"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Breaking Bad: And the Bag's In the River

With this episode I came to the conclusion of what would be considered the "First Act" of the Breaking Bad saga. I have to say that I was very impressed with this conclusion, and with the opening. Cranston continues to dominate the screen with his tragic portrayal of a desperate man whose health is clearly failing more and more with each passing moment. Hard decisions are made, and the hardest and best decision he's made yet looks to be the one the episode ends on.

Before I can get to the end, I need to start at the beginning. And this episode picks up (literally!) where the last one left off, with the most disgusting mess in the history of broadcast television being cleaned up by our meth-cooking "odd couple." Honestly, I'm not sure if these two will be able to work together after these events, nor do I really have any idea where the show will go from here.

It could be just as compelling if they completely give up their ideas of cooking meth for cash because they've still got all this crap they've already done to keep covered up. With Walt's brother-in-law Hank and his DEA goons already hot on that trail, there'd still be plenty of meat left for a show. I like that I'm not sure where this show is going and find that I don't really care because the ride-along is so great. In a way it reminds me of Prison Break in that I'm following some, let's face it, pretty bad dudes now and I still find myself rooting for them.

I'm not sure that the flashback sequence to a younger Walt and some unknown girl writing down the chemical makeup percentages of the human body worked. It was a nice juxtaposition during the cleanup scene at the beginning, as I saw how all those chemicals could turn into a gooey sludge, but this is the first flashback the show has given me, and I'm not sure I see the overall significance, unless the mention and question of a missing component in the scientific equation being a soul will speak to an impending spiritual crisis.

When Pinkman leaves Walter for the day to finally take care of the Krazy 8 situation; remember the guy strapped to a pole in the basement with one of those horseshoe bike locks, I finally get to see what Walter is made of. Walter gets to see what Walter is made of, and it's tougher stuff than I would have imagined. Again, Cranston shined throughout this episode as he wrestled with his conscience and reason on what to do about Krazy 8.

The climactic sequence where Krazy 8 manages to convince Walter that the only right thing to do is set him free, followed by Walter's epiphany regarding the broken plate was a brilliant piece of writing for the show. The plate was broken when a coughing fit knocked Walter unconscious as he was bringing a plate of sandwiches to Krazy 8 in the basement. What an incredibly clever piece of storytelling, and a brilliantly executed resolution to the problem by White. In fact, what Pinkman comes home to find in regards to the state of the RV and his house speaks volumes about where White is psychologically, and gets me psyched for what's coming next.


DEA Agent Hank's wife swiping a pair of heels from a shoe store, under the watchful eye of a way-too-typical disinterested sales clerk on the phone no less

Hank's "scared straight" talk outside a dilapidated motel where he lectures Walt, Jr. about pot being a gateway drug because he mistakenly believes he's doing pot. Bonus points for Wendy the meth-head hooker showing her teeth and then going off to bang Pinkman after Hank dismisses her. Walt, Jr.'s clueless reactions throughout this sequence are priceless.

Walter making a Pros and Cons list of the benefits on either side of the "to kill or not to kill" Krazy 8 situation. Reasons to kill him: "He'll kill your entire family if you let him go."

The aforementioned revelation to check the pieces of the plate, reassembling it like a puzzle, and the subsequent method by which White "handled" the Krazy 8 problem.

The end where, finally, Walter confronts his wife and tells her: "Skyler, there's something I have to tell you."

Again, I have no idea where the show might go from here. Walter and Jesse are hip-deep in it already so the question they have to face is how far are they willing to go to get the riches they've yet to achieve. Or is it worth it at all for either of them? And have they been smart enough to get away with anything?

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