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Let's talk 'Breaking Bad'

breaking bad cast

I was late to the party when it comes to Breaking Bad, the exceptional series on AMC that begins its fifth season tonight (10 p.m. EST). I started watching only last year, when I had a newborn and a lot of television-watching time on my hands, and my husband and I tore through the first three seasons on DVD. After a long and painful wait for the DVD release of season four last month, we are all caught up and very excited for tonight's premiere.The only problem with watching season five as it airs is that I'll have to wait a whole week between episodes. But I'm thinking there might be a few other Breaking Bad fans out there, and if so I'm thinking you all might like to discuss it here at Verdicts while we wait for next Sunday night to roll around. Let me know in the comments, and if there's interest we'll make this a regular thing. To whet your appetite, my prediction for season five is after the jump...

Tio Baby

I think "Tio" Hector Salamanca will return in the form of a baby, equally nonverbal, equally bent on revenge. Don't turn your back on this guy.

Update: episode 2 discussion here.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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Mollie ==Please tell us more about the series. I'm always looking for good TV. (The new Dallas is awful. John Ross is as evil as his father, but not at all funny or wise in a worldly way. And the set are almost all literally dark.)

Ann, the premise is that a high-school chemistry teacher learns he is dying of cancer and, concerned about his family's future, decides to use his chemical know-how to make some quick money by cooking crystal meth. Of course nothing is as easy as he expects it to be, and the series follows him as he goes deeper into the illegal drug trade and all that entails. Based on just that description, I wouldn't think Breaking Bad was my kind of show (which is maybe why it took me so long to catch on). But it's the execution that really makes the show stand out. The writing is terrific. The plotting doesn't do gimmicks or cut corners; the stakes keep getting higher as you go. The cast is excellent, and the characters are vivid and complex. And it's very good-looking on top of all that - the cinematography and editing is cinematic. Anthony Domestico wrote a terrific essay on Breaking Bad here at Verdicts last year, which captures a lot of what makes the show so satisfying. I think it would be very hard to start watching now, without going back to the beginning. Last night's premiere was exciting, but probably pretty bewildering to anyone tuning in for the first time.

Netflix has the first 4 seasons for folks who stream to their TVs.

Thanks, Mollie.. Sorry I heard about it so late. I love *any* sort of production with fine acting and even a minimum of a storyline. And this apparent storyline is always powerful -- how a small mistake at the beginning leads to a big failure at the end.Or will vice prevail? (Sigh.)

I love Breaking Bad.... The New Yorker had an interesting article recently by a reporter, who, in the course of interviewed drug traffickers and DEA agents, found the show to be uncannily accurate:

should say: "in the course of interviewing"... apologies

Here are some quick thoughts on the first episode for those who watched. First, I really, really missed Gus. I knew that his death would leave a gaping hole in the show--and I have my doubts about a German conglomerate replacing the owner of Los Pollos Hermanos as the new Big Bad--but I missed Gus's chilly charisma even more than I thought I would. Second, how great was the whole magnet sequence, from Jesse's initially ignored suggestion ("What about magnets? Guys?") to the junkyard scene ("PMA--Positive Mental Attitude") to Walt's assertion that the whole caper worked because he said it did? Walt's confidence has obviously reached new heights. Whether he's asserting his authority over Mike and Jesse or striding menacingly towards Saul and telling him that things are over when he says they're over, Walt now sees himself as controlling his destiny and the destiny of those around him. As viewers of the show, we know that this isn't so: one of Breaking Bad's central claims is that once you make a decision, you can't control its infinitely complex consequences. (Vince Gilligan's sense of the gap between intention and consequence is almost Niebuhrian.) So, the question becomes, what's the show's endgame? How will Walt be brought low? (Because, at this point, he has to be brought low, right? He can't just get away with things, can he?) Will he go to jail, lose his family, get killed, or all of the above? I have my own theories--I think someone close to Walt, probably Hank, is going to die as a direct result of his actions, and I wouldn't be surprised if Walt even orders a hit on Hank. What do other people think?

Anthony--I agree with you about the endgame. The series has the feel of the Godfather II about it, with Hank playing the role of Fredo. If Hank goes out on a fishing trip, he ain't coming back.As long as Walt doesn't order a hit on Sol. That would kill the show for me. He's my favourite character, and not just because his wardrobe is the same as mine.Who are the Madrigal honchos? Didn't Gus murder all the key players in the Mexican cartel?Does anyone know why Marie seems to wear purple all the time, or is that just my imagination?BTW, let's face itTed's lifespan is measured in days at this point, but I always found him annoying any way.

Tony, agreed about Gus. I rewatched the season 4 finale before starting season 5, just to get back in the zone, and it was with a slightly heavy heart that I approached a new season without Gus. On the other hand, it is nice to see Jesse getting some of his enthusiasm back. Yeah science!I am worried that the Madrigal honchos, if they become a big part of the show, will be tedious and annoying like the Greeks were in season 2 of The Wire. (In my opinion.) But Breaking Bad is more tightly controlled than that, or so it seems at least, so I am hopeful. Lord knows they havent disappointed with the new characters so far.Do you think that flash-forward before the opening credits was a hint as to how Walt will be brought low? (And: if someone has to take a hit, can it be Marie?)Eric I dont know much about chemistry (ha), or drug enforcement, or life in Albuquerque, but the show has always given me the impression that it wants to get it all as right as it can. The one thing it is not accurate about is babies (and the parenting thereof), and I have to admit the carelessness re: Holly has been driving me a little crazy. But I suppose the fact that I find the Whites incredibly low-maintenance infant the least plausible aspect of the show just demonstrates how convincing the storytelling is otherwise.

The opening teaser contained a bunch of intriguing hints--including a brief but important nod to the reason Walt got into the business of meth-making to begin with: cancer. After he makes the transaction in the men's room, he looks at himself in the mirror, coughs a bit, and takes a pill. In Walt's full-head-of-haired future, has his cancer returned?Vince Gilligan has said that he always intended 'Breaking Bad' to show Mr. Chips transforming into Scarface. Well, Future Walt has purchased one helluva little friend. What he intends to do with it may have been signaled in his bacon illustration at the Denny's breakfast counter. The arrangement didn't only look like 52 (it's his 52nd birthday in the scene). It also resembled a mushroom cloud.

...I just remembered -- OK, I just looked up on Wikipedia -- that the very first episode took place on Walt's 50th birthday. So the scene in the restaurant is two years later. But how many months have elapsed between the start of season one and the end of season 4? I have the feeling a true fan would know this.

I haven't fired up Sunday's episode yet, but I am interested in the question of how Walt will be "brought low." I think he's ultimately going to be faced with choosing between the power that he has clearly come to love and the ostensible reasons for getting into drugs in the first place: 1) Family 2) Money. I don't think he'll go down in a blaze of glory, like Scarface, and I don't think he'll be arrested. He may die from the cancer, but before that I think he will either finally embrace evil for evil's sake and reveal a heart of darkness or he will make good on his rationalizations and choose his family. I also think that the "family" he will be forced to choose will be Walter Jr. He seems to be the one that Walt cares for the most. Thanks for starting this thread, Mollie. And I agree that the parenting is the part that strains credibility the most.

In the cold-open (for the love of Pete, Eric, watch the episode before continuing to read), Walt isn't wearing a wedding band.

Good morning fans! I just wrote a new post - go here to talk 5.2.

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