Monday, August 20, 2012

Breaking Bad - "Buyout" Review

The feverish pace that Breaking Bad has been running on these past few episodes slowed up a bit this week, as we roll around in the crater created by last week's atom bomb.

Watching them clean up the mess was very unsettling.  Just looking at that barrel full of hydrofluoric acid, knowing what needed to be done, was sickening and just plain depressing.

The reactions of the three following the "incident" were mostly as expected, though I thought Walt would be a little more shaken up.  His ability to rationalize has completely consumed his penchant for human emotion.  The man is on one track.  It's clear to me that this episode illustrates, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is the moment where Walter has officially completed his transition to the dark side.  There are no more shades of grey.  This was no more evident than when Walt got into his meth lab and started to whistle. Just plain creepy, and such a far cry from the man we met in the pilot.

That being said, the weight of the kid never stops hanging over the tone of the episode, and it was really heartbreaking to see his story on the news.  It made the whole situation even that much more real.  To be on the other side of one of those news stories where you always wish you knew what really happened, was uncomfortable to say the least.

This episode went from good to great for me with the utterance of one single line:

"This business is all I have left."

So simple, yet the sudden clarity that flooded in after I heard it was very surprising.  Not to mention that Walt is correct.  Breaking Bad has been running in high gear for so long now that sometime's it's hard to realize just how much Walt has lost.

Vince Gilligan and his writing team are maestros when it comes to character development, and the scenes in the White residence just prove that even further.  We were watching an empty, hollow shell of better days past.  It was the same location, though so much energy and happiness had been sucked out of the environment that it didn't feel like it.  I just got done saying how this is the official moment Walt went off the deep end and 15 minutes later I start to feel for him again, and the fact that, after all of his reprehensible actions, I can feel sympathy for his character at this stage of the game is really something.

You don't realize the big picture sometimes when you're watching a show like Breaking Bad.  Every moment is so good that you start to pay a lot of attention to the little things, but a line like that really blew the doors back open.  Yes, this really is all he has left, and I felt for him. Sure, it's most if not all of his own doing, but I hardly doubt that this was where the Walter White from the pilot saw himself.  He really is a broken man, and his pride is all he has left.

And pride goeth before a fall.  I would argue Walt's true fall has already occurred.  He's lost everything that was once important to him.  His whole life as he knew it, gone or damaged beyond repair.

The scenes in Walt's house with him and Jesse were really the highlight of this episode for me. Aaron Paul, despite his emmy win, I believe is still a very underrated actor.  The way he moves between tortured criminal and comic relief is effortless.  I was laughing almost the entire scene at that dinner table, which is just a testament to how talented Paul truly is.

Mike has basically become the personification of foreshadowing.  This is a man who is extremely smart, experienced and resourceful.  He knows what it takes to run a successful operation.  He knows the consequences.  He knows when its time to press on, and when to walk away.  He already expressed a desire to call it quits earlier in this season, calling Walt a "time bomb", though certain external pressure forced him to continue his venture.  Now, facing DEA persecution and the death of a child, the better angels of his nature are telling him exactly what he already knew.  This is not a good idea.  This is destined to fail.  He's been doing this so long, you can practically feel him thinking it.  He sees the writing on the wall as a seasoned veteran would, yet, Walt continues to be the fly in his ointment, which is forcing him to act out of emotion rather than rationality.  Mike will once again go against his better instincts, allowing his "time bomb" prophecy to fulfill itself.

This episode was primarily set up for the mid-season finale, and I would've enjoyed a couple more developments in this episode.  As good as it was, it was the first time I felt any sense of filler in watching this season.  I mean, there wasn't really any filler.  Everything this show does is deliberate, but this was the closest the show came to feeling like moments of filler in quite some time. Don't get me wrong, Breaking Bad is still just as stellar of a show when it slows down, but all the haunting character work and poignant dialogue that made an episode like "Fifty-One" so brilliant were less prevalent during this hour.  It just didn't feel like there was enough to chew on.  It felt like we were running in circles a bit, especially with the DEA stuff.  Skyler's antics were a bit more on the annoying side, and her presence didn't really bring much to the episode, except reinforcing Walt's fall from grace.  I wish they'd done more with her in this episode.

I think my biggest disappointment is the apparent dissolution of this makeshift meth scooby gang that I was enjoying so much.  Though it's inevitable, I figured I'd have more time to watch the exploits of this underground empire.  The whole thing felt very grassroots, which after the large chunk of the series that was carried under the fist of Gustavo Fring and his elaborate laundromats, was a welcome change of pace and really fun to watch.  Here's to hoping Walter's plan allows these guys to keep the cook alive just a little longer.

78% = *** = "Good"


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