Alex Casey has never watched a second of Breaking Bad, nor read anything about it. Going in completely blind, she has committed to watching the whole series over summer in the lead up to spin off series Better Call Saul‘s arrival to Lightbox in February. Contains spoilers, obviously.
Day Three: Thursday 18 December, 7am
Watched: Season two, Episode One
I woke up early SANS alarm, with enough time to squeeze in the first episode. I couldn’t face another day in the real world without knowing what happens to Walt, Jesse and bloody Tuco.
Turns out Tuco is a bit of psycho – beating his henchman to death and then ordering Walt to perform CPR on his bloodied corpse. Walt returns to family life and it’s pretty clear he is starting to lose the plot a bit. There is a particularly uncomfortable scene where he forces himself onto Skyler in the kitchen. He’s rapidly becoming a very awful person and it’s stressful to watch him unravel.
The paranoia of both Walt and Jesse is palpable, as they spend their days peering through curtains and arming up against Tuco. Rightly so because, at the end of the episode, he kidnaps them at gunpoint and forces them to drive god knows where. Hell of a start to the season. Seems like a cliffhanger from the end of a season, rather than an episode one kind of deal.
Day Four: Saturday 20 December 6pm
Watched: Episodes 2-6
Thank god it rained today so I didn’t have to do any of the fun outdoor social activities I had planned, and instead could smoke up a lethal amount of Breaking Bad.
Episode two better have won some kind of Golden Globe for “Best Use of a Bell as a Dramatic Device”, bloody hell. Shacked up with crazy drug lord Tuco and his wheelchair-bound grandfather who relies on a bell to communicate – Jesse and Walt are truly up shite creek without a paddle.
The pair might not have paddles, but they sure as hell have some magic poison bean thing that Walt has made to kill Tuco. They try to administer it to him various ways, slipping it into his burrito like you would a sick cat.
With the Grandfather witnessing the murderous scheme, he violently tries to communicate to Tuco using only his bell. It was so tense hearing the incessant dings that I genuinely feel a little jumpy now when I hear someone get a text (if they have a bell sound) (my Dad).
Somebody edited this weird/pretty accurate bell usage montage together:
The poison doesn’t work out so Walt ends up shooting Tuco, just ahead of the arrival of D.E.A Officer and brother-in-law Hank who has tracked Jesse’s car to the location. Surely they’ll get caught soon, right? Surely it’s impossible to write them out of this mess, right?
Wrong. The seamless return of Walt and Jesse back from the desert in the next episode just goes to show, as if there was any doubt there, that the Breaking Bad writers are a lot smarter than I. Sending Jesse on a truck with some hitchhikers – genius. Walt passing his disappearance off as a chemo-induced blackout and gets naked in a supermarket before being picked up and returned home. Hell of an alibi.
For the next few episodes, Skyler is right on the cusp of leaving Walt. I can feel it. Despite his expert naked-in-aisle-seven excuse, she found his burner phone and ain’t buying any more of his lies. Skyler is amazing at summoning that suffocating silent cloud of a person who knows they are being lied to. It makes me psychically anxious when I see her Iooking at Walt so knowingly.
The cracks are turning into giant crevices, and I reckon Walt’s about to get swallowed up deep into the earth. I quite like how he’s able to evade the DEA, druglords, his colleagues, dealers, and yet can’t quite get past the old wife. There’s got to be a little message there.
Meanwhile, Jesse has been kicked out of home, robbed of all his possessions and has crawled his way back to the Meth RV HQ via a terrible Portaloo stunt. I find it incredible that this show even makes spilt blue Portaloo water look like a goddamn Monet.
Talking of art, time to discuss the opening teasers for season two. These beautiful textural black and white shots begin underwater inside Walt’s pool, panning up to reveal various bits of evidence being collected for some reason. Deft use of colour select highlights a bright pink bear with a missing eye, which I hope to someday figure out the significance of.
Episode five is all about Hank, which I loved. Hank is a very interesting character, his bulky bald Michael Chiklis-in-The Shield-style veneer isn’t going to hold up much longer – it’s clear the guy has some deeply bottled anxiety issue. He gets promoted to some serious work on the Mexican border, which brings with it a string of panic attacks. I like that the show isn’t afraid to divert the attention to the other characters for extended periods of time. Sometimes you even forget about Walt, which seems like a massive feat in itself.
Pinkman gets a starring role in episode six, trapped in a house with some meth heads who knifed one of Walt’s dealers for cash. Wanting the money back, Jesse is shacked up waiting for them to give in. There’s a little dirty kid in the house too, a poignant reminder of the terrible effects of addiction on the innocent.
At this point, Walt (and the audience alike) has been comfortably distanced from the ‘reality’ of meth users, so the little boy feels like an important inclusion. We have seen Walt raking in mega cash and Jesse buying a flat screen – the poor little kid is an amazing reminder that cuts down any glamour or false heroism that may have previously been established in relation to meth. I no longer want to do even one meth.
Day Five: Sunday 21 Decmber 7a.m
Watched: Episodes 7 & 8
Had to wake up at 5am to drop my boyfriend at the airport. Came home and instead of doing the logical sleep thing – I squeezed in two more episodes.
I’ll make this quick because I have to go to work soon. Episode seven (“Negro y Azul”) is one of the most action-packed yet, delivering maybe the most powerful imagery of the season with drug lord Tortuga’s dismembered head prancing across the desert on a tortoise. Looking forward to Hank’s severe PTSD after that one.
The episode genre-bends again and ends like a straight-up romantic comedy, with Jesse finally winning over his landlord in a very cute scene featuring an untuned flatscreen. Shout out to episode seven for bringing the most disgusting and adorable shots of the season.
Next up we meet Saul Goodman (episode eight), the criminal lawyer who puts the criminal in criminal lawyer. After Badger is arrested for dealing, the cops are after Heisenberg. Saul and the guys come up with a plan to send a similar looking bald guy to prison for Walt. Bob Odenkirk as Saul provides some much needed laughter amongst the screams of horror and stress, and it’s great to watch imagining him getting his own show. I can’t wait for Better Call Saul.
Day Six: Wednesday 24 December, 7.30pm
Watched: Epsiodes 9-12
Episode nine could almost be a short film on it’s own, isolated to pretty much one location. Pretending to visit his mother for the weekend, Walt heads out with Jesse to cook up a storm in the desert. He has just found out he needs an operation so has to make major dosh to pay for it. They make $672,000 worth. Each.
Of course though, the RV doesn’t start because Pinkman did something dumb. Watching them slowly waste away in the desert whilst trying to figure out a solution is great fun – maybe helped because I have the knowledge that they have to live for at least 3 more seasons…
Our classic black and white opening teaser has gone nek level in episode ten, revealing two BODIES in BAGS. Who dies?? Oh my god two people are going to die. Walt is starting to permeate family life with his villainous streak, forcing Walt Jr to drink gallons of tequila in some weird macho-off with Hank. Poor Walt Jr ends up chucking in the pool. We’ve all been there mate.
Stacked with cash, Walt gets fixing the leaky water cylinder in their house. I only mention this because there is an incredible transition shot where the drip from a pipe turns to a drip in a meth-making kit, to a drip from a teabag. Those little intricate cinematic moments are so prevalent you often have to force yourself to point them out.
We lose one of Walt’s drug dealers in episode eleven – a robust gent who looks like the lead singer of Smash Mouth. It’s a very heavy and “plotty” ep, with the beginning of a turf war, the relapse of Jesse’s girlfriend into meth and Skyler’s boss admitting to millions of dollars of unreported revenue at their company. I’m not 100% sold on the boss storyline yet, but it provides a nice little contrast with the secretive workings of white collar and blue collar crime. Is drug dealing blue collar? It’s got to be. The meth is blue, at the very least.
Oh yeah, Skyler sung this creepy rendition of “Happy Birthday” to her boss as well:
We also meet the Chicken Shop Man (Gus), an undercover brother much like Walt who is doing huge drug deals from a delicious fried chicken restaurant. He’s a chilling character, switching from affable manager banter to stone cold killer faster than you can open a quarter pack.
Walt misses the birth of his baby for the Chicken Shop deal, but the ratty boss made it to Skyler’s side – which does not look great for Walt. I was deeply excited to see that Walt Jr’s donation website (www.savewalterwhite.com) is still functional, and greatly assists strengthening the line between the real the fake (that I am already proudly stepping over in my semi-delusional state).
The highlight of episode 12 has to be, as in any great artistic work, when the characters mentioned New Zealand. After getting their share of the cash, our (now heroin using) couple of the year Jesse and Jane expand their travel options beyond their bedroom. “Let’s go to New Zealand – that’s where they made Lord of the Rings!” Be still my beating hobbit heart.
Anyway, those Matamata dreams were quashed because Jane choked on her vomit whilst shooting up soon after.
Day Seven: Thursday 25th December aka Christmas Day, 11.30am
Watched: Episode 13
After I watched the finale I found myself escaping to the beach with the dogs to clear my head/breathe some fresh air. Walking along the beach, a small spherical object washed up at my feet. It was an eye-shaped bead. After the reveal in episode thirteen, I now know the one-eyed bear is due to the dramatic plane crash that happens above Walt’s house.
But that doesn’t make the coincidence any less weird.
Can’t tell if this is life imitating art – or me slowly losing my mind. Either way, I definitely have lung cancer.