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September 30, 2013

[SPOILERS] A Breaking Bad plot flaw

Breaking Bad Finale SPOILERS

A number of plot weaknesses, if not exactly flaws, have been noticed by many people: It was too convenient that Walter found the car keys in the first scene, it was unlikely that he could have so casually evaded the police lookouts when visiting his wife, he couldn’t have counted on being allowed to position his car so perfectly for the last scene, it was lucky that all the bad guys (except one) were in just the right range for his bullet-sprinkler system.

But I haven’t seen one particular, and genuine, plot flaw mentioned anywhere. Probably because I’m wrong about it. Here goes:

Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz were next to each other facing forward when the red laser dots appeared on their chests. How did they see the dots? Did they see the laser sources and figure out that they were pointing at them? That’s probably it. Ok, so much for the plot flaw. Carry on.

Finally, yes, I know that picking plot flaws misses the point of the Breaking Bad finale. But I have to say that I was a little disappointed by episode. It wrapped up the plot points, but I didn’t think it advanced the series’ argument. And, no, I don’t claim to know exactly what that argument was; it was too wonderfully complex for that. Still, I didn’t think the finale deepened its themes.

I agree with how others have framed it: “Ozymandias” — the third-to-last episode — was the series’ climax. The rest was denouement.

Great, great series.

 


Freudian slip of the month. From E-Online’s coverage of the finale: “Walt (Bryan Cranston) got his revenge but succumbed to his wombs.”

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September 29, 2013

Fake spoilers to tweet during Breaking Bad

Here’s a sequence of fake spoilers you can tweet during tonight’s Breaking Bad finale.

There are IMPLIED SPOILERS in this if you haven’t seen the series. E.g., if you don’t know what happens to Gus, read no further. Mainly, though, it implies who is alive when the finale begins.

First, just a palette cleanser:

First time viewer! Can someone catch me up? #BreakingBad

Then:

The New Mexico landscape is so beautiful, forbidding. But why is Pisa leaning in the background? Foreshadowing? #BreakingBad
I don’t remember Jesse having a hook for a hand? Did I miss an episode????? #BreakingBad
Surprise! I really did not see that Paula Deen cameo coming! #BreakingBad
Hahahaha. First time Saul ever wins a case and it turns out to be a case of TNT! Boom! #BreakingBad
Don’t eat it, Huell. Don’t eat it. DON’T EAT IT!!!!!!! #BreakingBad
I told you not to eat it :( #BreakingBad
OMG. NPH is great in EVERYTHING #BreakingBad
One thing you have to say about the Neo-Nazis: they sing ABBA beautifully. #BreakingBad
Gus is alive??? I don’t think I’m buying this “bionic face” device #BreakingBad
Todd meet the new sheriff in town: Chuck Freaking Norris! Yeah!! #roundhouse! #BreakingBad
But if Skyler’s outfit is made from cloth from Krypton and is indestructible, how did she sew it? #BreakingBad
I looove Robin Williams, but was this really the right time for zany improv? #BreakingBad
Really? Wouldn’t the constant stream of water from the car wash have put out the Hell Mouth? #BreakingBad
Well, he died as he lived. In his tighty whiteys. #BreakingBad

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September 27, 2013

Felina [predictive attempt at a SPOILER]

There’s absolutely no reason to read this. If you’re reading it before the last episode of Breaking Bad airs tonight, it contains rank speculation and yet another bad guess. If you’re reading it afterwards, it’s just plain wrong. So, go away. I’ll let you know if it turns out there was any reason to continue reading.

The title of tonight’s final Breaking Bad episode is “Felina,” which, as others have pointed out, is an anagram of “finale.”

Eric Brown reports on a few Internet theories about what the title means. Pretty interesting, especially the Marty Robbins one. But I kind of like the possible reference to Schrodinger’s cat, especially since Heisenberg is all about uncertainty.

So, here’s a prediction. The cage that Jesse is in is a Schrodinger box. Walt comes upon Jesse in it unable to tell if Jesse is alive or dead. Maybe Todd has a gun on him, telling him he can talk away and leave Jesse to die. Walt opens the box. ( The probability wave settles: Jesse lives, and Walt dies.

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September 21, 2013

Breaking Bad’s growth, followed by some VERY WELL-MARKED speculative SPOILERS

NO SPOILERS until the big red notice.

Actually, I take it back: BROAD THEMATIC SPOILERS AHEAD. No plot points, however.

Breaking Bad has become one of my favorite shows ever. Yours too, probably. But it didn’t start that way for me.

The first season was driven by its premise: what would happen if a kindly chemistry teacher had to cook meth to cover his medical bills? (Ok, so that spoiled the first episode for you. Really?) That season was a series of set pieces, the sort of things you’d imagine if you took that as your premise.

The next two seasons were driven (it seemed to me) by the escalating plot and by letting Walter grow into a role, as if the writers said, “What would happen if Walt became a Tony Montana, or a Tony Soprano, except really really smart?”

But in the last two seasons, the show became a living thing, driven not by premise, role, or plot. It has become emergent. And this is enabling it to explore themes — e.g., What is the nature of evil? Is there justice? Can we know ourselves? — without severing those themes from the people who are living through them.

[Still no spoilers] This is how the great dramas have worked. I’m reluctant to make the comparison, but there is no separating the character of King Lear, Macbeth, or Huckleberry Finn from the themes their works explore. Because the themes are worked through by highly specific people, it becomes impossible to decide exactly what the general lessons of the text are, which tells us something about the nature of morality.[1] I like what Emma Smith says in her wonderful podcast lectures on Shakespeare: His plays unsettle questions.

Breaking Bad has become truly unsettling, and not just because of the violence or even because we can see ourselves in all of the characters. It is unsettling because it is pursuing themes through fully realized people in a world with no simple rules.


[1] I am here echoing a line of thought pursued variously by Richard Rorty, Martha Nussbaum, Iris Murdoch, and others, often focusing on Jane Austen. E.g., Philosopher’s Beard, Rose Woodhouse responds, Gilbert Ryle pdf


How Breaking Bad won’t end [SPOILERS about the story so far!!!]

SPOILERS about the story so far!!!

SPOILERS about the story so far!!!

So, here’s how I think the show will end, where “I think” should be read as “I know I’m wrong.”

The most recent episode, Ozymandias, was one of the best hours of TV ever. But one thing bothered me about it: Gomie. We see his body in the dirt, but not his face. The episode didn’t spend a second on the death of the only (almost) unsullied Good Guy in the series.

Now, maybe that’s the point. But it felt wrong. So here’s certainly how the next two episodes won’t go (a.k.a, proof that I am not Vince Gilligan).

I do think Walt has bottomed out and has begun the turn. He’s done the thing that even he has defined as the worst possible: turning Jesse over for a slow death, after tormenting him with how easily Walt could have saved the love of Jesse’s life. (I will accept the argument that ever since Walt poisoned the kid, he’s been running in circles at the bottom of the moral barrel.) But Holly’s “Ma ma ma” (wow, that kid can act!) has made him see that he doesn’t have a family and doesn’t deserve a family. So, he begins to do the best thing he can for his family, which is to pretend to be as evil as he actually is by lying about it having been all his fault, which of course it was. (Genius scene.)

In the final two episodes, I think Walt continues to try to turn things around as best he can. I expect no more rank evil from him. But this show is better than most about showing the consequences of our actions. So, how about this:

This Sunday’s episode begins with Gomez’s family coming to grips with his death. The DEA tells them Walter White was the killer. They’re heartbroken.

Walt comes back from the Bad Guy Protection Service in order to try to set some things right with his family. But just as he is about to take the ricin himself, Ms. Gomez shows up with a gun, fires … misses … and kills Skyler. (Maybe Walt Jr. instead, but I’m not made of stone.) Fade out to twangy Breaking Bad music.

If anything like this happens, you all owe me ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

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September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad SPOILER (not really)

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