Ozymandias (S5E14)

So I know who Hank is. Or rather, as I will apologetically assert over the course of this and every other entry I do, I have a vague concept of who Hank is. And Steve Gomez, his partner that I incorrectly referred to as Guttierez in an earlier post, an ethnically presumptuous recollection that I fixed after I took a look at my notes.

Anyways, right now my huge questions revolve around this meeting in the beginning that obviously did not go the way Hank, Walt, or Jessie planned, but perhaps exactly how the nazis planned. Something I wrote in my notes, and subsequently something I forgot to watch out for at all, was that I had a poor concept of exactly how much money was in Walt’s possession at this point. I didn’t write down how much money he gave to Elliott and Gretchen in the finale, and while I believe he mentions having 11 million dollars in the barrel he gets to keep, I didn’t count how many barrels the nazis made off with. Walt offers Jack 80 million not to kill Hank, and given what I know about Walt, he’s probably giving him a pretty accurate figure.

Speaking of Walt and Jack, Jack seems to treat Walt’s requests with a little more deference than I’d have imagined he would. What I took away from this was that Jessie was the one who called the DEA on Walt, and Jack’s gang crashed the party somehow. Jack tells Walt about how he had some real exact coordinates for the site so obviously somebody tipped him off, but I can’t imagine why it would’ve been Walt, unless Walt knew Jessie was the one who sold him out and wanted someone to kill Jessie? He seemed pretty comfortable with the idea of Jack shooting him. The flashback in the beginning seems to imply that their working relationship might’ve been a little strained, but at the same time he saves Jessie in the finale.

Clearly I don’t have a strong idea of what the hell went down here yet.

Another big unknown for me was how much Walt’s family knew about his business. The flashback in the beginning seemed to imply to me that Skyler was completely ignorant of what Walt was up to ~2 years ago. Obviously as of this episode, Hank and Marie knew, but Marie’s talk with Skyler at the car wash reveals that Skyler was not only aware of what Walt was up to, but was even complicit in helping him hide it. Marie seemed pretty upset about whatever document it is Skyler and Walt had. And Flynn apparently had no damn idea at all and was pretty crushed to take it in.

Anyways, the big scene in this one for me was Walt going back home and trying to take everyone  away with him. Flynn is all sorts of conflicted, and he and Skyler are understandably outraged with Walt over what happened to Hank. Something I wrote down earlier in my notes is that for all Walt’s intelligence, he seems to be kind of naive. He was shocked in the last episode to learn that there was no possible way to transfer his dirty money to his family, and he seemed genuinely surprised to see Jack execute Hank despite taking the money. Likewise, Walt seemed pretty shocked to find out that Skyler and Flynn didn’t want to get in his crappy truck with his drum full of cash and drive off to…wherever the hell he thought he was going to go. Hank told him “the cavalry” was coming.

I don’t know what Walt’s long term plan was at this point. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer so him being alive probably didn’t factor in, and after he was made by Hank, it seems like he was just panicking and improvising, way too freaked out to think about what he was doing. Sure he could easily make a new life with 11 million dollars cash, but his pitch to Flynn and Skyler could definitely have used some work. I was getting a little weepy watching this scene until it escalated to physical violence, but I kind of feel like Skyler and Flynn’s reactions were justifiable given what they could guess and how little Walt explained.

What I had a hard time justifying was Walt cutting his losses and just making off with the baby, pushing Skyler’s car into the street to see how far he could get as an extremely wanted man with a very young child in tow. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t have a strong concept of exactly how much effort the DEA was about to put into getting his head, but it was still a pretty poorly thought out endeavor. Once more, I have to assume that Walt was panicking and thought maybe Holly would be safer with him and all his money than she would be with Skyler and Flynn, like he thought his dirty money was the best way to protect his family so he’d force it on the one member who couldn’t object. But when he’s changing her in the rest room and even she’s babbling as if to say, “No man, this isn’t going to work,” he seemed to come to his senses.

One of my notes from the first episode I watched dealt with Walt coming back to the house to talk to Skyler. He says that this extraordinarily creepy meeting is much nicer than the last time they had any contact, which was a phone call. My exact words in relation to that assertion were “that had to have been the world’s scariest phone call.” Now that I’ve seen this phone call, I see I made a pretty safe assumption. It’s my understanding that Breaking Bad’s viewership holds a pretty low opinion of Skyler as a character, but from my limited information, I can’t see what traction Walt has when he makes all these accusations towards her. What I picked up during this episode was that Skyler was at least a little complicit in Walt’s dealings, so maybe she did screw up? He still threatens to kill her, and that’s pretty antithetical to the entire reason he got into meth in the first place, which was to protect his family. He clearly cracks a little as the phone call draws to a close though, and I was relieved to see him pull a baby Moses leaving Holly at the fire station.

Anyways, questions and other things I don’t understand:

Obviously I don’t have a great handle on what went down in the desert stand-off.

My assumption is that the Whites own this car wash. Was it a recent acquisition, or did Walt figure the car wash wouldn’t bring in enough money to support his family after he was gone?

Does Jessie know anything about the kids in the photo he took, or does he just take the whole thing so he has the paperclip?

Todd seems like the brains of the operation, did he show mercy to Jessie for any reason beside wanting him as a meth chef?

Jessie mentions a video to the nazis, Marie mentions some slanderous document to Skyler, and I don’t know what’s in either of these. Was Jessie’s video the one they were watching in the previous episode?

Granite State (S5E15)

So I’ll admit, and I call it an admission but it should be of no surprise to anyone at all, I did not obtain copies of this program legally. The guy who gave me the idea put them on a flash drive for me and told me to go to town. So when I pulled up the second episode I was a little surprised to see a “Previously on AMC’s Breaking Bad” segment. Of course the episode recap was previous relative to the actual broadcast order of the episode, so for me it was a recap of events I haven’t seen yet, which included Skyler slashing Walt’s hand with a knife and some guys getting executed in the desert. These are pretty minor spoilers in the grand scheme of things I guess.

Now that I’ve seen more than one episode of the show, I fear that these entries are just going to be recounting “Oh yeah, they set that up in the last one I watched” and “Oh that answers some questions I had.” And going back to my previous entries, I did have some of my questions answered.

Bob Odenkirk is in the show, and apparently he got into such a mess that he needs to disappear for a while with help from Vacuum Cleaner Warehouse guy

I guess the baby is Walt and Skyler’s.

But why would they choose to risk having a baby when their first kid, that she had 14-18 years ago, needs crutches to walk and appears to be retarded? Was the baby unplanned? Another tragic little soul for Walt to worry about when he learns he’s dying?

(Is Flynn mentally diminished? He sounded a little slow but he might’ve just been upset, plus the class they pulled him out of didn’t exactly look like Special Ed)

In any event this episode was (perhaps not surprisingly) a huge clear-up over what went down in the finale, besides giving me a little more background on the story in general. All sorts of details are getting thrown around that I lack context for, and while my educated guess of “things are going badly because Walt is a prolific meth dealer and got caught” is probably correct, I’m sure it’s also imprecise.

The breakout character for me in this episode was Todd Elquist (ever notice that in fiction, a guy named Todd is usually a dirtbag?). In the finale he struck me as the obvious stand out in the greasy ponytail gang, and I figured maybe he was just the gofer for his drug lord uncle, a clean-cut looking kid without a criminal record who would go out and handle business deals that the scummier looking members of the organization wouldn’t be able to do as easily. Perhaps that is essentially his function, but because of that clean-cut, soft-spoken quality of his, I figured he was sort of caught up in the life through circumstance and would’ve liked to get out of it. In this episode I watched him threaten a woman and her baby, then shoot a different woman while someone she was close to (her boyfriend? brother?) watched her die, bound and gagged in the back of a truck, plus an incident is referred to in which he shot a guy off a dirtbike or something. I felt bad for the guy during the last episode, and now I see that I wasn’t supposed to.

(Or maybe I was? Maybe circumstances forced him to be a bastard? I don’t have all the information)

Also the cops who were watching Skyler’s house really dropped the ball when none of them noticed three grown men in sitcom-burglar costumes break in or leave.

I figured out the show takes place in New Mexico. It was something I was uncertain about last time since he was in a cold environment, but pretty much any time I saw a background in promotional stills it was a desert. I kind of figured this episode would end with Walt stealing Hider-Man’s car since I don’t recall the first episode ever explicitly showing how he came across that car he used to drive back home, but it just showed him getting mad at the philanthropist couple on TV and leaving his unfinished drink and a little cash. I’m guessing it was a little cash, I just saw there was a bill, Walt certainly had enough large bills on hand to leave the bar a hundo for the inconvenience of using the woman’s voice to fool a school administrator, and as an apology for defeatedly mumbling his location into the bar pay phone, causing them to be raided in short order.

I liked the shot of Hider-Man letting a dazed Walt out of the empty tanker. Assuming they departed from New Mexico, the poor guy must’ve been in there a very long time. I’ve only ever seen a laconic, mumbly Walter White, so I was surprised at first seeing him so worked up in the beginning. When Bob Odenkirk tells him he can’t feasibly transfer the money to his family, when Hider-man drops him off in the cabin and tells him he’s got to stay buried, he becomes that familiar zombie. When he begs Hider-man to stay with him a little longer, offers him $10,000 to just hang out for two hours, and the guy says he’ll stay one, that was a powerful scene. Walt is apparently America’s Most Wanted at this point, but from how shocking he finds these revelations, that he can’t get the money to his family, that he can’t leave the cabin, I’m guessing Walt wasn’t used to being told “No” in the recent past. And he shouldn’t be, he’s smart and scary and he has more money than God, but apparently his criminal enterprise was powerful enough to bring the might of America’s law enforcement to bear on him and he had to disappear. Also apparently the Elquists managed to take a lot of that from him, so that explains why he tore them apart with a machine gun last time.

Anyhow, some questions I hope to find answers to:

Who is Hank? Last time Walt gave Skyler the location of Hank and Steve Gomez’s bodies. Walt tells Bob Odenkirk that the Elquists murdered Hank, Flynn says Walt killed Hank and calls him his uncle, and I have no idea what to believe because of the weird way I have chosen to approach this program

Do they ever explain or theorize how Walt got cancer? Do they ever imply that maybe it’s because Skyler smokes in the house?

Is there any symbolism to Walt keeping his money in a 55 gallon drum?

Todd keeps throwing around a percentage when he talks about their product, he did it in the last episode too. What does this percentage refer to? The potency? The purity? Isn’t meth something anyone can make with about 50 dollars worth of stuff from a K-Mart? I get that this is a TV show and the guy who made the formula they’re using is a genius, but do they demonstrate the efficacy of Walt’s meth vs. the stuff every other person from Florida makes in the trunk of their car?

How involved was Walt with Elliot and Gretchen? He seems to get really furious when they imply that he didn’t have much to do with the company they started with him, and their insistence that he’s gone. Did they betray him in some way? Did they have something to do with his forced exile?

Felina (S5E16)

The first problem I’m encountering in writing this, and something I probably should’ve thought about before I started, is that I’m not sure how to talk about the show. I’m worried that this is just going to immediately denigrate into “Haha wow it sure was neat when he did this” and “I don’t understand what that was all about but I’m watching the show backwards so presumably that will make more sense to me later.”

What this episode established for me at least was that Walt is supposed to be a very intelligent and cunning character. I can only imagine the earlier episodes don’t usually involve him slaying a gang of greasy ponytail guys and he only began to use his smarts to become a very effective murderer as his drug dealer lifestyle made it a necessity. Walt sort of casually drifts into people’s homes, haggard and gravel voiced and mumbly and quietly menacing, looking more like a crazy person than a guy who had some real meticulous plans laid out that he wanted to relay before going off to blast the neck-tattoo gang’s compound apart.

The machine gun bit really confused me when they were setting it up. I’m pretty sure they showed the gun and all the ammunition in his trunk a couple times before they showed him standing around in the desert doing what I assumed was some sort of Wile E. Coyote thing as he tested the armature.  Is this a hallmark of the series? Him defending himself/attacking others with Rube Goldberg style devices? I know he was a science teacher and I just assumed from the imagery of the opening sequence he was a chemistry teacher, but clearly he’s got a grasp of a few other disciplines as well. I’m also guessing that casually poisoning people in coffee shops isn’t a thing I’ll see him doing in every other episode,  but I can only imagine that in the future (past, I guess?) if Walt needs to off someone, his methodology is going to be more complex than, say, stabbing them.

When I think about it, the only thing I really didn’t like was the part in the beginning where he pays the two hicks to point lasers at the wealthy couple. It’s not that I thought the ploy was dumb, because the scene served to demonstrate that with a little visual misdirection and a threatening monologue, Walt had the couple completely convinced that he’d hired the world’s deadliest assassins. No, I just hated the next scene in the car when he was talking to them. They were ancillary characters that I’m presuming weren’t seen previously, but their dialogue was awful. I didn’t write down exactly what they said but I just remembered it sounding real stilted and unnatural, like whoever wrote it has no idea how dirt dudes like that actually talk and just tried way too hard to make them sound uneducated and coarse. In the grand scheme of things those characters are totally irrelevant and their only narrative purpose was to tell Walt that someone was still producing blue meth (I’m guessing blue meth was like, Walt’s own particular brand of the stuff?) but I felt they could’ve been handled more carefully than they were.

That was honestly my only problem with the episode though. Obviously lots of stuff wasn’t clear to me, but again, much of it can be easily attributed to the fact that I’m watching it in the wrong order. Some questions I have now include:

Bob Odenkirk’s name was in the opening credits but I didn’t see him, what role does he play in this and is he going to be comic relief? I’m guessing he’s not going to do anything funny given the tone of the show.

Did him ditching his watch at the payphone have any kind of significance?

Whose baby was that? Walt and his wife look too old to have a little one, unless they aren’t as old as I think they are and they’ve just aged badly because he’s dying of cancer and her husband’s a meth dealer.

Who was the kid with polio Walt tailed into the apartment complex but didn’t approach?

Was the shackled guy from the drug compound the partner I’ve seen in all the promotional imagery and stills? And he’s just hairy because he’s a prisoner?

When did Walt take that bullet in the side? I re-watched the scene and as near as I could figure it was just a ricochet from when the room got sprayed.

I asked the guy who told me to do this how long the typical episode was, and while this series finale episode ran 55 minutes, he told me the usual run time was forty some, meant to run in an hour long block with commercials on television. I can usually only devote my full attention to television for a half hour episode of King of the Hill, but that this program had me on board for most of an hour tells me this maybe won’t be as painful a project as I imagined it might be.

Breaking Backward: Everything I know

I don’t watch TV. I don’t say this to try and assert any kind of moral or intellectual superiority over anybody. I waste plenty of time in a given day doing nothing productive. I just don’t have the patience for serialized television that requires me to see each episode.

A friend challenged me, however, to watch Breaking Bad in its entirety, in sequence, just backwards. I’ll be taking notes and chronicling my reactions.

This idea was relayed to me via text messages that came out of nowhere in the middle of the night, and I suspect he may have been drunk when he came up with it, but those are the conditions under which all great ideas are generated so I have to at least make an effort to follow through.

I was nominated to do this specifically because my friend knows I’ve never watched the show. I’ll be going in blind, aware of little besides the basic premise of the show. Naturally the show was an enormous force in popular culture so I have some trifling awareness of some of the famous bits and images. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll go over everything I know about the program:

-The basic premise, as I understand it, is that a science teacher is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to start cooking and selling meth in order to make money to provide for his family after he is gone

-He dies in the final episode (which for me will be the first)

-I once read an article written by the actress who plays his wife, expressing concern that there is a reasonably large community on the internet who hates her character. Like there was at least one specific Facebook fan page with a title like “[Her character] is a bitch!” or something that has thousands of followers. She expressed disappointment because she perceived that a lot of these people felt this way because her character often challenged the main character, who in case the audience forgot, is a guy making and selling an extremely dangerous and destructive drug.

-I just happen to be aware of a lot of famous images and bits from the show due to seeing them around the internet, ex. The main guy is in a green shirt and a pair of underpants with a gun tucked in the waistband, the main guy and his friend are in yellow chemical suits and gas masks, he gets frustrated and throws a pizza on his garage for some reason, the line “I am the one who knocks!” is from the show and is very powerful for some reason

-There is a parody ending in which Brian Cranston wakes up next to the actress who played the mom on Malcolm in the Middle, and in the characters of Hal and Lois they talk about how he had an awful dream that he was a meth dealer

Before writing this I checked Google to see if anybody did anything similar to this already (or at least if anybody more articulate and clever than me had) and the only results I saw were jokes in the format of “If you watch the movie Jaws backwards, it’s about a shark that keeps throwing up people until they have to open a beach.” It may have been my friend’s intent that I just write a very long form version of “This series is about a drug dealer who turns his life around and becomes a science teacher” but because I already know that much, that won’t be the angle I work towards. Hell, I don’t have any kind of angle right now, and time will only tell if I find one.

I don’t have any kind of update schedule in mind, but if it turns out I’m able to watch TV with the same persistence of other people my age, I can’t imagine why these shouldn’t come out in reasonably short order. In an effort to keep myself blind I won’t be doing any kind of research on the program’s plot or characters, but I may be curious as to the specific mechanisms by which methamphetamine is produced and distributed and what sort of regulations exist against it. That knowledge might cause me to get pedantic and poke holes in whatever dramatic conventions the show might have used for the sake of a compelling narrative so I’ll try not think too hard about any of that.

Point is I’m going to try not to complicate this.