Breaking Bad 3.13 – Where In The World Is Jesse Pinkman?

Has any season of television seemed to go by quite as fast as this run of “Breaking Bad” did?

You hear critics throw around phrases like “the best show on television” so often that it barely seems to mean anything anymore, so in addition to making that particular declaration of “Breaking Bad,” I feel like I should offer a bit more, in order to give it some extra heft. Now, obviously, I’m a TV critic, so I watch television day in and day out. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from one of my peers, TV feeds my family. (Hi, Bill!) But while that’s a far cry from being a hardship when you love the small screen as much as I do, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve watched so much television that it takes a hell of a lot to lead me from saying “I like this show” to “I fucking love this show.” “Breaking Bad,” however, has done that, by taking the time to intricately build the characterizations of its major players, developing plots which never seem to stop unfolding, and – perhaps most impressively – zigging when I think they’re going to zag and unabashedly defying me whenever I say, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t dare do that!”

Man, I haven’t even finished writing about the Season 3 finale, and already I’m longing for Season 4…

We start tonight’s episode with…an empty house? That’s right: it’s a flashback to when Walt and Skyler were first buying their house. Okay, to be honest, this wasn’t a surprise for Jamey or I, since we were there when they were filming the season finale. In fact, there’s a portion of this scene that we’ve seen and you haven’t yet, with Walt and Skyler wrapping up their walk-through of the place and stepping outside, then hopping into their convertible and driving away into what they perceive to be a perfect future. Presumably, this will turn up on the Season 3 DVD, but what we all got to see was more than enough to show that, once upon a time, the Whites were not only happy but in a position to see the world as their oyster. (“Why be cautious? We’ve got nowhere to go but up!”) Hell, back then, they were even talking about having a third kid, something that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, based on the current state of their marriage.

Cut to the present, with the disconcerting sight of the windshield and front bumper of Walt’s car showing the residual effects of the previous night’s events. There’s no sign of Jesse as Walt looks across the horizon, watching the headlights of a car roll ever closer, but if he’s suffering from any nervousness, the return of the Heisenberg hat seems to be displacing it. Mike gets in several great lines, including his version of “assurances” and a momentary musing on how words can be “so open to interpretation” (I love the way you can hear the smirk in Jonathan Banks’ delivery), but Walt scores a point when Mike suggests that he get his car fixed: “Let’s see how this goes first.”

Gus is not a happy man…and, really, who can blame him? This scene was, as has become par for the course with any scene featuring Giancarlo Esposito, thoroughly gripping, but it was as much so because of the lack of certainty surrounding the actions of both characters. We thought we knew Walt pretty well, but after that move last week, when he mowed down and shot down the dealers, it’s clear that we’re dealing with Heisenberg now, which means that anything can happen. Like the scene last week with Walt and Skyler, this is a back and forth full of constant oneupsmanship.

Walt: I’m quite well.
Gus: Clearly, you are not.

Gus: Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?
Walt: I would never ask you that.

I find it fascinating that Walt’s life has taken this turn where, after years of suffering through the public school system, he’s had to start making meth to find himself back in a career where he’s on something approximating even intellectual footing with his co-workers.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

The boys from “Breaking Bad” weigh in on character transformations and the future of the series

Over the course of my time at Bullz-Eye and, by extension, Premium Hollywood, I’ve slowly but surely reached a point where I do so many one-on-one interviews almost never sign up to do conference-call interviews anymore, but when you’re pitched a “Breaking Bad” call that features Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and series creator Vince Gilligan…hey, there are some offers that you just can’t refuse. It was a packed house, but I managed to sneak onto the call twice during the course of the hour that these three gentlemen held court. Here’s some of the wisdom that they imparted upon me…

First of all, I’m curious what percentage of the “Breaking Bad” budget goes to replacing the windshields of Walt’s vehicles.

Vince Gilligan: (Laughs) That is a good question. It has to be a huge percentage. That has turned into a running gag, hasn’t it? We didn’t intend for that to happen at the beginning. There was no long-term plan to keep breaking Walt’s windshield. But it sure does happen a lot. We keep the tape on there to remind everybody.

Aaron Paul: You love the tape.

This has been a fantastic season, especially for Jesse. Aaron, you really soared with the character, trying to go clean, going at it alone, finding out that your new girlfriend’s brother killed one of his associates. Can you talk about adapting your performance to meet each of Jesse’s challenges in life?

Aaron Paul: I thought I had a grasp of who this kid was by the second season. I had an idea about where he was going before we started the third season. But as always is the case, we went in the complete opposite direction. It was a little tough. Now Jesse is convinced that he is officially the bad guy. He has all of this guilt on his shoulders. He is making a valiant effort to stay on a clean and sober path. It’s like playing a different character within the character itself. Which presents a different challenge. But its so much fun to play.

Talking about character transformation, Skyler went through a major transformation over the course of the season, first making decisions in desperation, then becoming empowered. Was that development planned way, way in advance, or was it something that came about as a result of you guys deciding to have her discover Walt’s secret at the beginning of the season?

Vince Gilligan: Good question! You know, I guess…there’s always an exception to every rule, and this going to the lie slightly to some stuff I was saying earlier, but we try very hard to keep our storytelling organic and to let the characters let us know where they intend to head. Having said that, Anna Gunn is such an integral part of our show, and the character of Skyler is such an integral part of our show and is a character that I would surely hate to lose from our series, and there was a crossroads early on this season when we realized that she had to find out about her husband’s illicit activities. We couldn’t keep that lie going very much longer, because she’s a very smart character and she knows he’s up to something. So we’re at a crossroads at a moment like that, storywise, my writers and I, because she has three very believable routes or forks in the road to take. She could call the police, and that’d be very believable, and it’s definitely an option when you find out that your significant other is dealing large quantities of meth and putting your whole family at risk that way. Or she could divorce him, definitely, or she could take the kids and flee and get the hell out of Dodge.

I mean, these are all possibilities, but we wanted to keep her around, so in kind of a moment of wanting the character to tell us where she wanted to go but… (Starts to laugh) …trying to steer her a little bit into sticking around and not leaving the show entirely, we decided at that point that we want her to go through sort of a process this season. If it’s not coming to sort of a sympathy for Walt throughout the course of the season, at least she comes to some sort of an understanding whereby she doesn’t side with him necessarily, she doesn’t think that he did the right thing here, but she gets to kind of a pragmatic place where she says to herself, “Well, there is this money, and we’re going to need it for Hanks’ rehabilitation and recovery, now that he’s been shot four times. Let’s be pragmatic about this. Let’s make the best out of a very bad situation.” And that’s sort of what we’re working toward with Skyler all season: the idea of her slowly, as organically as possible, as believably as possible, getting her head around a very big concept, which is that her husband is a criminal. And it took 13 solid episodes to get there, and it will perhaps continue in Season 4 because she’s a wonderful character… (Laughs) …and, on a very mercenary level, I want to keep her around, because she’s a great actress and a great character. So that’s my long-winded way of saying, “Yes, that was intentional.”

Obviously, Walt is no longer Mr. Chips, but nor is he quite Scarface yet. Where are we on the sliding scale, and will the final transformation into Scarface take place in Season 4?

Vince Gilligan: You want to take that one, Brian? That’s a good question.

Bryan Cranston: Oh, you’re dishing off, and I’m going to put it back to you, because I’m kind of along for the ride, just like Walt is. Walt has no idea that this transition is happening to him. He’s just experiencing it as it goes, and that’s what so much for me as an actor to play this, because it’s so immediate. It’s so in the now. He has very little thought on the future because he doesn’t have much of a future. The past has completely destroyed him. All he has is the now, so he’s living right here and now. So as an actor approaching that, I like to do the same thing. I knew the larger picture, just as all you had, from Vince’s very colorful way of explaining what he wanted to do four years ago, when we first started talking about this journey, and that fascinated me, because I knew it had never been done in the history of television.

But with that being said, as the actor, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what’s in the back of Vince’s brain. It’s dark and ugly… (Laughs) …and I would rather have him delight me with his story as we go along, because in this case, it just couldn’t help me. And, y’know, to me, it’s like someone telling you the ending of a movie, and then saying, “Oh, let’s go see the movie,” and you’re, like, “Well, it’s kind of blown for me now!” In that sense, I like not knowing, and wherever that line is, we don’t know. I think it’s safe to say that this is not a series that was constructed to last like “Gunsmoke.” It’s not going to be, “Wow you’re in remission!” “Yeah, it’s been 20 years now!” (Laughs) Nor do we want it to be. I think we’re all very proud of this show and proud of the collective work that goes into it from all fields, but like the prideful athletes that we see, I think that Vince and I and Aaron and everyone else connected would rather have an amalgam of years that make sense and end it at the right time, as opposed to going and extending our welcome and having people wonder when we’re going to die already. I think we’d like to wrap it up in a… (Hesitates) It’s hard to say, because it’s kind of a moving target, but in the right amount of episodes to tell the story and to do it justice, and then go home.

Vince Gilligan: That’s a great answer. And to add to that…and I’m not being coy here… it is very well described by Bryan as a moving target. I don’t quite know where we are on the spectrum of Mr. Chips and Scarface myself, and, again, I’m not being coy. I don’t know how much farther we can take it. In some sense, we’ve already taken it farther than I would’ve thought possible way back when I was writing the pilot, and it’s a credit to our actors and certainly first and foremost to Bryan…when we’re speaking about Walt, it’s a credit to Bryan’s ability to continue to let an audience sympathize with his character, despite his character’s terrible behavior. You still sense the underlying humanity. You realize he’s not a monster, even though he very often does monstrous, cold, evil things. He behaves that way, and yet he is not necessarily that person. He hasn’t lost completely his moral compass yet. He continues to remain…his character continues to remain interesting and relatable, or at least understandable, if not sympathizable, and so much of that credit goes to Bryan.

It is very much a moving target. If you held my feet to the fire right now, I can’t really see beyond one or two more seasons, but having said that, there was a time way back when when I thought that three would probably be the total amount we could do, and I think we easily could do another season, if not more. But as Bryan says, this will not be “Gunsmoke,” and I can’t forsee it… (Trails off) It’s better to leave the party early than late. You’d rather leave people wanting more from you than saying, “Jesus, is that show still on the air?” So it’s a tricky equation and one I hope we will get right, as far as, “When’s the time to take the final bow with a show like this?”

  

Related Posts

Breaking Bad 3.12 – No More Half-Measures, Walter

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, no matter what happens in the season finale, this week’s installment of “Breaking Bad” will still go down as the best episode of Season 3. With that said, we’ve got plenty to discuss, but let’s start things off with a song, shall we?

I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’m never going to be able to hear The Association’s “Windy” in the same way again. Here we go with another example of what I referenced last week, paying off longtime viewers by revisiting a long-dormant storyline. We haven’t seen Wendy since the early days of Season 2, but she’s back and, as we (and Jesse) can clearly see, business is still booming for this industrious young lady.

Despite Jesse’s assurances to Walt that Wendy had the necessary emotional stamina to help him with his plan, I knew she was acting way too hesitant about assisting him for things to go smoothly. Frankly, given the ominous green light in her room and the way she was gazing longingly at the blue meth, I figured we were looking at the very real possibility of an O.D. before her part in the proceedings ever came to pass. That’s not what happened, of course…but, then, given the way she shambled off after her dismissal, who knows what her eventual fate will be?

(Actually, it’s probably kinda like Lucy Lawless’s comment on “The Simpsons,” where, whenever you notice a continuity error on “Xena: Warrior Princess,” the explanation is that a wizard did it…except that anytime a character on “Breaking Bad” vanishes and is never seen again, you can presume that they either O.D.’ed on meth or were killed by a dealer. I mean, c’mon, if you do the stats, the law of averages speaks for itself on this matter.)

It was nice that Walt, Jr. got a chance behind the wheel, and it was even nicer that they kept it real and directly addressed how his medical condition would affect his driving. While Walt and son were bonding, however, Skyler was online, doing her research on money laundering so that she’d be properly prepared to pounce on Walt the second he arrived. That was a great scene, with the back-and-forth between them, each certain that the next words out of their mouths would give them the upper hand in the discussion, and even though Walt seemed to be bowing to her superior position, he ended triumphantly. (“…and THAT is how we’ll sell your little fiction!”)

There were a lot of intense discussions this week, with the one between Walt and Skyler quickly followed by one between Walt and Jesse. This one, however, took place over the course of a couple of cold ones. (“No, seriously, get a beer with me.”) Looks like my concerns were correct: the dealers were some of Gus’s boys. Not that Jesse gives a rat’s ass about the possible end result of taking them out, since he’s angry about the situation on at least two levels, but Walt tries to talk some sense into him, anyway. (“Murder is not part of your 12-step program!”) Walt was making some pretty harsh statements, most notably underlining the fact that if Jesse had really been interested in revenge, he would’ve done something about the dealers weeks ago instead of just getting doped up, but surely he knew that his arguments were falling on deaf ears.

Jesse’s record for making rational decisions isn’t exactly unblemished, however, so not only was there never any way he was going to change his mind, but, frankly, I can’t believe Walt ever really expected Jesse to show up for the meeting at Saul’s office, either. Not that I’m really complaining: any scene with Saul is a good scene, and this one was no exception, thanks to his clarification to Walt about wearing orange jumpsuits and picking up trash along the highway (“That’s jail”) and his musing on the chancy bathrooms at Springer. What I found most enjoyable about the scene, though, was the way Bryan Cranston so effectively captured the feeling that Walt was just kinda spitballing ideas, with no real idea what to do about the situation.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Breaking Bad 3.11 – I Don’t Understand How The Last Card Is Played (But Somehow The Vital Connection Is Made)

I said this on Facebook this morning after watching my screener of this week’s episode, and I’m saying it again now for all of the readers of this blog: not only is “Breaking Bad” the best show on AMC (which is a hell of an accomplishment, given how much I enjoy “Mad Men”), but it is now officially my favorite show on television, period. Not even having to blog it every week can kill my love for it…and that’s saying something. Watching this week’s episode, though, really served as a turning point for me. I’m someone who, when faced with a plot development which involves a ridiculous amount of coincidence, often finds himself whispering under his breath, “Oh, give me a break…” Tonight’s episode effectively tied new characters from this season into events from last season in a way that, on another show, might have left me feeling the same way. Instead, I was left in awe.

Let us begin, however, at the beginning, with a flashback that allowed Krysten Ritter to return from the dead and play Jane once again. That Jesse was left less than impressed by a trip to an art gallery is hardly surprising, but being reintroduced to Jane after so long served to remind me of a question that occurred to me a few times last season: why is a girl as deep as this involved with a tool like Jesse? Her rap about how “sometimes you get fixated on something and you might not even get why” struck me as a suspiciously on-the-nose callback to Walt’s obsession with the fly, but I could watch Ritter recite from the phone book, so I have no real complaints about that. Besides, if nothing else, the scene provided us with the origin of the lipstick-encrusted cigarette in the car’s ashtray.

Hank didn’t have a huge amount of screen time this week, but his brief appearances in the episode nonetheless served to underline how much he’s struggling with his recovery…and by “struggling,” I mean that he’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place: he refuses to leave the hospital until he can do so on his own two feet, but he’s barely willing to participate in the physical therapy that’s being provided. I loved his back and forth with Marie on the matter of pain (“Pain is weakness leaving your body.” “Pain is my foot in your ass, Marie!”), but it shows the depths of his anger about his situation that he should be giving shit to Walt, Jr., a kid who has to use his own crutches to walk out of the room. Gee, you don’t suppose his nephew’s condition serves as a constant reminder about his own physical limitations, do you? Nahhhhhhh…

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Breaking Bad 3.10 – Lord of the Flies

I don’t know if it’s by intent or happenstance that tonight’s episode of “Breaking Bad” is arguably the first installment of the season that isn’t necessarily a must-see, but I guarantee that a lot of viewers will be watching it tomorrow on TiVo and thinking, “Okay, I definitely made the right decision to watch the ‘Lost’ finale last night.”

Let me clarify that statement a bit: I didn’t think it was a bad episode. I mean, I laughed out loud at one point, I was on the edge of my seat during another portion, and there was even a full-fledged “oh, shit” moment in the midst of the goings-on. (Granted, it took place at approximately the same point when I laughed out loud, but it still counts.) Indeed, for fans who’ve been waiting to see some semblance of the old Walt & Jesse dynamic, it was a gift, since they were virtually the only people in the episode. But if I’m to be perfectly honest, there was nothing crucial that went down during the course of the proceedings that couldn’t have been covered quite handily within a few seconds of film in the “Previously on ‘Breaking Bad'” bit at the beginning of next week. Plus, if I’m to be honest, I think everybody at AMC is getting ready for the “Lost” finale, too: it’s 4:30 PM EST on Sunday afternoon as I write this, and they still haven’t posted any photos from tonight’s episode on the press site!

Oh, well, let’s just go ahead and get to it, shall we?

I’m not entirely sure why I was so creeped out by the opening of this week’s “Breaking Bad,” but, holy mother of God, not only was I twitching, but I actually started to get a little queasy. It wasn’t like you saw anything other than the close-up of the fly, but hearing Skyler play “Mockingbird” over the shot…I immediately thought, “Oh, shit, the baby’s dead.” And, surely, that’s what we were meant to think, along with the inevitable uncertainty about whether or not they’d really take things down such a dark path. That’s the thing about “Breaking Bad”: no matter what they throw at you…and lord knows they’ve thrown us a lot…the show follows a creative direction that’s so unlike any series on television that you still constantly find yourself thinking, “Yeah, but they wouldn’t really do that, would they?” And in this case, they didn’t. Still, you’d think by now I’d realize that there’s nothing Vince Gilligan won’t do.

Once Walt got up and at ’em after a long night of fitful sleep, it was off to work he went, diving headlong into what I can only presume was the meth lab equivalent of spring cleaning. Jesse, of course, spent most of the time bitching and moaning…until, that is, Walt’s anal accounting discovered a discrepancy in the amount they’d been yielding. You could see the sweat building on Jesse’s brow as he attempt to throw out any and all possible explanations for the situation…evaporation, condensation, even spillage…at which point I think we probably all knew definitively that there’d be no possible way for him to get away with pulling the wool over Walt’s eyes for the long haul.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts