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Entries in walter white (3)


In Which Why Does It Feel Like My Feet Can't Leave The Ground

Onwards and Upwards


Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

It was about halfway into the series finale of Breaking Bad when I started thinking about a conversation I once had with Gordon Libby. He was like, "I'm really tired of everyone on television being a criminal I can't empathize with." I just looked at him and sipped a mai tai. These fucking people.

You know the type of individual who goes around saying, "I don't know why everyone is so into Breaking Bad, why are they always saying I should watch it; I am content with Vuillard's The Stevedores and the complex moral cinema of Eric Rohmer..." I forgive this sort of person everything, because it is the American way to use your own ingenuity to make yourself look better, feel better, seem better.

is this the AARP? You...wield too much political power, sir.Throughout this last episode, all of the people Walt met told him, "You look like hell." The irony was that he never looked better; as a criminal mastermind the stress lines looked like they were about to split his face. Standing in front of his wife as God intended, he looked super beautiful and charismatic.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think they knew Walt very well, at least not how I knew him.

There's only one day left in Subway's $5 dollar footlong promotion, Skyler. I must be going.
The most emotional scene from last night's Breaking Bad finale was Walt's conversation with his wife, because he lied to her. He said he cooked meth because it made him feel alive. This was complete and utter bullshit, a master class in telling her what she wanted to hear. In the final analysis, Walt was able to forgive these people who did nothing but profit from his own acumen.

I don't know what Walt did that was supposed to be so bad. I guess people think cooking a drug for others to enjoy is wrong. I don't where they learned this. Everyone he killed, he had a damn good reason to do so, especially Mike. That fuck Mike.

no one knew how to hibernate quite like this woman

Simple things you could learn in any basic chemistry course. We don't have any of that ingenuity, it's all fabricated in factories across an ocean. That's where things are made, at great cost but with great benefits for those who risk it. Every day Flynn went to school, Lewis drove him. I never found out why it's dangerous to drive a car with only one foot, there wasn't some shit-for-a-head AMC half shaven twitter handle to explain it to me then after the show was over.

as unhappy as every other unpaid intern

For years Walt and Jesse never had sex, or had sex so infrequently they never mentioned to it anyone. Watching Walt stroll around Gretchen and Elliott's palatial estate, it reminds you what a monk he really is. As the poet said, "I have sacrificed everything, including sex and woman, or lost them, to this attempt to acquire complete concentration."

Watching the scarred Jesse Pinkman sail into the sunset, I couldn't help but think of all that was given him. He had no purpose in life; now he feels happier than any man who ever lived.

shocked there wasn't a last visit to marie, at least send a gift basket, maybe some prunes and a reminder she's a shoplifter
Entitlement festers and grows. Gretchen and Elliott only lock a part of their house. Fear is divided routinely by windowpanes, support beams. Cutting something up reduces its power, of course. The simple shattered presence of a man they know is enough to frighten them. Can you imagine these people storming the beaches of Normandy? (As a side note, I found the character of Elliott to be bracingly anti-Semitic and I have written a letter to Vince Gilligan strongly expressing my disapproval of this meme.)

gretchen, you lie to charlie rose and this is what happens, ask his interns
And it's easy to survive a gunshot wound, especially if you're pretty sure one might be coming. A spin-off would just ruin this.

We could have forgiven almost any choice that Walter White made, because we knew it was up to him and not ourselves. This is a teaching moment, because children are not taught a theory of forgiveness, they are taught a theory of punishment. Forgiveness faded from the whorl roughly the same time that AOL merged with Time Warner. It re-emerged for me the first time I killed a dictator I could only see on a video screen. Monsters deserve death, but only some crimes make a person one, not all. (Like Walt, the last person I forgave was myself.)

dividing lines GET IT
I have to admit I did instruct people to watch Breaking Bad, and when I did so, I managed a certain unctuous tone in my voice. The tone of voice I used to tell them to view this experience was identical to Todd's admonition to his progenitor - "You shouldn't have come back here, Mr. White" - in every way but one: my admonition was sincere.

I do not expect people to always do what I ask, but they do need to know that I ask it for a good reason. It is because I love them and I want them to be happy.

This tone of voice was also meant to convey that by following through with my request, they would attain something divine for themselves, provided they fast forwarded past all the office scenes where Skyler flirted with Ted. (Those were gross.) When I watched Breaking Bad, I thought of those individuals I told, and whether they were thinking what I was as I watched, or thinking of me at all. Sometimes, but only sometimes, I miss her.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location and the former vice president of the United States of America. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the fourth season of Downton Abbey

"UFO" - One Eskimo (mp3)

"Alvar" - Goldfrapp (mp3)


In Which It's The Universal Signal For Keys

Totally Broken


Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

While watching an episode of Louie last week, I found myself mystifyingly turned on. It was the episode where Louis C.K. is out on a date with a pretty lady and a ruffian of a teenager threatens him. Louis doesn’t really do anything except back down, then follow the kid to his house in Staten Island. I couldn’t tell if it was his actions or his lack of action or his sad sack face, but during that episode (and as it turns out, every subsequent episode of Louie that I’ve watched) I wanted Louis C.K. more than I’ve ever wanted a person on my television screen.

With the exception of one Walter White.

Something about seeing an overworked, run-down jackhole who is trying to make it work in his terrible weird life gives me some creeping down there. It’s like some real husband heroism no matter how screwed up their version of reality is. You’re a piece of shit but you’re doing it for your family. And sometimes you happen to lose your mind at the same time. A family man who can also wield a gun and blow up a nursing home is highly attractive.

Over the course of four seasons of Breaking Bad, endearing ignoramus Jesse Pinkman reached new pinnacles that involved my analyzing and critiquing his fashion choices as they evolved from highlighter yellow hoodies to sophisticated black leather motorcycle jackets. I didn’t mourn the loss of his one-time girlfriend Jane one bit. Good riddance. But always in the background — from my viewing perspective, keep in mind — was the elusive Walt. Getting what he wants. Bossing people around. Taking control of shit.

The first episode of Breaking Bad's fifth season opens with Walter White and his breakfast. Walter has grown his fucking hair back. And he’s got on some stylish “young people” glasses — he’s either living in the metropolitan East Coast and driving a much hipper, more vintage car or running for his life. Has Walter traded in his Midwestern persona for a cosmopolitan version of himself in order to evade whatever is likely following him? To be determined. Maybe Breaking Bad is en route to becoming the Friends of meth making.

Each season of the show has started out slow and built into something maniacal from which one cannot turn away. But what bothered me about the season premiere isn’t that things are already unraveling too fast, it’s that it had a dumb setup. No one questioned the fact that Jesse, Mike, and Walt all knew that they were being filmed until now? Why did it take them until this point to figure out that the tapes are somewhere? Call me a skeptic, and yes, Walt and Jesse are still amateur criminals, all things considered, but Mike is not. I refuse to believe that that dude had not thought of this a long time ago.

In a moment of true Jesse Pinkman ingenuity, a plan is devised wherein a mammoth magnet is manipulated to destroy Gustavo Fring's incriminating laptop. The way Jesse tries to get into the conversation while Walt and Mike (Daddy and Mommy) figure out what to do is hilarious and frustrating. Just listen to the dude! They do, and he’s right, and of course he is, because we’re at a point where it’s okay to enjoy the highly satisfying role reversal this show has promised us from its first season. All would be perfect if that douchebag Ted Beneke wasn't still alive.

The revelation at the end of Breaking Bad's fourth season that Walt poisoned a child to get Jesse allied against their boss isn't so easily glossed over. We know that yep, dude is evil. And that’s an important thing to note. Because like Medea before him, we have to keep asking how much of what he does is actually defensible? I mean, is any of it?

Despite the new glasses, new hair, and new attitude, I felt most unnerved by Walter White’s new persona during his episode-end "hug" with wife. It was a long, unsettling embrace with several back rubs and not much squeezing. At the end of it all, Walt uttered a terrifying “I forgive you.” After all Walt has done, he has now granted himself the power to forgive someone else. Talk about egomania.

Some doors are left open. I’m not just talking about the car door that Mike brazenly left open after signaling the universal signal for keys. I mean a picture frame with a Swiss bank account written behind it, a truck precariously tilted on its side, a Ted Beneke who supposedly “won’t talk,” which is what I’ve been asking for since the day he was introduced, and Saul’s involvement, which continues to get heavier every day. But in the eponymous words of Walter White, “we’re done when I say we’re done.” I’m done.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here. She last wrote in these pages about a river of ashes.

"You Could Be Mine" - Ben Taylor (mp3)

"Not Alone" - Ben Taylor (mp3)

The latest album from Ben Taylor is entitled Listening, and it will be released on August 14th.



In Which We Witness The Victory of Walter White

Dig Two Graves


Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

It's horrifying to imagine that you're born, live a life, and then go back into the ground, simply forgotten. Humans naturally want to imagine that their life has some importance. Being a maverick or a wild card is appealing, since it means that you matter. You want to be the one who knocks. But life has a funny way of messing with you, changing up the circumstances so that you're suddenly faced with who you are under the most boring and dire of situations. An unblinking red dot, the camera-eye of Gus's surveilance, has been on Breaking Bad's Walter White all season long as he tries to make meth and somehow counteract what has already been set in motion his inevitable death.

Plot on Breaking Bad is a gorgeous, cruel thing. Decisions and consequences fold in on each other like a house of cards' inevitable fall. The squeeze has been placed on every character Walter and his estranged wife Skyler, his paralyzed DEA brother-in-law Hank and wife Marie, his partner Jesse Pinkman, the meth kingpin of the southwest, Gus Fring, his right-hand man Mike, even former Mexican Cartel kingpin Hector Salamanca, now festering in a nursing home, helpless, save for the bell he uses to communicate 'yes' or 'no'. The squeeze has been less of a thing to Walt's son Walt Jr., who mostly showed up for breakfast, and, quite possibly, in the very last scene where Walter White retains a little bit of vulnerability and feeling in a world that's pushing him to the edge of humanity.

Walt may be convinced of his own power "I am the one who knocks!" he bellowed to his estranged wife Skyler, asserting himself in the face of her doubts but is Walt really the one who knocks? The cruel, brilliant twist to this season had Walt besting his boss Gus Fring in one chess move after another. He made Jesse execute the other meth cook, dear departed Gale, so that Jesse and Walt would be indispensable. And yet, upping Gus that one time brought Walt no peace. He's just another drone, a cog in the machine, laboring under the watchful red dot of a surveilance camera, making meth day in and day out until he dies.

Convinced that Gus is going to kill him any chance he gets, Walt has been bent on revenge. And crucially, in his mind, it is vengeance, and it is justified. Walt is a volatile force: emotional, irrational, dangerous, given to blustering speeches full of hubris, and while he spins, we get to know some of what drives Gus Fring.

The Chicken Man makes revenge look good. Whether in the premiere episode, "Box Cutter", where he methodically sliced an underling's throat, blood spurting out, to send a message to Walt, Jesse, and Mike, or when he journeyed to Mexico, pulling off puking with elegance as he took down the entire Mexican cartel, Gus executes his plans gracefully. He strides through a hail of bullets because he's not going to get hit. He is the exact opposite of fluttering, flailing Walter White, and even though he's a bad man, he retains some sympathy.

Gus is a thorough, meticulous boss. His whole grasp for meth power was motivated by the murder of his very first chemist, his hermano, his probable lover. Revenge for the shocking, pointless murder of a loved one is an understandable thing. Who knows how many bright chemistry students have gotten scholarships from Los Pollos Hermanos as a result?

Walter White, on the other hand, is the sweaty, sniveling underling nobody wants to be, given to speeches full of empty bombast and generally pissing people off this season. What is his motivation? Does he want to live, does he chafe at being a company man under Los Pollos Hermanos? Back at nearly season one levels of impotence, Walt squirms miserably, stuck in a mouse trap, trying to get his power back but bested by Gus in most operations. He can't even win at home, where Skyler has become his partner in money laundering, dangling reconciliation like a carrot, but mostly screwing up his plans with the newbie criminal's first mistake: half measures. (Example A: Rest in peace, Ted Beneke.)

Walt is so far from human he can't even see the misery that Jesse went through in murdering Gale. When Jesse gets under Gus's thumb and learns how to be a company man, Walt responds with, "It's all about me!" It was easy to root for him when his newfound meth career had a motivation he was doing it for his family, to pay for Walt Jr.'s medical bills, for the life of baby Holly. But when as a narcissistic, ego-centric man turning in on himself, convinced of his death, the protagonist became something else.

Jesse retains some heart, even when he's ping ponging between a variety of potential father figures: from his mentor, Walt, who's saved his life numerous times, to gruff uber-company man Mike, as he learns how to be an even more vital cog in Gus's operation. After a downward spiral where he turned his brand new house into a terrifying drug den with bleating methheads, he got cleaned up and became useful, convinced of his value in Gus's world. By the time he saved Gus and Mike, hustling them to a makeshift, creepily white medical tent somewhere in Mexico, he was valuable. And he still ended up using some of his ridiculous drug world riches to send out support to his girlfriend, Andrea, and her young son Brock. He managed to put other people first, in a way that Walt simply could not.

And what does Walt get, as a result of his paranoia? He ends up in his coffin-like crawl space, laughing a laugh of chilling madness and mania, with far less money and power then he thought. Did he rise, Heisenberg-like, out of the ashes? Quite possibly.

The penultimate episode, "End Times," left us with a cliffhanger Andrea's son, Brock, is in the hospital and poisoned. Jesse is missing his ricin cigarette. Jesse accuses Walt, Walt blames, Jesse talks to Gus, who has enough Spidey-sense to avoid the car bomb on his crappy car, planted by Walt. It was the question: what really happened? Did Gus poison the kid? If he did, why would tell Jesse to come back when he's ready? Did Walt do it? Would Walt poison a kid?

Genuine questions, the sort of questions that make a week's worth of waiting for an episode delicious torture, and last night's finale "Face Off" knocked them down like a bowling ball. Jesse's suggestion of ricin poisoning put him in the hands of the police in front of where Walt sat in a hospital waiting room with a bomb in his child's diaper bag. Because Jesse has been detained by the police, he calls Saul Goodman, his lawyer. When Saul talks to Walt, he tells him about Gus's one point of pride and weakness the still-alive Hector "Tio" Salamanca, rotting in a nursing home, visited only by Gus, who delights in informing him of the many members of his family who he has killed.

Which gives Walt his chance. Playing on Gus's pride, his very insistence that he must be the one to torture Tio, he conspires with the old man to take him out. The bomb in the diaper bag is attached to Tio's wheelchair. Gus is lured to the nursing home, a vial of poison at the ready. He wears his best blue sportscoat and takes the long walk into Casa Tranquila like a man about to face a reckoning. What reckoning it is, he doesn't know.

When he comes out of the room after the explosion, he is as dapper as ever, perfect posture, straightening his tie. Then the camera circles around him, in an Oh Shit! reveal, and he collapses. Goodbye forever, Gus. May nobody step on your Air Jordans in Chicken-Man Heaven, and may your dick ever be hard in a cruel and harsh world, be it Bed-Stuy or Albuquerque.

For his part, Walt has broken crazy. He has broken evil. He has learned what it takes to be a good boss convince someone to do something for you, to improve your means. Never actually do the job yourself as was proven all season long, Walt couldn't kill Gus directly. He and Jesse reunite to take out the 8 million dollar meth lab in a cool-guy explosion, and then Walt has his moment of initial kingpindom. He calls his wife to tell her the news. Standing on the top of a parking lot, surveying the land, he talks with Jesse. Brock will survive; the culprit was Lilly of the Valley berries. The very plant sitting in Walt's backyard next to his swimming pool of doom. Vince Gilligan has turned his protagonist into the antagonist, and he's subverted audience expectations in a way that feels nearly radical within the constraints of genre-driven television. Walter White has won.

Elisabeth Donnelly is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive.

"Broken" - Katie Stelmanis (mp3)

"You'll Fall" - Katie Stelmanis (mp3)

"Steady" - Katie Stelmanis (mp3)