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Breaking Baddery
  • So uhh, why didn’t you guys tell me how badass this show was? I got bored during the pilot a couple years ago and never really gave it another shot. So the GF is out of town all week and I decided to netflix marathon this shit. Just got to the episode where Hank takes on the two cartel psychos. Awesome fucking television. Sorry if that’s a spoiler for somebody but I don’t know how to format text up in here.

  • Why didn’t you guys tell me about this thing that you talked about incessantly over the last five years is what you just asked us

    Glad you like it though

  • You should contribute to the rewatch thing!

  • I agree, I would love to read Freddy’s take on it.

  • We’ve watched the first two series over the last couple of weeks. General opinion in this house is that it would be better if there was much less of the “family members being horrible to each other” side of the show, because it’s boring. We’re also getting a bit tired of Walt constantly whining to his lawyer when he’s clearly smart enough to figure out the solutions to his own problems. Sometimes it’s awesome, but sometimes that awesomeness is spread too thinly - I guess because we just don’t care about one of the two stories the show is trying to tell.

  • I was going to write a whole thing but it was going to end up full of spoilers for other people and probably just end up with me trying to talk about the problems in a show that other people are happily enjoying, when most of my complaints might just complaints about things I don’t like about TV in general. We’re taking a break before starting series 3.

  • Oh, it’s not like we don’t nitpick it, too. But yeah, I don’t really know how to respond to your concern about the family dynamics without going into S3 and S4 except to say that S3 and S4 are the best seasons of the show, and you should not take a break before watching them.

    I think a lot of people disliked Saul when he first came on the show in S2 but… you get that those scenes are supposed to be jokey, right?

  • I started watching too but I’m only about 5 episodes in, dunno why I waited so long. I was going to watch one a week or whatever to coincide with your recaps but I watched the first one and that went out the window

  • I’ve just started series 4 after about 4 weeks of watching and I really like it overall. The only thing that grates, and I don’t think it’s really a spoiler as such, is that nobody seems to have any moral qualms about manufacturing hard drugs.

  • I kind of like that - granted, I’m not as far in as you, but at the moment I think it fits with the character that he’s approached this new business in a kind of tunnel-vision fashion. He thinks only about the mechanics of getting what he was aiming to get, like it’s a maths puzzle or a game.

  • Show has always had kind of a major problem with tone, I contend

  • nickinko said: The only thing that grates, and I don’t think it’s really a spoiler as such, is that nobody seems to have any moral qualms about manufacturing hard drugs.

    Had a response, realized it was a bit spoilery

  • pollo said: Show has always had kind of a major problem with tone, I contend

    Yes, absolutely

  • oh hey i just started watching this show last week. I’m on ep 7 of season 1 and I always knew I’d like it and I do. Now I want to go and read all the stuff y’all have written about it over the years. I have friends who have been majorly into it for the whole time and I have seen the second most recent episode where some shit goes down so I’ve “spoiled” it for myself I guess but actually I think it makes me like it even more.

  • That must have been a weird experience! Glad you’re liking the show though. I’ve been increasingly frustrated with it since it went from plumbing the depths of the psychological horror inherent to the story and focusing on the characters to being so concentrated on badass action scenes, but so far this last season is doing a nice job at going back to the stuff that matters most, I think.

  • Blucas said: Oh, it’s not like we don’t nitpick it, too. But yeah, I don’t really know how to respond to your concern about the family dynamics without going into S3 and S4 except to say that S3 and S4 are the best seasons of the show, and you should not take a break before watching them.

    Ha, I guess I should update my opinion now I’ve watched more. We took a break, but yes, when we came back then we powered through the first half of season three and then it got really good. Props are due, it’s a good show.

  • peacocks, just so you know, it gets really boring at the end of season two when he returns to being a full-time chemistry teacher and all the episodes are about molar mass and such.

  • that was quite literally the most intense hour of television i’ve ever seen

  • and it was rian johnson again!

  • I gotta say I’m pretty much more excited for the forthcoming season of Boardwalk than I was about the conclusion of BB. Jeffrey Wright!

  • Then again I just watched last night’s and there were at least two moments where I sincerely thought I was about to be sick

  • BB, meant

  • Recommended BB to my parents-in-law when I saw them last week. Got an email from J’s father this morning:

    Watched the pilot tonight. Easy to see why you would have liked it so much. Gritty aesthetic, characters both weird yet normal, lots of wonderfully odd touches (e.g., the sex scene! or the student finding the teacher washing his car), indie music track.

    Hmm.

  • I don’t understand all this ‘best episode ever’ talk. How can it be when there was no Saul?

  • i wouldn’t say it was the best episode. but it was fucking intense.

  • The Atlantic Wire has being doing a feature where they have two rank neophytes watching this season and reacting, and it’s been just dumb as all fuck (unless you enjoy reading someone complain every week about how they don’t know who any of the characters are), but dude’s reaction to Sunday night’s episode was, I thought, pretty spot on in a number of ways. Basically he, as a newbie, voiced a few criticisms that I, as a viewer who started about two weeks after the pilot, have had for pretty much the show’s entire run: Paul is inconsistent at best, the show has real tonal and pacing problems, the marketing push is incredibly cynical and silly, etc. I’ve long thought there was a bit of an emperor’s new clothes thing happening with this show; that is, in a decade, do we really see this show as being heralded as it is today? Are we going to look back and see this as a watershed moment in television, as we do/have done with the Sopranos, the Wire, Twin Peaks, etc.? I’m skeptical. In a way this has seemed to me the most populous Serious TV Drama, as it seems like literally everyone is watching, from the SILCs at Slate to peoples’ grandparents to teenagers. And there’s a certain amount of exhilaration in that, but I do think it elides to some extent the series’ lesser qualities, like its tendency toward melodrama, action movie-style violence, and (let’s face it) a very uneven cast. As we round the last bend with the show, I’m happy that it got the run it did and I think they’ve done some very interesting things with what was initially a seemingly two-dimensional concept, but I think overall it would fall just short of my personal pantheon.

    What do you guys think?

  • I agree. Twin Peaks and The Wire are 10s, The Sopranos was an 8 and Breaking Bad is a 7. But I’ve enjoyed it all the same.

  • I don’t really get the drive to label something as part of (or decidedly not part of) the pantheon/canon/whatever before it’s even finished. Also, who cares whether it’s one of the best shows off all time or simply an entertaining mess? Why does it matter at all?

  • Uh… Really? I thought that’s what we were in here talking about. I could ask you guys the same about hundreds of different records, comics, movies, etc. we’ve discussed over the years. I just thought it would generate some interesting discussion. But I mean yeah, you’re right, ultimately none of it matters at all I suppose.

  • los pollos hermanos said: Uh… Really? I thought that’s what we were in here talking about. I could ask you guys the same about hundreds of different records, comics, movies, etc. we’ve discussed over the years. I just thought it would generate some interesting discussion. But I mean yeah, you’re right, ultimately none of it matters at all I suppose.

    Yes and no. I mean it’s an interesting discussion if you think that far ahead, but I don’t. I mean ten years ago I wasn’t thinking about whether Buffy would hold up in 2013 (which it did two years ago when I last watched it). I’m always happy to reassess any work of art/fiction when it’s aged a bit though.

  • Considering the fervor of the discussion around these last few episodes, I just thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to discuss.

  • Well, I’ll bite. I’m enjoying my ass off watching it and I’d be amazed if it doesn’t bear repeat viewings. As for Paul, at first I wondered how the hell he made it through his audition, but he grew on me. I loved the one Cranston/Paul scene in the latest episode.

  • I was being a little cranky I think. Sorry about that. It is true that I’m not particularly interested in ranking Breaking Bad in that way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t worthwhile components of such a discussion. I’ll try to come back to this soon.

  • I definitely agree about the tonal/pacing problems. I think a lot of it comes from the show just trying to do everything in every possible way, for better or worse, without regard for what’s worked so far, and I can kind of appreciate that. Then again, I mostly enjoy the melodrama and action movie violence as well. I think my expectations about the show were a bit too high coming in, but I’ve come to embrace it as something that’s a lot of fun.

    Did anyone notice that the underground lab in the beginning of the season was in a transit bus? I was excited.

  • Robert Forster!

  • The one thing that often strikes me and that struck me particularly in the otherwise great latest episode is the director’s tendency to drown many perfectly excellent scenes, which have clear dramatic purposes and excellent acting, in loud, overbearing music and unnecessary camera movements - cue the stock horror movie soundtrack in that scene with Skyler/Todd and co. or Jesse’s escape. It’s a shame, because it detracts from scenes that would be more powerful with a more understated approach. Still quite pleased with this last season overall, and surprised that so many here are in it for the action stuff, though!

  • I find this programme compelling, but there’s a pitch black heart to it that leaves me feeling kind of pissed off with the world in a way that, say, The Wire or The Sopranos never did. And I think there’s almost a complete lack of sympathetic characters. OK, Walt Jr, but otherwise, even the ‘good’ guys behave badly, like everyone is the worst version of themselves. I can’t understand at all how people can be rooting for Walt, and while Jessie is grasping for some sort of redemption, he spent most of the 5 seasons being a pretty dislikeable bloke too. I just feel more sensitive to this than I did when I was 20 or 21, and I sort of think of the show itself as being a bit of a mean, cold-hearted bastard. Nothing can happen in the last episode that will affect me the way the final days of Prop Joe, Omar and Stringer Bell did, because the show’s creators have made it seem like everyone deserves their horrible fate. I think that’s what irks me about it.

    Can’t wait for the Saul Goodman spin-off though. He’s easily the best character. I hope that if/when that happens, they don’t lighten it up too much though, because the more perilous his situation has become, the more subtle and interesting his performance has been.

  • Okay, so re: Pollo’s question. You might remember me complaining when Saul Goodman was introduced that Odenkirk was absolutely wrong for the part, that he did not fit the show tonally. I think we agreed on that, if I remember correctly. Four years later (or however long it’s been), I feel like I’m eating crow on that one, because he’s turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the show. I’ve been an Aaron Paul defender since the beginning, but I think you’re right that the acting is uneven, as is the pacing, and honeslty, a lot of the story choices don’t make a lot of sense. I remember hating, hating, hating the everything-is-all-connected shit in S2 as it was happening, but I enjoyed the way it ended up fitting together at the end. I felt like the longer the show went on, the more it tended to move away from the sense of realism it established in S1, which could be a problem for a show that has the stated goal of tracking a man’s loss of humanity. (Not to say that genre fiction can’t do that, but the cartoonier a show becomes, the harder it has to work, I think.) I recall feeling like the way the cousins were introduced was really stupid and very much style over substance (why are they crawling in the dirt other than it looks cool?), I thought the superlab was incredibly cartoony, and I had a visceral reaction to how ridiculous Gus-Fring-turning-to-look-at-the-camera-after-gettin’-his-ass-blown-the-fuck-up was. I think the show does have a real problem of trying to serve two masters (or have its cake and eat it too), of trying to be this study of a man’s loss of humanity/descent into evil while also trying to appeal to the fanboy contingent that loves the comic book action. And at a certain point I realized that the reason that’s the case is because that’s who the writing staff are. They’re interested in the human elements of the show (which is what brought me to the show, and what I still find the most compelling), but they’re also giant nerds. They like writing all of Walt’s impossible escapes. They like writing train heists. They like larger-than-life “science.”

    And I guess what realizing that helped me accept the show for what it is. It’s never going to the kind of character study I want it to be, but that’s okay. I still find it incredibly compelling, and I struggle to think of any other show that’s been able to make me feel so thoroughly uneasy, that’s left me with so many stomach aches afterwards. Nick is right that it’s an oppressive show (though so is The Wire, albeit in a different way). I happen to kind of dig that; I understand that not everyone does. Thinking about it now, that’s probably why the show needs those Big Dumb Action moments, because why the fuck else would anyone watch this show if there isn’t some kind of reward? It may not be the kind of reward we’re looking for, but if this show were all episodes like “Fly” or “Crawl Space” (not only two of my favorite episodes of the show, but in my own personal pantheon of best hours of television), would it still be on? And what’s interesting to me is that my absolute favorite episodes of the show all take place once the show has pretty firmly established itself as being this weird genre piece (though it does seem to have a hard time picking just which genre it represents). Both halves of S5 have had these absolutely amazing, breathtaking, heartbreaking moments. I wonder if they would have even been possible without episodes like “Live Free or Die” and its daring magnet shit? Is it maybe the contrast that gives the heavy stuff the power that it does?

    I disagree with Nick that there aren’t any sympathetic characters. I think Skyler is a pretty daring representation of a woman in an abusive relationship. She may not strictly be “likable,” but she’s definitely sympathetic. I’m really glad that Anna Gunn won an Emmy for her performance, because she deserves it.

    Jesse’s move towards redemption has been utterly compelling for me, and at this point he is probably the character I care about the most. I still even have some moments of sympathy for Walt, like in Sunday’s episode, where we find him a broken man, being forced to live with what he’s done, even as he tries to make the same kinds of rationalizations he always has. But they aren’t working like they once did, and they become more and more desperate and pathetic.

    (Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think Walt doesn’t deserve whatever he has coming to him—and probably worse than whatever the writers actually have in store for him …)

    Anyway. Is Breaking Bad worthy of the all-time pantheon? Honestly, I have no idea. I guess I don’t really know that it matters. I don’t think it’s as good as The Wire or The Sopranos (two shows which weren’t without their own problems, though its harder to see them in hindsight, viewing them as whole works [which is kinda sorta my overall point above]), but it’s arguably just as—maybe even more—important. That’s something we’ll have to wait to see, I think, but there’s something special about the way Breaking Bad was able to appeal to such a broad demographic. Maybe that does speak to some of its weaker characteristics, though I don’t know how much I’m interested in continuing that particular line of inquiry, as it feels really elitist to me. The Sopranos was hugely popular, too, and it was more likely than anything the fact that it wasn’t as accessible (amount of HBO subscribers, being pre-DVD explosion [though the availability of DVDs did increase its popularity considerably], the fact that people were engaging with TV differently than they do now and weren’t accustomed to what Sopranos demanded of them) that made the numbers pale in comparison to Breaking Bad. Yes, the show was more challenging, but it also had plenty of people watching for what we might consider the “wrong reasons”—the sex, the exhilaration of the violence, the exhilaration of watching something that was simply unlike anything before it, they were rooting for Tony, etc. The main difference is that I don’t know that Sopranos actively sought out this subset of its audience (though maybe it did); I don’t really know that Breaking Bad does either, but it definitely has a more direct connection to its fandom, so maybe knowing that there are people who want action movie violence informs the writers’ choices. I don’t really know. I would argue, though, that this kind of connection to and interaction with fandom is something that’s really interesting and will be one of the landmarks of this era of television, for better or worse. I think it’s exciting, as it makes watching a television program feel a lot more collaborative, though that of course has its drawbacks as well.

    Sorry if this is all pretty incoherent. I’m pretty much just procrastinating as I have a bunch of homework to do (even called in to work in order to do it) and figured I’d try to sort out my thoughts.

    TL;DR version: you’re right, but at the same time …

  • Thanks for the big post, Jeb. I enjoyed reading it, and I do basically, at heart, agree with everything you say. ‘Cept the Skyler bit.

  • great post, jeb.

    saul, though… i don’t know. i like odenkirk, he’s hilarious, but despite what people keep telling me, i don’t see that he has any skill at dramatic acting. that scene where he tells walt “it’s over” and slowly backs out of the room this week was especially awful.

  • Sepinwall’s review of the most recent episode is insightful and gets at what I think makes this second half of the season pretty great: http://m.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-breaking-bad-granite-state-no-escape#main&ui-state=dialog

  • I thought Odenkirk was pretty bad in this last one, yeah. No argument there. But in general I feel like he’s been great. I feel like it helps me to think that his portrayal is at least partly based on Neil Hamburger.

  • Agh one last thing:http://www.salon.com/2013/09/22/breaking_bads_racial_politics_walter_white_angry_white_man/singleton/

    This piece is really really really good and gets at, I think, why maybe Breaking Bad is important after all, and deserves a place among the other great shows in TV history

  • jeb said: I think the show does have a real problem of trying to serve two masters (or have its cake and eat it too), of trying to be this study of a man’s loss of humanity/descent into evil while also trying to appeal to the fanboy contingent that loves the comic book action. And at a certain point I realized that the reason that’s the case is because that’s who the writing staff are. They’re interested in the human elements of the show (which is what brought me to the show, and what I still find the most compelling), but they’re also giant nerds. They like writing all of Walt’s impossible escapes. They like writing train heists. They like larger-than-life “science.”

    This is pretty spot on. Thanks for the giant post, you actually articulated some of my thoughts better than I could have myself!

  • I have a lot of mixed feelings about the finale, especially w/r/t the short shrift given to Jesse, but “Do it yourself, then” was fucking PERFECT.

  • I found it … mostly satisfying. Better than the other big finales of the last couple years (Lost, BSG) but not as good as shows with a more consistent narrative through line (Sopranos, The Wire). In some senses, what I found problematic with the finale speaks to the problems of the show as a whole (some of them the things Pollo talks about above), but I also recognize the difficulty in creating a finale for a show like this and just how hard it’s gotta be to craft something that will be satisfying to even a percentage of your viewership.

    I do agree with re: Jesse. I also think that Walt got a little more redemption then he deserved. But on the whole, it was good.

  • Hm, the further I get from it the more problems I’m starting to have with it

  • yeah that article is otm. I was on board with Walt until we learned exactly what happened with Gray Matter pretty early on when he’s talking to Gretchen in that restaurant. I remember thinking “oh OK he isn’t doing this drug lord shit for his family- he’s doing this out of pride, greed, and bitterness.” It wasn’t as if his fundamental personality changed. He always wanted to be in the empire business but he wanted to be the boss, not a partner. The big change was that he finally actualized his true nature. The line “I did it because I liked it” was so nice to my ears! He almost quit pretending to be a self righteous d-bag but it was way way late.

    Also, what is so wrong with being a teacher? I mean sure, he didn’t live up to his true potential of being a billionaire. But being a teacher doesn’t mean you’re a loser. He had a nice house and a loving family and it seemed like his co-workers respected him. He even had friends that were going to back him up financially after HE screwed THEM over! The only crappy thing that happened to him before cancer was that his wife gave him a half hearted ebay handjob on his birthday. For real all loserliness is HIS deal.

    HOWEVER I still super loved this show and although most of the characters were “shady morality-wise” they were great fun to watch.