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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-???


Episode 12 - Phoenix

29 June 2017

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt arrives late and meets his daughter Holly. Jane makes excuses to her father about missing her NA meeting while Jesse freaks out that the meth has been stolen. Walt refuses to hand over money to Jesse while he is using. Walter Jr sets up a website asking for donations to save his Dad and Saul suggests they funnel his money through it. Jane's father Donald barges in to find her using and demands that she go to rehab. She begs for one more day and she uses it to blackmail Walt into handing over the money. Walt does but then receives wise words from Donald in a bar.

The Good: Bryan Cranston really landed the role of a lifetime with Walter White and once more he delivers a stunning performance as Walt enjoys the delights of his infant daughter, before fretting over Jesse's fate and then finally, horrifically, watching Jane die.

The structure of the story was equally good. What marks Breaking Bad out from your average TV show is that every character is allowed a complex range of emotions. Walt is furious with Jesse for letting him down when he needed him. You can sense that he also enjoys withholding Jesse, yet another way for him to exert control. However there is also genuine concern. He doesn't want to see Jesse slide into drug abuse and fears for where Jane might lead him. He has real fatherly concern for him. For his part Jesse looks up to Walt and wants his approval. He would never inform on his partner and feels bad even threatening to do so. Yet he naturally wants what he earned and is in love with Jane. She is an addict. Despite her love for her father and feelings for Jesse she is at a stage where she will manipulate anyone she has to to be able to use. She claims that they should get clean and part of her really wants that (she managed it for over a year) but you suspect had they made it to New Zealand she would have squandered their money.

This cocktail of understandable and contradictory emotions led Walter White to another life changing choice in the space of two episodes. Cranston was supreme with his facial expressions. He naturally runs to Jane as she begins to choke on her vomit. But then he stops. Here is a chance to rid himself of someone who knows his secret. Then he glances at Jesse. Perhaps he can free him from the control of this woman? Bring him back under Walt's control? Whatever justifications he needed to tell himself he swallows them all. Tears and distress make their way to the surface but Walt is gone at this point. Other people's suffering won't get in the way of his goals. He has come this far and apparently his soul is now sufficiently dark that he murders Jane through inaction. It's pretty shocking stuff and a moment that felt exceptionally well crafted if not purely organic (see The Unknown).

The strange coincidence that it was Donald who gives Walt the advice to not give up on Jesse (again see The Unknown) had a certain poetry. Unlike Walt, Donald gave in to his daughter's sob story allowing her one more day to get her affairs in order and unknowingly condemning her to death. It's a pretty dark, Greek tragedy-like turn of events for a man who clearly loves his daughter deeply. Seeing her manipulation of him work was really sad.

Walt's frustrated reaction to Walter Jr's sweet website was nicely handled. Walt's crimes are such a betrayal of the moral code he raised his own son with that he can't possibly come clean about his millions. So in impotent frustration he will now have to continue being a pity case in order to afford to baby proof his home. Again it's a wonderfully crafted situation which exposes Walt's emotions to a simmering injustice of his own devising. After all, if he could swallow his pride and take silent satisfaction in his work then there would be no problem. The moment where he shows baby Holly the money was as close as he can get to what he'd like to do.

You've gotta love Saul. His ridiculous suggestion that Walt claims he found a bag of money gets a suitably dismissive response to which this ultimate bottom feeder comments "Works for me." The parallel between the baby and the junkie needing to rest on one side, because of their vulnerability, was very clever. The writing really stayed true to the characters in every possible detail. I loved teacher Walt being unable to resist educating Donald about the significance of finding water on Mars.

The Bad: Nothing.

The Unknown: Because Jane was with Jesse and has been in the show for nine episodes it would be easy to mistake her for a main character. But in a way I'm not sure she is that different from the Spooges. It's an unfair comparison of course because she means more than they did. She does however function in the same way within the whole show. She draws Jesse into another aspect of the drug world and then dies tragically in his presence, thanks to Walt. I think her story was very strong and I dread to think how desperate Jesse is going to feel when he wakes up. However I have to note that there was a brevity to her story which in a very small way diminishes the emotional resonance of her passing. I commented last week that her swift return to using felt rushed. Here we get a glimpse into the desperation of her addiction in a way which we had no time to get used to. With her father inadvertently condemning her to death too she becomes a plot device more than a central character. I don't mean that to be a criticism of the show. It's merely a classification of her passing in the wider context of great television moments. As brilliantly written as her demise is, it still functions more as a moment in the lives of Jesse and Walt than a tragic loss in itself.

I was surprised that Skyler wasn't more annoyed at Walt for being late. His excuse that traffic was backed up is a risky one if she checks into it and to delay him for, presumably, hours it would have to be some accident.

It seemed odd that Walt asked Jesse to pee into a cup to prove that he was clean. He saw Jesse strung out on heroin a day or two ago so what would he expect to happen? Jesse's response of "How gay are you?" did make me smile.

Best Moment: Undoubtedly the final minute. A master class from Bryan Cranston and a writing team who have made Season Two one of the great seasons of television.

The Bottom Line: This was about as emotionally rich and complex as TV gets. Walt and Jesse combined are millionaires. They have lied, killed and destroyed to get there and now they can't even share the truth with one another. Heartbreaking stuff.



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  • Looks to me like the writers were themselves shooting up as they wrote this lame episode, especially the blaring episode-killing plot error. To whit:
    Jane reveals that she has enough salacious information about Walt - his position as a high-school teacher, his brother-in-law in the DEA - to break a story

    that could make "national news." "Do right by Jesse," she says. "Tonight ! Or I will burn you to the ground."
    So, how does steely problem-solver Walt respond? In all his intense problem-solving worrying, does it occur to him, as it should occur to every viewer, that,

    wait a minute, if Jane "burns" Walt, then nobody gets any money at all; that Jesse, whom Jane wants Walt to treat right, will go to prison, too? Nope, we

    all just were supposed to miss that most logical of logical thoughts. Wouldn't saavy Walt call Jesse and say, "Get your druggy girlfriend under control or you

    and she are going to go to prison with me, and you will not be getting any money at all. Just get clean and I will give you all your money." He could, but

    wouldn't have to threaten with the cartel guy getting pissed and rubbing them all out. Or whatever --- but NOT the idiocy the "writers" came up with while

    sharing needles between themselves and counting on the viewers emotional involvement with the show and characters to allow themselves to be swept

    up and overlook the glaringly improbable. Walt caves and delivers the money? So then Jesse and druggy Jane can leave town and still blackmail him

    further, or vengefully report him, but now with less fear of being caught and losing their money?? You've got to be kidding me. That ruined the episode for

    me and put the writers into the contempt zone for me. They need to apologize to their un-brain-dead viewers. --- PaulM

    Viewer score: 50 / 100

    Posted by PM, 26/06/2017 4:35pm (3 years ago)

  • "It seemed odd that Walt asked Jesse to pee into a cup to prove that he was clean." I don't think it was that Walt actually expected jesse to be clean, but that he knew that jesse was still hooked, and this was just his final argument.

    Posted by George Liapes, 01/09/2013 12:59pm (7 years ago)

  • This episode is difficult for me to rewatch, Jane's manipulation of her father felt so real and you get the strong feeling of dread when he caves.

    However I have to disagree about your point about Jane being a plot device, she was a part of nine episodes as you say, but let's not forget that this was only the 19th episode, I'd argue that a character in half of a show's run up to that point isn't something to be labeled as a plot device. The Spooges were in two episodes, which is very different. Jesse may not get as much focus or time as Walt, but his stories are just as significant at least up to this point (I can't say the same for season 5).

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 06/03/2013 2:19pm (8 years ago)

  • I have a small quibble w something you said last week regarding how Jessies drug experience was portrayed. You seemed to be criticizing t show for how it all seemed enjoyable, when you thought it should be portraying t impending soon and disaster.

    Again, I am not deneying any possible disaster or costs. But there must be some up side to it all or none of us would be so willing to risk all that disaster. And yeah how good it can be, particularly on ones first time is definitely enjoyably.

    Millions of people are dying of aids. But that does not make sex less enjoyable. We are designed by evolution to want to have sex. Drugs work in ways similar.

    Posted by babrock, 06/03/2013 12:11pm (8 years ago)

  • Again I am enjoying your cast and t rewatch experience w you and everyone else.

    last week , Bret, I think, said how consequential last Weeks side was. I am thinking how right he was in a way as Combo dying lead to deaths of Jane, Gus, Gale,.Victor, Mike and plenty others probably.
    As per usual w me I am having trouble posting. this is my third try at this. So I am going to stop here, so I won't lose so much if it happens again

    Posted by babrock, 06/03/2013 11:55am (8 years ago)

  • All sympathies for Walt died with Jane's passing. I was very moved by this scene. It took days to process. My sympathies shifted to Jesse and Skyler here. Very good TV.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 04/03/2013 12:34am (8 years ago)

  • Sorry . . You did catch the Holly / Jane foreshadowing.

    Sorry TV Critic . .:)

    Jim A

    Posted by Jim A, 03/03/2013 9:46am (8 years ago)

  • Anyone catch the foreshadowing in this episode? :)

    Around mid way through this episode (scene 3 or 4, not sure), we see Marie and Walt lying baby Holly in her crib. Walt places a towel on her side saying, "I'll lay her on her side just in case she's does a little spit up . ." This was all Walt had to do to save Jane in her overdose . .lay her on her side.

    Jim A

    Posted by Jim A, 03/03/2013 9:04am (8 years ago)

  • "Jane never felt like a plot device to me, . . . . by Kelly"

    Wow, great comments Kelly :)

    You wouldn't happen to be thee Kelley Dixon .. could you be??? :):)

    Jim A

    Posted by Jim A, 03/03/2013 8:34am (8 years ago)

  • Bryan Cranston put himself not only on the map of the world but in the universe with his acting at the end of the last scene in this episode.

    Within a blink of an eye, Walt turns from loving empathizing father into . . . Heisenburg.

    We see . . .I mean, we "feel" Walt's agonizing, tearful distress at seeing Jane's overdose before his eyes. And then Walt takes a brief breathe . . .closes his eyes . . and then opens them as Heisenberg. (scene ends).

    Unfreakinbelievable!!. . .:) how fantastic was Bryan Craston. :):)

    I usually judge a great TV series (or movie) by how often I want to revisit them. Breaking Bad has many episodes the I love to revisit many times. . .and the last scene in "Phoenix" is one of them.

    Jim A

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Jim A, 03/03/2013 8:24am (8 years ago)

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