Instead of reviewing this week’s incredible episode of “Breaking Bad” I thought this would be a perfect episode to dissect. “Breaking Bad” is a show that is at the top height of critical appraisal. The writing is detailed, with every dark corner of the story in mind, including a solid stock of sharp monologues. The direction goes beyond the writing and explores the world of Walter White using unconventional methods of filmmaking. All accompanied by a vivid selection of shots from the cinematographers, the pacing and tempo from the editors on the show, and a production design that excels in utilizing foreshadowing through color.
Since the mid-season finale, we have been anticipating a falling-out of the great Walter White. The show, as a whole, has worked the three-act structure: Beginning, Middle and End. We are introduced to Walt and the characters in his world and learn about them, we’ve seen them bend and bend, and we have reached the breaking point. The climax of “Breaking Bad” is upon us, with the most ridiculous of expectations. With these first three episodes, they are exceeding those high expectations.
Each episode has concluded with a cliffhanger. Last week Hank was preparing to speak with Jesse. As well as we know Jesse, it’s still nearly impossible to predict his reaction to this situation given his current state of affairs and past relationship with Hank. Jesse, at this point, is numb to the moralities in life. He is self-destructive, carless and possibly suicidal. Aaron Paul channels these emotions giving a performance that just guaranteed next years Emmy nomination.
The confrontation between Hank/Marie and Walt/Skylar wasn’t set up. We never saw Walt calling to arrange the meeting because we didn’t need to. The same way we didn’t need to see Hank and Walt dance around each other till the final episode, giving us an immediate confrontation and a more packed climax. The presence of the waiter as a comedic element is genius. “Breaking Bad,” being previously turned down by other networks for being too dark, has been clearly capable of maintaining occasional humor.
When things go awry, Walt gives the Schrader’s a DVD with his “confession.” We are welcomed with a prolonged scene of Walt’s confession adding another great monologue into the shows history. It’s difficult to shoot such a long scene and keep things moving, the editing here keeps the shots moving. At times it is hard to differentiate if Walt has any ounce of sincerity left, or if he’s just a manipulative evil incarnate.
Another brilliant scene is when Walt speaks with Jesse. There has always been a strong father-son chemistry with these characters (no pun intended), but who does Walt care more about, Jesse? Or himself? An AMC poll indicated a 50/50 response from viewers regarding Walt’s sincerity in this scene. The hug is, simply, shocking. Possibly a last-ditch effort to manipulate a man on the brink of insanity.
One of the most intriguing things about tonight’s episode was the production design. One peculiar shot is in the scene where Jesse awaits his clean start. Where is he at? What kind of background is that? Whatever it actually is, it resembles a graveyard. This may, or may not be an example of foreshadowing.
Aaron Paul was definitely the star of this episode. Under the direction of Michael Slovis, he is able to meet his breaking point; the performance in his eyes, in his face once he discovers (just one) of Walt’s dark secrets. He sees how evil Walt is and how he’s wasted the last year of his life being manipulated, bringing him to his breaking point.
Skyler didn’t say much this episode, but the way this one brief scene was lit could say so much. If a picture says a thousand words than what about the thousands of photos used to compile a film? Walt is encumbered with darkness while Skyler is bathing in sunlight. I speculate that Skyler is still very much a player in this, and hasn’t complete fallen to Walt’s manipulations. Marie is her sister, I doubt she will just go along with ending their relationship permanently. It could be a basic light vs. dark scenario, used to distinguish Walt’s intentions. It could also imply that Skyler isn’t consumed by the darkness, not yet.
There is definitely something to be said about the contrast of the frozen gun Walt pulls from the Soda machine and the burning intentions of Jesse. Walt is an ice cold soul while Jesse is a passionate one.
We are left with a haunting scene of Jesse breaking into the White household with a canister of gasoline. The first question that comes to mind is: Well, Walt’s going to have to kill him now right? One of the shows signature P.O.V. shots is used as we follow Jesse into the home. Dragging the audience right out of their comfort zone and using the cinematography to basically tell them that shit is going down.