Sunday, August 26, 2012

Breaking Bad 5.7 "Say My Name" Recap

Mr. Chips to Scarface.  Or Anakin to Darth Vader

Fuck you Walt!.  That thought entered my mind several times during this episode.  He really is a complete and total asshole.  Vince Gilligan and his writers have done an incredible job of transforming Breaking Bad's protagonist into its antagonist.  Because in that final scene, I was desperately trying to convince myself that Mike killing Walter was a real possibility.  Unfortunately, it has already been revealed that Walt will live to see his fifty-second birthday.  That could be considered to be a minor problem in the show--the flashforward device always takes a little of the suspense away.  Then again, nobody really expects this show to exist without Walter White. 

That's not to say that I still don't have a few quibbles with some of what's transpired this season.

First off, Mike was a little sloppy during his final days.  Last week he basically challenged Walt to escape from his clutches.  Walt met that challenge and gained possession of the methylamine.  Walt gaining control of the methylamine essentially screwed Jesse out of $5 million (Even though it was Jesse who vouched for Walter's plan, where "everybody wins," when Mike was irking to pull the trigger).

And in this episode, Mike didn't want Jesse to pick up the bag and bring it to him.  Yet, Walt was a suitable alternative?  He must have known that Walt would be concerned about the nine guys locked up, that he would want their names.  That's basically the only reason he gave Mike the heads up about the DEA.   So when that motive is confirmed, what does Mike do?  He refuses to give up the name, talks down to Walter, belittles him, and tells him how much betters things were when Gustavo Fring was in charge.  Basically, an all out attack on Walt's pride.  We all know how Walt feels about his pride.  Then, not so shockingly, it's revealed that Walt did take the gun from Mike's bag.   

While Walt was the one that did the shooting, Mike didn't do himself any favors with how he handled the situation (I'm still going to miss Jonathan Banks' presence from this show).

The bigger problem I have with Breaking Bad this season has to do with Walt's behavior.  Yes, Mr. Chips has turned into Scarface.  But for me, there are times when the transformation reminds me of Anakin Skywalker turning into Darth Vader.  And if that sounds like an insult when you read it, that means you're reading it correctly.

For me, Bryan Cranston's Walter White enjoys being evil a little too much.  So much so that he completely fails to recognize how others see him.  During the first few episodes, he was clueless to how Skylar felt about him.  That scene where he was kissing her on the shoulder while in bed was very hard to watch.  Could he not sense that she wasn't into that?

Plus, Walt's whistle was a big fail for many critics (and me) last week.  Jesse indirectly brought the issue up this week.  Does Walter truly care about the young boy who died?  Is he sorry? Walt insists that he does care.  But his obsession with the "empire building" business obscure any sign of emotion that he might have.

"I'm in the empire building business."   That's the phrase that encompasses this problem of Scarface Walt.  He's a former Chemistry teacher but Walter has also demonstrated a knack for history.  Therefore, he must know that all empires eventually fall.  Furthermore, before an empire falls, emperors tend to be usurped at one point or another.  When you apply this to drug empires, these events tend to happen more quickly.

Why Walt is set on building an empire is truly perplexing.  He tells Jesse they can now cook meth without ever having to deal with dead bodies ever again.  Seriously?  Rightfully, Jesse seems pretty amused that Walt could actually believe that.  So do the rest of us watching at home.  It's hard to accept that that this is what Walt really believes.  Has he learned nothing?  He was in the game for one day before he had to kill someone.  Killing is a natural aspect to the drug trade.  To not understand that by now, Walt would have to be stupid.  Does Walt have to be stupid in order to be the antagonist?  I hope not.

Walt is definitely the antagonist of this show.  Like I said above, Gilligan and his staff have done a fantastic job of shifting the audience's feelings toward the character.  I just want Walt to retain some of the qualities he had back when he was the protagonist.  I want him to set realistic expectations.  I want him to be smart.

A few other thoughts:
  • Replacing Jesse with Todd?  Good luck.  That will never work.  Jesse may have failed Chemistry in high school but that doesn't mean he didn't have the potential.  Walt prides himself on his art and knows that it can't just be learned.  Plus, Todd has too much ambition.  Can you really trust someone who wants to learn that badly and lead you to believe he doesn't care about payment?
  • Walt trying to start a conversation with Skylar at dinner was kind of funny.  Her walking away was funnier.  Did she maybe ask herself whether Jesse was fired or "fired?"
  • I'm a little surprised at the resolution Walt came up with.  He knows this crew was selling meth at 70% purity.  Clearly, they don't respect his craft.  Yet, he's easily willing to get in bed with them.
God.  I hate to complain so much.  On the positive side, at least Hank was able to enjoy a victory after his boss told him he was wasting resources.  That's one bald guy who was having a good day. Mike being allowed to die in peace was also a nice touch.  He deserved that.  Walt granting him that was the one good thing he did in this episode.


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