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#602346 - 09/22/13 02:26 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: Allen Montgomery]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Cliffhanger: I was irritated by the cliffhanger, but having seen how it plays out, I think I am good with where they chose to split it. I guess they could've shown Gomez and Hank taking their bullets to leave less ambiguity for the audience, but when I play it back through all together in my head this works out better. The chaos before the cut told us enough. It wasn't going to end well. People were dying. The show needed to step back for a moment and recalibrate, then let us take in the body count and aftermath as its own set piece. This is important because of how directly linked up that aftermath scene is in initiating a number of new narrative pathways.

The flashback and cut are also a more useful way to play off the "time slows down in a crisis" effect that most shows and movies just rely on extended slow-motion to produce. This was more interesting and less lazy than that, and gives the audience more credit.

When I think about what makes the scattered "action" scenes of Breaking Bad so consistently effective, there are a couple things at play. One, while it pops up a little bit, they avoid overuse of the whole shaky-cam/quick-cut/confusion-heightens-the-excitement notion that a lot of modern action editors lean on. They keep it old school -- cuts and actions are coherent and progress meaningfully from one moment to the next. Two, they eschew slow-motion. I hadn't thought about that much before. Not that they never use it for anything, but almost never for action. They do lean on music, but sparingly, and never the kind of cliche dark orchestral swells that would be the go-to; it's all Dave Porter's buzzing, ambient industrial drones and pulses, which are just a fantastic tone enchancer throughout the series.

Walt giving up the $80 million to save Hank was interesting. I don't find it either plausible or implausible -- it relies on information about Walt I don't feel I had as a viewer up to that point. How important to Walt is Hank? "Family" has always been the go-to justification for Walt. The concept gives him one loose tether back to his old humanity. The writers made a decision about Walt and conveyed it. Family is still more important to Walt than his money; even Hank. Even Hank after Hank has apprehended him. Of course, Walt was in the heat of the moment. Maybe with more time to reflect and stew, with Heisenberg at the wheel, Walt would've reached a different place. But retirement Walt has been a little more emotional and careless than pre-retirement Walt. It flows. It was a valid option for the writers.

Too long for Hank to get shot: I can see why you would say that, but I like that they played this out a little. I contrast it with an episode of Game of Thrones I watched not too long ago (spoilers) where Tyrian has to confront Sansa and Shay about his new unwilling engagement to Sansa. He says, "this is going to be awkward," -- and they cut to another scene, leaving us to understand that the information has now been conveyed. I was let down. I felt like the writers said, "You know what? This conversation is going to be kinda hard to write. Let's just crack a joke and move on to something easier." It's based on books so it's a little different; but I felt like the way the aftermath unspooled in Ozymandias showed some dedication by the writers. It's an interesting situation with a lot of things going on, both above surface and under surface. They handled it well.

Hank avoiding bullets: It was a little eyebrow-raising they both didn't get immediately taken down during the first spray of machine-gun fire, but Hank had a large vehicle to use as cover. From what I understand machine-gun fire isn't all that accurate, and I'm not sure Todd and Co. are exactly crack-shots. All in all, I think this shoot-out is far less implausible than most tv/movie shoot-outs. End result is still that both the targets were hit, with varying levels of lethality.

Jesse avoiding bullets: He was furthest from the action and immediately crawled under the car.

Jane a dim memory: Depends when you watched Season 2, I suppose. She was an important character that season and the circumstances of her death was one of the most talked-about tipping points for Walt's morality in the entire series. The wounds are certainly fresh enough for Jesse to be effectively salted. Interestingly, Rian Johnson also directed the episode "Fly" in Season 3, which is the closest Walt ever came to telling Jesse about Jane prior to Ozymandias, and one of the few post-Season 2 episodes in which she was explicitly referenced by name.

Didn't get to see Jesse's beating: Had slightly mixed feelings about that, but overall, I think not seeing it serves a purpose, rather than just being lazy or a matter of allotted time. It tells us: 1) Todd is not averse to beating a man to a bloody mutant pulp to get information, or just because; we could've guessed as much, but it's confirmed by showing that Jesse was badly beaten. 2) While allowing this to be established, by *not* showing it happen, and instead showing Todd chaining Jesse up in the lab, they appropriately guide our focus: the 'torture' thing isn't the main point, but an intermediate step to Todd's real motive, which was learning to cook like Jesse (presumably to impress Lydia, Uncle Jack, etc.). They focus on establishing the real motive. And a more interesting situation for Jesse, than just torturing him for the hell of it. Of course if you just simply want to see Jesse beat up, none of this applies, but you can always go back to Season 2, where Hank gives it to him pretty good. I don't get pleasure out of seeing Jesse harmed, myself.

Knife fight: It was brief, but I thought it worked well. Although he's a bit irritating, I don't want to see Jr. die. I was very happy with this scene. But I explained this part in a previous post.

Driver of minivan: I hadn't thought that it could be someone we've seen before; that could be interesting, but I can't think of anyone that would be a likely suspect. BB has a relatively contained cast of characters. In any case I doubt the person is worried about their upholstery. Their job is getting people out of town in desperate situations and getting them a new identity. A certain messiness undoubtedly comes with the work.

Last two episodes are 75 minutes each. Not sure if that's with or without commercials though.

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#602347 - 09/22/13 10:59 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: madget]
Allen Montgomery Offline
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Registered: 05/08/00
Posts: 7089
Penultimate episode. Meh. I didn't care much about Jesse's girlfriend one way or the other she's just kinda dumb and has poor taste in men but Gilligan and his crew may have finally figured out how to entertain me: making Jesse suffer. I'm guessing Jesse will make it to the end, though, while Todd won't (unless they've got a sequel series planned, and I wouldn't bet against the likelihood of that the announced Saul series is supposed to be a prequel).

A lot of loose ends left to tie up in one episode. As slow and plodding as the pace has been thus far, I don't see how they can do it satisfactorily. Somehow tying the Gray Matter couple to Lydia and Todd would make a convenient shortcut.
_________________________
"The trouble with being a ghost writer or artist is that you must remain anonymous without credit.
If one wants the credit, one has to cease being a ghost and become a leader or innovator."
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#602348 - 09/23/13 02:20 AM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: Allen Montgomery]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
No sympathy for Jesse at all? Sheesh.

I too am wondering how they tie everything up in one more 55 minute episode. Again, I can only say they easily have at least a half-season's worth of material left here.

At the same time, they've kind of already cycled through a lot of availble endings at this point. Walt wins (against Gus). Walt wins, purges post-Gus loose ends, retires; nobody's the wiser. Walt is apprehended by Hank, after Jesse turns on him. Hank dead, Walt leaves town for who-knows-where, his double-life exposed. Walt dies of cancer in the middle of nowhere, reflecting on the ruined lives he's left behind.

Any of these could have been executed as endings to the series. But those aren't the stopping points the writers and Gilligan settled on. It's whatever comes next week.

Now, even if next week is a let down -- and I'm guessing it's bound to be in one sense or another -- it's hardly going to ruin what was an amazing show overall. But by God, I hope they don't decide to end with "Walt (and maybe Jesse) machine gun down some Nazis!" I guess if it goes that route I can enjoy the absurdity of it, but man would that be a cartoonish finale all in all.

Given the end of this week's episode though, and the show's general penchant for the unexpected (did anyone think the Season 2 flash-forwards were going to be the result of a plane crash caused by an as-yet unknown character's father's grief after Walt let them die of an overdose?) -- maybe the Nazis aren't Walt's target at all. Maybe it is Gretchen and Elliot. That would be more interesting and is loosely implied as a possibility.

On the other hand, while narratively coherent, I would say that too little time has been spent on the Gretchen and Elliot angle to make it fully resonate now. Gray Matter and Gretchen/Elliot's betrayal of Walt sort of indirectly created Heisenberg; now the tortured monster, having accurately identified his creator, returns for vengeance. It works, and it's sorta cool; but it's a little pat. If that's the way it goes, observing the specific execution will definitely be interesting.

If it's just plain old gunnin'-down-some-Nazis time, because hey, Nazis are REALLY evil! -- well ... I'll just try to be entertained and leave it at that.

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#602350 - 09/23/13 12:35 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: madget]
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Yeah, I don't picture Walt going after G&E. That was simply the needed reminder to Walt to get back on point: Heisenberg was reactivated. I think he's going after the Nazis, and doesn't much care if he lives or dies at this point (the cancer is still with him in his hiding, after all). The ricin is probably for him.

I don't see how the writers can wrap all of this up. There will be the showdown between Jesse and Walt, which is the main reason that I don't see the latter going off after G&E.

Jesse had all the best moments in this episode: the prison escape scene was very tense and the killing of his ex- is, to me, the most stripped down, horrific death in the entire series. She was nothing but a poor innocent whose death could be in no way justified by being tied into this criminal world (Jane, for example, overdosed and even the kid Todd killed was a witness). She was entirely reduced to a means by which to get at Jesse. That they pulled back camera, reducing the size of the scene (for the audience, which then put us into Jesse's position) made it all the worse. Perfectly shot.

What I'm wondering is did the Nazis discover her existence because of Jesse's telling them where his interview was (at Hank's, where that pic likely was), or did Walt give her up?

Also, think about how fucked Jesse is during his imprisonment: all evidence that he tried to help the law has pretty much been erased (unless the Nazis keep the evidence for writerly convenience). Granted, he was pretty much fucked even had Hank lived.
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#602351 - 09/23/13 06:32 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: Charles Reece]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
I suppose you're right, but I felt like in the context of evaluating all he's lost, and them coming on TV in that moment to disavow him -- Walt has just about given up but then there they are: someone/something else to blame. Which is something Walt thrives on. The original source of the Frankenstein monster.

I expect the show to do something somewhat unexpected for the finale, and having Walt murder Elliot and Gretchen in cold blood -- or otherwise confront them in some way -- could be it. Of course you don't need a machine gun to do that, and I agree that time is too problematic for that at this stage. And the Nazis/Jesse/etc. do need to be wrapped up in some way.

Maybe it's nit-picking, but re: Jesse's escape -- when exactly did Jesse learn how to pick handcuffs? Is it really that easy?

As to him being fucked, yeah -- I would not have anticipated things going quite this rough for Jesse. A lot of fans seem to just want to see him die at this point just so that he's put of his misery. Living on after this with all he's witnessed and learned would almost be crueler than death. Agree about Andrea's murder. Pretty chilling.

I also loved the scene where Skyler discovers Todd and Co. in the baby's room. I didn't see it coming and that first take of a bunch of masked men standing around the baby's crib was just great. Todd was excellent in both scenes. He's such an interesting character and becomes more interesting with each new scene; it's a shame we've gotten relatively little time with him due to his late entry.

I enjoy how much care they have put into new characters as we've moved through the series. First there was Tuco and his gang. Now, I thought they worked fine and that Tuco was a great character, but it was bit typical/obvious compared to what would come. They upped the ante by adding Theo and his bell, which gave more nuance to Tuco and provided a great additional character on top of him. Then they introduced Saul, and wisely offed Tuco to shift over to the far more interesting Gus (and Mike). Feelings seemed mixed about Jane, but I thought she was great and that they did a good job of making her more than just a plot device (sadly, they failed to do as good a job with Andrea/Brock). Around this time they also introduced the cousins. The cousins I think were too over-the-top, too cartoony, too unlike real human beings -- but they were pretty entertaining, made a nice visual, added a slight surreal flair, and Hank's parking lot duel with them was one of the best action set pieces I've ever seen in a TV show. Go back and watch it again -- it's really masterful.

Todd, Lydia, and the Nazi gang are all pretty solid late editions they could get a lot more mileage out of if the series wasn't ending. They're all very different from one another and from past characters, and add something interesting. I liked Robert Forster as the mysterious Eraser, as well. Relatively inspired bit of casting there. Shame that's probably all we'll get of him.

Oh, about the Nazis knowing where Andrea/Brock live, they know from Walt. Recall that Walt had them wait outside her house when he placed the hit on Jesse. He had Andrea make the phone call to Jesse, who he thought would rush to her house, and the Nazis were to wait there to take him out when he arrived. But Hank intercepted that call, so it didn't pan out. But that's how the Nazis knew about Andrea/Brock (and their importance to Jesse).

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#602352 - 09/23/13 07:03 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: madget]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870

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#602353 - 09/25/13 03:18 AM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: madget]
Allen Montgomery Offline
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Registered: 05/08/00
Posts: 7089
Originally Posted By: madget
No sympathy for Jesse at all? Sheesh.

Jesse has annoyed me so much from the very beginning, I can't even stand the actor. His torment in this last episode was so very tasty. I felt like a Cenobite.
_________________________
"The trouble with being a ghost writer or artist is that you must remain anonymous without credit.
If one wants the credit, one has to cease being a ghost and become a leader or innovator."
Bob Kane

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#602354 - 09/26/13 05:31 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: Allen Montgomery]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Hmm. What exactly is it that keeps you watching, Allen? You don't seem to enjoy the show in general very much.

Some news today about Gillian's next project, though he won't be the actual showrunner. That'll be the creator of the tiresome 'House' series. There's not much to go on, but so far it sounds breathtakingly uninteresting, save for being set in Battle Creek, MI (which is notable mainly in that Battle Creek, MI is a very uninteresting place).

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/breaking-bads-vince-gilligans-detective-636593

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#602355 - 09/26/13 08:14 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: madget]
Allen Montgomery Offline
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Registered: 05/08/00
Posts: 7089
Everybody was going nuts for BB, so I watched the first four seasons in pretty much one sitting, erroneously thinking it was done. In this deep, I figure I'll finish.

I also tried The Wire, but only made it through one season of that snooze-athon. You realize these are the same general format as soap operas, right?
_________________________
"The trouble with being a ghost writer or artist is that you must remain anonymous without credit.
If one wants the credit, one has to cease being a ghost and become a leader or innovator."
Bob Kane

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#602356 - 09/26/13 10:26 PM Re: breaking bad : season 5 [Re: Allen Montgomery]
madget Offline
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Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
I was going to ask how you get through 4 seasons of a show you're not even enjoying all that much, but then I remember how I watched all of Lost in about a one-month period ....

I liked The Wire well enough, but prefer Breaking Bad by a mile. The Wire was interesting, well done. But I never felt particularly invested in the characters, and I found long stretches of the show to be unfocused and too boorishly topical. I also thought some of the show's tonal missteps were pretty egregious (whereas most of Breaking Bad's missteps seem minor to me, things that don't really drag down the overall quality).

As for the soap opera comparison, to me it's like this. One, I don't think "soap opera" is necessarily an entirely bad thing. At least soap opera style storytelling keeps things in a state of flux. Characters change, stories weave in and out of each other, the emotional landscape transforms a lot, while remaining grounded in a basic addictive tension. It is a style that can be used very cheaply, or can be used very well. Two, I don't see The Wire or Breaking Bad as soap operas, really. In The Wire, each season seemed to kind of have a basic theme and arc, and a lot of it was very political. It seemed very much an examination of corruption through different overlapping layers of a specific cultural and political environment. In the week-to-week flow of things, it certainly employed some soap opera-like mechanics, but I'm not sure why that's any worse than a show that has a specific formula that every single episode conforms to, like a sitcom or a Law & Order type drama. Breaking Bad, though, is way too focused for the comparison to apply, to me, outside of the fact that it's fond of cliffhangers. You can certainly see the writers lap themselves a few times narratively because early on, any season could be the last, but overall it is pretty tightly structured and well thought out. It is a story about two specific characters that has a beginning, middle, and end, and it's a thoughtful examination of personal moral decay. It also functions on various meta-narrative levels without being all in-your-face about it the way The Wire tended to be.

Game of Thrones, by contrast, does strike me as a soap opera. It's about a lot of things, but at the same time, nothing much at all. It's just sort of a free-form open-world environment of betrayal, romance, and drama. Little stories rise and are told and fall away, but there's no really specific main character or central narrative. That said, I enjoy Game of Thrones. It's a ballsy soap opera and very entertaining.

Any particular shows that you specifically admire?

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