[Think Tank] Breaking Bad

[Think Tank] Breaking Bad

No more half measures, Overthinkers.

Perich: How do we feel about Marie? She had a compulsive lying disorder in S1/S2 that went nowhere. Her attitude towards Hank’s job wavers from antipathetic to encouraging (her dreams of Georgetown). And, though it was a funny little scene, she gets Hank out of the hospital by giving him a handjob. Does Marie have any more depth to her? Or is she just supposed to be comic relief?

Mlawski: Yeah, I do think Marie is the most underwritten character on the show. But not only do I think that handjob scene was hilarious; it also remined me how much I buy her and Hank as a couple. I could also cite that scene where Hank was crying on her shoulder in the elevator and that scene when Hank was taking a shower and Marie was trying to get him to open up about his emotions. I do wonder where her kleptomania went, though!

I guess if we want to overthink Marie, we can look at her as a mirror-universe version of Skyler (where Hank is the mirror-version of Walt). Until recently, Marie and Sky were both being written as loving but slightly annoying characters. (Yes, I think Skyler was a loving wife. I happen to believe that Skyler “forced” Walt to get chemo not because she’s a ball-busting control-freak bitch but because she really loved Walt and didn’t want to lose him. The Internet tells me not everyone agrees with this assessment.) Anyway, both Marie and Sky have hidden or latent criminal streaks and a little bit of a desire for the nicer things in life, like Georgetown. Both have or had extremely proud husbands who fell apart due to near-death experiences and weren’t allowed to express their sadness or frustration or fear due to societal pressures. Of course, Hank’s situation is in some ways very different from Walt’s. I wonder if Marie would have reacted the way Skyler did if she found out Hank was cooking meth.

Perich: Hank’s arc has been interesting, and I’m glad he’s had Marie with him. Hank starts as the typical Alpha Male: all bluff and bravado, talking big about the violence of his job. But he gets progressively more shocked by violence. He ends up surrendering his potency, literally – he wagers with his wife that he won’t get an erection so that he can languish in the hospital.

Mlawski: The thing I think I’m most amazed by about this show is how these two characters flipped so completely over the course of three seasons. Walt was initially the Good Guy and Jesse the Bad Guy. But now Walt is more the Bad Guy (who uses various rationalizations to convince himself and the world that he’s a Good Guy) while Jesse is the Good Guy attempting and pretending to be the Bad Guy.

However! The last two episodes of the season may have shuffled the deck again. Here’s a question for you: Did Walt’s act of saving Jesse’s life by mercilessly killing the rival drug dealers at the end of “Half Measures” mark the beginning of Walt’s redemption arc (since he put himself in harm’s way to save Jesse), or does it mark Walt’s acceptance that he is Heisenberg, the badass Bad Guy who has no qualms about killing whoever gets in his way? Will season four be about a morally-gray but still-relatable protagonist trying to take down Gus Fring, the Big Bad Final Boss? Or will be it be about one super-villain (Walt) trying to take down another super-villain (Gus)? And what will happen to Jesse while all this is going down?

Perich: I hesitate to guess too much about S4, simply because I could not have predicted the entire arc of S3 based on S2 alone. But here’s what we know:

Gus’s position as unchallenged meth-lord of Southwestern America hinges on having a monopoly on blue meth. The sole source of blue meth, Walter White, has violated Gus’s trust in many flagrant ways. He’s also arranged the murder of an employee: Gayle. Gus is probably dying to kill Walt. He certainly doesn’t want to trust Walt. The problem is: he can’t afford not to. If he loses his position at top of the druglord food chain, he leaves an opening for the cartel to take revenge.

So what happens next?

[Do YOU know what happens next? Or is there something we missed? And did anyone else think Danny Trejo went out like a chump? Sound off in the comments! – Ed.]

12 Comments on “[Think Tank] Breaking Bad”

  1. Stephanie #

    the one little thing that drives me crazy about the show is why are Marie and Skylar the only two characters that are color coded. Skylar is always in green and Marie is always in purple. In the first season that wasn’t always so, Skylar got to wear other characters. I’m pretty sure by the end of season 3 that Skylar doesn’t own any other color.


  2. Chris #

    I feel the preeminent theme of the show is how Walt, intentionally or not, is slowly ruining the life of everybody around him. This is most obvious with Jesse, obviously. When the show began, Jesse was the criminal and Walt just seemed like some aimless guy looking for a quick way to make money using his skills, skills which had been languishing as a high school chemistry teacher. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume that Jesse would be the one ruining Walt’s life and that he’d be in over his head in the drug world.

    Little did we know that Jesse was also a drug dealing dilettante, and it was only with Walt there to motivate him that he actually accomplishes anything. Of course, Walt has dragged Jesse further and further down into the world of crime and destroyed his life, putting him in horrible situations and letting the love of his life die and all.

    Combo got killed, Badger almost went to prison, Saul’s got to fear for his life now. Gus’ life is getting harder, though obviously there’s not any sympathy there, Hank got shot and nearly killed because of a situation that Walt was heavily involved in. Things haven’t gotten that bad for Skyler or Walter Jr. yet, but I imagine that’s coming. Then, in the end, I presume Walt will get what’s coming to him as well.

    I am really looking forward to this season, because I think Gus is a great character and I presume that most, if not all, of the season will be sort of Walt versus Gus. Of course, one may have presumed season three would see the Cousins as the primary bad guys, but they were dead halfway through the season.

    If I may use this opportunity to express how I’d like to see the show end. I’ve pictured it as Walt getting found out, and then just abandoning everybody. His family, Jesse, everybody. No heartfelt goodbyes or anything. He just flees to Mexico. In the final minutes of the series finale, Walt is alone is a sweltering motel room hiding out and its clear his cancer is catching up on him. In the final moments, he lays down on his bed coughing his lungs out, as it becomes clear this is how it ends for Walt.

    Also, I really liked “Fly.” I actually discussed it in depth on an episode of my podcast, if I may plug myself: http://cheers.libsyn.com/cheers-episode-7-the-life-and-times-of-lorenzo-music


  3. Chris #

    Also, from listening to Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg discuss season four of the show, apparently there will be more focus on Skylar and Marie this season. So, there you go.


  4. Brian #

    Being a anchorless young man myself I think all those other anchorless young men looking to Mad Men to learn n be alpha are chumps and I laugh in theyre stupid wannabe faces the best place to learn to be really alpha Tom Cruise Magnolia Brad Pitt Fight Club Philip Seymour Hoffman Boogie Nights those movies arent make alphas look stupid but tell it really be that alphas R awesome always anyone who feels bad or not dicking just not being alpha enough prob cause is stoopid n not pretending to be busy enough! heres for numbnutz dont know how pretend to be busy guy which is alpah as fuck! http://youtu.be/55Kkip5z_0c Id like to comment more but I got lots of interesting things going on cause Im a busy guy. PEACH!
    Oh but real quick Breaking Bad be mad tight when Trejo die like when that fat british guy did dat black and white movie with the shower and shit cause it like made the world feel really alpha like it jus dont give a fuck if u Donny Trejo!


    • Qwil man #

      I have no idea whether this comment is real or not but I love it to bits.


  5. CPF #

    I love your site, but that graphic at the top put me off this article. Class 4 dangerous goods are flammable solids/dangerous when wet (emits flammable gas) and that label is specifically flammable solids. “Volatile” is not a category. “Extremely” would never be used – it is either dangerous or it is not. And the label itself is the “warning.”


    • John Perich OTI Staff #

      Blame AMC, not us. We swiped it from them. :)


    • Cornelius #

      That was a Class 4 “well, actually.”


  6. Stacy #

    The Breaking Bad fans who are so totally on Walt’s side and never think he is in the wrong do kind of annoy me. Because really they are being a bit sexist. If the show was reversed and the wife was the meth dealer, people would be talking about how horrible of a wife and mother she is and how the husband has ever right in the world to cheat on her or leave her. But nope, because the wife is the cheater, she is the worst person in the world who deserves to die a horrible death.

    I realize that this is just a double standard that I just have to deal with. But I hate that fact that my favorite show has so many sexist fans.

    Also, I loved Fly, I didn’t think it was pretentious, I thought I was hilarious.


    • Adrian #

      If that were true, I’m not sure Weeds would be as successful as it is.

      Is that really why people hate Skyler, the infidelity? If so, I agree with you that it is completely ridiculous. For myself, that act didn’t indicate that she was a bad person, just that she was something of a hypocrite since she had been so dead set on keeping the High Moral Ground. With “I fucked Ted” she completely wiped that away, and was being smug about it too.

      I think people often go to gender too quickly as an explanation. I’m not sure it’s true that a meth-cooking mom would automatically be vilified, and her roving husband championed because she “deserved it.” I think it depends completely on the choices the writers make, further adjusted by the subsequent choices the actors make.

      It took me a long time to dislike Skyler. I sympathized with her as long as I could because she was definitely dealing with a lot of shit from Walt that she didn’t deserve. He was clearly lying to her about SOMETHING, constantly disappearing, generally being as difficult as he could.

      That said, she just couldn’t stop being vindictive and petty. She pretended to be concerned about “what’s best for Walt,” but really she just couldn’t handle not getting her own way, and took revenge for it in passive aggressive ways, which really isn’t any more laudable than Walt’s strategy of running away and not dealing with anything.


  7. svan #

    I remember an article, and I can’t remember if it was here or not, but essentially reflecting on the ways in which the audience has shaped the moralism of Scarface. Which is that, almost irrefutably, Scarface is powerful anti-cocaine propaganda. Categorically, the events and circumstance established as a direct result of Al Pachino’s involvement in the cocaine trade are NOT desirable outcomes. He lives a life of shallow decadence only to die violently, young, and alone. He lives a repugnant life of near continual thuggish brutality, isolation, and all to profiteer on the back of a business that destroys lives and empowers savage criminal organizations.

    And yet. . . Scarface owns a cult of personality among the youth it was intended to affect. The Scarface metaphor is one that has never been particularly far behind Walt’s own meteoric rise to Meth King of New Mexico. The way in which we come to remember Scarface has a lot to do with the popular legacy that grew out of it, namely one which glamorizes alpha-male criminality. So who is Walt’s closest approximation if not the necrocratic Scareface when considering not just the story universe of Breaking Bad but also the audience response to him? My choice would be maybe David Sumner from Straw Dogs (Seriously look at that movie poster and tell me that isn’t a younger 1960s Hiesenberg http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1606590208/tt0067800).

    The primary narrative of Straw Dogs is essentially that David Sumner wanted to do extreme violence the whole time and leaps at the chance once there is virtually no chance at social reprisal. He is the definition of self-interested altruism, someone who, as soon as he is allowed, eagerly enlists crisis conditions in his favor. Crisis conditions he is partially responsible for making by not taking appropriate action earlier.

    This is how I see Walt more so than as someone who performs evil then looks for consonance. Walt’s character arc reads more like someone who gradually discovers their true consonance to be an ugly one. That the science teacher was the alter-ego and not Hiesenberg. This is likely why I find Walt’s family and friends so tedious in the first two seasons. They exist as necessary obstacles and external representations of the barriers Walt must transcend to assume his true self. But the question of whether or not Walt will reach that destination has not ever really been challenged. At no point during the show did it ever really seem like Walt would have to make a serious decision between dieing while retaining the bonds of honesty he had with his family and pursuing some radical transformation into wealthy badass.

    There are a number of things that seem to support this. Bad blood with Elliot predating cancer. How rapidly Walt assumes this persona. How hyper-critical he is with Jesse compared to how tolerantly he absorbs the disinterest of his students. Ongoing debt. Etc


Add a Comment