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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 1 - Live Free or Die

22 July 2012

Credit AMC

Synopsis: In the future we see Walt (with hair) buying a machine gun. In the “present” Walt begins hiding the evidence of his assassination of Gus and remembers the video cameras in the lab. Concurrently Hank discovers them too and eagerly awaits the chance to see them. Walt grabs Jesse and they head to the border to try and find Mike. They persuade him to help them get to the laptop which is now in police evidence. Meanwhile Skyler visits Ted in hospital where he has finally woken up after his fall.  

The Good: This was a perfectly enjoyable return with a logical problem at its core in Gus’ video cameras. They were such a prominent feature last season that it felt entirely appropriate that they would now be the last piece of evidence that Walt needed to destroy.

The practise with the magnet and the actual assault on the evidence room were both fun to watch. Using a magnet felt like a good Walt-science-lab idea and led to the pleasing visual of things flying through the air. Predictably the plan went wrong with the van being left behind and Jesse and Walt having to run for it which left us with the one real moment of adrenalin as the police swarmed the now empty crime scene.

I enjoyed the brief time we spent with Hank as he hobbled around the burnt out lab. He knows that busy businessman Gus Fring wasn’t the one cooking the meth he distributed. He isn’t going to stop searching until he knows the whole truth. It would be interesting if Walter Jr’s chatter about what a hero Hank is will be acknowledged by the DEA.

The Bad: Unfortunately this episode continued all the worst trends from last season. The logic holes grew as large as Huell’s fingers as you thought more about what Gus might have left behind. Yes we saw him streaming surveillance footage onto his laptop, but surely that wasn’t the only place the footage was stored? Surely Gus would have had a backup somewhere? In a way though that isn’t the big problem. The real question is exactly how much evidence did Gus leave behind? Surely his house and dozen chicken restaurants will give the police loads of clues that could lead them back to Walt and Jesse? The fact that the police had to stumble across a bank account on the back of a photo felt needlessly cheap. Last season (407) we saw Hank dig around the multinational corporation that Gus was sheltered by. Couldn’t we have just learnt that the police were on that trail rather than what felt like a re-enactment of last season when a similar clue turned up in Gale’s apartment (401).

The storage facility was ridiculously easy to break into and escape from. Breaking Bad only seems to succeed when Walt and Jesse’s plans feel improvised and vaguely plausible for too average guys to pull off. This just felt like a silly TV plot. Although Mike did his best to point out how insanely risky it was to go so near the police I was never in any doubt that they would succeed.

The results in terms of characterisation weren’t good. Jesse was the one who suggested using magnets but purely for comedic purposes. He then spent the episode jumping around yelling “bitch” as if he were simply Robin to Walt’s Bat Man rather than a character who last season had matured and begun to try and make sense of his disturbed existence. Poor Mike was sold down the river by not leaving immediately. The writers presented no reason whatsoever why he would stay and help.

The purpose of this particular caper was to move Walt toward the kind of insane arrogance that crime bosses must feel before they are brought down. Even Jesse looks at him strangely when he announces that no one should question his judgement (“because I say so”). Walt then threatens Saul and forgives Skyler (for protecting him from the IRS!) in ways which looked very much like impressions of Godfather characters. In neither case did I buy that Walt had reached that level of delusion yet. I can imagine him getting there but it felt rushed and unlike the rational man who began the episode hiding evidence.

The Unknown: The opening scene seems to be set at least a year in the future as Walt celebrates his fifty second birthday alone in a diner. He has an assumed identity, is taking medicine and buys a machine gun. It will of course be interesting to see what brings him to that point and what the gun is needed for. Perhaps more relevantly though we shall have to see if this tactic of giving away the future is a good thing for the show or if it will take the edge off present day drama because we have a clue as to where things are headed.

Poor Ted Beneke is thankfully not dead and I hope he isn’t paralysed. Skyler’s situation is now pretty interesting as she now fears Walt more than just being caught by the police.

With Vince Gilligan admitting that he hadn’t thought through how Walt got the poison to Brock the scene where Saul takes credit for it felt a bit hollow. At this point we need some definition for Saul’s character. If he is willing to go behind Jesse’s back for Walt then it makes little sense for him to have kept Skyler’s confidence. What moral compass is Saul using?

Best Moment: Hank’s relentless desire for the truth in what remains of the super lab.

The Bottom Line: I doubt this episode will be important once we look back on Breaking Bad as a whole show. However the last few episodes cumulatively have shown a worrying lack of thoroughness on the part of a writing team who should know better. I sincerely hope that that isn’t a problem come the denouement.

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Comments

  • I thought the waitress wished Walt a Happy Birthday, Mr Lambert. - I guessed this is his alias in the future?

    Posted by Yogabon, 27/07/2012 2:16pm (7 years ago)

  • Solid enough start to the season. Walt's delusions of grandeur are now at an all-time high after outsmarting Gus.

    The ending scene was pretty chilling. There was something "Michael Corleone"-ish about Walt "forgiving" Skyler. Just speculating here, but I sense she's going to finally give Walt up to her brother-in-law (perhaps after Walt murders Ted).

    I thought the magnet plot was kinda fun and somewhat "light" and even reminded me a bit of the scene where they steal the barrel of ammonium nitrate. However, it seemed a bit small-potatoes to focus so much on that task at this point. The fact that the bulk of the episode centered around this one very specific task just seemed a bit ho-hummy. Maybe that was the point, though, that after all this craziness Walt is still a science geek at heart.

    And finally, am I the only one who doesn't really like Mike? There's an artificial old-timeyness about his dialogue and his delivery of it.

    Viewer score: 63 / 100

    Posted by jeremy, 17/07/2012 5:47am (7 years ago)

  • Walt the scary.
    How does he become Mr. Lambert? I guess that's what we will be watching for this season.

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 16/07/2012 4:51pm (7 years ago)

  • They've done it again.

    This episode was a fine display of all of Breaking Bad's strengths.

    We have been given another flashforward to run our brains through, and all the right questions from last season were given answers.

    While maintaining the darker progression of Walt's character (which I thought was overhyped and not touched upon enough last year), we still got some very classic Breaking Bad moments and situations, particularly with the return to ironing out every loose detail.

    I know the timeline of everything has always been cloudy, but with Walt's 52 birthday and football being on TV (when Walter Jr. turns on the TV) we will probably have a better idea of how stretched the events have been happening.

    It felt like every 10 minutes I was having a new favorite moment, but I have to give the cold opening its dues. It blows every other season opening moment out of the water as far as getting the audience excited for what is to come.

    If I had to nitpick one slight negative, it would probably be the ending of the episode. Not that it was a bad moment or anything, but it felt slightly underwhelming given the rest of the episode and I feel as if the writers were holding back something potentially big. I thought ending the episode either with Walt and Saul or with Jesse/Mike/Walt in the getaway car would have been a better closing scene.

    I was hesitant to believe all the hype coming in to this season, but I'm fully on board, can't wait for what's to come!

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 16/07/2012 12:42pm (7 years ago)

  • I thought this was a good start to the ending of Breaking Bad.

    Is the opening teaser going to continue throughout the season until we catch up to Machine Gun Walt? He made a 52 with his bacon, and as far as I know he hasn't had his 51st birthday yet, so this future vision may be quite away off.

    I was surprised at how glad I was to see Mike, he is a voice of reason in this crazier and crazier world. I liked how his affection for Jesse is clear to see, and it may unfortunately be his downfall. Mike counsels Jesse to take his money and run, but he should heed his own advice.

    The "Yeah, bitch! Magnets!" scene was pure Breaking Bad, I love a good Jesse and Walt caper. I loved how meticulous Walt was to not leave finger prints, but the white bandage across his nose was so obvious even when wearing a balaclava. I'm not sure they are out of danger with regard to the laptop. The glass of the screen was broken, but it seems the hard-drive should still be retrievable. And, what did the cops find under the photo, banking account numbers? I'm not sure.

    The best part of the show is a tie for two menacing Walt scenes: when he comes around the desk at Saul's office and growls, "You're done when I say you're done;" and the super scared look on Skyler's face as he goes in to hug her at the end.

    Lastly, thanks for this forum, and all the hard work you do on your reviews and podcasts, Robin, I'm new to posting here, but not new to your site. Keep up the good work!

    Viewer score: 66 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 16/07/2012 10:15am (7 years ago)

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