Monday, May 3, 2010

Breaking Bad - La Familia Es Todo

If you're not caught up to season 3 episode 7 of Breaking Bad, don't dare watch this brief video review of it -- instead, drop whatever trifling thing you're doing and find a way to watch every episode starting with season 1 episode 1, then come back to this once you're as caught up as you should be:

Apart from the usual excellent acting and searing turns of events, one sees in this episode the willingness to leave motivations opaque: the viewer can entertain guesses about why Jesse refused and then accepted Walt's offer of partnership; about why Walt made this offer in the first place; about who called Hank to warn him of the assassins and why; about why these brother assassins are so mindlessly cavalier in their dealings with everyone except one another, even parties with whom they should be able to see an alignment of interests ("la familia es todo" notwithstanding); etc.

The latter is especially vexing and ironic in the context of this drama, which has unfolded into such an elaborate shape starting from a man's commitment to the principle of "la familia es todo." Walt started there, but he has watched the principle warp and wend in a way that, by now, he is hyper-alert to the boundaries of family and business. He can't seem to stop drawing and re-drawing the line. One is tempted to say, for now, that Jesse is in and Hank is out, but events will tell whether that stance cashes out in deeds, or if it is revealed as a gambit to another end.

The confident thing to say is that what we saw in this episode will have consequences, whether or not those match up with the designs and ruses of the players. In the world of Breaking Bad, every choice has consequences.


Phil said...

Hank sounds exactly like Sam Kinison (RIP) when he's beating Pinkman... almost wish he got up and yellled "OHHHH OHHHH OHHHHHH!!!!"

Dale said...

You're so right, Phil!

Reuben said...

Having taken your opening advice, I declare that whatever positive change in my final GPA that would have been achieved had I paid more attention to my studies throughout April has been superseded by the change in my life wrought over a month of BB watching.

Passing over your nice comments on the present state of affairs, I say good riddance to the murderous pair. I had been expecting for some time that Hank would be the instrument of their destruction, though I thought that his violent psychological "unraveling," as he put it, would somehow motivate their deadly encounter. On the contrary, their meeting was at a moment of emotional and physical vulnerability, and I found myself nearly upset at the prospect that the show would proceed without Hank.

But I found the brothers to be rather unbelievable. I know, they are not supposed to be "like us men," and as you point out, hold family as everything, but I could not see them as people, more like embodied devils or something. I mean, what did they do when they were not casually strutting around with their shiny axe and shooting up innocents? Frowning wordlessly over their cereal bowls at the breakfast table, sleeping in their duds and skull-tipped boots atop bed sheets, telepathically debating the merits of Schick and Gillette in achieving maximal bald shine - such mundane activities would make the pair ridiculous, for they seemed suited only to coolly tossing lighters at gasoline-leaking trucks carrying dead illegals and frightening folks with empty stares. Similar to Anton Chigurh I suppose, but with less personality - which is to say, none.

And with that McCarthy reference I will stop. I once gave “The Road” a passing read but his style did not grab me. Your discussion of “Blood Meridian” renewed my interest, and reading through the evening redness in the west is proving rewarding.

Dale said...

Reuben, congratulations on the insight that studying is for suckers and that the time is better spent watching television. Too many people don't see this. Bravo!

You're right about the Brothers Bald, of course -- they're hard to picture feeding the goldfish or reading the manual of the new microwave oven. I see them as examples of a recognizable type -- the merciless, mindless muscle guys for an organized crime organization. They tend to do little but add some violence that might otherwise deprive the story of major characters -- think Luca Brasi in The Godfather, or all those red shirts in Star Trek, or those losers flying alongside Luke as they attacked the Death Star. What these characters lack in inward development they (arguably) make up for in furthering plots and ratcheting up the drama. I can only say I *hope* there aren't such people in the world. They'd be exasperatingly boring when they weren't killing you or your loved ones.

I certainly hope Hank doesn't die any time soon. He adds way, way too much to the dramatic tension. So much for that -- this show is nothing if not prepared to surprise viewers.

Blood Meridian is difficult but worth it. The Road is less difficult but also worth it. These opinions are legally binding in all jurisdictions, so I'm glad you read this.