Breaking Bad – “Gliding All Over”
I’ve been covering Breaking Bad for most the season, but for the finale, Nick and I decided a conversation would be worthwhile since we had intended for us to alternate coverage. Below, we talk about devious characters, montages, and what could possibly happen next. -NK
Nick: So, the ending — that was definitely a Scrubs reference, right? With the epiphany toilet?
Noel: Only you would make that connection, Nicholas.
Nick: I figure the beginning is as good as any to talk about the ending. What’d you think about the puzzle pieces falling into place for Hank?
Well, I have to admit I was waiting for something horrible to happen. I mean, everyone is there, chatting on the patio like everything’s fine. It’s been three, three-and-half months (maybe four at the most), and suddenly I just get incredibly tense. I’m waiting for it. Because nothing had really happened.
And then, well, I had forgotten about that damn book. And I freaked out.
Nick: Oh, I know. I watched that scene on the patio and expected a series of things to happen. “Flynn’s going to drown in the pool. He’s going to push the baby in the pool. Someone is going to choke on a Korean chicken ball. JUST SOMEONE ALMOST DIE ALREADY.” The tension was too much.
Noel: It’s really stunning how the show can do that. We know it so well at this point that we’re just waiting for it, we can just tell how tension is going to happen. Goodness knows it happened last week when with Mike.
Nick: You’re so right, and last week was a clinic in toying with people’s emotions. You think the most gut-wrenching thing is watching Mike die but then Walt realizes he could’ve gotten the names without shooting anyone. And how any amount of well-being is a trigger for us as an audience that doom is close at hand.
Noel: So what do you think this is going to mean for the last 8 episodes? I know a number of folks have been increasingly viewing the series as Hank’s journey of putting the puzzle together, and coming to grips with things. What happens next?
Nick: One, this should officially dash the growing theory that Skyler is the one that’s going to out Walt. I noticed a significant number of people on Twitter that believed she was going to get her revenge on Walt by being the one to bring him down. Now we know she might be party to his demise but she won’t be the sole reason. But, as far as what happens to the show, it’s about how Walt slips up. I can’t wait for that first scene where Hank comes out of the bathroom and looks at Walt. And the rest is finding a way to pin it on Walt who has been mostly careful if only occasionally reckless when his ego is involved.
We have at least a story world year before Walt is a gun-toting Scarface, the suggestions of which we saw in the flash-forwards earlier this season.
Noel: That’s true. In my excitement of Hank finding the book, I forgot about our flashforward
Nick: Why do you think Walt kept the book there?
Noel: I HAVE NO IDEA. I mean, a book shelf is much less likely to be found. It does feel a touch contrived. And I don’t remember him putting it there, but I could be totally off-base about that.
Nick: Another thing the show does well is make you believe everything in the storyworld is completely accurate and plausible. It wasn’t until an hour after I watched it I thought, “Why did he keep it in the bathroom?” Whereas with other shows, you may watch it and be like, “wut” and then you rationalize it later. (See Pretty Little Liars and The Newsroom.)
Nick: Here’s the thing: Reese is, like, a cartoonish villain, like if Snidley Whiplash had been created in modern times by the 99%. He has no principles that aren’t related to the bottom line, he has no boundaries for getting what he wants, and he’s packaged as a typical, one-dimensional corporate douchebag. He’s agreeably “evil” to anyone that watches the show. No one that’s not a ratings professional attributes any sort of goodwill to him.
‘A’ is faceless (though the faces are slowly coming to light as the show progresses). ‘A’ is ruthless, conniving, and the stakes are high with them but, as we start to see who is part of team A, you start to see the cracks in the institution. Without giving too much away, there are flaws and, if the Pretty Little Liars were just a tiny bit smarter, they’d have ‘A’ pinned within a week. Spencer would’ve lit them all on fire by now.
But we know Walter. And Walter is magic. While ‘A’ might be able to do all sorts of things at will with a seemingly endless supply of capital, we have a history with Walter and nothing seems like deus ex machina with him. And I think that’s what’s so twisted about his reaction with the audience. While ‘A’ and Reese are able to very bad things, Walter acts out of this desperate need to feed his id and ego. You get the feeling he’ll do anything. I think that makes him the scariest of the group. Just that he’s not out to teach anyone a lesson or to get ahead. He’s the only person that actually matters. And that we watched him grow into a monster and have been privy to the destruction he’s caused makes him a frightening villain whereas ‘A’ and Reese are just nuisances.
But you get the feeling that Walter would struggle with texting so ‘A’ has that on him. Check in the ‘A’ column there.
Noel: So, beside the possible convenience of the book, was there anything that irked you in the finale? I know that I could easily do without another montage set to music. While the “Blue Crystal Persuasion” one worked for me, the “Pick Yourself Up” one reminded me of Hudson Hawk, where Bruce Willis plays a criminal who times his jobs to crooner standards.
Nick: Ha! Exactly. How awesome is Hudson Hawk? We talked briefly about this last season, when we first started noticing the insertion of tracked montages and how strange it was for the show. Outside of the occasional tension-builder, this show deals mostly in silence and I like that about this show. It lends an air of reality to it. I could do without the montages. I get that they need a way to make time elide but — I could do without the them. Seems cheap for this show.
Noel: It is very awesome. I just feel that it’s over-using something. It feels like a device, like their “Let’s stick a camera on random things and do bizarre POV shots” device. I feel like the “Pull Yourself Up” montage cheapens this. I understand that Walter just sees this as just a transaction (notice how we just ignore the fact that Todd’s uncle is all, “This can’t be done.” And then it’s done? Yeah, didn’t care about showing that cleverness, did they?), but it kind of dulls the violence in unproductive ways.
Nick: You’re absolutely right. One thing about it, though, that I’m sure I’m rationalizing after the fact, is that these montages almost always demonstrate a “business as usual” sequence. That the prison stabbings are set to music, with such ultraviolence being so often displayed, is a statement that, yeah, these things are terrible, but they’re being associated with the same mundane process as hiding meth in barrels or collecting cash from several drop points around the desert. This is just another thing that’s part of the workaday life of building an empire. Another day, another dollar, another shiv in the laundry room.
In that way, maybe it’s productive but then why provide a sequence at all that professes it “can’t be done” if it’s just another normal cog in the machine? It’s not like we needed another sequence where Walt is demanding.
Noel: Right, right. The montages are all “business as usual” stuff, and I think that’s why I just felt irked by this one. It was two in one episode. It felt like padding, even if thematically useful.
Nick: What wasn’t cheap — getting Jesse his money. Where does he go now?
Noel: I mean, Jesse’s been pretty under-the-radar for these 8 episodes, and I’ve been both glad for it (because I want Jesse to be happy and to get out) and sad for it (because it it means less Aaron Paul). But their awkward conversation and then the bags of money and then the gun…it’s like he’s just waiting for Walter to come kill him. And maybe that he feels like he deserves it, too.
Nick: Yes. Yes yes yes. When Mike was in the picture, getting out of the business seemed easy because he knew he had back up. Now that Mike’s “disappeared,” he knows that it’s eventually going to either be him or Walter. And he knows he’s party to creating this monster.
So, final thoughts?
Noel: I didn’t think it was a great season, but it’s also very much half a season, so I feel unfair making grand statements about it. It was very much a “We need to clean-up and regroup” and I love that the show takes the time to do that. We were building that last scene (even if, still, the book comes out of nowhere for me) [Quick research has it planted in season 3, episode 6], and I’m eager to see that season. No matter how it plays out.
Nick: Agreed. The pieces are all in place, themes established. I can’t wait the see the rise and fall of the Walter White empire.
- Hey, he globalized his market! “Shake on it?” Also: Was he planning to kill Lydia with the ricin? Chekov’s poison is still waiting to be used.
- We missed Marie’s purple accents. A lot. And did you notice how Skyler herself was wearing purple? It may not mean much, but Nick’s on always attuned to those things, like when he reads Dante and looks for tonal changes as homages to dead poets.
- Noel may’ve not been thrilled with the montages, but they did excellent match cuts.
- “Maybe I should’ve enjoyed it more. Chasing trees is a lot more enjoyable than chasing monsters.” Walter. Stone-faced.
- “I want my kids back. I want my life back. Please tell me how much is enough. How big does this pile have to be?” Anna Gunn’s been terrific this season. Related: We’re really looking forward to Storage Wars: Albuquerque.
Gliding o’er all, through all,
Through Nature, Time, and Space,
As a ship on the waters advancing,
The voyage of the soul–not life alone,
Death, many deaths I’ll sing.
- September 3, 2012