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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Bell Tolls for Thee" (i.e. How a Quick Shot of a Bookcase in 5x13 "Rabid Dog" Begins to Blow Your Mind)

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." -John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, "Meditation XVII"

Was re-watching a couple of Breaking Bad episodes last night, with no intention of writing anything about them (got all these jobs and like "real" people I've been spending my time with).

So, why all the books about horses? I feigntly recalled ready some hair-brained writings on the symbolic meaning of horses in BB, and quickly remembered this post I half-concocted a while back.

Diving into the multi-avenued rabbit hole of the bookcase in this episode, I decided to dive deeper into the other sequences, to see what other connections and messages were codified. Here's some of the notes I took while re(re)-watching the rest of the episode. Stuff got out of hand....

-Rabid Dog, point of no return, echo chamber.

Connection to "Caballo Sin Nombre" the cold open, all the horse books that are in the Schrader's house (sort of a Western homage, as well; but mostly that Biblical stuff, which also ties into "End Times" both in metaphor and in the crux of sacrificing family....the planter that once had the lilly of the valley in present, now barren, near the White pool.....Walter later reflects on the possibility of putting Jesse down near the pool (a different pool shows up in the Schwartz' place in "Felina" an episode that also calls back this episode (having Walter drink from a hose near the pumps, bringing back his bullshit story about the malfunctioning water hose; during this sequence he also leaves [this was credited by Gilligan as something they initially did to explain Walt's lack of a watch in the initial flash foward in 5x01, but says how it can also be read symbolically [END TIMES]; and also ties in Jesse and Skylar...Walt Junior).

Familia es Todo.

The cold open also calls back bicycles.... "Mandala" (again a spiral which contains recurrent themes and meaning), with Tomas, which later goes back to Half Measures, where Walt saves Jesse (he snorts meth off of a cd, which is also referenced in Rabid dog, Walt saving Jesse in that episode is, as I got at in this crazy post, echoed again in their final scene together, end times....when in RABID DOG, Jesse, with wire, goes to where Walt would be, the sequence also echoes the moment where he slowly walks up to the gangbangers...MAYBE A VIDEO WILL MAKE THIS CLEARER....also akin the the sequence at the end of ABIQUI, where he walks away from Tomas...again, bringing back Jane's speech about O'Keefe's repetiton of painting the same object, with different and more nuanced results....also like stuff with Gus, and when Walt walks to gus in the desert at the beginning of full measure...all linked....WHAT A FUCKING CRAZYINGLY TIGHT AND INTRICATE CLOCK WORK CINEMATOGRAPHY THIS SHOW HAS, more layers are revealed every time.... I re-watch an episode, or even re-watch a small scene...there's also the DANGER YELLOW in a post in the back ground...this scene of red herrings and periphera threats also ties back the the One Minute ending with hank in the parking lot)...the Civic center sequence also connects to the more light bench snafu that occurs in 2x08, better call saul.....

The civic center is mostly filled with the light blue color that has gained an ambiguous meaning throughout the show...meth and what not.... much more.

"I'm not doing what you want anymore", at the end, when Jesse makes Walt tell him, "NOTHING HAPPENS until....YOU WANT THIS" it's his way of making sure he is merciful and doesn't kill Walt.

Right after the phone call, there's an ominous (and sorta heavy handed" ringing of a bell. What time is it....end times, baby! The statute of Ozymandia begings to fully crumble.

"I'm gonna hit you wher eyou really live" (Jesse has already started to plan the barrel of money sting [which is where Walt lives, and ya know, the barrels are sort of symbolic...really don't feel like I need to explain to anyone that's seen the series_

The end theme also incorporates the ringing of the bell...and ya know, ringing bells also have a pretty fucking huge significance in the show....end with the picture of the skull bell, Tio....2x02 grilled, which also brings in Hank....the linking of the three men...the writing on the show is obnoxiously brilliant...

The camcorder scene after the books also brings "Mr. White" an inescapable recurrence (eternal recurrence)

"He was my teacher" also brings up Todd, who says something similar at the beginning of Tahaijille, the episode where the dominos really start to fall...that also echoes 

Photos of Taha are also seemngly in the hotel where the Whites stay, during the lady McBeth sequence.

"Civic plaza...we'll talk through everything once and for all...." the shakespearian moment "ROMEO AND JULIET" where things may have been resolved...but aren't....the continuity between the end camera movment and the beginning of the next episode...confessions...

MORE biblical connections "Mr. the devil" Santa Satan...Jesse is just dyslexic

Meta commentary, "Whatever you think's gonna happen, I'll tell ya, the exact reverse opposite of that is gonna happen," unfortunately Jesse doesn't realize that statement is currently applying to himself.

Hank is aslo inadvertantly sealing his own fate through his hubris and manipulation (throughout the second half of the fifth season, Hank has been morphing into his own version of he sort of has it coming, kind of...same has been occurring to Marie and Skylar, as the scene in the hotel, and the therapist....untraceable poisions, a tie she would not be aware of at that point); when Jesse goes to take a piss, and Hank more or less tells Gomie that he doesn't care whether the "kid" lives or dies, dismissing him as an animalistic junkie, he is shot through prison bar like chair suff. Walt cares for Jesse, Hank doesn't. Hank forces Jesse into a spot where Walt desperately gets Jack involved. Jesse becomes a rat, going against his moral fiber; putting himself in a position where he becomes enslaved by Jack and crew, and loses Andrea....the karmic cycle is cemented in this episode.

"Pinkman is killed...we get it all on tape." As an out-of-focus image of Marie, cloaked in an innocent white bridal gown (with a splash of purple, obvily)....

ALSO TIE THIS BACK TO ONE MINUTE....where Hank is truly at his most heroic, also a moment tying the fates of Walt Hank Jesse and Gus, and the Cousins...CABALLO

Irony of the phrase "Civic Center"; also Ironic that in a show which either focused on the wide open expanses of the desert, or the confines of sterile meth labs, to have an incredibily pivotal scene take place in a spot like that.

In my slap-dash approach to scholarship, here's an explanation behind "death-bells" that I found on the Website "GradeSaver;" which is where I copied to Donne epigram from (the following explanation really jibed with what the series has to offer, and with Gilligan's religiosity, and with this blog's [and my philosophy] focus on vast inter-connectedness; so it's definitely pertinent, or something): 

"In the Catholic tradition, all humanity is connected in the Body of Christ, and all are equal before God; in the Afterlife, there is no more male or female, Jew or Greek. The Bible states that “we are many parts, but we are all part of one body in Christ” and that “there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
The implication for the individual living on Earth is that he is part of a greater whole, such that the death-bell has deep and significant meaning for everyone who hears it. We are all in this life together and part of the same divine plan, so the bell does toll for the sake of all who have ears to hear it.
The toll for another’s death is also a reminder to the individual hearer to get his own affairs in order in the short time remaining before his own death. The civic-mindedness that comes from seeing oneself as part of a greater whole also provides direction for voluntary charity as an expression of spiritual devotion as one tries to live by divine standards."

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Something to Do With Death" - Breaking Bad's Mortal Coil

"You don't understand, Jill. People like that have something inside... 
Something to do with death."
-Cheyenne, "Once Upon a Time in the West," 1968

"Shut the fuck up, and let me die in peace.
-Mike Ehrmantraut

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live."
-Norman Cousins

The post will (eventually) be a long one. It's about what death means within Breaking Bad (as the sub-title gets at, the shadow of Shakespeare's Tragedies will be constantly looming), and how that reflects the ultimate meaning of the lives we live ("the paths we take"), using the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone as a starting point; then inventorying every incident of death (and the related symbolism of various memento mori within the mise-en-scene and cinematography) throughout the series; while also tying in other television series to tie together the related ways they and BB portray the human condition of facing imminent demise. Some Freudian and Existentialist shit will show up, no doubt.

Nothing too intense. 

So yeah, a giant beast of potential incoherence it shall be!


-But here's the huge factor that separates the operatic visions of Leone and the universe of BB: there is almost never an even deul between death-locked opponents. The murders faciliated by Walt are detached. One of the most pivotal deaths in the entire run of the series occurs off-screen, and involves a sympathetic man pleading for his life. The only true Western show-downs are afforded to Hank, who is the most typical "hero" of show.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Production Cannot Stop - Better Call Saul

"Nothing stops this train...nothing."
-Walter White, 5x04, "Fifty-One"

Well, Better Call Saul, is on the horizon (scheduled 2015 release date), and the internet hyper machine is already churning out razzle-dazzle intrigue. Out of a purist sense of artistic holism, I am pretty ambivalent about a series that continues to thread more fabric out of the Breaking Bad universe, even if the show does take on a different tone and avoids any sort of revisionism or misplaced characterizations.

Even Gilligan, who co-wrote the pilot of the spin-off, has his doubts, saying, “If it’s After M*A*SH rather than Frasier, it won’t be for lack of hard work and wishful thinking and a lot of smart people doing their best, but you just don’t know until the world takes it...It may turn out that this was a mistake to do this.”

Though, a recent AV Club parody-piece got at something that actually jibes pretty well with the over-arching quasi-mystical bull-shitery that it splatter throughout this blog. I'm gonna just plop a big text block next, because, fuck it:
"Better Call Saul is set to debut the first of its two promised seasons next year, and we already know that it will feature appearances from Breaking Bad characters we thought we lost, before we learned that nothing stays dead anymore, ever since we moved all our TVs over this Indian burial ground. And according to a new interview with executive producer Peter Gould, those possibilities are endless, seeing as Better Call Saul exists outside of time, like all immortal beings. 
'One of the great things about having a timeline which is flexible is that perhaps some of it takes place before Breaking Bad, during Breaking Bad and after Breaking Bad,' Gould said of the show’s philosophy of eternalism, in which scenes will alternate back and forth over several decades, rather than just taking place in the 1980s as initially suspected. In Saul’s world, all of the events before, after, and even during Breaking Bad are happening simultaneously, all of their awful consequences looping endlessly across the infinite. And like God himself standing outside the block universe, this means no one is truly dead to Peter Gould—not even Walter White, who he believes will return in some capacity, simply because he wills it."
I tell you what I wish was a real thing; something that would be a worthy spin-off...HUELL'S RULES, BABY!

Further Readings (less rambly):
"It's time to begin overanalyzing the First Better Call Saul set photos," Sean O'Nell, The AV Club.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breaking Bad's Color Scheming: (Un)mellow Yellow

The three primary colors

For much of the series, the presence of isolated yet prominent swathes of yellow usually signals impending doom. This type of cinematographic coding is reminiscent of the use of oranges within The Godfather Trilogy  (the series makes numerous explicit and implicit references to Coppola's films...maybe I'll investigate in a future post, but the thematic interconnections should be pretty clear if you've seen the movies).

A direct homage to the "orange" foreshadowing is made in 4x11, "Crawl Space." When Skylar attempts to convince Ted Beneke to use the money she gave him to pay off his IRS debts, a bowl of oranges is in the background behind Ted, seemingly innocuous. Later on however, when we pity the fool as he is held captive by Saul's "A-Team", the oranges become more prominent.

...Apparently they made him an offer that he couldn't refuse...