From antihero to villain: 'Breaking Bad' #506
Another week, another chance for me to recommend something Emily Nussbaum wrote in the New Yorker: this time it's an essay on the way Breaking Bad keeps us watching as it goes into ever darker territory, and specifically how "Breaking Bad has always put children in danger, to the point that it's practically the show's trademark." (We were discussing that theme a bit here in the comments on last week's episode.) Nussbaum's explication of the "Mr. Chips-to-Scarface" trajectory is particularly relevant this week, I think:
Were deep in the Scarface stage; the hero of the show is now its villain. There are only ten episodes left, eight of them due next summer, a welcome deadline that has allowed Gilligan to shape his ending without the vamping that mars so many multi-season dramas. But, even if his show ends brilliantly, he's already told us that it wont end well.
And on that note, this week's episode...
I think last night was the night I finally stopped rooting for Walter White. Up to now I've had some sympathy left for him, but now, as Nussbaum wrote, he seems fully the villain. Maybe it was the faux-sympathetic way he rationalized the murder of the spider-collecting boy, counseling Jesse not to beat himself up about it. Or the way he whistled as he worked once that chore was over. Or maybe it was the way he manipulated both Skyler and Jesse by inviting Jesse to dinner, calling Skyler's bluff (if the kids are out of the house, why not bring "business" home?) and making Jesse feel guilty about refusing Walt his drug-kingpin fun. But by the final scenes of the episode, when Walt was cuffed to the radiator, I realized I was no longer cheering for him. I was interested in his plight, but not emotionally invested. I didn't want him to get free.
Since I had considered the possibility last week, I was pleased (and horrified, of course) to see that the show did pick up right where it left off last week, presenting us--and Walt, and the others--with the grim aftermath of the murder and disposal of the evidence. I loved Jesse's attempts to make smalltalk at the Whites', and Skyler's massive punchbowl of wine. I very much enjoyed the scene where baby Holly chewed happily on her mom's bracelet as Skyler and Marie talked, though I must admit I was mostly just watching the baby (wondering, did they plan this, or just go with it? And do they have to stop shooting a lot because the babies keep pulling off their hats?). And Todd's keeping the spider: was that a souvenir? Shudder. Your reactions?
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.