Monday, May 4, 2009

Breaking Bad is Too Damn Good

AMC's Breaking Bad exhausts me. It takes me on a nerve filled roller coaster ride with death, drugs and morality. The fact it's on Sunday nights is not a good thing for my brain. After a few rounds with Walt and Jesse and their intense, hilarious yet frightening escapades into the underbelly of the drug world, my nervous system is shot, and sleep, on a lazy Sunday night before the dreaded Monday morning, is near impossible. Thanks to DVR's I can watch it at a better time, but sometimes I cannot wait. Like last night.

Lets put it this way. I feel sympathy for Walt's family. I am curious about his health, now withering from the aftermath of chemotherapy. But I hate him. I hate his stupid decision to cook and sell meth. I hate the fact that he's thriving in this new found world of crime and violence with a fervent ambition. His treatment toward Jesse, albeit fatherly at best, is tyrannical, cold and utterly annoying. I hate that he's putting his family in potential danger, all for the sake of stocking up cash he can leave them when he's passed on.

However, I love the fact the superb writing of Vince Gilligan and incredible performances of Bryan Cranston make me hate him. I'm surprised that I've come to adore Jesse, the slacker idiot played superbly by Aaron Paul. Jesse is just a young man with artistic tendencies, who was just a basic fuck up kid who grew up into a filthy world of drugs, lured by romantic notions of a sexy underworld filled with fierce music and abundant smokes. His boyhood cohorts went on to have families. Jesse was a small town dealer, who one time hit bottom so hard, he didn't have a bed nor car to sleep in. He also didn't know what he was in for with Walt.

Last night's episode was exquisite in its intensity, hilarity and frustrating futility. As Jesse and Walt cooked drugs and baked themselves in the New Mexico desert sun, trying to charge the dead battery of their RV full of a million dollars worth of freshly cooked drugs, we see how helpless they are. They dig themselves deeper, with trouble at their shoulder, only to find themselves stuck. It befits these two men: one a scientist with MacGyver-like qualities, and the other, a pretty clueless guy being bullied and prodded to gain more all for the sake of Walt's needs. Jesse, for all his goofy dumbness, has heart. I'd take Jesse to his word. If Walt died, he would give a share of the money to his family. However, I get the sense that Walt wouldn't do the same for him.

Elements of warmth and humor do crop up between Jesse and Walt during their worst moments. They work best when there is no hope and despair sets off Jesse's frantic ramblings, creating a brainstorm for Walt to hang his scientific thoughts on - such as his sudden eureka moment with the coins, nuts and bolts and copper wire that turned into a battery, helping them charge the RV and get back home.

Also, the chemistry teacher, student dyanamic is another facet that provides a lovely moment between the two. Walt is proud when Jesse gets it, but dissappointed when he's wrong - inflicting verbal abuse in a way he never would with his own son...thankfully. However, he's not spending much time with Walter Jr, nor his pregnant wife, and that in itself, provides an underlying sadness to the whole story. They are drifting away from him, no matter how much he tries to prepare them financially for after his death, which now seems to be on hold.

His cancer now officially in remission, Walter White is more of an enigma. His violent outburst in the men's room after the good news wasn't all that startling. When death stared him in the face, the mild mannered Walter started living on the dark edge of society, saw the most horrific images, committed murder and created an world where he not only called the shots, but was feared. Did he get off on this cancer life sentence only for him to be offered a less finite end? Or does his anger stem from the fact he went into this horrid business for nothing? I think it's both.

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