Jun 262012
 

During the long, long, loooooong wait between Mad Men seasons 4 and 5, I did the unthinkable: I cheated with another show. These days, I’m ridiculously TV-monogamous; I only care, really care, about one show at a time, but I can only re-watch episodes so many times before things become a bit, shall we say, stale. So I found myself gravitating towards the show that occupies the same network time slot at a different time of the year: Breaking Bad.

Honestly, I’d managed to stay away for four seasons because it just didn’t seem like my kind of show. Drugs? Violence? Squalor? I’m not categorically against such things being depicted on celluloid, but I do think there are relatively few people who do it well, and that Tarantino-esque “yummy, look at all the ketchup” stuff always made my stomach churn. But people whose tastes I respected told me to give it a try, and it didn’t take more than two minutes into the pilot before I was hooked. So here are some tidbits for those of you who are BB virgins thinking of taking the plunge, who don’t want to deal with all the spoilers for past seasons posted elsewhere.

The pilot: Evidently, this was originally filmed with a premium network in mind, so the uncut pilot, which has aired on AMC only once, runs a full hour, 12 minutes longer than the cut version. Also, if you stream this show on Netflix, they use the cut version of the pilot that is shown in reruns on AMC. Amazon Instant Video has the full uncut pilot, as does the S1 DVD. I saw the cut pilot first and got addicted, but the uncut one is even better; you get a much better sense of Walt’s desperation that drove him to make what will only be his first in a long series of tragic errors.

Season structure: So far, there have been four seasons of BB. The first, abbreviated by a writer’s strike, is only 7 episodes long; the following three seasons are 13 episodes long. The final sixteen episodes are forthcoming, eight of which will be shown starting July 15 and the other eight next summer. They are calling this a “split season 5″ rather than two separate seasons, possibly for contractual reasons. For those of you MM fans who get antsy trying to figure out how much of a time jump there will be between seasons, I can save you that trouble for BB by telling you they don’t do time jumps at all between seasons. (I know nothing about the S5 premiere, but if you’ve seen the end of S4 and then seen the brief S5 previews, it’s pretty obvious they’re continuing the practice.) In fact, only about a year has passed all together over four seasons, so really, at this point, they’re still in 2008 or at most early 2009 (which partly explains why nobody on the show has a smartphone). RJ Mitte, who plays Walt’s teenaged son, has aged from 15 to 16 in show time as Mitte himself has aged from 15-1/2 to 19-1/2. Look for him to be filmed at greater and greater distances to try to cover for this!

Acting: Oh boy. If you are a connoisseur of great acting, is this show ever for you. Bryan Cranston, of course, puts on a frigging acting clinic every week playing Walt, and make no mistake: the role of Walter White is an actor’s dream. He gets to play a guy who seems like such a harmless milquetoast that almost no one ever suspects he’s capable of doing the damage he’s done, and the transition is breathtakingly seamless; I can just picture Cranston getting the pilot script and going, “Yes! This is what I’ve waited all my life for!”

But really, every role, even the tiniest ones, has been perfectly cast. Giancarlo Esposito does an unforgettable star turn from late S2 on, and the show’s regular cast, apart from Cranston, is absolutely stellar. Anna Gunn, as Walt’s wife Skyler, spectacularly depicts a woman who has been gaslighted in ways that would make Don Draper blush, and who finally cracks under the strain. RJ Mitte is terrific as Walt’s son with cerebral palsy (Mitte has CP in real life), who alternately sasses and worships his dad. Betsy Brandt takes what could have been a thankless role as Skyler’s uptight sister, Marie, and really makes you get why Marie is so high-strung. Dean Norris, likewise, could have been a mere comic foil to Walt as his crass, crude DEA-agent brother-in-law Hank, but over time, Norris keeps deepening the portrayal until you understand the true cost of Hank’s having to play the tough guy.

And then there is Aaron Paul’s partner-in-meth Jesse, a character who BB showrunner Vince Gilligan has said would have been killed off in S1, but was saved by the writer’s strike. And what a stroke of luck that was; the thrust-parry of Jesse’s unsophisticated-but-street-smart-sometimes Bullwinkle and Walt’s too-clever-for-his-own-good Rocky is an acting pas-de-deux for the ages, even as Walt starts to become ever less Rocky and ever more Boris Badenov with every passing episode. It probably wasn’t easy to find someone only a little over half Cranston’s age (at time of casting) who could keep up with him, but damned if Paul doesn’t pull it off. Vincent Kartheiser, as wonderful as he is on MM, is going to have his hands full trying to wrest the Emmy away from Paul, especially if Paul submits Jesse’s jaw-dropping speech to his recovering addicts’ support group in S4′s Problem Dog. (Though to be fair, VK does have one of the most difficult roles on TV; Jesse, on the other hand, is almost as much of an actor’s dream as Walt.)

Writing: Much less epigrammatic than on Mad Men; the writers concentrate not so much on quotable lines (though there have been a few, like Skyler’s “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family”), as they do on making sure every word out of every character’s mouth is true to that character, and cooking up truly diabolical plot twists, especially in the last few minutes of the episode (sometimes even in the very last seconds of the episode, as in S3′s IFT). There’s a similar ratio of serious-to-funny as there is on MM, though. There’s also a good bit of science nerdery mixed in, but not so much that those less scientifically educated won’t be able to follow it. Sometimes the pacing is every bit as deliberate as that of MM; some of the episodes have spectacular explosions and heart-stopping shootouts and dramatic deaths, but you get plenty of breathers, quieter episodes where each series of events builds to its next crescendo, without ever seeming like it’s just marking time until the next earth-shattering kaboom.

And speaking of earth-shattering kabooms, nobody does explosions with quite as much wit as BB does. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say that things blow up that you’d never expect. And since this show must tell its story within a much more limited time frame than MM (you’ll see why), there’s not much chance of it overstaying its welcome.

Directing: Yes, there’s a lot of killing (and maiming) on this show, no way around it. But for all that, they’re relatively sparing with the ketchup; most of the deaths take place in long shots, side views, even hearsay. Much of the “ketchupy” stuff takes place in scenes so bizarre that you’re more likely to notice the bizarreness than the ketchup (cf. Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency on MM), although some of the season 4 episodes (Box Cutter and Hermanos especially) are pretty brutal. Still, each death makes itself felt, it’s never just another body. You can feel exactly what the drug culture is costing us. And especially with Walt and Jesse, you see the emotional toll each death takes on them, even (or maybe especially) when they are the direct cause.

One thing I’ll warn you about: Don’t watch this show too close to bedtime unless you’re taking some very strong sedatives. It will disturb your sleep, much more than most MM episodes other than Guy Walks In and Mystery Date. But it’s art, people. Real art. You don’t see that a lot, on TV or anywhere else.

And I’m going to ask, just for this thread only, that anyone who has seen the show not give away too much about the plot in comments.

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  55 Responses to “So You’re Thinking of Cheating on Mad Men with Breaking Bad? Here’s a (Mostly Spoiler-Free) Primer”

  1. Thank you for this post, Meowser. I also did not think Breaking Bad was my kind of show but it was recommend to my husband by a friend a few months ago. I grudgingly started watching the first episode on Netflix with my husband and by the end I was hooked. We just finished season three. Like you said great characters, great stories and great actors but you forgot to mention the beautiful photography. So many of the shots are just stunning.

    (I will definitely get the season one DVD so we can watch the uncut pilot.)

  2. Great summary but as the other person noted you forgot to discuss the wonderful cinematography. This show really takes advantage of shooting in New Mexico with lots of stunning vistas. There are tons are wonderfully composed shots, so it is just as aesthetically pleasing as Mad Men.

    • Rachel is right. New Mexico is the silent witness and main character of this show. New Mexico shows the timelessness of Walt’s story and as Don Draper would say, the indifference of the universe to Man’s actions. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but their are some shots that are almost biblical. The scene with Gus, his two soldiers and Walt in the desert in S4.11 “Crawl Space” reminded me of Job. The timing of the cloud’s shadow and the dialog was divine, in the truest sense of the word.

    • Oh, yes, definitely. The artistry is enhanced by the visuals, no doubt about it.

  3. Great job, Meowser!

    I too cheated on Mad Men with Breaking Bad, for so many reasons: it was summer, I wasn’t going to see Mad Men again any time soon, I was unemployed, my dad was dying, my husband was out of the country. Dude, I needed an escape.

    I got one.

    The only other thing I want to say in recommending Breaking Bad: with notable exceptions, the people we get to know well on this show are not victims. They are entirely functional people who choose their fates. They know what they’re doing when they make these choices, and even when their decisions have unintended consequences, we can see them connect the dots back to what they did, and realize what one thing has to do with another.

    This might seem like a small thing, but it’s heartening, in a way — especially to Mad Men viewers, whose beloved characters struggle for and against change in a universe that they will never fully understand. Just as we do.

    I love Breaking Bad because we see it all, everything that’s in play in each character’s life. And like those characters, we can never say we didn’t see something coming … even if we didn’t, even when it completely surprises us. Because they chose it, didn’t they? All of it.

    • Annie:

      You can always escape with me and Birdie! Mi casa, su casa :-)

      To your point, Vince Gilligan has stated that one of the important themes of this show is consequences and that no one escapes their chosen fate.

      The other thing I love about this show is, in the words of Tuco, that its “tight, tight, tight”. The story moves so fast that nearly every scene and bit of dialog are important. The writing and acting are so precise that the viewer will understand some character after just a few minutes, e.g. Mike giving his “half-measures” speech or Jane’s father, sharing a beer with Walt – “they found water on Mars”. Yet, there are others (like Walt and Gus) whose stories have not yet been revealed fully – why did Walt leave Gray Matter? Why did Gus go into business with the cartel after the murder of his partner? Will Skyler leave Walt? Will Hank figure it all out? Does Jesse survive? We may get all of these answers but Vince Gilligan has taught us to be ready for anything.

      • Frank, I’m pretty sure Gus didn’t go into business with the cartel. He had his own “cartel” that came into conflict with them until he seemingly gave in and said “yes” to them. But only seemingly.

        • Gus did go into business with the cartel, he had no choice. When Gus started branching out on his own–remember his raw supplier getting kidnapped and saved by Mike, meth/chicken trucks ram sacked, etc—-the cartel fought back.

          Tuco was supposed to be the villain of choice (VOC), the actor had another contract he couldn’t break and in walked the Gus story line which I enjoyed, immensely.

          I found MM thru BB. I saw commercials, read the 1st 2 episodes on AMC website and got started. BB and MM are the 2 best written/acted/directed series on TV. Give Gilligan “The Killing”–he did The X-Files–and all will be right with the world.

  4. I concur with the recommendation to watch Breaking Bad during MM’s hiatus. I’ve caught bits-and-pieces of it over the years but never watched a whole show because I didn’t know the characters or understand their relationships, and what-not. Since there is nothing else currently on that grabs me, the other day I decided to start watching BB from the beginning on Netflix and, wow, am I glad I did. I can see why Cranston has dominated acting awards. In fact, all the characters are well-acted. What is amazing to me is that the story is bizarre and, quite often, surreal, yet it also feels real. Real in a very raw way. Yet what the characters say and do hits me as what I would say and do if I found myself in such a bizarre situation.

    In short, like MM, every episode so far has had shocking moments, sadness, and humor. All is organic and not forced. It’s a sublime show and worth watching. Enjoy!

  5. Hmmnn… the subject matter of BB holds zero interest for me, but I respect you guys, so I may try it. Do I need to watch the whole thing chronologically from Season 1 Ep 1?

    • Well, I would start from the beginning.

      That said, there are ways to catch up that don’t give you the full experience — but just enough context to start with Season 5, if you are looking to view full episodes later. (I think full episodes for the first couple of seasons are available on YouTube, and of course all seasons are on Netflix.)

      If you want the Cliffs Notes catch-up, try the AMC website. The Breaking Bad site offers “highlights” videos for each episode, and brief recaps are available on the episode “Details” tab. You will still miss stuff, but you’ll get a general feel for the show, and you will know very quickly whether it’s something you want to invest time in.

      Hope this helps!

    • Elizabeth,

      Your comment regarding “subject matter” begs a response.

      There is no doubt that the world of illicit drugs (and the DEA and the narcotics division of the Albequerque police) is central to BB (more central than the Ad Game is to Mad Men).

      BUT….

      This is not Miami Vice or The Untouchables. Even Boardwalk Empire, which has it own charms, is much more narrowly drawn than Breaking Bad.

      BB is far more ambitious than those shows in that it throws the various motivations and subplots of its characters into a dramatically rich stew that appeals to our own motivations.

      Master Chemist Walt White is primarily motivated to assure his family will not be destitute when he expires from terminal cancer. His early exploits have consequences for the innocent, the violent, and the corrupt that he (and we) never anticipated.

      (for the first-time viewer, it would be fun to anticipate some of these and see how you do)

      Of course his wife Skyler is primarily motivated to see Walt survive his cancer. She is alternately mystified and troubled to see the changes in Walt as he juggles his old life with his cancer treatment and his new shadow life.

      (this is source of his “gaslighting” Skyler – the term doesn’t capture Walt’s motivation which is to protect her and his son)

      Motivations abound – all the regulars have them – and all fits nicely into a very Artful story.

      I’ll agree with Meowser that the violence is not gratuitous. I have little patience for such nonsense and none of it rang my BS detector.

      Some of the “science nerdery” rings false – but I have a fifty-year interest in science and a four-year engineering degree, so many may not notice those flat notes.

      (they should have hired me to brush up those scenes)

      In the end, your faith is well-placed here. Get thee to the various DVD outlets, Netflix streams, etc, and find out what all the excitment is about.

    • Yes, Elizabeth, you should give this show a chance and watch from the start. Now, I will admit it drags a little in season one after episode 3, so you could conceivably skip the eps up to “Crazy Handful of Nothing” and “A No Rough Stuff Type Deal”-those you need to see for sure, the events in No Rough Stuff echo through the whole series. The middle eps of year one basically establish character traits for your central guys, Walt and Jesse. As for the other seasons, the episode Peekaboo still haunts me to this day, and I felt physically ill after watching it, and its when I knew how great this show could really be. Definitely don’t watch that one late at night, but do watch it, it is a vital episode to showing you who Jesse really is, especially in comparison to Walt.

      As to the subject matter, I purposefully avoided this show for those same reasons. Then one night I’m watching Mad Men reruns late, nothing else was on, and the pilot episode aired so I left the channel on-didn’t realize it was the Pilot episode, and it blew my mind. I have known many tweakers in my time, and I f’n HATE meth almost as much as I hate heroin. I’ve known women who lost kids because of meth and just went on to have more kids and do more meth. I hate meth so much I’d rather see a friend freebase cocaine to get high instead of doing meth-not that I condone either practice, I’ve just seen a lot in my time. Disgusting, so I didn’t want to watch a show that “glorified” that drug culture, because tv shows about drugs are never as dirty as the drug scene they are trying to depict-drugs on tv are usually shown as great times followed by a swift and drastic downfall to teach the audience a lesson, which is not realistic. That is NOT what BB is, and as soon as I learned that, I was hooked, so to speak. BB does not make drugs look cool, man, not at all. These are not happy high people. Even when you do see the rare “party” scene, the characters are not really enjoying themselves. The consequences of meth use are front and center and not prettied up for tv so as not to offend people. BB is painfully realistic in portraying the meth lifestyle and its ramifications on the users, their families, their community.

      So, I suggest you give it a shot. If the first 3 episodes don’t have you wanting to watch more, you probably won’t like the rest, so I think that’s a good test for a viewer to decide if this show is worth watching or not. Every person I’ve given that advice to has fallen in love with the show, including my former government special agent father (he used to go on drug raids including busting meth dealers), who saw nothing else BUT the 1st three episodes last summer before year 4 started, and really enjoys it. He didn’t even care to catch up on rest of show, he just asks me if he doesn’t understand something and loves the show. Please give it a shot-the writing, acting, setting, cinematography are all so expert that any ickiness related to the subject matter(meth) becomes secondary to the overall enjoyment of the show. At least that’s my opinion, I could be wrong.

      Please get back to us and let us know what you decide and what you think!

      • AMC is running the first season at 1 a.m. CDT starting Thursday June 28. Three episodes a night through Monday morning. I have set my DVR to see if I like it. BUT I have Dish network, so don’t know whether we will get AMC starting Sunday July 1.

      • …And the Bag’s in the River, episode 103, is actually one of my favorites. It’s mostly a two-act playlet, but very well done, and shows a real turning point for Walt’s attitude. I also love Gray Matter, 105, which contains the hilarious and touching “talking pillow” scene, and gives great insight into how Walt wound up where he is in his life. The show actually has quite a few episodes like this — Fly, episode 310, is one of those episodes BB fans seem to either love or hate, kind of like MM fans with The Fog, but I love it for how it adds dimension to the Walt/Jesse relationship and tells you things about both of them you wouldn’t know otherwise. I suppose you could skip the “slow” episodes if what you want is action, but if you like the brain stuff, watch everything!

        • Count me as one who considers “Fly” to be an utterly disposable episode – one that Matt Weiner would have either thrown out altogether or drastically cut and around which would have written the rest of the episode.

          We already know Walt has a form of OCD – this episode supposedly reinforced that. But Walt has so much to be concerned about that to obsess over a fly asa he did stretched credulity.

          • Ah, but you see, the fly in that episode was how Walter realized how much trouble he was really in with Gus and that he and Jesse were at risk-towards the end of the ep he mumbles something about if we can’t fix this, we’re all dead, and Jesse has no idea what he is referring to.

            Yes, Walt’s a little OCD, but his fly obsession was his physical manifestation of his subconscious fear of his current arrangement. Notice also at the end of the ep he warns Jesse again about possible stealing meth, and that Walt won’t be able to save him if he’s caught. Walt can get rid of the fly but doesn’t yet know how to get himself out of the situation.
            The Fly begins with the sound of Skyler singing a lullaby to baby Holly, which is from the episode Phoenix in season 2, and BB fans know what I’m talking about when I say that episode is pivotal in Walt’s transformation to who he is today. In The Fly, the events of Phoenix are discussed by an impaired Walter, and he essentially apologizes for those events, only Jesse doesn’t know it. The whole episode is fraught with tension, because it serves as a metaphor for the entire situation Jesse and Walter have found themselves in. It’s not really about Walt’s obsession with a housefly, it’s more about his obsession to stay alive and stay in business. In essence, the fly could represent Gus, metaphorically.

            That episode is full of nuance and subtlety that knits together the events of the previous 20 some episodes in a brilliant way. Look at the lengths Walt goes to to go after the fly-and recall what happens all through season 4, culminating in Face Off. Think of it along those terms, and I think The Fly is an amazing episode. But that could just be me……

            Sepinwall loved that ep, btw, and anyone looking for a better analysis of that ep than what I tried to do here, go to hitfix and search through his BB reviews to find The Fly. May not change your mind about whether the episode is actually good or not, but he delves deeper into the subtext of that ep than I ever could.

          • Well OK Rowan, I’ll go back and look (probably after the rerun episodes stack up).

            I pretty much burned through Season 3 (in about five-six days) and in a vaccuum (no blog commentaries) – not to mention my irritation with Walt durin that episode, which has a way of blinding one to nuance.

            Thanks for the heads up on the HitFix review – I’ll check that out as well.

          • MM is a different kind of show from BB, though. Don Draper spending a whole episode obsessing about a fly wouldn’t be believable; Don is not that kind of person. Now, Pete Campbell obsessing about a fly, that I could buy. But on BB it’s much weirder and funnier, because Walt has this bizarre idea that this fly buzzing around in the air above his workspace is going to “contaminate” his batch, even though he’s a frigging scientist and should damn well know better. It’s a show about just how irrational Walt really is and how “buggy” his brain has gotten.

            Hmm, maybe I need to write a separate post about it. :-P

        • Er, that should be “two CHARACTER playlet.” Fingers awake, brain asleep!

          And yes, there’s virtually no way anyone would ever get a “meth is cool” message here. It shows what the allure is without glamorizing it at all.

        • Meowser, Jahn Ghalt, Rowan – This discussion among the 3 of you is a really thought-provoking one for me.

          I watched the first 3 seasons of BB on Netflix. Both BB and MM have fabulous writing, exceptional characters and acting, and do wonderful things with a sense of place in the filming, all of which I love.

          The big big difference between the two for me is that BB is the ultimate crime series – that’s what hooked me – tons of non-stop action and suspense, general craziness in human behavior, etc., along with the wonderful use of New Mexico and a great sense of very dark humor. It also has exquisite production values (like MM). BB appeals to the same part of me as ‘Goodfellas’, one of my all-time favorite movies, which I’ve seen more times than I can count, (not really a ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ kind of gal, I guess). I am so sick of hearing about vampire/zombie stories, and endless simplistic science fiction and Mad Max tales, but a good crime drama will get me every time. It’s the behavior, man.

          After watching an episode of Breaking Bad once or maybe twice, though, I didn’t feel the desire to dig deeper by watching it again and again and obsessing on what it means the way I do with Mad Men. MM has so many layers that it’s downright literary while being completely engaging in the ways you expect a TV series to be. I didn’t really perceive that kind of complexity with BB, so a single episode didn’t keep me engaged over time in the same way when I watched it. Viewing too much BB can even be a little bit exhausting.

          I look forward to seeing more seasons of BB, but my main point here in writing about this particular exchange is how it made me reconsider my approach to BB. Perhaps I should look at BB with more of an inquiring mind, more like MM. Perhaps there are more layers to dissect and angles to view it from than I gave it credit for.

          Of course, I don’t actually need another obsession – maybe MM should be the only one. It’s important to engage in the real world, too.

          • Speaking for myself, it is plain that when it comes to layered, literary dramas (how many of these are there?) I am a student not a scholar.

            I come here to see what is really going on with Mad Men – what light will the scholars shine on the best drama ever?

            Like you I do not find BB to be as deep as MM but would be willing to be shown to be wrong about this. I therefore look forward to enjoying the next eight BB episodes along with the rest of the BoK community.

      • But Meowser, the fly in The Fly does not represent Walt’s buggy brain….it represents his brain figuring out there’s a “contaminant” in his process. That contaminate is Gus and the danger from the cartel, which Walt is finalyy figuring out, exp. after the thing with Hank. I believe the episode before The Fly is where Walt confronts Gus about the cartel and tries to renegotiate a better deal for himself-partly because Jesse asked “what happens at the end of the 3 months, yo?”

        That fly is Walt’s sleep deprived brain manifesting his fear into a house fly-every word he uses to describe the fly, and the risk it poses-change out Gus or the cartel for the word fly in all of Walt’s dialogue, and it’s pretty obvious. He knows full well one fly isn’t going to “ruin his batch”, not realistically, but one problem with his cooking arrangement will “ruin the batch”, meaning him and Jesse. Walt also utters a line later on when he’s more delerious that goes something like “If we can’t get rid of this contaminant, we’re all dead.”
        Walt cannot tell Jesse exactly what he means though, he prefers to keep the kid in the dark about who they are working with, esp. now that Walt knows the cartel and Gus are feuding. So, he obsesses about a house fly, when in reality his brain is obsessed with the danger he’s just figured out he’s in. He thought working for a man like Gus would be the safer option in the meth trade, but he now knows differently. Notice how quickly Walt’s demeanor changes after The Fly, and what happens to him and Jesse when he decides they need protecting.
        I know it SEEMS like an episode about a man obsessing about a fly, but it’s really not. It’s about a man coming to grips with what he’s done, and how to get out of the predicament. The fly is just a metaphor, man. Maybe we should do a whole post on this whole episode…..

        • You’re asking an autistic person not to be literal-minded, Rowan? (heehee)

          But that’s a perfectly valid interpretation, and I wish I’d thought of it.

          • Ha! I have the same problem with sometimes missing the nuance behind stuff because I take it all too literal as well.

            And while I did understand the subtext of that episode, I must give credit to Sepinwall for helping deconstruct it further, and it’s his opinion that I am repeating here. He says it so much better than I do! That’s why he’s the paid reviewer, and not me!

        • I read Sepinwall’s recap. Interesting that he also cites the other disposable “bottle episode” (4 Days Out) which lost me because it incorporated an “idiot plot”. The crisis was the result of a series of bad decisions by Walt.

          *One* jug of water – for a trip into the desert – really?
          *Funyuns* and other junk for sustenance – really?

          (remember, it has already been established that Jesse is a f**kup – with incredibly poor judgement)

          The bit with the key and the buzzer added to the rest.

          Finally, after realizing their rescuer is lost and out of touch, why not just have Jesse (the physically stronger) walk out to the highway and hitchhike after dark (and stay out of the sun until then)? The path was well worn *at the end* – likely to be better worn nearer the highway.

          Instead, we got a “how smart is Walt building and charging that battery” Rube Goldberg solution.

          So again, I was distracted by all the bad choices Walt made (that I would not have made) that whatever nuance was going on flew by me.

  6. I just wanna jump in here and echo the part about not watching it at night unless you plan to take sedatives to sleep-BB got me into my Sunday night Ambien routine. Most of the time, I only take my Ambien on Sundays, and always every Sunday during BB. I get up the next morning just as amped up from the episode as I was the night before, except I actually got sleep, so I can function. Seriously, for those who don’t fall asleep easy or who tend to have bad dreams if they watch something dark and/or disturbing before bed, consider taking meds to watch this show. Otherwise, you may wonder why there’s a dinging bell in the background of your dream!

  7. Breaking Bad is the best drama on television that isn’t called Mad Men.

  8. I think I started by watching Season 1 and 2 on DVD because I wanted to see who kept stealing Jon Hamm’s emmy. Bryan Cranston is impressive, especially after seeing him as the Dad in Malcolm in the Middle. It is the stupidity of the entertainment business and the Hollywood awards enterprise that Hamm and Cranston have to compete for what are probably the two best male lead acting performances on TV.

    Several people I know have told me that they don’t want to watch this show because they just assumed that it glorifies drugs and the drug culture. My response is that your assumptions could not be more wrong.

    The characters are deep, multifaceted and the mix of drama and comedy is amazing. And, just for the record, I think Saul Goodman may be one of the best written and portrayed “third banana” characters on TV — too bad there isn’t an award for that!

    • I love the fact that so much of the best acting is on AMC. I think there’s a nice tension between Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston (who I know have a great deal of professional respect for each other): I like to think of the two of them as the Beatles and the Beach Boys of modern dramatic acting.

      Another way to see this friendly competition, I guess, would be to see it as not friendly at all. We could see Cranston as the Ted Chaough to Hamm’s Don Draper: one can’t be up unless the other’s down?

      Nothing friendly about that. :)

      • Annie – love your comparisons. How ’bout these?

        Bird vs. Magic
        DiMaggio vs. Williams
        Ali vs. Frazier – Thrilla in Manila

        Or to put it in a Beatles context, Lennon vs. McCartney.

        GIven the choice, I’d say Cranston & Hamm is closer to Bird & Magic. How wonderful to discover a comedic actor like Cranston stretch in this uniquely dramatic role? Who knew Jon Hamm could be so goddamn funny (SNL, 30 Rock, etc.)? Net, net, we the audience are the winners.

    • I find it interesting that many comments allude to the repellant nature, or theme of drugs, as an absolute impediment to watching a movie, tv show.
      True, ART, imho, is meant to disturb, rock us off our bourgeois sensibilities. I saw Bergman’s Persona many moons ago and I was lit up. WTF? did I just see? People behaving badly is not the only way to create drama.
      Obtw; there is no way to glorify the drug culture. Being addicted, is the bottom of human existence. Being a dealer is probably the most boring ‘job’ on earth. I never met any hustler who wore couture, went out with models, or engaged in a gunfight with the police—ever. The only thing every single dude I knew in the game had in common were the nightmares.
      Guys would sit around and tell story after story of nightmares of being killed, becoming addicted, one guy had a recurring dream that the earth swallowed him whole every night.
      Even bad guys, know the true consequences of their actions. The shallow bargain you strike with yourself ‘Nobody makes them do drugs’, rings even hollower in a pusher’s mind than it does in polite society.
      Jesse’s nightmares, ruefulness, are the truest aspects of the show to me. Where is the glory? ‘The bitches, and the bling’?
      Like No Country for Old Men, BB is a canvas where destiny is meted out, by men who are willing to do anything, to reverse their pre-determined fates.

      • The ep. in S3 where Jesse gets the help of a Hooker to spike some food is what I think of TK, as an example of how BB gets it right.. “The Wire” also succeeds in portraying the things you describe.

        • Don’t get me started on The Wire. I actually CHOKED UP when Stringer Bell got blown into the next world. Sob.

          • I lost it when Snoop’s fate caught up with her.

            That kid scared the living s**t out of me, and made me laugh. I loved her so much. <3

          • Snoop went out so cool. “How my hair look, Mike?” Gangsta!!!
            String was the Michael Corleone of the ghetto. It STILL hurts.

          • Let’s not leave out Omar. IMO the most interesting character that TV has produced. I was rooting for him all the way.

        • Omar. Omar never curses. Omar honors the old school Sunday truce among playas. Refuses to put his gun on a civilian. Its not civil. Gentleman gangster. The most feared stick up kid in the history of…..history. His interesting choice of sexual partners.
          Favorite Omar line: when Stringer dishonored the Sunday truce and took a wack at him outside his Grandma’s church. Omar, distraught, ” She lost her best Crown (Sunday church hat) yo!” My, Gawd.

      • To me, BB is about choices, not destiny. All of the characters make choices and all suffer consequences when they make poor choices. Also, BB is about how meth effects everybody from the DEA to the cooker to the addict to everybody in between.

        BB is also about a very intelligent, honest man being seduced by power. Power is Walter White’s drug of choice.

  9. Yes to fatphil. BB is about choices. And yes, it’s all about power for Walt. And it’s not about doing anything for his family, it’s about his ego and narcissism. Jesse, on the other hand, just about breaks my heart every episode. Aaron Paul is extraordinary.

    I was going to say fates aren’t predetermined, but we all wind up worm food in the end. That is the great equalizer. What we leave behind is up to us.

    I love this show, just discovered it in the past week or so and am catching up. I suppose comparing MM to BB is like comparing The Beatles to the Rolling Stones; I always loved both.

    • Ray, worm food it is. I love both, too.

      When Gilligan started letting Paul “story tell” about things–when he talks after the beating from his hospital bed about owning Hank and getting his share out of him–well, his eyes burned with fire. Paul and VK rock the best supporting actor nominee class.

      Jesse (Paul) is a reluctant passenger on the Walt White train to hell. I believe he would have been happy just to sell meth and live his life that he began the series with.

  10. I just watched Episode 104 – no spoilers here BTW.

    I’m struck by the quality of the writing and the tightness of the editing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I haven’t until now viewed Season One reruns, so some doubt lingered.

    I’m also struck by how much of a babyface young Walt Jr. is – compared to his 4-yr-older face in Season Four.

    Anna Gunn as Skyler is so solicitous, so sweet – again compared to her Season 3 and 4 persona. Her roller coaster ride with Walt sure did harden her. These days you mess with Skyler at your peril.

  11. I had never seen BB, but am DVRing the first season on AMC now. Viewed Episodes 1 and 2 last night and thought it was pretty good, except for the bathtub mess! Guess I’ll spend the weekend deciding whether to watch Seasons 2-4.

    • Ruth, I stopped watching it after the “raspberry slushy”, but was convinced by some friends, whose opinions I respect, to start watching again. So I queued up the old netflix and began again. Believe me it gets better, way better. I got totally obsessed with it. Give it another try. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

      • That’s gotta be just about my favorite line-”I got two dudes turned into raspberry slushy and flushed down my toilet, I can’t even take a proper dump in there.” Classic Jesse, and it’s the first of many great lines he delivers in that scene in the season 1 finale. Freaking love this show! So fabulous to see all the interest on this blog now for this show! Cannot wait til our Sunday night open threads this season!

      • The raspberry slushy was gross, but the reaction shots of Walt and Jesse were priceless, as was Walt’s rant to Jesse afterwards!

      • Joanne, you were right. I have spent the last few days binge watching seasons 2 and 3,,courtesy of the “hold” system of our wonderful library consortium– season 4 dvd hasn’t yet arrived for me.

        Just couldn’t stop. The quality of the acting and writing is superb, no matter how disturbing the subject matter. Sorry, Hamm fans, I now totally understand why Bryan Cranston gets the Emmys. There’s so much meat in the WW role.

        I have registered for the free airing of the first episode tomorrow night, but after that guess I will have to use Itunes or Neflix.

  12. Just a heads up-tonight’s reruns of Breaking Bad on AMC start at 2 am, and the first episode up is Peekaboo. DO NOT watch that before going to bed if you are easily disturbed. Next Sunday night is the ultimate trifecta of BB eps, Half Measures, Full Measure and Box Cutter, all in one night. Don’t stay up to watch that either if you are easily disturbed. Only a couple more weeks til the new adventures of Walt and Jesse!

    • Too bad– Dish cut off our AMC at midnight, so I’ll just have to go to itunes or netflix, or buy the dvds.

    • Just another reminder for folks about tonight’s BB reruns-Half Measures starts at about 12:15 am EST, followed by Full Measure and then the first episode of season 4, Box Cutter. It’s a great three or so hours of tv if anyone is going to be up that late besides me, and for those of you who need to DVR season 4 to catch up before next Sunday, tonight those reruns start again, and will of course run all week long until the 15th.
      Looking forward to next Sunday, yo!

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