Monday, November 14, 2011
The Last Piece of the Puzzle
"Looking up at those stars in the sky. Those white clouds have turned to black"
-Norah Jones, "Black"
Don't those lyrics ring true. If the sky wasn't black enough this season, we'd think a friggin' solar eclipse occurred.
From that moment the camera zooms in onto a Lily of the Valley back to the moment Gus Fring makes his fateful walk to that nursing home, something happens in Breaking Bad that turns it into one of the true heavyweights of the art form. A 'flash-bang-wow' that changes our expression faster than Gus's when he finds out it is him finally on the 'hot seat'. Subconsciously, we kinda knew the moment would come sooner or later. The astounding attribute given to Season 4 is an emphatic bow given to the traditional villian. & willingly, the final puzzle pieces will come into play for the final season. As Walt White tells Jesse in End Times, it is him who is the last piece of the puzzle. This meaning alot more than being a cog in the wheel of Gus's plan.
Breaking Bad has already entrenched its feet firmly into non traditional storyelling. Don't try to stay ahead of it, cause you'll only lose your footing. The push and pull of family commitment vs. work has been a staple of storytelling. In terms of the long form, its most contemporary partner is The Sopranos. A show that paints a portrait of the modern family and its own head of the family circling down an existential drain. Breaking Bad, while not as ambitious as shows like Sopranos & The Wire takes a cue from the family vs. work type of story. Only to take that device and make it more complex.
The crystal meth drug trade in the universe of the show extends well beyond New Mexico. Yet its intimate and limited scope of characters complement the very subject it is dealing with. Another atrribute to be pointed out is that this is a show that, for the most part, is done in real time. A characteristic that only emphasizes the points driven home to us from the very beginning. When the camera zooms out of a gun barrel aimed directly at us. Not too different from another gun going off held by one Jesse Pinkman at the end of Season Three.
There are many disquieting sounds and static shots surrounding the show. A pair of pants flying through the air kicks things off. A pink bear with an eye missing. A pizza on a garage roof. A ringing bell that disrupts Walt & Jesse's plan to poison Tuco. By these shots alone, one would deduct that the world of these characters has spun out of control. The world of Walt & Jesse is woven together by false accusations, hollow truths and hard goodbyes. Everything lingers on a plan. Like pieces on a chessboard.
Drug trade aside, the triumph of the show lay in its character arcs of Walt & Jesse. Throughout the second season, Walt was cornered by Skylar into bearing the truth or continue spinning his web of lies. Now that the cat's out of the bag, the pressures Walt once faced from keeping his secret became pointed in the direction of one Gustavo Fring. A man driven by an unquenchable thirst for success. His detriment being the refusal to accept anything less than a 96% purity level and an even higher level of control amongst his employees.
On another plane, there is Jesse. His arc going from careless methhead to the one we are rooting for. This can best be explained by these important episodes that I predict will be cornerstones in the blueprint for Season Five's storyline.
Phoenix/ABQ: These last two episodes of Season Two are crucial to the series. Walt spilling the beans to Jesse about Jane's death is a nuclear device kept in reserve. Suffice it to say, Walt should be expecting alot more than a flask thrown at him if the truth about Jane does get out.
Fly: To make the transmission even more 'fuzzy', it is the episode Fly that pronounces an undercurrent of regret/sadness that Walt harbors. Effectively tapped to the point of tipping the scale. Or in this case, the ladder Jesse's standing on. It's not what was said in that episode but what wasn't said.
All this came to a clusterfuck that paradoxically resolved one issue and began another. Face Off is the episode that crystallized what Walt said earlier on: He is the danger.
& on top of this whole mess, Walt's intentions to get into the game the first place have got lost in the chaos of trying to maintain his own sanity. Walt has cast himself into his own private hell. With a road paved with Lillies of the Valley.
Other curious sidenotes: That same bell that once foiled Walt & Jesse's plan to poison Tuco has now finally worked in favor of Walt's plan. Turning Gus' face into one not too dissimilar from a half burnt prop on Gale's shelf. Or for that matter, a half burnt teddy bear floatin' in Walt's very own pool. All the more fitting that a 'floating object' in a pool would fit into the scene of Gus' own personal vendetta against Don Salamanca. Take take a cue from another blogger, there are events and people that are all becoming cyclical. Ourobouros is you will.
To this day, I'll never understand why people long for movies about TV shows like this. Season Four as a whole reminds me, as it should several others, of what the format of long form storytelling should be. Ironic isn't it, that some of the best writing and character presentation is coming from the small screen as opposed to the big screen.