Memphis Paul: A Defense of ‘Trophy Wife’ and A Critique of ‘Breaking Bad’ finale

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My colleague Paragraph Dan looks to be out on “Trophy Wife”.  This feels like a good choice for Dan.  But I would say this does not mean that “Trophy Wife” is necessarily bad.  One, I would say Dan is less interested in family shows than say comic book adaptations or shows with decapitations.  Two, Dan likes to be entertained from his entertainment whereas I like mind entertainment that takes chances or has a different approach at the risk of being entertaining.

“Trophy Wife” is like “Treme,” a quality show that does not entertain.  A family show that Dan likes, “Modern Family” is entertaining but is not “different”, it is a classic 4 camera sitcom, the jokes are mainly right on the surface and Phil Dunphy mugs at the camera like Carol Bennett.  Rare is the show that entertains and differentiates. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” probably comes closest of the new network shows.

Dan mentions the soccer ball to the groin as being a standard sitcom style joke that occurs in Episode 2.  A similar incident occurs in the pilot, new wife Kate (Malin Akerman) guzzles some vodka to spare new step-daughter from punishment from her mom and acts drunk the rest of the episode.  These plot points are sitcom standards but I feel like the show is putting those incidents out in front to show how this show is a little different in how they are dealt with.

In the “Dads” pilot, there was a phallic text sent to the Asian American character dressed as “Sailor Moon” by a visiting client.  The four male leads gather around the phone to make standard sitcom jokes of what the phallus looks like, a walrus wearing a bowler hat or similar nonsense.  On “Trophy Wife”, when child takes a soccer ball shot to the groin, it is addressed but in the way an embarrassing injury to a child would actually be addressed, with concern, slight mocking and an air that this happens weekly as part of child-rearing, the realistic reaction, not played for laughs.  “Trophy Wife” is not laugh out loud funny because life isn’t…it can be occasionally but more than that and the show would not feel realistic.

Breaking Bad‘ finale

You may say, “I want to be entertained, not observe something realistic.” That is for the best but occasionally a lack of realism can throw a wrench into something that is otherwise thoroughly entertaining…like “Breaking Bad’s” finale.  I would not say it was bad, far from it.  But it was another case of Dan and I having different sensibilities.bee823a69ea045ebb80c92f374051488

Dan really liked the finale.  I had some quibbles that Dan brushed aside.  Basicly, I really liked how the penultimate episode ended things; for me, it would have been the dark feel I would prefer for the end to the show.  It felt bleak but real; while the drug war is unending, the career of the drug dealer is short and violent and ends unhappily.  The “Breaking Bad” finale moves the story to a better place for all the main characters than where the narrative ended in the penultimate episode.

Marie gets to bury her husband, Finn will get money on his 18th birthday, Skylar is given a card to play with her prosecutors, Jesse drives away from the neo-Nazi slave pit with an emotion that Aaron Paul describes as “freedom” on “Talking Bad” and Walt dies but gets to do it his way a la Sinatra.  Walt sees his family, is honest to Skylar, outwits Lydia, kills the Nazis and lovingly caresses his meth lab setup before dying.

The ending was great fan service (and in opposition to the selfish attitudes of the “Difficult Men” showrunners) but the lack of realism combined with a flawless ending got in the way of the enjoyment for me.  The show has always been honest in the storytelling aspects of this action leads to this, and this consequence, and on and on but the lack of realism (Jesse comments on Walt’s incredible luck) bothered me a bit in the finale, where Walt’s plans could crater catastrophically with no more episodes to follow.

5-paragraph review of ‘Breaking Bad’ series finale

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Season 5, Episode 16: “Felina”

Original air date: Sept. 29, 2013

  1. The “Breaking Bad” finale tone is set subtly. Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the former high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, flees police in New Hampshire and returns to New Mexico to wipe out what he started. He steals a car. He fumbles. He collects himself. He turns the engine over. He pounds the snow-covered driver’s side window. The snow falls off. Heisenberg’s final repose begins now. We next see Walter in the shadows outside the home of his former business partners, Elliott Schwartz (Adam Godley) and Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). Elliott raises a knife toward him. Walt gives him a cold, tired stare: “Elliott, if we’re gonna go that way, you’re gonna need a bigger knife.” Walt is near death, but his menace is at maximum effect. He give them an assignment: Deliver the remaining $9 million of his drug money to Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) or be killed by assassins. The assassins are the bluff, but his revenge on those who cut him out of the tech startup is complete.
  2. Walt says goodbye to his estranged wife, Skyler White (Anna Gunn). Cinematography in scene is terrific. Walt and Skyler are shot from afar. A wooden pillar separates them. It is a heavy-handed metaphor, but it works. Walt gives Skyler the lottery ticket with the GPS coordinates to find the bodies of two DEA agents, including his brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Skyler can use the ticket to get a deal with prosecutors and make the hell that is her life end. No character has suffered more from Walt’s turn to the darkness than Skyler. Walt gives her a final gift. He tells Skyler he became Heisenberg for himself. The whole terrible chain of events was an act of his own arrogance and wounded pride. Walter White is going to kill a lot of people before day’s end. But he is defeated in that moment of honesty. He watches Walt Jr. return home from school. The family for which he claimed to do everything is gone. He destroyed it.
  3. Walt confronts the white supremacists led by Jack Welker (Michael Bowen) and his nephew Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons). He drops in a meeting between Todd and Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser). He offers a new formula for meth. Lydia orders Walt’s death. Walt goads them into bringing Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) into the room. Walt outsmarts them. He rigs the machine gun to pop out of the trunk of his battered car and strafe the supremacists’ clubhouse. Jesse chokes Todd today with his handcuff chains. Walt hands Jesse a gun. He asks Jesse to kill. Jesse refuses. Lydia calls Todd. She’s sick in bed. She wants to know if Walt is dead. Walt lets her know they’re all dead, including her. He slipped the ricin in Lydia’s sweetener. Jesse drives away. Walt is wounded in the final shootout. He walks into the meth lab. He pats one of the vats with a blood-spattered hand. Police lights flicker in the distance. Sirens wail. Walt falls to the ground dead. Police surround his body. The story of the fall of a small, petty and broken man who used his extraordinary mind to do evil ends.
  4. Series creator Vince Gilligan brilliantly finished his television masterpiece. Some call it the greatest television show in history. Certainly it compares favorable with other fine dramas, such as “The Wire” and “Mad Men.” Gilligan is a master storyteller. He had command of a cast at the very top of their craft. Cranston perfectly rendered Walter White’s turn to darkness. Paul brought to life a lost, ignorant boy who was always out of his depth. In one of Jesse’s final scenes, he dreams of building a wooden box in a workshop — a good craftsman. He awakens to find himself finishing a cook. It is a glimpse of what he could have been if he had just made one or two better decisions.
  5. I was once a night police reporter. Several of my cop friends complained that “Breaking Bad” made heroes out of the bad guys. There is some truth to that, but that is a superficial reaction. There are no heroes in “Breaking Bad,” only the guilty and the innocent. Walt began as a metaphor for a middle class man without options. He worked two jobs to support his family. His students did not respect him. He gets terminal lung cancer. He can’t afford the insurance. His family will struggle financially upon his death. He is put to the ultimate test. And he failed. Skyler learned of his evil and covered it up. She became complicit. She was guilty. Hank was a cop, but not a very good one. He resorted to base violence rather than shoe leather and intellect in effort to solve cases. He only discovered Walt’s identity as Heisenberg by a fluke. Even then, he did not follow procedure. He and his partner ended up dead in a hole in the desert. That this happened is most certainly Walt’s fault, but Hank’s own hubris contributed greatly to his death. Jesse was an addict and low-level drug dealer when we met him. Certainly Walt turned his former student down a bloodier path. But Jesse started making bad decisions long before he became a meth kingpin. In this story, the innocent — Jesse’s girlfriends, Walt Jr. — suffer and die. If this is to be seen as a moral tale, than good ultimately triumphed over evil, though not so much by the machinations of the just but the great failings of the evil. Walter White is dead in the desert. He never turned the gun on himself, but he most assuredly killed himself.

5-paragraph review of ‘Breaking Bad: Granite State’

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Season 5, Episode 15

Original air date: Sept. 22, 2013

  1. Everyone is heading for the exits in “Granite State,” the penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad,” in one way or another. Crooked lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) finally uses “his guy” (Robert Forster) to disappear. The unnamed vanisher of crooks sets chem-teacher-turned-drug-kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in a New Hampshire cabin, where he wastes away. Walt’s former student-turned-meth-making partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), tries to flee the white supremacists. The sociopathic Walt protegee Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) executes Jesse’s former girlfriend as punishment. The threaten to kill the kid Walter once poisoned. Walt’s wife, Skyler White (Anna Gunn), is utterly defeated. She faces criminal prosecution. Their condo is seized by the federal government.
  2. Writer-director Peter Gould beautifully injects humor and terror into episode. Todd and the white supremacists visit a rattled Skyler. They terrorize Skyler by threatening the baby. Todd prevents Jesse’s execution in  part because he has a schoolboy crush on uptight Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser), the woman who has been shipping the blue meth overseas. Todd’s fumbling effort to seduce her at the coffeehouse is uproarious. That combines with the Lydia’s cartoonish greed overwhelming her better instincts to run away from this meth trade and not look back.
  3. Again, Walter White Jr. (RJ Mitte) is given some of the most hard-hitting lines of the series. Walt calls Junior at school from the New Hampshire wilds. He wants to send money. “It can’t all be for nothing,” Walt pleads.  Junior will have none of it. He turns his back on his father and slams the door. “Why are you still alive?” he screams. Walt, defeated, calls the Albuquerque DEA office and asks for the agent in charge of the investigation. He seems content to surrender until a segment of Charlie Rose’s talk show shows his old tech startup pals bragging about a charity contribution. Rose grills them about their connection to Walt. They say his contribution to the company was minimal. They say Walter White is gone. 
  4. Then Walter White stands up. The rage that has always fueled the monster that is Heisenberg stems from Walt’s unmatched arrogance. He always believed he should have been a rich man because of his contribution to that company. At the end, they deny him. They shun him. They try to make Walter White disappear. But he will make them remember. Sheriff deputies raid the bar where Walt appeared to be having his final drink. But Walt is already gone. He’s on his way back to New Mexico. And everybody who ever crossed him will burn.
  5. Praise to the “Breaking Bad” creators. They are giving the show’s fans exactly what they wanted: a showdown between Walt and the rest of the world. From the beginning of the second half of the final season, they announced in a flash forward that this was going to end in a violent confrontation. Walt plans to murder the entirety of the white supremacist crew. He’s collected the ricin from behind the light socket in his former home. I have long guessed the poison was for Lydia, but perhaps his former business partners will suffer his wrath. I’m still betting on Lydia. After all, someone is making his meth. Everything else he’s done has failed. The last thing Walter White’s arrogance will allow is someone to profit on his genius and reputation again.

Great Paragraphs: On Saul Goodman’s future

Hey, I’m a civilian. I’m not your lawyer anymore. I’m not anybody’s lawyer. I’m just another douchebag with three pairs of Dockers and a job. If I’m lucky, in three months, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.

— Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), “Breaking Bad”

5-paragraph review of ‘Breaking Bad: Ozymandias’

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Season 5, Episode 14

Original transmission date: Sept. 15, 2013

  1. “Ozymandias,” easily the most intense of the final chapters of “Breaking Bad” thus far, begins in the past. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is cooking in the old RV with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Walt is still a teacher, more excited by the chemistry of meth making than the money that results. Pinkman is still a bored, fidgety manchild. Walt is so new to lying to wife Skyler White (Anna Gunn), he must practice his story before he calls her by cell phone. They discuss baby names in between bits of domestic banalities. This seems so long ago. Walt hasn’t even committed his first murder yet. i
  2. The camera pans out and Walt slowly fades away, as does the RV. The present comes into focus and we see by stark contrast how far things have fallen. The gunfight that ended the previous episode ends. Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) has one final exchange. He dies with nobility and dignity intact, telling off his murdering drug kingpin brother-in-law and his white supremacist assassins before he is murdered and buried in the desert with his partner. He was the hero of the series all along and we didn’t see it until he was dead.
  3. The supremacists take most of Walt’s money. They drag Jesse from under the car. Walt still wants him dead. Thug Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) suggests Jesse might have more information on what the feds know about the meth operation. The next time we see Jesse, he is badly beaten. He has given up the location of his video testimony. Todd leads him into the warehouse and forces him to cook.
  4. Walt races home. Hank’s wife, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), gloats to Skyler about Walt’s capture. She forces Skyler to tell Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte). Mitte is given a rare chance to act, breaking away from five years worth of him eating cereal in the White’s kitchen, he delivers his best performance of the season. Skyler finally turns on Walt. Walt Jr. takes her side. Walt steals the baby. Police are called. Walt runs. The empire is in ruins. The family is destroyed.
  5. Walt gives Skyler a speech comprised malice and rage. He berates Skyler for not supporting him or appreciating his contributions to the family. He promises Skyler that if she crosses him again, she will end up just like Hank. It is as worthy a speech as any ever given by a gangster in all of fiction, but it is as much a lie as the one he tells about his boss at the carwash making him stay late. Walt’s threats will force the government to take Walt’s family into protective custody. Walt, in one final act of love, admits to being the killer of a federal agent and saves his family from fallout to whatever evil he will commit in the season’s final episodes. As evidence to that fact: Walt leaves his baby daughter at a fire station and boards the disappear van for New Hampshire. We know he’s coming back. And with Walt comes more death.

Fridging, The Men of GTA and Skyler White

So, my buddy Paragraph Dan and I were chatting the other day after the Alabama-Texas A&M game.  I am not sure how we got on the topic of Gail Simone, Women in Refrigerators (or WiR) and “fridging“; our conversational digressions are frequent and intense so I am guessing it went something like “Bama-TA&M, the new targeting rules and a possible decline in tackling, the enjoyment of watching tackling, Mike Singletary….then maybe William “Refrigerator” Perry.”  Or maybe our conversation came to William Perry via this.

Regardless of how the topic came up, there is apparently a “new-talent” drawing contest by some comic company.  Entrants are asked to draw panels from various comics…one such panel is of Harley Quinn, girlfriend of The Joker, in a bathtub, lowering various electrical appliances, in a suicide attempt.  The detail are lost on a comic novice like myself, but the upshot is WiR are upset at continued poor treatment of female characters in comics.

Hearing this, it brought to mind an article over at Grantland about a lack of female characters in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise.  Two recent stories of poor treatment of female characters in a creative/artistic endeavor…one criticism of how female characters are included in a violent context, another criticism of how female characters are not given a larger role in a context that is almost exclusively violent/illegal, save a few cut-screen scenes with bad jokes.  I am juxtaposing these stories purposefully, male content creators can be descried for omitting female characters and for including female characters who are written poorly/treated harshly/generally don’t match the expectations of the critic.  I think I generally agree with the idea that female characters could be included more/written more sympathetically across the board but that doing so in a way that creates interesting art and is profitable for the creator is more challenging.  Let’s look at the challenging female character that is Breaking Bads Skyler White.

Breaking Bad has largely been the story of Walter White, his metamorphous and the attendant blowback on the lives of the people around Walt.  Andy Greenwald at Grantland has written recently that Breaking Bad appears to be a show about “Mr.Chips becoming Scarface” but that the show is also a period piece circa 2008 where a middle age man finds his life not going the way he hopes and acts selfishly to correct that.  His pride is minimized as a teacher and part-time car wash attendant.  He gets cancer, which he cannot afford treatment for.  He has rich friends who have benefitted off what Walt perceives as his ideas/labors, but Walt believes going to them would further diminish his pride.  Walt’s troubles are meant to reflect a feeling that was common to 2008, that the economy was failing, the life that many people thought they were going to live did not materialize and that Walt’s descent into crime/ego way a reaction to the “new normal”.

Insert Skyler White.  Skyler could be sensitive to Walt, a domestic oasis to the troubles Walt is facing.  The problem with writing the show that way is you have “Duck Dynasty“.  You have “King of Queens”.  Skyler, just in the pilot, makes Walt vege-bacon, for his birthday breakfast.  She upbraids him for buying some computer paper on the wrong credit card.  There is a scene, since scrubbed on re-airings, of Skyler diving her attention between giving Walt a handy and monitoring an eBay auction.  Our first view of Skyler works hard to establish that while Skyler and Walt may have a loving, functioning marriage (vege-bacon is an effort to keep Walt healthy after all), there are aspects to the relationship that challenge Walt’s pride or otherwise do not reflect the lifestyle Walt pictured for himself or more egotisticially, was “promised”.  Skyler was not stuffed in a fridge but as far as having her narrative sacrificed to support the “male protagonist storyline”, she was definitely fridged.

This season and even before we have more storylines and more nuanced characterization for Skyler.  Walt was willing to compromise himself ethically to make money “for his family” but also to satisfy his ego.  Where teaching and car washing and even home life occasionally was unrewarding, Walt describes his drug activities as the “empire business”, an accomplishment he is proud of.  Skyler has been shown to be aghast at Walt’s activities, but she has a certain pride and self-interest in her dealings in the drug trade.  She helped Ted with illegal book keeping, showing that she also sees moral ambiguities…that not every decision is black and white.  She has resisted spending drug money but this feels like an effort to punish Walt or to feel less complicit.  She forbid Walt getting Walt Jr a swanky car but that feels less about not showing off their drug income and more about the competition divorced/on the outs parents have for their children’s affection.  She funneled some money to pay for Hank’s medical bills, leading to a feeling of assuaged guilt and gratitude from her sister.  Walt’s “breaking bad” behavior has been obvious but Skyler, while not responsible for the situation she is in, has been complicit and has occasionally benefitted.

This season, with Hank and Marie having discovered Walt’s drug involvement, Skylar has felt guilty but has also been reluctant to come forward and risk the money, her children, but even more her status as a “good person”.  I particularly enjoyed the interaction Walt and Skyler had about to do about an erratic Jesse’s threat to their freedom.  While Walt is reluctant to kill/”send to Belize” his young associate either out of remaining positive feelings toward Jesse or that it is a line he does not really want to cross, Skyler’s attitude is that Jesse is a threat, Walt has killed others before and that this threat to their family needs to be eliminated.  It was a rare instance of Walt having the moral high ground over Skyler.

In short, Skyler is not in the fridge anymore…she has her own character that is entwined with but IMO not in service to Walt’s storyline.  She has been ever-present, unlike the lack of females in GTA.  Has Vince Gillian been praised for this rare feat, having a female character and a strong independent one in his commercial work, a commercial work that did not strictly require such a character for the narrative to work?  Gillian gets asked about Skyler at fan events and in interviews.  Gillian could avoid too many questions by doing what the developers of GTA, avoiding a thorny female character altogether and not have to worry about reaction…to me, that seems to be where the GTA people are coming from.  Matt Weiner and January Jones seem to have a chilly working relationship, Gillian seems to be cool with Anna Gunn‘s NY Times editorial and has given writers directing shots this last season, including the talented Michelle MacLaren.  It has felt to me that negative fan reaction had been something Gillian has had to answer for early on especially; I say that as with Gillian addressing negative fan reactions frequently of late it is something he is aware of.  Gillian has received some praise and more of late but reaction to the Skyler character over the life of the show feels like more Gillian explaining the character and less time composing e-mails saying, “Thank you, viewer/critic…I am glad you like this complicated character.”

Speaking just for myself, there is a feeling that male comic artists/show-runners are perceived as insensitive to how they are portraying female characters or are unaware of female consumers and have thus have omitted characters.  I think these male content creators are very much aware/”sensitive” and are going to do their thing fiercely in the face of criticism they know they are receiving (see: McFarland, Seth), are going to try to side step any confrontation (the GTA approach) or will introduce female characters, perhaps gradually to allow the product to take root, and budget time for the media coverage that comes with such a character (see: Gillian, Vince).  Oh wait, there is the “difficult men” category, guys like David Chase and Matt Weiner, not offensive like McFarland but less communicative than a Gillian…it is hard pinpoint what they are doing wrong so we can neg them with the descriptor “difficult”.  Until the guys can get their act together, I will content myself with Girls and Orange is the New Black.

5-paragraph review of ‘Breaking Bad: To’hajiilee’

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Season 5, Episode 13: “To’hajiilee”

Original transmission date: Sept. 8, 2013

  1. The thing “Breaking Bad” does so confoundingly well is make its audience root for Walter White (Bryan Cranston). He is a murderer, a drug kingpin, poisoner of children and a high ranking member of the evil bastard hall of fame. Yet as the noose tightens around him, the anxiety percolates in our stomachs. How will he get out of this one? How far will he go? This is a story about the bad guys.
  2. Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walt’s DEA agent brother-in-law, teams up with Walt’s former partner and quasi-surrogate son, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to maneuver Walt into a trap. It’s a beautiful piece of police work by Hank. Using a series of lies and misdirection, Hank uses Jesse to get Walt to admit a series of his crimes over a cell phone while simultaneously revealing the location of his money. It ends with Walt in handcuffs in the back of his SUV. Hank calls his neurotic, kleptomaniac wife, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), to celebrate. He tells her he loves her. It is a beautiful moment for Hank a real triumph. Of course it couldn’t last. As we have said, this is a show about bad guys.
  3. But Walt has called in the heavy hitters to eliminate Jesse. The young man who took over cooking meth, Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons), is related to white supremacists who already killed 10 witnesses in prison at Walt’s behest. He calls them when he believes Jesse has come to kill him. But Walt doesn’t realize until too late that Hank and his DEA partner are coming for him. Walt tries to call off the hit, but it’s too late.
  4. The episode ends in the middle of a New Mexican desert shootout between DEA agents and the white supremacists with Walt and Jesse caught in the crossfire. Hank and his partner are badly outgunned. This could be the end. If it is, that leaves only Marie and Walt’s wife, Skylar White (Anna Gunn) as characters who know Walt’s true bastard nature. Hank conducted his investigation into Walt off the books. If the supremacists kill two DEA agents, they’re going to force Walt and possibly Jesse to cook for Lydia (Laura Fraser), the businesswoman who ships the blue meth to Europe. Questions abound with only three episodes remaining: How will Marie and Skylar react to Hank’s death — assuming he dies? Will this turn Skyler back to the angels and turn against Walt?
  5. Prediction: I believe the ricin is for Lydia. This story can’t tolerate two ruthless meth magnates. If Walt is dragged back into cooking and he tries to break away, they may go after him through Skyler and the children. Recall the yellow spray paint tag of “Heisenberg,” Walt’s meth-making pen name, inside future Walt’s burned out home. I believe when Walt returns to New Mexico, his family and possibly Jesse are dead. The machine gun is for the white supremacists and the ricin is for Lydia. Remember, ricin is a painful way to die with no cure. Walt seems hell bent for revenge.

5-paragraph review of ‘Breaking Bad: Rabid Dog’

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Season 5, Episode 12

Original transmission date: Sept. 1, 2013

  1. We have known for some time how ruthless Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is. “Rabid Dog” shows us the level of viciousness he inspires.
  2. When Skylar White (Anna Gunn) discovers Walt’s former partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), came to their house to burn it down, she suggests Walt kill him. She has indeed become a beautiful mob wife. Crooked lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) colorfully suggests Walt have Jesse killed. Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), openly puts Jesse in danger by having him accept a meeting with Walt at a local mall. Hank even mentions to his partner that if Walt kills him, they have a better case against him. Hank’s wife, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), contemplates how to kill Walt during a therapy session.
  3. Walt is a depraved liar, drug kingpin and murderer. His descent to this came when his former self, a pathetic mope with lung cancer, tasted power through killing and his savant skill at making meth. He became evil. But those who rush to judge him should consider what they have become when faced with a serious challenge. Walt was dying of lung cancer and his family would get nothing. He became a drug kingpin. This episodes illustrates the darkness in the souls of almost everyone when faced with their toughest challenges. Jesse seeks revenge. Marie fantasizes about murder. Hank is reckless in his pursuit. Skyler and Saul both want more murders.
  4. Jesse doesn’t burn down Walt’s house. Hank stops him. He considers being a witness for Hank. Hank puts a wire on Jesse. Jesse goes to the meeting place. At the last second, he walks away and calls Walt from a payphone. He threatens to hit Walt where it really hurts. The question is what inspired Jesse to call Walt instead of trying catching him in Hank’s trap. Jesse’s evil deeds have rotted him out and left him a husk. Jesse is back on drugs. He is distraught. Jesse, in a strange way, is the moral center of “Breaking Bad.” Like Walt, he is a killer and drug manufacturer. Yet he carries the guilt of every horrific act. If Walt is gangsta rap, Jesse is Johnny Cash’s repentant country music. Jesse confessed his sins on video to Hank. It seems as if he wants revenge on Walt. But Hank spells out how much Walt has tended to him throughout the series: Walt paid for rehab, cut him in as a full partner on the meth business and saved his life a number of occasions. Did that recap tweak Jesse’s sense of loyalty or is he truly as ruthless as his grim demeanor suggests? There is a third possibility here. Jesse knows what Walt will do upon such a threat. And Walt does it. He calls in a hitman. Was Jesse, a tortured soul who has cracked up, simply committing suicide by Walt?
  5. I have a rare prediction. I believe Walt calling Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons),  his partner after Pinkman’s departure, will ultimately entangle Pinkman with the new meth operation established by Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser). I believe the final showdown is not between Walt and Hank, but Walt and Lydia. I don’t think Walt’s family survives. And I think that ricin is for Lydia and the M-60 is for Todd’s uncle and his heavies.