"The thing is, if you just do stuff, and nothing happens, what's it all mean?"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Unraveling 5x13 To'hajiilee (i.e. "it's Bound to Get Better...Right")

In which I live out the paradox of having a work of art leave you both speechless and driven to a state of ecstatic glossolalia.

Breaking Bad has a Wilder Bunch, I think...

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, all represented separately; but also all the same sides of the same face (the actors on the show can actually emote that kind of Buddhist theory)
Battle lines being drawn, nobody's right, if everybody's wrong...Paranoia Strikes Deep, Into Your Life It Will Creep

I want to use the ol' kitchen sink, damn the torpedoes approach to this one (a night's rest and rewatching will certainly stimulate some sort of furhter extra-sensory babble and maybe a "return to form"). Expect the most earnest and pure wacko-paranoid abstractions I stumble through.

So, first off, and to me, most pressing...why is the folllowing song Todd's Ring tone? I have several theories, I'll be back...maybe...

Pretty decent movie, really bad television show
-It's poetry in motion
She turned her tender eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm - but she blinded me with science
"She blinded me with science!"
And failed me in biology
  • Barest meaning, Todd's ring tone is silly. It fits the strange 80s-Kitsch aesthetic of the cold open. This strange, surreal sequence, in which the audience sort of gets to experience the awkward backwardness of the Jack Klan (which sort of puts us in Lydia's shoes...I mean, high-heels-with-red-bottoms [same color red as the superlab scheme]), sets a tone that is in complete disjunct with the absolute stark intensity of the final desert showdown.
  • The ringtone also shows Todd's simpleness, and jibes with the strange erotic tension between him and Lydia earlier. Lydia is blinding us. Mr. White may also be the one who "hit me with technology."
  • However, I think a more intriguing interpretation of this song is a meta reason. The "she" in this is Michelle MacLaren, one of the great visionaries of Breaking Bad's creative team. Honestly, I think that her opposing "perspective" (she's similar to Kathyrn Bigelow, a female director whose craft maintains the emotional sensitivity of the maternal, but still captures the authentic visceral brutality that is often associated with hyper-machismo dude directors) is essential, and that she deserves as high praise as the other heavy hitters...Gilligan, Slovis, Schnauz, Dixon, MacDonald, Cranston, and Paul.
    • Therefore, maybe someone on the creative team snuck this song in as a subtle tribute to her. I think I and other reviewers have even used the exact phrase "poetry in motion" when describing the episode's MacLaren has helmed.   


Smatterings of My Feverishly Dysgraphic Notes

I will stay true to the foundation, and will be a dick and not order them chronologically. Pure laziness, really

  • Echoes down the halls
    • "Don't you touch MY MONEY"
    • "...that's the price"
    • "...How to flush him out"
    • "Blinded me with science..."
    • "No suffering, no fear..."
    • "...too many savages out there"
  • Andrea...accidentally well played...right into his hand. White would have made an exceptional poker player (Huell..."not so much").
    • Shit, Hank does too..
  • Hank has already been represented going full bore Vic Mackey, now...with the gory manipulation of Huell...the writers and visionaries are telling us that is also going full bore McNulty.
    • Huell's last name reminds me of Bonobo, or baboon. He is a racial burlesque. Maybe the show is racist, but with the intentional skinhead stuff...a grander order must be at work..
    • Don't be cruel to Huell!
      • Wait, how the funk did this episode make Huell a source of earnest sympathy and brief pathos...why do I even still bothering questioning its powers.
  • Fiery final line is said in the middle of episode, "Well..that's it. Game over."
    • Lies..."...Walt doesn't know that. Smug and alienating. The plot thickens as it expands and contracts into itself
  • Walt Jr. "reinforces the brand." Godfather subversions and visual motifs abound. 
    • Further expansion on Todd and Walt Jr.'s (and Jesse, later on and as previous) twisted parallelism narrows the focus of the why?
  • "Booger-Powder"...heh heh
    • "Circus Clown of a boss..." Saul, boss of Clown Town. The true "Kingpin" of the BBiverse
  • Hmmm, pretty funny interludes, cut short, though...signs of the coming apocalypse.
  • Doing what Mr. White taught you Todd? It's bound deeper into the hell mouth, better stopped being an option time out of Walt's mind.
  • Perverse style to the cold open
    • Imprisoned frames
    • Lydia and Todd have a dark and perverted romantic scene. Sort of reminded me of Top Gun as envisioned by Gus Van Sant.
      • I'm very a Freud, with these forebodings...
  • Episode cuts to quick of one of the show's numerous deconstructed dualities...competence versus incompetence. Masculine displays of bravado, versus the earnest and vulnerable courage needed to really BE a Man. So, also a impotence versus potence thing (just like the purity of White's meth, that's why Jack is pissed...he knows Heisenberg packs a bigger "one")
  • For instance, Todd and the Jack Off Flunkie Bigot Brigade are stupid, but they are better equipped for the dark avenues of life, because of it. Walt choose to do the right thing...but, like every monomaniacal and misguided thing he needed to do, it was far too late.
  • All the shows previous heroes are bristling with unseemly anti-matter, but they become upended by the moral compromising of the men they claim to be (and the women and children (or Jesse and Todd, two lost children...they suffer the sins of the fathers, and help them commit it, too...)
    • ...pretty twisted deconstruction of the nuclear family ideology-mythology...pretty crazy vision you have here, show. 
      • It's like the show is somehow holding every possible Ace in the world...or at least, their final Aces in the Hole are so immaculate that everything else is retroactively made all the purer
        • ...yep, likely that last part
  • Walt and Jesse somehow became friends again (...wait for it, I swear it actually happened)
  • I am still not sure about the exact science, but Michelle McLaren out did that minute of furious and hyperreal spectatorship she had previously crafted with the final confrontation of 3x10 "One Minute" and created the most rich and aesthetically dense scenes I can recall (and I am cursed with vividly remembering most of 'em).
    • The show knows every possible permutations of how the final stand-off (which starts once Walt gets on the phone with a scene ripped straight from the X-File's episode Drive...the thing that brought Vince and Bryan into each others lovingly gnarled artistic arms.
      • At that point, every possibility is likely. My primary instinct was that Walt and Jesse would posse up, just because every other party there is their anathama, and I think the show does this thing that, once Jesse realizes the history behind the spot (it's the impossible to pronounce title of the episode, so I mean, it means a lot...), he actually understands fully how Mr. White is, and that he actually isn't completely lost.
        • This deep down gives Jesse hope for his own desperate redemption.
          • In a lawless world with no hope and the writing on the walls, drifting buddies all aspire to go out like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...but then again, anything goes, really
            • "Just because you shot Jesse James...don't make you Jesse James"

  • "Do not come"
    • Not a rat, "he just won't listen to reason." White, in a rare occurence, is awkward and lost for words. HE KNOWS WHO HE IS ALREADY
      • That's why, when Hank repeatedly says "Walt, come out"'s likely a signifier of some performative speech act.
        • Heisenberg sort of wants to either A. Let Jack kill all the threats to the "White Empire" or
          • B. Do the job himself.
          • Yet, he realizes what the tableau actually means (McLaren definitely cranks up the Leone to make a point via disjunct).
        • But Mr. White won't let him, mainly because of Jesse (he probably would be okay with Hank's accidental demise, honestly, in the dark of his heart; if Jesse dies, then Walt would likely kill himself
          • Yup, these two have an increasingly Badder Bromance
        • Instead, Walt comes back (...for a bit). The scene gets silent, and the camera does that painstakingly slow zoom it did with Gus...before he has his "face taken off" (...a ha!). I actually expected the song "Goodbye" to be faintly playing
          • McLaren and the writers likely know this association, so the silence makes it more epic and unnervingly enigmatic (the close up shot of White's bald mug is my favorite reoccuring can instantly let the viewer know where Walt's head is at, even when he is in the throes of complete denial
      • During the slow walk, we all expect the tables to turn. Heisenberg must have planted a bomb (there are enough subtle cues to reveal how painstakingly crafted the cerebrally visceral tension becomes.
        • Walt has sort of resigned himself to sacrifice (I mean, when he holds up his arms, likely sparking recognition in Jesse's own self-image (at least, between the iconography the show provides the audience)
      • Of course, when Jack actually fucking shows up, whatever benign or malign allignment is still happening is fully aborted
        • Walt sees the impending doom (christ, like every scene of this episode was dripping with impending doom and eerie lighting...I think most will have to watch the last scene alone about 10 times to pick up on every little nugget of cathartic artsy gold!
        • He doesn't want the twisted realities of his dark dream to actual happen at that point.
          • The mind fuck is that, and its real obvious, that earlier, he kind of did want it to go down like that; his inner evil logician (then again, aren't they all...) probably just couldn't see any way to clean up the aftermath (maybe he'll have it figured out soon...or be in permanent exile from the hell-on-earth he has reigned done...that lucky unlucky bastard.
        • I think, after seeing the next episode, more will be known.
      • A part of me thought I knew what was (the consequences, they are coming, Walt from 4x12) coming, then I thought I didn't, then I felt like I saw it, then the show ripped it away from me. They know this
        • Because right when the audience, and Nazi players, wishes for everyone to die just so the stylistically unsexy (PoMo Peckinpah mixed with Michael Bay kind of gross) unrelenting gunfire will end. Right when any denouement, even if everyone was viciously killed ( Walt knows all too well by now, there are fates worse than death).
          • So like right when you just want that resolution, need to know how and if the house of cards will ever be rebuilt, the shows does that thing that it knows its audiences hated about the Sopranos final;
            • It has to audacity to not even finish the

Well, the next episode is probably gonna jump the shark. Yep, it's all an elaborate prank. Who the hell is directing this likely clunker anyhow....Rian Johnson...hmmm. "Fly" me to the Fucking "Moon." Hey, once Walt goes from "Fifty-One" to "Fifty-Two," his numerology symbology will denote a full deck!


More Epic than even the following pictures...but in the same spirit...


  1. "For instance, Todd and the Jack Off Flunkie Bigot Brigade are stupid"

    What is your evidence for this, aside from your own bigotry against white nationalists?

    1. They are savvy (I mean, the shanking plot was beautifully executed) but clearly ignorant and simple (the evidence is apparent with every scene they are in, pay attention to their body language and their dialogue). They are diametrically opposed to the hyper-intelligence of characters like Walt, Jesse, and Hank. Ultimately, being insightful and analytic doesn't matter. They are like Chris Nolan's Joker: they cannot be swayed by logic or decency; "some men just want to watch the world burn".

      Jack is the full realization of Mr. White's cancer (literal and symbolic). Uncle Jack constantly smokes, releasing toxins with a literalness equal to the toxicity of Walt's verbal manipulations. The two men have been seen in symmetrical frame composition, and these last episodes have shown Jack and Todd recreating previous shots that involve Walt and Jesse ("").

      I'll definitely be returning back to this (pictures and clips will make it more apparent what the show is clearly trying to say).

      And I hope I haven't been too unfair to murderous bigots, or representation of them.

  2. That's interesting because judging by Hank's speech and behavior, one could easily call him an ignorant rube, a dumb yankee cowboy. Indeed, his DEA fellows in El Paso did just that in one of the earlier episodes. Hank's executive summary is that he's the guy who took 5 seasons to finally figure out something that was going on right under his nose, which he had been looking for the whole time.

    As for must be joking. That kid is a moron through-and-through, has been since day 1, and has only turned into a mentally unstable, self-destructive and vindictive moron as the series has progressed. No one throughout the series has been more deserving of a mercy kill. I'll give you the benefit of a doubt and assume you meant to write Gus Fring in that spot.

    That you would forgive/overlook Hank's simpleness but hold Jack's against him is plain evidence of your own bigotry and ingrained bias. I strongly suspect that if Hank were the one with a swastika tattoo rather than a DEA badge, you would not be nearly so quick to excuse his many vulgarities and boorish personality.

    "And I hope I haven't been too unfair to murderous bigots, or representation of them."

    Well, I hope you realize that every major and many minor characters on the show are guilty of abetting murder.

    I didn't find anything particularly ignorant about Jack's dialogue with his associates. They're working class conservative types and their speech patterns and other habits (such as smoking) reflect that. You can compare those interactions with Hank's clowning around with his partner Gomez, for instance.

  3. I'm gonna overlook the Neo-Nazi stuff for now, because...ya know. I will say this, I sort of agree with you about Hank. He had become a very unsympathetic character during these last few episodes, and ultimately sealed his own fate in "Ozymandias" (making it easier for him to take it in stride).

    I'm trying my best to articulate what the show is trying to say, rather than my own worldview (luckily the two spheres of thought usually correlate). Really, in defending characters that really can't be ethically justified (Jack and Todd are intentional not three-dimensional, so that they can be more symbols than fully-realized agents), you seem to be the one guilty of prejudice and ingrained bias.

    And yeah, Jesse is losing it, but really, you are completely wrong about him.

  4. Matthew Zoller Seitz just wrote this pertinent bullet-point in his review of the episode "Granite State,"

    "Jack often comes across as a stand-in for phony-macho Breaking Bad viewers: “Does this pussy cry through the entire thing?” He’s all “hard,” and therefore barely human."