Breaking Bad: Live Free or Die Hard

Holy shit, has the color palette on season five of Breaking Bad been dark or what? Almost every scene, especially the scenes taking place in the White household, are drenched in shadows. Characters’ faces are dimly lit, or we see only a part of them breaking out of the darkness.

The restraints are tightening on Walter White and the light is beginning to fade.

OK, we needed to get that out of the way, right?

It’s never been more clear that Jesse Pinkman has a lot of Eddie Haskell in him. “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. White, and your hair looks particularly wonderful this evening. Can Walter come out to play?”

I also find it personally enriching that I got to Google “Jesse Pinkman green beans” in order to find that clip.

So, we have two episodes left in this half-season before our interminable wait, and the biggest questions remain: How is Walter getting to New Hampshire? When is Walter getting to New Hampshire? Is Walter even ever actually going to set foot in New Hampshire? And while there, will he visit Dartmouth’s campus, the erstwhile home of one David Simon Cowell? Maybe even check out DSC’s old frat house? We need answers, damn it!

This season is moving at a rapid clip now, so I still think it’s conceivable that we get to the scene that opened the season at the end of the midseason finale — but it’s also possible we won’t get there until some time in the second half of the season, or maybe even the finale.

But let’s backtrack and discuss the amazing opening scene of “Buyout,” which stands among the best cold opens ever for a series that specialized in them. The show returned to the alien vibe from the season premiere when Hank investigated the burned-out superlab. Here, ambient music drowned out all other sound and a series of disorienting cuts of the team disposing of the kid’s body made it seem like we were watching a strange extraterrestrial race go about their business. The effect created distance not only between the viewer from the action but between the characters and the action, so the team (especially Jesse) seemed completely disengaged from what they were doing.

Jesse is haunted by the murder of the kid, and the entirety of the events of the past year or so. Mike is beaten down. Walter seems to have left all emotions behind other than pride, jealousy and rage. And Landry/Todd…well, this kid seriously has some issues, judging from the souvenir tarantula he took from the murder scene. It will be interesting to see if the spider ends up coming into play if the authorities figure out that Todd and co. are behind the kid’s murder, and we can add it to the ricin cigarette as hanging threads in the show.

So: aliens. Disengagement. These characters are losing their humanity piece by piece, none more than Walter White. His complete disregard for Jesse’s feelings is stunning considering that Jesse is probably the only person left on earth that Walt could experience genuine closeness with. His manipulation of Jesse after the murder (“I haven’t slept the last few nights…”) shows a lack of concern for Jesse in any capacity except positioning Pinkman to better assist his empire building. And a pretty basic lack of human compassion for the dead teenager. At this point, Todd is probably the character Walt has the most in common with, which is pretty frightening for everybody involved.

Utterances by The Dilemma and Mrs. Dilemma During This Episode

  • “Jesus, this is dark.”
  • “God, Mike is awesome.”
  • “Uh oh, that’s not a good sign.”
  • “Breaking Bad is breaking me.”

Metaphor Watch

Early this season, Breaking Bad seems to be headed in the same direction as Mad Men did in their most recent season, making their metaphors, allusions and themes more obvious. How did “Buyout” extend this theme:

  • We know that the Breaking Bad creative team are Deadwood fans. Their use of Jim Beaver as Walt’s gun dealer is a dead giveaway, even if the casting of Anna Gunn were just a coincidence. So alarm bells should have gone off when Todd joked to Jesse that the acid they were using to dissolve the kid smelled like cat piss. On Deadwood, Al Swearengen often repeated that when people were lying to him, they smelled like cat piss. So, while Todd’s line could just be a nonchalant nod to another great show, it’s more likely that the cat piss symbolizes the loss of trust from among Walt, Jesse, Mike and Todd. In the wake of this horrific murder, they’ve begun lying to each other and their partnership is fracturing.
  • The idea of New Hampshire itself is representative of Walter’s attitude. The Granite State, with it’s Don’t Tread on Me brand of libertarianism, aligns well with Walter’s desperation to be his own boss and control his own destiny. It makes sense that New Hampshire is the state Walter would chose to flee to (or pretend to flee to).

How Much Ticking Was There in This Episode?

A pretty good amount of ticking, noticeable during the above-embedded dinner scene at Casa White.

Can We Discuss How Jesse Referring to Walter as “Mr. White” is Clearly an Allusion to Reservoir Dogs and Harvey Keitel’s Character and How That Presages The Endgame of the Show?

Shut up, Klosterman.

What’s Up With Hank’s Mineral Collection?

I’m beginning to wonder if Marie didn’t “accidentally” throw it out while cleaning the house for Flynn and Holly’s arrival.

Is Skyler Still the Worst?

Confusing times this week, as Skyler’s comment to Jesse about the source of her green beans and her “May I please be excused?” exit from the dinner table were actually kind of awesome. I’m not sure what to think. Just a fluke? Probably. Skyler is probably still the worst.


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Filed under Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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