17 August 2012

Dead Freight

[Coletta Factor: Breaking Bad-current]
"Sooner or later the day comes when you can't hide from the things you've done"
                     --Commander William Adama

This episode should have wowed me. The boys, with a little help from Todd and Bill Burr, pull off a massive train heist that will keep them in precursor for the immediate future. Jesse had a great idea, Mike had one or two great Mike-isms. ("Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head." or "There are two kinds of heists: ones where the guys get away with it and ones that leave witnesses.") Walt actually went into Hank's office and planted not one but two listening devices, for pete's sake. So why was I not thrilled?

Of course, there was that moment, and when I saw that moment, I knew that it didn't matter how good the episode really was, because Gilligan had given us another watershed water cooler moment. (Does anyone actually talk about stuff around the water cooler?) Let's tackle that one first, then. The cold open showed us a boy on a dirtbike catching a tarantula as a train whistles in the background. Of course, it was beautifully filmed, showcasing the New Mexico desert like only Breaking Bad can. And maybe Oliver Stone. Anyway, this kid shows up again at the end as Todd, Jesse, and Walt are back-slapping each other over a heist well done. After about 10 seconds of awkward, tense silence, Todd pulls out his pistol and shoots the kid, fade to Gilligan's name and closing credits.

It reminds me a bit of the Sopranos. At least twice on that show there was a character who wanted to make an impression on the boss. One robbed a card game and one tried to kill Tony's nephew Christopher. Both took liberties that were not theirs to take, and both ended up dead. It's hard to see how Todd makes it out of next episode alive. No way he can go to the cops; the best that would do is take the death penalty off the table. All three of the "owners" are going to be furious with him: Jesse on humanitarian and moral grounds, Mike on practical grounds, and Walt on the taking liberties ground. Me thinks Todd will get a boxcutter to the neck before too long.

Everytime a kid goes missing, well, every time a white kid goes missing, they always have a million volunteers out there on a search grid, sifting through the landscape for a button or a drop of blood. I don't know what kind of ground this kid covers on that dirtbike, or what kind of ground his parents think he covers, but it's likely that train trestle and surrounding area will be swarming with heat within 48 hours. A couple of freshly filled in holes under a bridge? Suspicious, getting dug up immediately. Funny fumes coming from one of the holes? Test the soil and find residual methalymine. It's not too far a jump to say killing this kid will be Walt's downfall. And Hank supposedly put together a surveillance team on Mike last week, too. Was the DEA watching the heist go down, ready to swoop in, Reservoir Dogs style, after the fact?

Why was I not thrilled? It seems to me like they (the writers) rushed through the job of planning a believable heist just to give us that moment. There's a lot of good stuff here, it's just not quite as tight as I expect the best show on television to be. For example, last week we had an epic bedroom showdown between Walt and Skyler, the point of which was, if I read the scene correctly, that the power dynamic in the marriage had shifted almost completely to Walt. The key moment is when Skyler admits she is powerless, a coward. It was a powerful moment, and the scene between them this week took some of that power away by letting Skyler dictate terms to Walt. It felt redundant but also a little contradictory.

I said there was some good stuff, and I was mainly talking about the scene with Lydia, where the boys have her cuffed to a table in an abandoned warehouse. Lydia is a great new character. I know there's haters out there, but she's a mom, she's a corporate bigwig, she dabbles in the meth trade and seemingly was a notch above Gus in the food chain. You take those things I just listed, and 99% of TV series will give you a domineering, confident, cold-hearted bitch. I'm not railing against strong female characters, just saying that's what you would expect, instead of the twitchy, jittery, constantly anxious squirrel that is Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. From her super-spy routine in the diner with Mike to her mismatched shoes to her awkward simultaneous hiding and peeking at her henchman as he's led off in handcuffs, Lydia gives us all these entertaining moments that cast her in three dimensions. Laura Fraser, a Scotswoman who does an American accent for the role, does an excellent job of selling Lydia as believable, and I hope we get to see a lot more of her. 

That's most of what I have to say about this week. Long on action, short on character, pretty much the polar opposite of last week's brilliant, Rian Johnson-directed episode, "51." I didn't cover "51" last week, and my apologies again, but let me tell you what stood out for me. The bedroom showdown I referenced earlier was pretty epic. Walt chased her around the room like a cat does a mouse, cornering her then letting her scurry away only to play with her some more. Any pretext of love between them is nullified, and their relationship is now a grim battle of wills over the fate of their children. (Hank and Marie stepped up and took in Junior and Holly, and it was another good thing about this week's episode to see Hank enjoying that baby so much.) Johnson has a visual flair that melds so well with the way Breaking Bad tells the story, and "51" was rife with meaningful visuals, most of them callbacks to earlier episodes.

That is all, except for a couple of non-BrBa quick hits:

  • The Olympics were awesome. NBC's coverage, not so much. However, they did a great job of promoting their fall line-up. The sitcoms look pretty lame, but I'll be tuning in to Revolution for at least an episode or two.
  • Russell Brand is not The Walrus. Russell Brand is a jerkoff. 
  • The date is set: On May 1, 2015, Avengers 2 will be released, written and directed again by Joss Whedon. Can't wait!
  • Decided to skip Total Recall in theaters this summer, due to poor reviews and a weak box office. I'll just wait until this fall and bootleg it, oops I mean legally purchase or rent it.
  • Paranorman opens today; it probably won't be as good as Coraline, but still a lot of fun. Better than that Pixar rubbish anyway.
Ok, see ya next week!

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