Breaking Bad Open Thread: “Live Free or Die” + “Madrigal”

July 24th, 2012 by | Tags: , , , ,

Trying something new! I watch a few TV shows. Some of them are even pretty popular. Who wants to have a weekly chat about Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad? I buy mine off Amazon, so I’m usually a day behind, but I can post a thread every Sunday for us to hash it out. Sound good?

If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, you should. You can find Breaking Bad:
-On AMC, Sundays at 10 eastern
Seasons 1-4 on Netflix
on DVD
on Amazon Instant Video (my preferred method)

-Don’t be a dick
-No spoiler warnings, so don’t come in unless you’ve seen the latest episode
-Feel free to hyperlink and youtube it up

Sound good? I’m going to paste my comments in the c-section and then we can see about hashing out how we feel about whatever whatever. I’ve never done this before, but hopefully it turns out well, even if it’s just two or three of us. Episodes go up for me after midnight, so I’ll probably be posting on Monday night instead of Sunday, but I figure if enough of y’all are interested in talking, that won’t matter.

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19 comments to “Breaking Bad Open Thread: “Live Free or Die” + “Madrigal””

  1. -Judging by the first two episodes, this season of Breaking Bad is about not knowing when to stop. Walt and Jesse got the equivalent of a new leash on life, sorta, and instead of settling down and trying to get out of the game, they’re trying to get in even deeper. Which is foolish. There are loose ends, but they would’ve been much better off tying those ends up rather than trying to dig their hole even deeper.

    Mike, Walt, and Jesse are all being fools. Mike let himself be talked into sticking around and increasing his risk. Walt is determined to become some type of kingpin. Jesse doesn’t know how to bail out of a sinking ship. Walt’s definitely full of hubris at this point, which brings me to my next point:

    -Walt is a monster. This was true last season, but it’s doubly true now. He’s a very small, weak man who was given a taste of power, and now he wants more. He says that he’s doing it to protect his family, but does anyone believe that at this point? He’s actively harming other families by dealing drugs, and he’s directly responsible for Brock’s near-death. He’s turned from whatever person Skyler fell in love with into someone she’s afraid of, which cannot be the effect he wanted.

    -Skyler! Anna Gunn is so good. This is the second time I’ve seen her as a… I don’t know, a wife to a supremely damaged man? Deadwood was the other time. She hasn’t had a lot to do over these two episodes, but dang, she is still killing. She’s also the biggest signifier that Walt has officially gone over the edge. It’s strange that the first two episodes end with Walt bad touching her, but that’s a clear sign for us that Walt isn’t the person she thought he is.

    So, how long before Skyler leaves with Walt Jr? Is that going to be the mid-season break? She’s not safe, she knows she’s not safe, but she’s a thinker. She’s gone behind Walt’s back before, and she knows that he knows that now. I feel like she definitely thinks of herself as being in danger, rather than than protected. How long before she runs?

    -Aaron Paul is so good. Last season was where he really stepped up his game, but he’s totally selling this young guy caught between two lethal and ancient father figures. The level of trust that Walt is pulling out of him is way too high. There’s no way he doesn’t turn on Walt, which is probably something Mike wanted to happen before the end of episode 2.

    Jesse breaking down and sobbing over having nearly killed Walt was crucial and brutal. That’s the moment that’s going to keep Jesse with Walt, the belief that he owes him. He mistrusted Walt when Walt was right, and nearly killed him for no reason, or so he thinks. I think that scene is really significant. Walt conned his way into a tremendous emotional bond with Jesse, and he abuses it immediately. “Remember us? We’ve got each other’s backs?”

    -I hope Walt gets what’s coming to him.

    -Mike seems sad, doesn’t he? Not about Gus, but more in general. Like he’s just tired. He knows that he’s on a doomed train, but he’s going along with it. It can’t just be the money, can it? What’s his deal?

    -I love how often Breaking Bad goes silent and just lets people act. All that stuff with Hank in the superlab was fire. Very uncomfortable, very thrilling.

    -I think I liked the first two episodes of this season equally, but the cold open was extraordinarily nice. Walt is alone and haggard — what happened? Who’s chasing him? He bought a lot of hardware off Jim Beaver in that restaurant. Who’s he going to kill?

    I love the touch of that happening on his birthday.

  2. This has never been about Walt needing to provide for his family. He turned down a few easy ways to do that. This has always been about his pride and getting respect. Now that he has it — it isn’t the kind he wanted. It isn’t love-respect. It is fear-respect.

    Skyler is scared of him. Mike is scared of him the way you get scared of the guy at work that you know will mess the team project up if you don’t watch him all the damn time.

    Walt has always thought he knew more than he does. He is that classic dude that is near-genius in one area and thinks it applies to all areas. It is that hubris that drives the plot.

    Ditto on the silent scenes. Reminds me of the Shield.

  3. Agree witha ll of your assessments except re: Mike being a fool. Or, if he is, his foolishness arises from different reasons than Walt and Jesse’s.

    Mike has the most information on the true nature of the meth empire of any of them. Walt’s plowing ahead with brazen confidence because he doesn’t know about Madrigal or Chile. Mike does know, and he’s stepping back in anyway. Why?

    (1) He needs the money in a way that Walt doesn’t. Possibly to buy off the surviving 9 names on his list, now that the DEA has frozen Fring’s accounts.

    (2) If all else fails, he can get Walt back up to speed, then cut a deal with the DEA. “All right. I walk, free and clear, and in return you get Heisenberg. I’ll even show you his lab.”

  4. Need to re-watch, but the thing that’s sticking right now is how they played the last scene of ‘Madrigal’. The camera stays locked on Skyler, while the essentially disembodied voice of Walt uses empty words to justify his grotesque behavior. He’s basically a movie monster at that point, the sound of him sliding into bed behind his raised the hairs on my neck, the sounds of kisses on her neck and shoulder made me want to scream. Weirdly enough, after all he’s done, it’s the first time I was genuinely terrified of his character.

    Mike is/was a lone man. Probably before the birth of his granddaughter. It’s his tether to humanity, and probably the only thing he cares about. He’d die for her, and based on his decisions this episode, probably will.

    Knowing when to quit. Bang on.

  5. Also also, no one does cold opens like this show. The German sauce testing was so bizarre on first blush. Not that it didn’t belong, but I love when a show breathes and takes its time revealing context.

  6. On “Madrigal”…
    The sauce-tasting open was, within seconds, one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It was amazingly well done, and darkly hilarious. I was almost dreading the moment where we’d have to cut back to the ABQ.

    And for such an aggressively Mike-centric episode, that scene you mentioned between just Walt and Jesse is the part that I think will remain the most significant and memorable, by far. Aaron Paul acting the living $#@% out of that, like never before (and he’s *always* great).

    I don’t know how I feel about the first two episodes in a row both ending with sort of the same scene — the second one struck me as a little bit easy/lazy, when it started — but damnit if they haven’t been wonderfully disturbing to watch. I’ve spent the better part of 4 seasons loving Walt, but I was about ready to throw up when he started kissing Skyler at the end of “Madrigal.” Says a lot about the acting chops involved, and the writing that got us to that point…how else would I (and I’m sure others) finally be seeing Walt as the awful person he is from Skyler’s perspective, after having spent much of the show vaguely wishing death upon her?

    I’m hoping we get some more of Saul this season than we did last. The more Odenkirk the better, is what I say — in all things.

    Oh, and as simple as it was in construction, the whole “heist” sequence in episode 1 was great, blood-pumpin’, pulse-racin’ stuff. I can’t think of many (any?) other shows that so successfully combine the very different strengths that Breaking Bad does.

  7. Professor Coldheart’s idea of Mike cutting a deal to rat out Walt seems like something that could happen…he seems to have a distaste for the DEA, so it’d be interesting to see if money & freedom could win him over.

    Does anyone think Ted will play a part again this season? Shouldn’t the IRS be on him still, which can still cause drama for Skyler/Walkt?

    I’ve been hoping that Saul shaves his head, so we can have an image of all the main fellas (Walt, Jesse, Mike, Hank, Ted, Saul) with the caption Breaking Bald.

    I wonder if the “franch” dressing will become poisoned and Brock will be in trouble again.

  8. I think we’re going to get a turning point with Skyler. When she visited Ted in the hospital, she seemed simultaneously impressed and terrified by the power she had over him. It almost looked like she enjoyed it, to the point that I could see her transforming into a business partner for Walt by the end of the season.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect her to have any affection for Walt anymore, but she has two children to worry about providing for when Walt ends up dead or in jail.

    There’s so much good in this series, and I’m curious how long it’s going to be before Hank figures Walt out. You could see him mulling something over as his boss discussed how close he was to Gus and never suspected a thing.

  9. Walt’s gotta die. He’s pushed himself to the edge and now he’s teetering over it because he doesn’t think he has anything left to fear. Gus is dead, the cartel is in ruin, Mike is converted to his side and he already feels like he can outsmart the DEA. When he falls, it’s going to be a rough one and I just don’t see him living through the season finale. I’m just wondering how extensive the collateral damage is going to be.

  10. What I like so much about Skyler’s scene with Ted is that she wasn’t so much impressed by the realization that Ted was afraid of her, but rather she was horrified with what she is becoming/has become. All of her bad deeds, from her affair and the motives behind it, her book-cooking, her ruthless car wash takeover, and her forceful muscling of Ted to get the IRS off his back (and the White’s) that went horribly awry— all the while using Walt’s tools (Saul, Huell and Kuby) to do it— were written on Ted’s broken face as he looked back at her in abject horror. At this point Skyler is keenly aware of just how she has terrorized, broken the wills of and ruined the lives of people, just like Walt. She may not ostensibly be as bad as Walt (and she’s not), but she feels she is just as bad as Walt, and that’s what is important. Who is going to protect this family from the woman who is protects this family from the man who protects this family, especially now that she hates herself and she is scared to death of Walt due to his recent ladder-climbing actions?

    HANK. Oh man, Hank. That man has a 50-yard stare in “Live Free or Die” when they’re bagging up Gus’s laptop in the foreground. Did he see anything on it or not? Then in “Madrigal” when Hank is having drinks with his shit-canned boss— shit-canned for not being able to smell a master criminal right under his nose FOR YEARS— Hank looks REALLY worried. The computer’s been degaussed and bashed all to hell. Hank reveals he opened it up at the restaurant, but says it was all encrypted. Something about that worried look on his face as his now ex-boss was going on about grilling with Gus, then pouring everyone another drink seems to indicate that Hank saw something on that computer he can’t unsee, and doesn’t know what to do with presently. If he knows Walt is a major player in the Heisenberg Meth Circle, and he has to bring his brother-in-law to justice, well, he’d basically be sentencing his career to death, just like the man sitting across the desk from him. And Hank’s career is back with a vengeance! He’s a hero for fingering Fring. He’s finally walking tall again, both figuratively and literally (well, almost literally, give him a few more episodes to get his swagger back).

    I kind of want to write up something for everyone, but I’d be typing forever if I do that. I’ll just wrap it up by saying I love how each season goes off into a different world of larger problems. It’s a chain reaction as people dig themselves deeper, and the deeper they go, the larger the creatures are that they unearth. At the start of season 2 we had no idea that the pink one-eyed bear was the result of a HORRIBLE series of events culminating in a mid-air collision of two passenger planes. I love how in season 5 thus far, Walt has his own delusions of hubristic-ego-driven glory, and I love love LOVE how Mike’s reality is something else entirely. I am so happy to see Mike back in action, and it pleases me to no end that he’s going to be a much bigger part of the story, having direct ties with the larger cogs in Gus’s empire’s wheels. His love of his granddaughter has already caused him to take a half-measure, which I hope doesn’t spell his doom. And of course I love Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show fan for life), and want to see more of Saul, Huell and Kuby. I love how Saul and his guys are all played by comedians. I also love how funny the show is, and always has been. I know it’s going to continually get darker, but I don’t think the humor will go away. It’ll just get darker too.

    If a 52-year old Walt on the run is the pink, charred bear of the season 5 premiere, what the hell is the plane crash gonna be in the mid-season or series finale? The mind reels…

  11. Oh, and Mr. Brothers, I enjoy your writing a great deal, so if you want to talk about Breaking Bad— a show I enjoy a great deal as well— well, that’s fine by me. I’m pretty keen on it. See you back here this Monday!

  12. @Karl Savage: “She may not ostensibly be as bad as Walt (and she’s not), but she feels she is just as bad as Walt, and that’s what is important.”

    And she used that to ensure the safety of her family and the continuation of the meth business. Rather than apologize to Ted or try to do anything to remedy it, she used his fear.

    Walt was doing it all to help his family (granted, out of pride), but then it became about something else entirely. I see Skyler continuing with the business, maybe even in the time that Walt’s gone between now and that cold open, not because she enjoys it, but because she is actually doing what Walt set out to do in the first episode: provide for her family.

  13. I meant to say that “in the beginning, it as about helping his family” regarding Walt. It changed to the point that I’m pretty sure even Walt realizes that’s not what it’s about anymore.

  14. I’m just starting Breaking Bad (up to episode 5 or 6) and will be doing season recaps on my blog for anyone interested in either catching up, getting a refresher, or seeing a new opinion.

    As soon as I catch up (… which may take while), I’d love to see what more people say about the current episodes and will be back here, so keep it going!

  15. When Walt visited Fring’s home a couple seasons ago, Fring had Walk cut up some garlic, getting his fingerprints all over a knife. I figured that was a Chekhov’s gun of some kind, but I’m not sure where they’re going with it. I wonder if Hank knows Walt’s fingerprints are on the knife but has hidden the evidence?

    I don’t know if this is intentional, but Herr Schuler’s name means “student”. An expression of his inferior relationship to Walt?

    I am falling in love with Jesse, especially after his tearful moment — unlike Walt, he still wants to do right by people. Remember when Jesse was the loose cannon and Walt was the stable, reliable one?

    Pulling a prediction out of my ass: in the series finale, Walt will shoot Hank without hesitation, but he will hesitate to kill Jesse … and it will be Jesse that brings Walt down.

    As to what Hank saw on the laptop, my guess is porn. Chicken porn.

  16. Walt is gone. Heisenberg is born. This became true, in all seriousness, at the end of “Crawl Space”. That’s the moment Walt ended. Cranston confirmed that himself in one of the interviews.

    What I’m wondering about is, when did all of that begin? Did it start when Walt got ejected from the start-up, or whatever it was, and lost his girlfriend in the process? Keeping all that anger inside, bottled up, tense, not knowing until he got a chance to prove himself again, in his own mind? Are we going to get back to that? I think so.

    When Gus went to see Hector in “Crawl Space” to tell him his family is dead, Hector is watching “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, a film that is all about blowing up the bridge – which is built by a guy who has a major advantage for almost the entire film. The film Mike’s watching in “Madrigal” is “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”, which is about…yes, rebellion.

    (Side note: one of the actors in this film is Ryûichi Sakamoto. Yes, this Ryûichi Sakamoto, the musician: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcGY0dStHuA )

    (Side note #2: And the same film is also Takeshi Kitano’s cinematic debut. Yeah, I know. Breaking Bad is awesome.)

    (Side note #3: Yeah, David Bowie’s in it as well.)

    Ok, what follows (until the end of this post) is a pretty detailed list of what I think will happen on the show from now until the end. I might be completely off. This is what I’d do, and I suspect I’m right at least on some of these.

    I don’t think Skyler will try to leave. She’s too scared. I think Walt Jr., pissed off that his dad is a meth cook/dealer, will find the cigarette Walt prepared to kill Jesse with (episode 7, maybe?), Walt Jr. will smoke it instead, will die. The way this happens is probably off, but I think Walt Jr.’s death will be the plane crash of the first half of this season, and I think it will hit in episode 7 or 8.

    I think Walt will kill Skyler because she’ll turn on him after Walt Jr. dies. I think Mike will wound Walt, but Jesse will kill Mike, and Walt will kill Jesse, and I think Hank will kill Walt, but he’ll cover things up so everything doesn’t fall on the family. I also think Saul will manage to get out with some of the money, and he’ll get some of the cash to Mike’s granddaughter. Hank will be the last to “break bad” when he kills Walt and covers it up. Hank and Marie will take care of the baby.

    At least that’s how I’d write it, probably.

    The lady in Madrigal? I suspect she’s G’s wife. I think it was Sean T. Collins who remembered that you could see toys on G’s floor in season 4. And Mike is doing it for his granddaughter, he doesn’t care about anything else as much, except for (maybe) Jesse.

    So Morgan, you’re totally right on both counts. I loved how they decided not to show Walt’s head in that shot with Skyler. His head’s not in it. He’s driven almost purely by his ego, by his body, by his emotions, except for when he’s using his intelligence to further the plans his ego created. He’s de-evolving.

    And I suspect Hank will figure all of it out pretty soon, or he already knows. He’s already (almost?) there – that look he gave himself when he heard the “he was somebody else” from his ex-chief was the look of a guy who already knows, but doesn’t want to. Remember when Walt looked into the camera in season 4, and talked to Gus? Yeah, maybe Hank already knows.

    Ehrmantraut: Americanized spelling of German Ehrmanntraut, metronymic from a Germanic female personal name composed of the elements irmin ‘world’, ‘all-encompassing’ + trud ‘strength’.

    Schrader: Close to Schroeder, an occupational surname for someone who cut cloth for tailors, from the Middle Low German “schrader” or “schroder,” meaning tailor or the German verb “schroten,” meaning to cut. Hank cuts the ties by killing Walt.

    Names of German origin. Madrigal. It’s all tying up quite nicely.

    Thanks for this, David. Great idea.

  17. @Professor Coldheart: You know, I don’t know if Mike could cut a deal. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to turn rat. Especially considering Hank tried to strong-arm him with his past. Hank would have to have some real leverage over Mike, maybe something with his granddaughter. But I wonder if Mike would rather go inside or die than cut a deal.

    @adam: That is the best description of Mike. I think it’d be interesting if he’s going to try to minimize the damage Walt is going to cause, and he’s in it for that reason. He knows that if Walt falls, he’s probably next.

    @David Fairbanks: That hospital scene was nuts. This is super subjective, but I don’t know if it was enjoyment exactly. There was awe, I think, and not the good kind. Sort of a “What have I done? Am I this person?” kind of thing. Skyler’s going to be interesting this season. I had spaced on her reaction to that scene, so now her near-catatonia is definitely a combo of Fear of Walt and Fear of Herself/What She’s Become, yeah? She’ll sneak and cheat but she never wanted to hurt anyone, but now she has and it worked out in her benefit. How’s that make her feel?

    @Karl Savage: BETTER CALL SAUL

    I really dig your examination of Hank, and yeah, I think you’re onto something. I think Hank was obviously going to be the lynchpin to busting Walt once he was introduced, but at this point, it’s got to be way bigger than a simple “Gotcha, bro!”

    @David Fairbanks: I think Walt still thinks it’s about his family, but he’s so far gone that he doesn’t get that it isn’t. A better man would recognize the danger that he’s put his family in and bail out, but his big plan is to get even deeper. He’s extremely deluded. The thing with Brock alone, I think Walt’s decided that it’s his family first and anything goes for them. Which is insane.

  18. @david brothers: I would need to watch it again, but I definitely should’ve chosen “awe” over “enjoyment” with regard to the power she had. I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for us.

    And yeah, I’ll get behind that interpretation on Walt. To most rational people, he’s obviously only in it for the pride (both of being the provider and cooking the best meth), but from Walt’s perspective, it’s still all about providing for his family.

    I wonder how it’s going to play out if/when he realizes that what’s best for his family isn’t the same thing as what he thinks is best for them. Maybe that’s where that missing year between these episodes and the opening of the season goes…

    Also, agreed on everything people have said about Hank; I’m amazed just how much my opinion of him has evolved in the last couple of seasons.

    I had the benefit of being able to just mainline the first four seasons last fall, and this waiting a week between episodes is frustrating.

  19. I finally caught up to the season four finale! Always waitin’ on Netflix.

    Given the amount of time that needs to pass for that birthday flash-forward, I’m betting on a time-skip at the “mid-season” break.