesse isn't completely blameless, but I do have sympathy for the kid (most of the time).

    And in the end, Walt has already won. The damage has been done. Whether he lives or dies, he has transcended his average life and become the infamous (and possibly immortal) Heisenberg. He's up there with the Escobars, Capones, Johnsons, and Guzmans (Mexi-Cartel).

  • chanohack

    THIS EXACT sociopath question has been bouncing around in my mind as well! I was talking about it yesterday-- it's clear many times that Walt wants his family (which in his mind totally includes Jesse) to live, but that doesn't make him not a sociopath. He's begged or protected Jesse's life a few times, but that doesn't mean he's doing it from a place of compassion or empathy, that he's doing it because he can't bear the thought of Jesse suffering. Walt likes having Jesse around; Jesse (usually) does what he's told and I think we can all agree at this point that Walt gets off on being in control. He also enjoys being "the man," and providing for his family, and being admired, so I don't think we can point to him protecting his family as proof of a moral compass, either.

    But he's also begged for Hank's life-- Hank, who often puts him down and makes fun of his shortcomings. One could argue that Walt enjoys being "right under Hank's nose" as the DEA searches for Heisenberg, but I think it's a stretch. That, and the fact that he not only shows remorse but apologizes to Mike (and I believe he meant it-- why would he lie?), puts me in the Walt-is-not-a-sociopath camp.

    But damn is he a bad, bad person.

  • Meg

    I find the sociopath question interesting too, though more so in regards to Walt's perceptions of himself. Personally I think he's a narcissist and almost definitely a sociopath. I don't think he really cares about his family at all, at least not in the sense that most people would think about it. Like even when he was "just trying to provide for his family" I honestly don't think it was because he genuinely cared about and was worried for them. It was because not being able to made him feel emasculated. Ultimately it was self serving, if it wasn't he just would have accepted the money from Gretchen and Elliot.

    But you're right there are these moments where humanity seems to come through the cracks, where he seems to show regret or even love, but at least to me it seems like those are just moments where Walt realizes that he's supposed to feel something or even does feel something for half a second but then ultimately realizes that it just doesn't matter. Because it never actually stops him from doing any of the terrible things that he does, in fact it always seems to draw him in deeper.

    You could compare it to how Jesse reacts to the things that he's done over the course of the show. Every time someone dies or gets hurt because of them he falls apart a little bit more. He turns back to drugs, he falls into depression, he becomes self-destructive. While Walt just doubles down, he's still able to justify everything he's done to himself. So I always wonder how exactly Walt sees himself. Is he self-aware? I don't think that he's thinks he's a "good" person but I also don't think he thinks he's a "bad" person either. I mean he might see himself as "the bad guy" (or the one who knocks/I am the danger etc etc) but I guess the gist is that I don't think that he thinks there's anything wrong with BEING the bad guy, that he actually views himself as being a living embodiment of the anti-hero trope. I don't know if that made any sense at all but it's hard to articulate the thought process behind analyzing the mindset of a fictional character lol.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I definitely see what you're saying, and mostly I tend to agree. Narcissist for sure, though again, I hesitate to go full sociopath even though there's little practical difference (he still lacks sufficient empathy, for example). And certainly, about his family. Compare when he initially had cancer to his relapse now. He was going to go away, his family would have nothing and then everyone would find out just how incapable of doing his one job he was (I don't believe he respected his teaching enough to count it). He'd be a failure and everyone would know it. Now, whatever, he's going to die but his wife and child will basically never have to work an honest day in their lives and as far as everyone who isn't Skyler will know he will have been a superior provider.

    And yet, at the same time, he quit. Skyler showed him how much money he'd made, asked him to stop, and he did. But the question again-- did he quit for Skyler, or did he quit because on the meth side he'd made enough, done enough, been a big enough success to satisfy himself and now the only thing left to do was be a good father? Did Skyler tap his humanity and he felt something, or did Skyler remind him he was publicly failing Flynn and Holly and he found that unacceptable? Even while he's a terrible person, it's so interesting to try and understand just what kind of terrible person he is.

    But regardless, I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed by that "tread lightly" line. It's all over Facebook as some generic badass-y cool thing that happened and I'm over here all, "But the tone, you guys! All apologetic yet firmly intimidating! He was being Heisenberg and simultaneously seeming to convey some serious regret about it! It's so much more than a hashtag! Exclamation points for everyone!"

    But at the same time, he never once seemed to consider lying to Hank and trying to play the backed into a corner milquetoast chemistry teacher. And I think, honestly, at that point Hank might have bought such an explanation, maybe was desperately hoping for exactly that. Only Walt doesn't have it in him anymore to play meek, even if it will score him a technical win.

  • chanohack

    I could be wrong about this (I've read some books on it but not ALL the books), but I think it's impossible to be both a narcissist and a sociopath at the same time because they directly contradict each other: narcissists and sociopaths both lack empathy, but narcissists do feel guilt and remorse. They do love people, which is impossible for a sociopath (who might love HAVING people, but that's not the same thing), and they do miss people when they're gone (contrasted to sociopaths who miss HAVING people), but they can't understand how they've driven people away or see that it's their own fault. It's always everyone else's fault.

    I think narcissism fits our Walt perfectly.

    And I wish SO MUCH we knew why he quit. Just because Skyler asked him? It seems so out-of-character and it's driving me nuts.

  • junierizzle

    I don't see why people loving a show YOU love would stop you from calling it the greatest show ever. You either think it is or you don't and clearly you don't, which is fine. All your complaints are a bit of a reach that you yourself said is because you purposefully want to find faults because people like it too much. That makes no sense to me. Just enjoy the show dude. And you kind of contradicted your self when you called Arrested Development "perfect".

  • GDI

    Sarcasm doesn't translate well online.
    However, I do find AD to be a helluva gem, regardless of the meandering 3rd season and the somewhat lopsided 4th season. With those flaws, it is easily one of the top comedy series of all time.
    I will say that shamelessly.

    It is folly not to believe that the opinions and actions of others do not affect your own personal beliefs, even if it is in a miniscule way.

  • WillSmithSpreadsAids

    Maybe that's the problem. With all due you haven't seen The Wire but you also proclaim Arrested Development as perfection (really? season 3 too?) which is fine if that's your opinion. However, maybe if you've watched enough great shows like The Wire, The Shield, and Hannibal then you'd recognize why Breaking Bad belongs on a pedestal as well. All the shows I've mentioned are unique in their approach to drama with deep, complex, morally ambiguous characters brought to life through some of the finest acting on tv period. I understand your complaints yet at the same time let's call them what they are...nitpicking. Which as you explained is something you can't help because of the majority's love for the show but at the end of the day, that's no one's fault but your own. If you were generally into the show those things wouldn't bother you regardless, no?

  • GDI

    I'll give you The Shield, due to how damn consistently good it was for its 7 season run. If The Wire lives up to a quarter of the hype, I'll hold that it is the possibly the greatest series ever.

    Yet, your condescension (implied or not) brought forth by a statement like "if [I've] watched enough great shows" is bothersome and equally trivial. BB should be strong enough to stand on it's own merits, not needing this constant comparison to the prior greats. It's lazy too do so, giving the impression of elitism and fanboyism (not accusing you of either, per se, but I just don't like this method of conveying info).

    Also, I think it might be too early to tell if Hannibal should be included. Just like you disregarding AD for an allegedly weak season (surprising that you didn't jump on the season 4 hate bandwagon, honestly), Hannibal should have more than 1 season before being nominated as a "classic".

    After all, enjoyment varies on whether or not someone has enough patience to stand by a series and forgive its faults (which each show mentioned here certainly will have). Complexity, realism, and moral ambiguity mean squat if you don't have the time, patience, suspension of disbelief, and emotional connection to absorb said elements.

  • WillSmithSpreadsAids

    I'm glad we can both at least agree on The Shield. Now about Hannibal, I'm not sure where you got the word classic from, especially in quotations which would make since if it was quoted from me but seeing as how I never called it that I'm left slightly puzzled. I included Hannibal in the niche of dramas that are unique in this golden age of television we're currently blessed with. So far, (first season) it's on it way to becoming a classic if a) NBC doesn't cancel it, b) It continues it's consistent storytelling using new ideas merged into the Hannibal lore with satisfying and unpredictable payoff, and c) they make it to season 5 which creator Brian Fuller said will adapt the Red Dragon story. Take from that what you will. I also forgot to mention Justified and Luther which need to be added to the list of unique dramas because they're also standout shows that deserve recognition. It wasn't my intention to come off as condescening with my comment in my reply but I'll admit that your post gave me the impression that your opinion was based on a limited range as far as tv shows and now that I've brought that up would you care to let me know what some of your favorites are? No judging but perhaps it'll give me an idea of what you value from television in general. I don't agree with your assessment that BB shouldn't need comparison to other greats and that it gives the impression of elitism and fanboyism. Yes, BB is strong enough to stand on it's own merits (you don't need me to tell you that, just ask around) but does that mean it can't be sitting atop Mt. Rushmore of other great shows? As for AD, I'm a huge fan and I didn't have any real issue with season 4 but I suspect that's because I had a complete understanding of the new format (Netflix) and even after watching every episode chronologically I enjoyed it more the 2nd time catching all the background jokes and callbacks I missed. It was like a comedy puzzle featuring the Bluth family which was new and fresh at the time. Plus, I find Maeby sexy as hell. I almost can't blame George Michael playing for team incest haha.

  • GDI

    I'll give Hannibal a try. It seems worthwhile.

    From what I've gathered, I believe I'll favor The Wire as top drama of all time.

    Justified is amazing. I can rave nonsense about how phenomenal the show is. Personally, it's my favorite show, hands down, with Firefly being a close 2nd. I have a weakness and fondness for western themes in set a modern or futuristic time.
    A little splash of said themes unto BB would have made me blindly bias towards it. So I can understand why people are giving it mountains of praise. It certainly is a great show, but I just don't feel as strongly as others about it.

    Season 4 of AD was remarkably subtle (Perfecto Telles and George Maharis for one). I did not expect it to kept its trademark charm so well, after all these years.
    +1 for Maeby, maybe.

  • k op

    I cannot STAND Justify. It's the same 7 episodes on repeat, with practically the same dialogue. Also, their mock-Southernisms grate against my last nerve.

  • WillSmithSpreadsAids

    Disclaimer: I do not promote incest.

  • hickoryduck

    lol @ you including Hannibal.

    LOL

  • WillSmithSpreadsAids

    Hannibal is amazing. Stay calm and stop trolling.

  • I'm glad to hear that someone else feels like all these TV review sites are spitting out the same thing over and over. I look forward to reading the Breaking Bad reviews on Pajiba. I can't believe that in a few short weeks it will be over. Le sigh.

  • Hey! Television Without Pity was good back in the day!

  • stryker1121

    AV Club has a good write up, too. Now that Dan's back I'll be coming back to Pajiba for my BB recaps.

  • InternetMagpie

    Also, JoeR writes the Breaking Bad recaps, and JoeR is the only enjoyable writer left on there.

    Still, I'll take this kind of meditative discussion over Joe's recaps any day.

  • I haven't read TWoP for years, after they partnered with Yahoo, things changed and I didn't like it as much. Pajiba and The AV Club are pretty much the only TV review sites I read on a regular basis.

  • They partnered with Bravo, not Yahoo. The founders now have Previously.TV.

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