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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???

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Episode 13 - ABQ

30 December 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Saul sends a man to clean up Jesse's apartment and prepare him for the arrival of paramedics. Once Jane is taken away Jesse flees to a crack den where he weeps in Walt's arms. Walt sends him to a health resort while he prepares for his operation. While under drugs to relax him he admits to owning two cell phones. Weeks later and Walt is ready to begin a normal schedule again and Donald heads back to his job as an air traffic controller. Skyler tells Walt that he has the weekend to move out. While he was recuperating she uncovered all his lies and wants nothing to do with him. Donald makes mistakes which lead to the collision of two planes over Albuquerque.

The Good: Jesse's mourning was as sad and moving as portrayal's of grief can get. Saul's cleanup man did his job professionally as a distraught Jesse slumped on the floor. He then tearfully cooperated with the medical staff before retreating to the comfort of the drugs which caused this tragedy. Then Walt came to see him. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone cry on screen in such a prolonged and broken manner as this. It was a tremendous, broken performance from Aaron Paul and as usual Bryan Cranston was perfect as he hugged him. Walt spent the whole episode working hard not to think about what had happened and yet here he was forced to witness the deeply uncomfortable sight of the misery he had inflicted.

Later in the health spa Jesse absorbs the blame for Jane's death the way Walt claimed he was taking on when it appeared they were going to die in the desert (209). Walt has damaged Jesse badly since they met. Back in the pilot it seemed like Jesse would have to talk Walt through the process of breaking bad. However Walt has taken Jesse to darker places than he would ever have gone. Despite seeing his protégé broken and walking through a crack den of his customers Walt seems further away than ever from righting his wrongs.

The way he accidentally revealed the existence of a second cell phone was wonderfully organic. It was aided by yet another lovely piece of acting as Walt goes under drugs to relax him at the hospital. In his sleepy state he gives away the clue which had bugged Skyler beyond all others when he disappeared back in the season opener (201). The writers plotted out that detail perfectly to be the thing which would suddenly open Skyler's eyes to the deception which she came close to uncovering but ultimately accepted (206).  

Once Walt can look after himself though Skyler is ready to kick him out. What a fantastic scene for Anna Gunn. For once Skyler gets to command the stage and Walt has to stand silently. It was like the end of a detective story as Skyler laid out the work she'd done to uncover the truth. It was immensely satisfying because the details were perfect. The second cell phone was such a brilliant and yet simple plot point. It gnawed away at Skyler and it led her to Gretchen who led her to Walt's mother. The way she spat that last fact into his face was clearly cathartic and exposed Walt in all his selfishness. Of course he'd never visited his mother (209) but he also hadn't told her about the cancer. Again a simple, logical but still shocking moment for Skyler. Can you imagine the awkwardness of calling your mother in law to discover that? The way Skyler's suspicions were buried by Walt's lies only to explode in his face like this is the greatest conclusion to a domestic secret storyline I've ever seen. It's a rebuke to every poorly constructed soap opera that's ever insulted the intelligence of its audience.

The brief scenes we got with Donald conveyed the sense of bewilderment that bereavement can bring. We never saw him sobbing like Jesse did. Instead he looked like a man who'd been so afraid of this day arriving and yet had no idea how to handle it now it had come. He was shocked but calm on arriving at the scene. He was distracted and sad when preparing for the funeral. Then once back at work he was clearly still mentally shattered by the loss of his daughter. The simple slip of the tongue that substituted her name instead of Juliet into his messages to aeroplanes set off a chain reaction in his mind leading to a fatal error.

It was a smoothly told story of tragedy escalating into greater tragedy. The tone was something from Tarantino or a Coen Brothers film. Walt's decision to break bad has taken in so many victims and now it reaches epic proportions. The confusing glimpses of an incident at the White house finally culminate in the plane crash high above the city. Whether Walt will learn of his complicity in this crime isn't certain but the message was clear to us. Walt's decisions have consequences. Earlier he told Jesse that "lingering on things doesn't help." But that was an empty justification of his own crimes. If Walt had lingered on any of his decisions and made a different choice then things could have turned out differently.

Earlier we got yet another exquisite scene where Walt was exposed to the rotten core of his soul. Walter Jr's website was such a success that Marie couldn't help but grasp for fifteen minutes of fame for her family. Walt was forced to sit in the glare of TV cameras not only as a charity case but also as an utter fraud. Walter Jr went on at length about the decency, morality and heroism of his father. Ideals that Walt has utterly betrayed. Words that would once have deeply flattered him now jabbed at him.

It was good to see Hank still hunting the blue meth. The way he'd put all the details together was excellent and the integration of Gus into the story, as a local donor, makes it clear that we haven't seen the last of him. I liked two bits of hand acting: Skyler playing furiously with her wedding ring during the meeting with the doctors after Walt's successful operation and Walt touching baby Holly's hand as if seeking comfort when Skyler began to unravel his lies.

The Bad: Nothing.

The Unknown: Perhaps Skyler or Marie should have been more suspicious at the pace with which donations flooded in for Walt. The website could so easily be a scam, it seemed odd that support would pour in like that. Perhaps Walt should have asked Saul's man to slow down the pace to ease suspicion.

Best Moment: Take your pick between Jesse's desperate sobbing and Skyler dropping the bomb on Walt about his mother.

The Bottom Line: This was a powerful end to a wonderful season of TV. The theme of Walt's choices turning the world sour around him was beautifully brought to a conclusion here. Twelve episodes ago Walt and Jesse were desperate to just survive their dealings with Tuco. Now they have a million dollars between them but are both alone and miserable. At each step along the journey Walt has had the chance to get out, come clean or swallow his pride. He has refused to do any of them and has instead hurt more and more people in an attempt to do things his way. Now his actions have indirectly killed hundreds of innocent people. I'm not sure what comes next but I can't wait to find out.

('DiggThis)

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  • As I've heard it, the decision was made to have Walt's attempt to wake Jesse result in Jane lying on her back, instead of just smothering her; it was a way to avoid having Walt go so far as to willingly murder her, but still make the selfish decision to let her die. Or in other words, to not break bad to quite that degree, at that point.

    Posted by Matt E., 02/01/2014 2:20pm (6 years ago)

  • @Kevin, excellent observation! I am inclined to agree with you.

    Posted by Yogabon, 31/12/2013 6:39pm (6 years ago)

  • I may be wrong, but regarding the 'murder' of Jane: I feel Walt did, in fact, kill her. It was probably unintentional, but when Walt tried to wake Jesse, it made Jane lay on her back. She was on her side, arm around Jesse, when Walt walked in. This had to disturb Jane's body, and ended up killing her. Something subtle I noticed when watching that wasn't mentioned here that I saw.

    Viewer score: 93 / 100

    Posted by Kevin, 25/12/2013 7:15am (6 years ago)

  • Regarding your question in the last podcast on whether Walt murdered Jane - I think Jane bears some responsibility for her own death since she chose to inject herself with heroin. Despite Jane's precaution of sleeping on her side, she was still willfully risking her own health every time she shot up. However, it's still fair to say that Walt doomed the girl through deliberate inaction. It may be one step down from the purposeful action of killing a person, but it's still a way of killing someone on purpose. It wasn't premeditated but it was clearly a choice that Walt made in the moment, overriding his first instinct to save Jane.

    I don't know if Walt feels he is guilty of murdering Jane. When Jesse is blaming himself, sobbing "I killed her" Walt insists "You didn't kill anyone" which seems like Walt trying to reassure himself as much as Jesse that he didn't really kill anyone. From this point in the story Jesse's character seems to act as the voice of Walt's conscience. Jesse suffers through all the guilt and self-reproach that Walt should be feeling. But as long as Walt feels he can justify his actions he won't be held back by remorse or conventional morality.

    For me, 'ABQ' was a tremendous ending to S2. I agree with your praise of Aaron Paul's inconsolable unrestrained display of grief in the crack house scene. I also loved seeing the stark contrast in Donald's numb state of shock over his daughter's death. I also agree that Skyler's speech unraveling all Walt's lies was masterfully written and acted by Anna Gunn. And personally I loved the answer to the pink bear mystery (though I believe many fans hated it at the time). For me, the plane crash seemed like the perfect symbol of the damage Walt has inflicted (purposefully or unintentionally) on his family, his young partner and his entire community since he started on his Heisenberg path.

    Viewer score: 94 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 10/03/2013 11:47am (7 years ago)

  • Masterful, season Finale. For all the reasons you eloquently illuminated.

    Happily for me I was still behind here and it was a simple matter of queueing up Season 3 to continue forward.

    Thanks as ever for this podcast&blog

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 09/03/2013 8:45pm (7 years ago)

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