Bryan Cranston


Walt and Jessie outside their new season 5 lab (above), one of many ingenious highlights so far this season.

Going down the stretch last year with the last few episodes of BrBa, we had predicted that money issues were going to be a problem for Walt this year, following along with that same theme, really begun when Skylar gifted that $600,000 to Ted.  Such was cemented when Walt, hoping to pay Saul’s guy to professionally disappear them, went to get the money out of the crawl space and it was gone.  Then Walt laughs maniacally, does the whole unhinged psycho thing, about to further entrench himself as the bad guy even worse than Scarface’s Tony Montana, along with the overlying show theme, “from Mr. Chips to Scarface.”  Obviously even Tony Montana drew the line at hurting innocents, and yet Walt was to use a child to reclaim himself with Jesse, when he most coldly poisons Brock with the Lilly of the Valley plant, and then blames it on Gus.  Walt chills us with the whole ‘now who do we know who would ever hurt a child’ speech, even more so as we look back to it at the start of season 5 when those in the audience who didn’t already surmise as much at the end of last season got their proof that Walt had indeed one upped Tony Montana.

We also got our confirmation of the Walt/money issues storyline when Walt has Jesse spot him the money for magnet project, citing an “IRS issue” and when Walt shows up at Saul’s, looking for an explanation as to how Saul could okay this idea to give all of his cash to Ted.  They obviously aren’t cooking, with the lab destroyed and Gus’s operation no more, and so that grand irony comes back into play, that Walt got involved with these shenanigans in the first place to make money, has broken just about every law including murder to get that money, and had bought a car wash to launder that illegal cash, but now finds himself with no money to launder.

Thankfully Vince Gilligan moves the story along at a fast clip, straightening out some of the heavy Gus aftermath in s5 e1, especially with Mike, while establishing the impetus behind Mike’s need to get back in the game due to his own financial reasons which become clearer in e2, when Gus’s illegal accounts are frozen.  By the end of e3, and with the help of Saul, “the three amigos” (sorry Saul), that unholy alliance between Jesse, Walt, and Mike, have not only put a new cook operation together, having worked out both logistics and particulars, but they have already cooked up a batch and gotten paid.  Good thing.  We were hoping for a quick resolution to last year’s money issues so that the show could concentrate on portraying what it is like for the duo at the top of the game, as the show’s ads have foreshadowed, with Walt centered around stacks of money, along with the caption “ALL HAIL THE KING”.

Great to see them flush with money, or as Badger (Matt L. Jones) says to Jesse after he and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) rent some musical equipment for the op so they have cases in which their moving lab equipment will be stored, “stacking Benjies til the rubber band pops.”  By the way, how great was it to have a scene featuring Badger and Skinny Pete?  But that’s what Vince Gilligan consistently provides us with, the kind of moments that hardcore fans of the show just relish.  Whether it be Gus being blown up by Tio’s bell, which had been going off to no avail for almost 3 seasons, Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles), in his final diatribe providing Hank with the ‘not who he seems’ speech, or any scene, for that matter, which features Saul Goodman.

This show has obviously struck a chord with the nation, pardon the pun, Skinny Pete, as we have now Lego sets depicting Walt and Jesse’s Crystal Ship and Laundry Lab, and while last week, Kim Kardashian and Aaron Paul are chatting it up on Twitter about Vamanos Pest.

Aaron Paul ‏@aaronpaul_8
“@KimKardashian: Anyone else think the same thing about those extermination tents or was I just crazy?” Meth lab. It’s always a meth lab.

Whilst we speak of meth labs…

Walt and Jessie in their laundy lab (above) in their hazmat suits, with blue crystal Lego in the left corner.

And of course, the Crystal Ship in Lego (2nd).

The new lab, a roving lab which borrows from the successful mobile aspect to their RV setup, but which is all the more brilliant and realistic, considering that they do not own the homes in which they are cooking, that they are hiding in plain sight, and that there are frequent stories about temporary meth labs in the news, as that is the latest innovation/industry trend limiting legal exposure for chemists.

http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/meth-lab-found-fema-temporary-housing-joplin

Also, a very nice touch it is to encase the temp lab in a Dexter style kill scene bubble tent.  Bravo!  As brilliant  as the new season has been with details, there’s just no getting around how bad Walt actually is, as he continues to further his criminal mastermind.  No regular viewer of the show could do anything but marvel at Walt in s5 e1, when Mike asks him why he should take his word that the magnet worked.

“Because I said so.”

Damn.  Then when Walt, in a scene eerily reminiscent to Michael Corleone in The Godfather II at the end of e1 tells Skylar, “I forgive you.”  (for blowing his money on Ted).  Walt is bad, alright.  If those aforementioned scenes didn’t do enough to illustrate, then what of Walt socializing with Brock (Ian Posada) over at Jesse’s (“I heard you were in the hospital”)?

Sure, that was chillingly cold, but for us, whatever Walt had to do get his relationship back with Jesse was justified, re-establishing the balance between the two that we most enjoy when the duo’s delicate camaraderie is in place.  And we know it’s only temporary, obviously.  In this modern Greek tragedy, there is no way for Jesse not to find out that Walt poisoned Brock and no way for Jesse to avoid learning that and feeling the acute misery and anger that will come from that knowledge.  If we were to venture a guess as to the real end of days for the show, it would have Jesse perhaps killing Walt over it, as we agree with the many fans who feel that Jesse is going to be the one to take Walt down.

But before that, we think there will be a whole hell of a lot more messes for Walt on the home front.  Obviously things have become very sticky with Skyler so forlorn, this week, plunging herself into the pool in a half hearted suicide attempt.  Is it only a matter of time before Walt decides a different approach with the wife is needed?  Recall that Walt has hidden that ricin in the house, and from what we know about BrBa, sooner or later they are going to have that ricin come back into play.

Mr. White (our Mr. White, not Walt) suggested that Skyler might get a ricin cigarette of her own.  Great forethought there.  We are gonna add our own to that theory, as we can’t see how things could break any worse for Walt than if Walt Jr., now a fast car driving little bad ass, were to ingest the ricin by accident.  We see Jesse, Walt, Mike, and Skyler all breaking much much worse by the show’s end, in true step with classic Greek tragedy.

And for show and Greek mythology enthusiasts, how great was Walt’s line at the end of e3, when he tells Jesse that perhaps, like Icarus, Victor had “flown to close to the sun”?  From Gilligan, that’s more likely deft foreshadowing than use of clever reference, though with Breaking Bad, it is no doubt a double entendre.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Bryan Cranston (above) of Breaking Bad.

Bad news.  While Breaking Bad has renewed for what no doubt will be an epic 16 episode 5th season, various outlets are reporting that it will be show’s the last.

After heated negotiations with AMC, Breaking Bad has been renewed… for a 16-episode final season. The decision comes as the award-winning drama is hitting a creative and ratings high-point. But some critics are expressing gratitude that the esteemed drama — about a chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with cancer, begins dealing meth to provide for his family — is receiving a firm end date, because they see it as an opportunity for Breaking Bad’s writers end the series on a high note. Should we be celebrating the impending end of what’s often called “the best drama on television?”

http://theweek.com/article/index/218337/breaking-bads-final-season-a-good-thing

We’ve heard the show’s creator Vince Gilligan discuss his long range plans for the show several times.  He always mentions that he is telling a story with a definite end that would need several seasons to be fully told.  For us, that number we were hoping against all hope would be six, considering that season 1 had only 6 episodes.  At least Gilligan and AMC have agreed to do three episodes extra in season 5, off of a standard 13 episode full slate.

We guess the hand writing was on the wall with regard to a 6th season after watching Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner take public his rancorous negotiations with AMC to bring back Mad Men without cutting central characters from the cast.   Breaking Bad, in an even better position to negotiate, would probably have commanded beyond what AMC was willing to pay for a 6th year, especially when compared to dirt cheap original programming like The Killing and The Walking Dead.

At least there are 24 episodes left.

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Walt, Jessie, Gus, and Mike (above).

Scratch our recent criticisms.  Hey, we’ve admitted to being wrong before, if only on so seldom an occasion.  But with Breaking Bad’s season 4 premiere, “Boxcutter”, we have perhaps never been more happy at our own folly.  With a minimum of dialogue, Breaking Bad has seemed to restore what was to us a lost and past damaged working relationship between Gus, Walt, and Jessie.  And it was the murder of Gail (David Costabile), perpetrated by Jessie, now a full fledged and dirty handed cold blooded killer, that set the whole thing in motion and restored Breaking Bad’s universe to order, even if the “calm” turns out to be brief.

What we liked best about the plot turns we saw Sunday, in the first new episode of Breaking Bad in over a year, was that to us they were plausible for a show in the realism genre, and specifically, for this show, which had almost defeated its own intentions by setting the bar so maddeningly high for itself.  How lucky we also were to catch Aaron Paul, who plays Jessie Pinkman, in a very candid interview this afternoon about Breaking Bad, Big Love, Mad Men and more with John Hein on a new program on Howard101 called “What’s Worth Watching.”  Paul described the surreal nature of filming Big Love in Los Angeles and Breaking Bad in Albuquerque simultaneously, and going from the shirt and tie wearing boyfriend of Amanda Seyfried to Pinkman, our favorite meth head, how the Pinkman character was originally slated to be killed off in season 1, episode 5, and how Vince Gilligan completely switched up the story arc due to Cranston’s and Paul’s um, chemistry.

Paul told great stories about some of the actors he worked with on Big Love, such as Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton, and then offered the highest praise for Breaking Bad actors Bryan Cranston, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, and Giancarlo Esposito.  The two then had a very interesting discussion about whether Walter White, Jessie Pinkman, and Don Draper–AMC’s 3 best leading men–were good or bad people, or whether they just do bad things.  On White, Paul said Pinkman’s former chemistry teacher started out as a desperate man caught up in some really bad decisions, but at this point, he really was a very bad guy.  On his own character, Paul said that Pinkman spent a lot of season 3 trying to live up to a bad person because of the guilt he associated with his girlfriend Jane’s (Kristen Ritter) death, but by the time he finds himself at Gail’s door in season 3’s finale, gun in hand, that the odyssey was complete.  On Draper, Paul was quick to label the Mad Men lead a terrible guy, and not surprisingly professed his love for both shows, for AMC’s original content and their foray into original programming, and for his own show for which he won an Emmy award most of all.

As you may know, we were very concerned here in this space that Pinkman’s character would go soft and that Gail would somehow escape with his life.  That he did not made all the difference for Walt and Jessie, who could have found themselves stewing in waste drums full of acid by the end of Sunday’s episode like Victor (Jeremy Bitsui), but instead, were casually chatting in a fast food joint while Jessie munched on fries and sipped at a large cup of Coke.  But with a minimum of words, Gilligan had orchestrated the demise of Gus’s boy Victor instead, which culminated in the bloody boxcutter scene and Gus’s mandate of “get back to work” because Victor was dispatched to Gail’s apartment, and he, and not Jessie was seen there and could have been placed there by witnesses.

Sunday we saw the incomparable Saul Goodman sweeping his office for listening devices, pretending not to hear Skyler on his office line when she refers to her husband’s job at a meth lab, at which point he calls Skyler a “Chatty Cathy”–all in his first scene–and then, when he calls Skyler back from a pay phone.  No doubt foreshadowing as to the changing landscape for Albuquerque’s leading criminal attorney.  The show’s opening scene, in which Gail tells Gus that he can “only” achieve 96% purity, and a subsequent one in which he tells Gus that the difference between the blue crystal’s 99% and his 96% really was a “wide gulf” were also telling clues that the dynamic duo would indeed be getting back to work.  In retrospect, Gilligan did much to foreshadow one aspect of the choice of saving Walt and Jessie over Victor when he had us watch an uncomfortable dinner date between Walt and Gus last season, when Gus proved handy with a knife in the kitchen.

While Walt seemed very uneasy in the aftermath of recent events in the lab, Jessie, who had murdered in cold blood less than 24 hours before, was well at ease.  Walt, the academic, couldn’t make sense of those events as well as the street wise Jessie, who explained to Walt that at least now they all had “an understanding.”  We also thought that Mike had a better understanding of the duo after watching them dispassionately disintegrate Victor’s body in acid.  While questions persist about Walt’s and Jessie’s longevity with Gus and about Gail’s cell phone and notes being recovered by the authorities, we are more comfortable with Breaking Bad’s direction right now than we have been in over half a season spanning some 15 months.

A lesson perhaps to have faith in your favorite things, or maybe, drug of choice?  Not really ironic considering the page, except when not in reference to a drug but rather, a television show (about a drug).

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

When the very gifted Bob Odenkirk debuted on Breaking Bad in s2, e8 (“Better Call Saul”), we first see the smarmy Saul Goodman, criminal attorney, pictured in a print ad on a bus stop bench.  When next we see him, it’s in a low budget, low rent late night TV ad, his siren call to Albuquerque’s criminal element.  Next we see Goodman in action, in a  prisoner interview room, come to represent Jesse’s boy Badger, fast talking from the word go, kicking out the undercover detective, reminding Badger to never give up his right to remain silent, and asking for his fee in one simultaneous motion. 

Goodman tells Badger straight away, after confusing him with a public masturbator, that he needs his fee, $4,650, that he doesn’t care if it’s put up by a relative, his ‘parrish priest or boy scout leader’, and while he takes cashier’s checks, he prefers money orders, made out to “Ice Station Zebra Associates”, which he assures Badger half-heartedly is completely legitimate, and solely for tax purposes.  Later, Jesse assures a doubtful Mr. White, while in Goodman’s parking lot, that he is indeed the right lawyer, paying the Odenkirk character the following um, compliment, “you don’t need a criminal lawyer, you need a criminal lawyer.”

From there Walt and Jessie flip for the privilege of not having to go into Goodman’s office and be seen while presenting him the $4,650, a flip that Walt loses.  In Cranston’s and Odenkirk’s first scene together, Goodman remarks on Mr. White’s alias.

“Mayhew?  Is that English or Irish?”

When Walt says it’s Irish, Goodman explains that he too is Irish, that his real name is McGill, and that he only goes by Saul Goodman for “the homeboys” because they seem to want a “pipe hitting member of the tribe.”  Goodman tells “Mr. Mayhew” that Badger is in good hands since the D.E.A. is involved, which unnerves Walt, who then offers a bribe on the condition that he keeps the D.E.A. out of things.  Mr. White asks Saul to review their options, at which point Goodman testily informs him that his nephew Brandon has 2 options, to play ball with the D.E.A. or go to prison, where his rectum will be “resized YAY big”, illustrating the point with a hand signal for  wide, cylindrical hole.

Quickly thereafter, Walt and Jessie revisit the parking lot at night.  They get plotted up in ski masks, kidnap and bring Goodman to the desert where he quickly begins negotiating for his life in Spanish, very comically planting the idea with the audience that Goodman as hostage is par for the course.  Goodman is delighted to hear Walt and Jessie address him in English, recognizes “Mr. Mayhew” by his cough, and asks them to remove the masks because he feels like he’s been taken by the “Weather Underground.”

Goodman tells them that with the D.E.A. involved, someone is going to jail, “it’s just a question of who.”  Then a plan is hatched whereby a career criminal who is more comfortable in prison than outside, “Jimmy In and Out”, will go down in the buy and bust, satisfying both the D.E.A.’s need to jail someone and throwing them off the scent of the mythic Heisenberg.

In the end, we see another aspect of Goodman’s resourcefuness.  He has located Mr. White, tracking him to his classroom, proving to Walter how easily it can be done and consequently, how much Walter still needs his help.  From there, Goodman continues to establish himself as a major character, sending his PI, Mike, to sanitize the scene of Jesse’s girlfriend Jane’s overdose, getting Jesse squared away in a top notch rehab center, and setting Walt up with Gus, the big time distributor Walt needs who will allow him the luxury of just having to cook without lining up buyers or precursor chemicals and lab space.

At the end of last season though, Walt and Gus are on the outs to the point where Walt is about to get got.  Still, Goodman proves invaluable, figuring into Walt’s plan to try and avoid the innevitable, after Walt has defied Gus by killing 2 of his street level dealers who use kids to complete their transactions, and who then kill them when it suits them.

Something that still has us bothered about last season, ’til this day, is that plausibility suggests that Walt’s days are still numbered, even if Jesse has murdered, or at least kidnapped Gail, Walt’s lab assistant who knows the recipe for that banging blue crystal.  As for the cliffhanger regarding the fate of Gail and other stretched plotlines, we have to say, even as the staunchest of BrBa fans, that we are unsatisfied.  As we see it, Walt broke a vase that can’t be unbroken.  The recipe for the blue crystal should not be enough to reverse an execution order.  Any chem grad student, and perhaps some others, could theoretically break down and reproduce the formula.

Since Jessie seems to have known the plan and they have killed before, it will irk us to no end if he’s suddenly gun shy with Gail, which we are expecting based on the nature of the s4, e1 photos up at www.imdb.com.  We can run on with our list of complaints.  Like, can Walt really be so morally wounded by Gus’s actions and those of his street crew?  After all, is Gus not a kingpin/criminal mastermind with at least 1 murderer for hire on his payroll?  Or does Walt think Gus is really just busy managing chicken shacks?

It appears that no solution is imminent on the horizon between Walt, Jessie, and Gus, though we feel that Walt has needed to off Gus as soon as Gus became increasingly meddlesome in Walt’s family affairs and with Walt’s brother-in-law Hank.  Whatever the case, we are still excited that our favorite show returns in 2 weeks and 1 day (July 17th), and that Bob Odenkirk has a regular credit as Saul Goodman.  We have loved Odenkirk ever since he played the role of Larry Sanders’ scumbag Hollywood agent Stevey Grant on The Larry Sanders Show, and as one half the avant-garde comedy duo, Mr. Show with Bob and David.

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Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

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