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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-???

68
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Viewer
76
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Episode 1 - Seven Thirty-Seven

13 December 2012

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Tuco drives back into the junk yard and throws the body of No-Doze out of the car demanding that Walt do something. But there is nothing to do and No-Doze dies and is left to rot under a car by Gonzo. Jesse and Walt are terrified that they will now be killed and Jesse buys a gun. Walt suggests that they use ricin to poison Tuco. Marie is avoiding therapy and Hank asks Skyler to talk to her. Just as Walt seems ready to confess to Skyler, Jesse arrives with Tuco in the backseat of his car with a gun.

The Good: The curtailed first season led to the slightly odd opening scene where we repeated the last few minutes of “A No-Rough-Stuff Type Deal” and then Tuco swings his car around to heap more terror onto Walt and Jesse’s plates. It worked fine and allowed for the nice scene in the car where Walt rationalises that eleven more drug deals is all he needs to provide for his family. Tuco then returns and silently makes it clear that No-Doze’s death is something they should all both forget and remember (as a warning).

The brutal death and threatening posture afterward were more than enough to give the episode a low level tension throughout as Jesse and Walt understandably panicked. Each man deals with the immediate trauma in different ways. Jesse buys a gun while Walt goes back into the temporarily-deaf shell shock he previously experienced when hearing details of his cancer (101, 104). After the shock of his adventures in the pilot he also turned to intimacy and grabbed Skyler for some unexpected sex. Here, in a very sad sequence, he gropes at her again but with no concern for her needs and the moment ends with horrible undertones for both. His collapse into his pool chair with guilt and misery on his face was quite affecting.

The subsequent discussions between Walt and Jesse over how to handle Tuco were very strong too. I particularly liked the way Walt unravelled Jesse’s apparent simple plan to shoot him. It was important to establish why they couldn’t just murder Tuco if they felt threatened by him and the sight of a car outside Walt’s house made it clear that there was nowhere to hide. Naturally Walt had a magic science solution and the ricin seems suitably clandestine. The mislead of Gonzo’s death was a clever way to tell us that Tuco wasn’t necessarily coming for them while making the opposite seem apparent to them.

The cliff hanger of Tuco driving them away was excellent as we have no idea what Tuco is thinking. And I loved the fact that Skyler was in the bath. It made sense after the stressful day she had had but it also provided the perfect cover for why she wasn’t able to see Walt piling money and a gun into a box or to then see him walk out of the house to a waiting car. So many episodes of so many shows could have benefitted from little details like that.

The continuation of Marie’s shoplifting story (and her strange obsession with purple) was solid. It makes sense that Hank knows about it (in the same way that Skyler is aware of Walt’s strange behaviour) and would come to Skyler to try and mend fences. I was slightly torn by how much comedy the writers tried to squeeze into their conversation but Skyler’s major point about how she needed support far more than Marie was well made. It was definitely valuable to see her point of view and some of the gags seemed entirely plausible (such as her eye roll at Hank referring to them as “gals”).

I liked the brief scene with Hank and Gomez looking at security footage of Walt and Jesse’s thermite break-in (107). The way two seasoned DEA officers could instantly see who these two were likely to be from their behaviour was entertaining and believable. It also allowed for nice foreshadowing as Hank observes that should someone like Tuco catch them before the police do they will be in deep trouble. 

The Bad: I almost put something in here but not quite.

The Unknown: That was Hank giggling at the sight of two corpses and insisting that Walt would find that funny. I can just about buy that Hank is so crass and desensitised that he would find stupid criminals funny. But why would he think Walt would? It seemed an odd decision and of course was very convenient given Walt’s knowledge of the victims.

Who is the man in the photo with Skyler? What is the meaning of the strange opening shot of a teddy bear floating in a pool while sirens blare?

Best Moment: Walt forcing himself on Skyler was a very sad moment. As the horror of what he had just witnessed washed over him you could see he looked at Skyler as “the love of my life” as he said in the pilot. He is going through all this for her and he turned to her for comfort. But then he forgot about her and got lost in the moment and it was an ugly selfish act that led to more estrangement. It was natural, emotive and compelling.  

The Bottom Line: There was a slight loss of momentum from the season jump but the producers covered for it very well. The repeat scene was needed and what followed was tense and ended with the narrative racing forward rather than the slow build of many season openers.

('DiggThis)

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  • Nothing much to add today but that I appreciate your reviews to help keep this story alive during the long hiatus.

    I hope to watch episode 2 before next weeks
    Review.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 11/12/2012 2:03am (7 years ago)

  • I feel like Jesse was smarter than Walt in this situation. Walt just had to come up with clever elusive scientific method of killing Tuco, wasting so much time cooking up the ricin laced crystal. As Jesse kept frantically warning Walt, Tuco was closing in on them fast and so making a poison that would take days to kill Tuco was a very poor defense. As Jesse also points out Tuco doesn't have a "normal healthy brain" (an early example of Jesse's insight into dealing with erratic meth-heads?) so Walt's very methodical way of thinking was little use against an enemy so psychotic and unpredictable. If Walt weren't in the habit of deriding Jesse's contributions, he might have helped Jesse work out a better plan for shooting Tuco like the mad dog he was. Instead, Walt dismisses Jesse's gun, then steals Jesse's gun, then leaves Jesse's gun in a nappy box. Walt was the screw up here. If he hadn't left Jesse unarmed and then left his only weapon in the house, Tuco might not have been able to kidnap them so easily.

    The best moment in the episode for me actually came from the subplot. I loved Skyler's rant to Hank about needing support with her pregnancy, her husband's cancer, her financial strife, her moody son and her broken water heater, etc, and how Skyler feels so disregarded in her own troubles that she can't bring herself to feel any sympathy for her spoiled sister's kleptomania. The outburst was terrifically performed by Anna Gunn and Hank's characteristically awkward attempts to console her were funny and endearing. But what I really love about this scene (on rewatching) is the irony of it. Skyler is furious that Hank has been covering up his spouse's petty crimes yet in the coming seasons Skyler will help to cover up for the far worse crimes that her spouse commits. I can only hope we get a Hank vs Skyler confrontation about that in the final season.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 07/12/2012 12:05am (7 years ago)

  • Dear TV Critic,

    Sorry to have missed the first season rewatch, but I'm enthused about this second.

    Hearkening back momentarily to "Crazy Handful of Nothin'" and "A No Rough Stuff-Type Deal," first, regarding the latter, I LOVE the allusion in the title to the tragic criminal naivete of "Fargo's" Jerry Lundegaard. It might be worth a rewatch of that film, somewhat an analogue to "Breaking Bad," to see if Gilligan and Co. borrowed anything else.

    Regarding "Crazy Handful," I thought your criticism about the execution of the plot to be sound. There certainly could have been a deeper vein of dramatic tension woven into the episode to exploit the amazing juxtaposition of character types. The tempo could euphemistically be referred to as "economical." But following your comments, it seemed that you were more let down by what you saw as squandered opportunities than any actual "poor execution." Just my interpretation.

    For my part, I loved the episode and considered the pacing to be . . . economical. I love the dichotomy of Walt's character illustrated by his unflappable Heisenbergian cool in the presence of such highly unstable chemical and human material. Heisenberg must be unpolluted by Mr. White the high school teacher.

    As for Tuco, to me the character is flawless. He HAS to have a capacity for reasonable business sense or he would be utterly unable to succeed in the Byzantine world of meth and could never gain the confidence of his backers in the cartel. These insanely unpredictable people who are nonetheless perfectly capable of contextual rationality and judgement absolutely exist in the corporal world as well as dramatic--I believe I've met some--so I totally bought the portrayal and came to love the character.

    His frenzied, bare-fisted murder of No-Doze, his own loyal henchman, was one of the most horrifying moments I've ever seen in cinema or television. The horrible series of blows, which seemed to rain down forever, raised me to successively heightened levels of panic and dropped me to deeper levels of sickened disgust. I LOVED it! What fantastic television! This established Tuco, to me, as the most menacing screen thug since Begby of "Trainspotting."

    In "Seven Thirty-Seven," sticking to the Salamanca crew, I have to say that I was quite moved by the character Gonzo. His Catholic sensibilities and willingness to risk the extremely tragic by back-talking Tuco on No-Doze's interrment was so humanizing. And the subtle discouragement he gave Jesse and Walter to stop them from interfering in the murder of No-Doze clearly marked concern for their well-being; this unexpected capacity for sympathy contrasted vividly with the utter lack thereof on display before them. His further ill-fated expedition to do right by his fallen friend was also quite moving and I was irritated with Hank for his crass voyeurism and ignorance.

    Don't have much more to say about the show, but I wonder if you'd answer a question for me:

    Have you ever read listener feedback to one of your reviews and then decided that maybe you were wrong in your appraisal of some TV episode? Some letter you received a podcast or two ago seemed to have you on the verge of a minor recantation, but that wouldn't quite fit with your overriding philosophical standard of judging the show based upon your immediate ability to stay submerged in the mimetic display before you.

    Anyway, that was a bit long; if you use it in the podcast, I won't in the least be hurt if you decide to take the X-acto knife to it beforehand.

    Thanks,

    DrZin

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by DrZin, 06/12/2012 5:36am (7 years ago)

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