Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Breaking Bad 509: Blood Money

This should go without saying, but this contains spoilers for those who aren't caught up on the show.

I was particularly pleased to see that, with the huge amounts of story left to tell, the season premiere still didn't skimp on the visual brilliance and attention to detail it's become so known for (this is, perhaps, because in addition to binge watching the entire series leading up to the premiere, I've also been binge watching the DVD commentaries, which highlight a lot of the details I didn't notice before, thus giving me a greater appreciation for the cinematography and production). There are the ever-noticeable character color palates, namely Saul Goodman's bold green shirt and Walt and Skylar's matching neutral outfits at the car wash, suggesting an effort on both their parts to assimilate back into the normalcy of calmer life (whether or not they're successfully blending in is up for debate). By symbolizing this effort, the beige tones also imply both characters have accepted the past and are willing to move on from it, and while that's not necessarily a new direction for Walt to take, it's a more full turn for Skylar. She's gone from being uncertain of how to proceed with the knowledge of her husband's transformation to practically being his partner in crime, or at least the aftermath of his crimes.

Other visual standouts - the slow reveal of the White house in the episode's flash forward opening, the top-of-the-car camera shot when Jesse makes it rain in the hood (one of my favorite shots), and the slightly awkward yet very effective placement of the bags of money in the middle of Walt and Jesse during their meeting. The blood money isn't necessarily severing their relationship, but it is a large product of their crimes that they disagree on (Walt sees it as earned income, Jesse feels he's the last person who deserves payment for what they've done).

Again, since there's so much story left to tell in such a small number of episodes, the premiere mostly laid out where the main characters' heads are. The scene at the car wash was so effective in doing this, because it called us back to another popular commercial business on the show, Los Pollos Hermanos. Walt was very "Gus" in his interaction with Lydia, and while there's always been a Walt/Gus comparison, it's even more present here, when Walt is seemingly out of the immediate line of fire and more in control of his life than he has been in the past year. Gus always managed the pull off the "cool, calm, collected" vibe, and we now see Walt able to more easily hide in plain sight and express himself with that same composure Gus did when handling business partners in public. Skylar, on the other hand, pulled more of a "Heisenberg" when giving Lydia the boot, and if this is a sign of her behavior going forward, I don't see her reaching the show's end unscathed...or reaching the show's end at all.

I'm on the fence about putting Jesse on suicide watch. It doesn't seem like something in line with what his character would do, as he has, over the course of the series, acquired a handful of newfound "reasons to live", whether they be in the form of a new girlfriend, a girlfriend's son, or....okay, never mind. I'm not able to explain why, but I just don't see him offing himself. That said, if one were to read differently his attempts to give his money away, suicide could feasibly appear on the horizon. It's possible he isn't trying to atone (he's no genius, but surely by now, he's realized it isn't possible), he's simply getting rid of his valuables because he isn't planning to be around much longer. The more I think about how desperate he was to unload his money in this episode, the more I can subscribe to this theory (and the more I want to adopt him and sign him up for therapy and rehab and art classes at a community college - it would solve everything BECAUSE I SAID SO).

I don't have much to say about the final scene that hasn't been said already. I fully approve of its timing - most viewers weren't expecting the Walt/Hank confrontation so soon, but it makes more sense to have it here than anywhere else in the story arc. There was no way Hank would have sat on his discovery for months, and Walt is too smart not to figure out Hank was on to him as soon as he did. It was well played by both actors and every bit as intense as it should have been. As crazy as Walt's argument is, he does have somewhat of a point - prosecuting him would wreck the entire family that is so dear to Hank, and it would likely all be in vain if Walt dies in six months and never gets properly punished the way Hank thinks he should be. It was clear the argument gave Hank pause, and he's got some choices to make that may be fairly easy from the viewer's perspective but obviously aren't, for the "family man" part of him. I don't see the gun in the flash forward being used on Hank, but if Hank decides not to take this fight lying down, I do foresee him bringing Jesse into the picture in some way - either using him to get Walt to be more cooperative or (a less likely scenario, imo) getting him to testify against Walt.

No slowing down from here, I presume.

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