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Breaking Bad

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On AMC. first 2 episodes play again tonight - or they're available online.

Short synopsis: High school chem teacher with a terminal illness starts a meth lab in an RV.

he does have some interesting scruples -- making it, but not wanting his partner to use it, e.g. His moral compass is swirling around, but still seems to be working somewhat.

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I just started watching this show about a week ago and I'm already nearing the end of season 2. It is incredible.

Season 1 was another victim of the 2007-2008 Writer's Strike and so there were only 7 episodes (which was plenty to earn Bryan Cranston the first of his back-to-back Emmys for playing Chemistry teacher cum meth cooker, Walter White). Season 1 gained attention primarily for Cranston's great performance. It also sets the pace for the rest of the show (which many viewers will likely find to be too slow). One of the best things about Breaking Bad is how it focuses on the little things that other crime shows ignore, like the difficulty of disposing of a body.

In season 2 (which is 13 episodes long) every other aspect of the show-- writing, acting, sound design, cinematography, story, etc.-- improved to match the quality of the work being done by the leading man. This is particularly noticeable of the incredible performance of Aaron Paul who plays Walter White's drug-dealing former student turned partner in crime, Jesse Pinkman. And just when I thought the show couldn't get any better, Bob Odenkirk enters stage left as Saul Goodman, the sleaziest lawyer in New Mexico. He adds some wonderfully dark comic relief to the show.

The season 3 finale airs a week from tonight. I hope to be caught up in time to watch it.

This might be the best drama on TV right now. Anyone else watching it?

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I just started watching this show about a week ago and I'm already nearing the end of season 2. It is incredible.

The season 3 finale airs a week from tonight. I hope to be caught up in time to watch it.

This might be the best drama on TV right now. Anyone else watching it?

[NO spoilers in this post - promise]

Been watching it from the beginning.

I'll only say - season three umps the ante over season 2. Several times.

Wow.

Hope you can catch up by next Sunday!

As the show goes along, do you find yourself wondering how long Walt can continue to justify himself? Will he ever self-identify as a criminal?

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I have also been watching it from the start. I was starting to think that Season 3 was beginning to mark the inevitable drag, especially as the central intrigue of the show (Walt's mortality) became irrelevant.

But almost every episode this season has proved me wrong. A few highlights so far: Hank's parking lot "actioner", the improvised conversation Skyler has with her sister about Walt's "gambling problem", the fly episode, the Jesse art gallery flashback, last night's ending. And scattered all throughout are the visual interludes, the soliloquies, the way the writers attend Walt's relationships with such exquisite emotional detail. I like the way AMC conceives of television as a way to mate serial writing with styles of cinematography that only really work well in short bursts.

(The Jesse art gallery flashback is a great Breaking Bad microcosm. It has largely irrelevant to the current plot. It kind of functions to add depth to how Jesse is thinking now, but only in a tangential way. It takes place mostly in a car outside of an art gallery that would have been the better location. And it ends up being a profound conversation about love, people, and art in the crudest vernacular possible.)

I don't like the way Jesse is continually used as a plot device, which always makes his character seem overdrawn. But the show's visually integrity has generally been matched by good writing. What other show will spend ten minutes with a character just telling a story? Or have its two leads chase a fly for 40 minutes? I would not bat an eye at watching bald Bryan Cranston drive his Aztec for 50 minutes.

SPOILERS:

And I am really happy to see after last night's episode that all the moral implications of what they are doing really will come to a head. I was surprised to see that Jesse was the catalyst for this. I was further surprised to see Walt streak back into the frame with that same death's door recklessness he had in previous seasons. I have no idea what to expect next.

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I would not bat an eye at watching bald Bryan Cranston drive his Aztec for 50 minutes.

Nor would I. Especially if the windshield is cracked again.

This show that has a lot of nice "touches," but having Walter drive a Pontiac Aztek was a masterstroke.

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You've got my attention. Just put Season 1 on hold at the library. I see above that it was a shortened season, which probably explains why it's available (just one or two discs), whereas Season 2 is available but can't be put on hold -- a sign that it's a multi-disc set that the library has separated into multiple discs. I know nothing about this show beyond its name and one or two short items I've read about it over the years. And what I see in this thread.

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Finished season 2 today and started season 3.

I loved the final scene of season 2 in which

fiery judgment literally rained down on Walt from the sky, which, little did he know then, he had caused.

Season 3 kicked off with another very memorable scene

with the Mexican people crawling on the ground. That was the first moment that I felt something was "Breaking Bad-esque."

One of the most fascinating aspects to the show, I think, is

how it has changed the way we view Walt and Jesse. In 1.01, Walt was a hero and Jesse was a somewhat dangerous, drug-dealing loser. Now, Walt is a monster, who (as it appears right now, anyway) has no chance of redemption. Meanwhile, Jesse is sort of Walt's prisoner and I think there's still hope for him to come out of this as a somewhat decent person (assuming Walt doesn't inadvertently destroy him, like he has so many others).

In my estimation, the show also has a somewhat biblical view of sin.

Walt does tons of evil things, but I think the root of all of his evil is the pride and bitterness toward Elliot and Gretchen that he nurtured in his heart for decades. That led him to desire to be the hero (which he still mistakenly thinks he is) who will save his family and it caused him to often see himself as a victim. These small sins lingering in his heart for years have led him to become an evil, terrible man. Of course, that's only part of the explanation, because in Breaking Bad, nothing's ever that simple.

That's just a few of my thoughts as I move into Season 3. I look forward to catching up and coming back here next Monday to talk about the season 3 finale.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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OK, I'm now caught up on Breaking Bad. I watched "Half Measures" last night and... Wow. One of the best episodes of an already unbelievable season.

Can't wait for the finale on Sunday.

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It was fantastic. Regardless of how tuned in one was to Walt throughout the season there is:

no way you could have seen that coming. I was mostly expecting his "full-measure" response to swing the other way. As it turns out, Walt has been gnawing on the ethical implications of his new arrangement, and agreed that he needed to implement a full-measure response. It just wasn't the one I was predicting. And again, this Aztec has taken on a life of its own. I should get billing as a lead.

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This wasn't quite the finale I expected.

But I like it, because:

It moves the tension of the show from Walt as gangsta to Walt as chess-player, which is his element. I really hope that next season proves to be the final season, as I can see this getting drawn out way too far.

The scenes in Gale's apartment were fantastic.

And do we think he is really dead? I could see a Jesse move being forcing Gale to leave town instead of killing him.

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Wow. I'm kinda surprised, too.

It was one of the most intense hours of TV I've seen in a while, and a fitting finale to a tremendous season of television.

Lots of great scenes in this one like

the return of Heisenberg (or at least his porkpie hat) to meet Gus out in the wilderness. I also loved Walt and Jesse's meeting in the plastic-covered laser tag center. I particularly loved that laser tag scene because it showed us just how smart Walt really is. He was already a couple steps ahead of Gus and the audience.

The one thing about the finale that troubled me was

I really do think Jesse killed Gale and I'm not sure where that leaves the show since Jesse was the closest thing to a moral center that the show had. It's clear that Walt is a monster and he's only getting worse (for example, in season 1, he killed in self-defense, in season 2, he passively allowed people to die (Jane) and inadvertently caused others to die (the plane crash), but in the penultimate episode of season 3 he runs two people down in his car and then prepares to murder probably the most innocent person in the entire meth business in the season finale).

Anyway, I had hope that Jesse would somehow find redemption as Walt continued to lose more of his soul each week, but I have no idea where the writers are going to take Jesse's character now. (And according to the interview below, neither does Vince Gilligan.)

It was a great season of TV, one that I'm sure I'll think about a lot between now and when it starts back next year.

---------

Here's a really great interview that Alan Sepinwall did with creator Vince Gilligan, in which they discuss the ambiguity of the final shot among other things. Most surprising thing of the interview: Vince admits that after the precise planning of Season 2, they went into Season 3 kind of "winging it." He went on to say:

We actively try to paint ourselves into corners at the end of episodes - at the end of seasons, at the end of scenes sometimes - and then we try to extricate ourselves from those corners. So far, so good. But one of these days, we'll probably paint ourselves into a corner we can't escape from.

From what I understand, Vince has always hoped for four seasons (no big surprise, but I think I read a fourth season was just picked up by AMC) and he doesn't really go back on that in the interview but he does say, "possibly...five" but no more than that. As much as I love this show, I hope it wraps up in four. I agree with you, M. Leary, that I can see things going on too long. However, this may be the best writing team in TV right now, so I would certainly go into a fifth season trusting them. Hopefully, Vince won't make the same mistake as his former boss, Chris Carter, who let The X-Files go on about three seasons too long.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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I really do think Jesse killed Gale and I'm not sure where that leaves the show since Jesse was the closest thing to a moral center that the show had. It's clear that Walt is a monster and he's only getting worse (for example, in season 1, he killed in self-defense, in season 2, he passively allowed people to die (Jane) and inadvertently caused others to die (the plane crash), but in the penultimate episode of season 3 he runs two people down in his car and then prepares to murder probably the most innocent person in the entire meth business in the season finale).

Anyway, I had hope that Jesse would somehow find redemption as Walt continued to lose more of his soul each week, but I have no idea where the writers are going to take Jesse's character now. (And according to the interview below, neither does Vince Gilligan.)

That is a good point. I have watched the show as it comes on every week, and it is hard to get a sense for what has really happened to Walt. I feel like the frog in hot water.

What really, really got to me is how Walt had planned that entire last sequence beforehand. First, he feigns fear by groveling for his wife, and we think - oh... here is the old Walt back again. Then once he gets the phone, his entire demeanor changes. He had this all planned out as a contingency in the first place.

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Yeah, watching all three seasons in about two weeks definitely allows you to see the slow changes in the characters fairly quickly.

Another thing I loved about the finale was

how we thought both Saul and Walt were going to give Jesse up, but neither did. It was especially tense at the end, when it seemed like Walt was planning to give Jesse up to save himself, when in fact he had a plan, as was pointed out above. Of course, there was still something self-serving in Walt's actions as he was saving his own skin, but it seemed like he was protecting Jesse as well.

Also, what a great episode this was for Mike (Jonathan Banks). I loved the balloons.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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He is well cast. That action set was as tense and well-composed as any Kitano film. What it really called to mind were a number of scenes from the first Miami Vice season. I would really love to watch the director's commentary on that episode.

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The one thing about the finale that troubled me was

I really do think Jesse killed Gale and I'm not sure where that leaves the show since Jesse was the closest thing to a moral center that the show had.

Interesting that Vince, in the interview you posted and in the one on the AVclub, seems surprised that people perceived some ambiguity about the last scene.

So yes -

Gale is gone. It could hardly be more heartbreaking, but also consider that when Gus came to his apartment, Gale seemed to catch on to what was happening and tried to buy Walt some time.

Then again - Gale is cooking poison for public consumption, just like Walt. How much a break do any of them deserve?*

I'm reminded of watching a few mid-season episodes of The Shield; getting hooked on the show; then going back to the pilot and realizing I'd become a fan of a cop who killed a cop in cold blood.

*okay I just threw that in. I loved Gale and his laser thermometer.

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Yeah, I personally didn't find the camera's movement in the final shot to be confusing. I understood that we, the audience, were just supposed to be looking

down the barrel of the gun. Gilligan seems really surprised that people were misinterpreting the camera's movement and I am, too.

Yeah, though Gale is the most innocent person in the meth biz, he's in no way "innocent." I admired how they were able to give a little bit more personality to the character by allowing us to see him at home making tea and singing along with opera. Props to the actor, David Costabile, who gave enough flesh to that character to make me feel sorry for him at the end. And the fact that he used a laster thermometer while making tea made me laugh. Sidenote: You may recognize Costabile as one of the newspaper editors from the fifth season of The Wire.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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Season 1 is ready for pick-up. Looks like this'll be our summer TV-on-DVD choice.

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Just finished catching all the way up with this show, and really at this point all I can say is, wow. This is great tv. This is great narrative.

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Just finished catching all the way up with this show, and really at this point all I can say is, wow. This is great tv. This is great narrative.

That last shot is a doozy.

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"Breaking Bad" returns TONIGHT! It's been a long year waiting to see what's going on with Walt, Jesse, Gus, et al. in the ABQ. Pretty excited.

A couple articles to peruse to get you in the "Breaking Bad" mood.

[url="http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/26/breaking-bad-the-finest-hour-on-television.html"]Newsweek on season 4: "TV's Most Dangerous Show"[/url]

[url="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/the-dark-art-of-breaking-bad.html?pagewanted=all"]New York Times: "The Dark Art of Breaking Bad"[/url]

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[quote name='Gavin Breeden' date='17 July 2011 - 12:01 AM' timestamp='1310878883' post='255866']
"Breaking Bad" returns TONIGHT! It's been a long year waiting to see what's going on with Walt, Jesse, Gus, et al. in the ABQ. Pretty excited.

A couple articles to peruse to get you in the "Breaking Bad" mood.

[url="http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/26/breaking-bad-the-finest-hour-on-television.html"]Newsweek on season 4: "TV's Most Dangerous Show"[/url]

[url="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/the-dark-art-of-breaking-bad.html?pagewanted=all"]New York Times: "The Dark Art of Breaking Bad"[/url]
[/quote]

To say I'm excited about this is an understatement. BREAKING BAD is one of my favourite narratives at the moment, in any medium.

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[quote name='Anders' date='17 July 2011 - 01:35 PM' timestamp='1310920540' post='255877']

To say I'm excited about this is an understatement. BREAKING BAD is one of my favourite narratives at the moment, in any medium.
[/quote]

Likewise, but I am nervous. The last sequence for this show is bound to be a high water mark. Right? Can't imagine a more alarming use of a Pontiac Aztec.

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[quote name='M. Leary' date='17 July 2011 - 02:57 PM' timestamp='1310929037' post='255879']

Likewise, but I am nervous. The last sequence for this show is bound to be a high water mark. Right? Can't imagine a more alarming use of a Pontiac Aztec.
[/quote]

HAHA! Nice.

I'm not really nervous, there is honestly no group of writers in TV right now that I trust as much as Vince Gilligan & co. (Well, I reckon I trust the "Mad Men" writers just as much.)

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The [url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPx42dMjegc&feature=related"]Ballad of Heisenberg[/url]

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Wow. Season 4 opened with a bang. I have no idea where the season is gonna go, but I feel like the possibilities are endless. Already feels like it's gonna be a good season.

I halfway guessed the "shocking" moment that occurred a little over half way through the episode, but that didn't diminish its effect on me. Yikes!

So glad that[spoiler] Mike and Saul made appearances.[/spoiler] Two of the best characters on a show that is literally full of rich characters.

What'd everyone else think?

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