Monday, September 16, 2013

Jesse Pinkman Goes To Hell -- UPDATE

So does Walter White.  A different suite perhaps, but Hell is where he lives now.

And Uncle Jack, nephew Todd and their merry band of Nazi's?

They live there; they're on-staff.

Spoiler Alert.

But not really much of a spoiler because you'll get no details you can drive a nail into from me.

I will say that if you've never been in a relationship that went horribly wrong, or were never a part of or lived next door to a dysfunctional family as it flew apart, well, good for you.

There's a point at which the abuser -- berserk with anger -- gropes around for the worst, most awful thing they can say or do.  Words, bats, knives -- it almost doesn't matter. Whatever will inflict maximum pain.  Whatever will make every bridge that might lead back to salvation burn the brightest, that's the bomb which gets thrown.

At this point in the show, almost everyone in Walter White's extended family has an arsenal of such explosives.  And when they start launching them at the people the are supposed to care about, they just can't stop.  Tolstoy might have been right about his characters -- in their Universe, all happy families might be alike and each unhappy family might be unhappy in its own way.  But in the here and now, anyone who has survived an alcoholic parent or spouse will instantly recognize the kind of mindless, lashing, wounded animal (sans actual alcohol) who roared across center stage for much of the last half of "Ozymandias".  The demands for obedience and fidelity from a family he is destroying.  “What the hell is wrong with you? We’re a family!” The frantic belief that if he just shouts loud enough to control the people closest to him one last time everything could be turned around. The son forced to defend his mother against a monster with his father's face.  Children used as leverage.  Cops in the living room.  The pretty suburban house sliced open and its secrets spilled into the street.

Ugly, ugly, ugly.  All ringing with the banal truth of a family trapped by an abuser, and all amped unbearable up by the knowledge that, if pushed, this abuser can summon legions of Nazi executioners.

Walter White is all but gone now.  He lingered awhile, and rallies a little toward the end, but most of what was left of him -- his heart, his head, his soul, his dreams -- is buried in a hole in the desert. Only Heisenberg remains.  Only the Devil.

In The Usual Suspects, 'Verbal' Kint asks, "How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?"

Breaking Bad answers: "Don't miss."

It goes without saying (except for the fact that such thing should never go without saying) that the writing was uniformly excellent.  The little touches.  The awkwald construction of Walter White's first lie juxtaposed against massive edifice of Heisenberg's last and most monstrous lies collapsing like a veritable House of Usher.  Everyday, bought-em-on-sale-at-Target items like a phone and a set of kitchen knives seen in happier days set against the same phone and the same knives now shining with menace.  A "hideous, crying clown" being boxed up for shipping to someone on eBay fool enough to buy such a thing, and the hideous, crying clown Walter White has at last become, sealed in a crypt of his own making for good and all.  Some players now drained of color, just black and white with a few splashes of beige like makeup on a corpse.  And Heisenberg rolling a Sisyphusian barrel through the wasteland  and right past what looks an awful lot like Walter White's missing pants

from the Breaking Bad pilot.

The two "trunkless legs" of Shelley's poem, abandoned to the desert and forgotten.


Lastly and FWIW, I think the bit at the end where Walter tries to come off like Jimmy Cagney on the phone was a last, desperate piece of impromptu misdirection designed to protect what's left of the family he loves and has ruined. Knowing there must be police on the line, knowing he is about to leave this vale of tears one way or another, Walter finally assigns all the blame where it always belonged -- "I built this.  Nobody else." -- and tries to buy his wife and son out from under his mountain of sin.  And because she is his wife, Skyler picks up on it. Lightening fast, she figures out what her husband is doing and, very tentatively, she replies "Yes, and" to his improv invitation and so begins the tense, encrypted exchange they must now play out in front of both family and John Law.

For-real lastly and, again, FWIW, it was a mistake to watch The Newsroom immediately after watching Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad was always top-notch and is now rocketing up a brilliantly engineered exponential curve unlike anything I have ever seen on teevee, with Vince Gilligan using telescopic flashes of the show's own finale as if it were another lead character, hovering oppresively over the proceedings, imposing its own, grim will.  The Newsroom sucked for awhile, then got better, and is now starting to suck saccharine ass again.

It was like following a six course, gourmet meal with a bag of stale mini-Ding Dongs and weak, church-basement coffee. 

Bad for the dah-gest, as my former grandmother-in-law used to say.

UPDATE:  The outer precincts report in --
Since nobody thought to use "Burned the village to save it" this week, it looks like I have my headline for next week's post.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great little piece of writing Driftglass.

I only wish you and Bluegal had started your Breaking Bad recaps earlier!

Brian D. O'Neill said...

The episode was truly incredible, right down to the swastika on the uncle's hand and Walt telling Pinkman he let Jane die - payback for his brother-in-law's execution?

I liked the way Walt's son rose to the occasion when it came to fighting Dad to protect Mom. Very impressive, and utterly true to life. I had thought that the kid would fold completely when he learned about Walt, but just the opposite occurred.

One of the best series I have ever seen, hands down. Maybe the best.