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To wrap up my coverage of the series, and to acknowledge how it left us wanting more, I've decided to write up a list of the Top Ten completely made-up "Breaking Bad" spinoffs I'd like to see, featuring some of our favorite surviving characters, and a few who who didn't. This excludes "Better Call Saul," which is actually going to happen now.

Of course none of these are ever going to happen. But wouldn't it be fun if they did?

Alaska, Bitch - Jesse makes it to Alaska, and gets work as a carpenter. But just when he's settled into his new life and his new identity, Jane's father shows up, recently released from prison. He recognizes Jesse and decides that some revenge is in order. However, since Mr. Margolis has broken parole and is also on the run, he can't risk drawing attention to himself either. Cat and mouse (and moose?) games ensue.

Albuquerque Yellow Cab - Skyler caught the empire-building bug from Walt and ends up taking over the taxi service she's working at with some of the Gray Matter money. She reconciles with Marie, whose kleptomania results in her driving off with an entire MRI machine after a very bad day. This leads to the sisters getting involved in the medical equipment black market. Skyler uses the taxi company to launder their earnings.

Meth Queens - Fast forward twenty years into the future when Holly "Seaborg" White, Kaylee Ehrmantraut, and Kira Rodarte-Quayle have grown up. The trio have a chance meeting in prison, having all lead disreputable lives, that leads to the resurrection of their parents' meth empire. Their greatest enemy? Brock Castillo, who has taken over the Juarez cartel and is still trying to avenge the death of his mother.

Huell's Diner - Well, somebody had to find the barrels of money that the Nazis left behind, right? Huell and Kuby blow most of it, but after some bad repercussions are smart enough to use the last few grand on opening their own diner. You look at Huell and tell me that's not a man who appreciates diner food. Walt Jr. works the grill part time, specializing in breakfast. Wendy gets hired as the worst waitress ever.

Los Pollos Hermanos - The story of how Gus came to America and started his empire. Of all the characters in "Breaking Bad," it's Gus who I think really has the most potential to sustain a whole series. We could dig into his past in Chile, relationship with his former partner, and see how he first met Mike, Gale, Victor, and Tyrus. Or we could just spend twenty episodes watching him intimidate his restaurant employees.

Young Heisenberg - Let's go way, way back to when Walter White was a budding genius in the 1960s, using feats of SCIENCE! to defeat playground bullies and make a little extra cash selling souped up cherry bombs. Perhaps he was exposed to EARLY radiation testing, which is the reason why he develops lung cancer later in life. And hey, if AMC needs some convincing, there's plenty of potential for "Mad Men" crossovers!

Juarez Cartel - A prequel series about the Salamanca family, specifically about the relationship between the twins and their uncle Hector. I'm sure Tuco would be involved too, since he seems much closer to his Tio than the cousins. I assume that Hector ended up in the wheelchair because of a stroke or a disease, but maybe the paralysis was caused by something else. And did he have any other run-ins with Gus Fring?

Gray Matters - I'm not as interested in learning the particulars of Walt's falling out with Gretchen and Elliot as I am finding out what happens to them after Walt leaves a pile of cash and a sword of Damocles over their heads. Gray Matter appears to be in trouble, from the severity of the PR firestorm, and following through with Walt's demands may turn the heat up more. Surely these two beautiful people are hiding something.

Badger and Skinny Pete Go Hollywood - Everyone's favorite stoner duo capitalizes on Badger's fanfiction writing abilities and Skinny Pete's musical talent to make it in show business. Let's say they crate a web series that becomes a viral sensation and attracts the attention of Hollywood. They head out to Los Angeles for many happy misadventures in Tinseltown, eventually becoming beloved dealers to the rich and famous.

Crime and Cinnabons - If "Better Call Saul" is going to be a prequel series, that means there's still room for a Saul Goodman sequel series. An Omaha Cinnabon becomes Saul's new unofficial dispensary for under-the-table legal advice, mostly to small time crooks, but Saul inevitably gets caught up in bigger crimes again. This also presents and opportunity to witness some of the unseen fallout of Walt's death from afar.
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Spoilers, spoilers, and more spoilers, ahead.

So let's briefly recap here. The ricin was for Lydia. The M60 was for Jack's gang. The lottery ticket was for Skyler. The money was for Flynn and Holly, by way of Gretchen and Elliot and a couple of laser pointers. Everything went according to plan for Walt, in a season where nothing went according to plan. And boy was it satisfying to watch Heisenberg engineer his last impossible string of stunts. He went out on a high note, finally accepting the consequences of being a bad guy, and able to end his story on his own terms.

Did the finale make Walt seem too heroic, as some reviews have suggested? I don't think that's the message here. Jesse would have been perfectly justified in shooting Walt down, as he was justified in strangling Todd. Skyler was cold and distant, offering little sympathy, and none was expected. Walt didn't even try to have a last moment with his son. No, this was about Walt acknowledging his own faults at last, and putting them to use to try and fix some of his most egregious mistakes. The most significant moments of the night were Walt admitting to Skyler that he started cooking meth for himself, not for the family, and finally being direct with Jesse. No more lies or pretenses. He's just a bad man willing to do horrible things to get what he wants. The whole bit with Gretchen and Elliot made that explicit.

As finales go, this one was certainly eventful, but not nearly as eventful as some of the other episodes of "Breaking Bad" in this final half season. There were no unexpected deaths or major twists. The big showdown was telegraphed far in advance, and the camera lingered on the Stevia packet and Lydia's tea. We checked in with all the remaining characters, but it's far from certain what will happen to them in the fallout from Walt's death. Does Walt's scheme with the money actually work? Will the police find Jesse? Does Lydia have a chance of surviving the ricin if she gets to the hospital in time? I can still see a worst case scenario where Jesse and Skyler both end up in prison, and a vengeful, crippled Lydia hires more hit men. And there are still plenty of unanswered questions. What happened at Gray Matter? Who spray-painted HEISENBERG on the living room wall?

Emotionally, though, I got all the closure I wanted for Walt's story. When Walt returns to town, it feels like it's been eons. He was essentially a dead man in "Granite State," and "Felina" marks a brief resurrection. Chance and luck, and from the opening segment, perhaps God are on his side, allowing him the opportunity to make some amends and settle some scores. Walt knows he has no time left, and there's no self-delusion that he can tell the truth later, or explain himself later. There's a finality to every conversation, except those with Todd, Lydia, and Jack, who still require a little manipulation. From his feigned desperation, though, you can tell that's not who Walt is anymore. This Walt has accepted his existence is finite, and only wants enough time to take care of a few last pieces of business. Jack tries to bargain with a Walt who no longer exists.

Is the ending a little too neat, though? Would we have been better served by more moments of ambiguity, or a few more reminders of Walt's failures? Should the writers have spent more time on thematic resonance instead of making sure that every last little thread of the plot was nicely wrapped up for us? I don't see people dissecting "Felina" the way that they dissected the famous ending of "The Sopranos" or even "The Shield" for years to come. However, "Breaking Bad" is not nearly as deep or weighty or as ultimately tragic as either of those shows. It's always been a very slick piece of entertainment, that puts the audience's enjoyment first. And I can't think of an ending that could have imparted more enjoyment to the audience than Walt using SCIENCE! one last time to dispatch his enemies, and Jesse getting away.

I've barely left myself any room to talk about the production, but I loved that we got a final alt-POV cam shot, gorgeous southwestern vistas, and lots of other fancy visuals - the slow reveal of Walt in Skyler's sad apartment, the Hitchcock shots of Walt's keys, Walt exploring the Schwartzes' new house, the police car lights through a snow-covered windshield, and finally that last, overhead shot of Walt in the meth lab. Vince Gilligan directed this one, and he gave it his all. I especially liked that Walt died surrounded by scientific equipment, in a lab similar to the one where he found the most happiness in the last two years of his life.

I'll have a wrap-up post for the whole series in a few days, possibly a Top Ten. Then it's on to "Better Call Saul."
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Spoilers, yo.

So after all that talk about family, what draws Walter White out of hiding isn't that he's worried about his kids or that he wants to rescue Jesse. No, it's plain old pride. It's a Charlie Rose interview with his former business partners, Gretchen and Elliott, who they paint an unflattering picture of how he's likely to be remembered. This finally puts Walt on the road to back to New Mexico and the teasing flash-forwards from earlier in the season.

But first, an hour of watching the further fallout from the events of last week's "Ozymandias." Walt dwindles into illness and self-doubt in the isolation of the New Hampshire wilderness, with only intermittent visits from Saul's fixer, Ed, played by a perfectly cast Robert Forster. Most of the other major characters only get a scene or two apiece, each highlighting more nasty surprises. Marie discovers her home ransacked. Skyler and Holly are threatened by a masked Todd, who orders Skyler to clam up about Lydia's involvement. Flynn (emphatically not Junior anymore) gets an upsetting phone call during chemistry class. Saul, also fleeing Albuquerque, has one last unpleasant encounter with Walt. Jesse discovers that Jack and his gang don't make idle threats.

However it's not Jesse but Todd who is our counterpoint to Walt in this episode. He's everywhere, still trying to pursue Lydia's affections through 92% pure blue meth, being alternately nice and cruel to Jesse, threatening Skyler, and hinting at the complexities of his relationship with Uncle Jack. Jack is still among the most underdeveloped villains on the show, but he and Todd are giving Gus Fring a run for the title of most horrifying. They have no limits, no moral code, and are not the kind to be reasoned with. The only thing Jack seems to respect is family, which makes him a dark mirror of Walt. Note that it's not the money that sways Jack, but the realization that his nephew is sweet on Lydia. Todd, however, is the reverse of Jesse, never emotional, and unthinking in his loyalty and devotion. I'm sure he sleeps very well at night after murdering innocent people.

A great deal of time passes during this episode, as evidenced by Walt's deteriorating mental and physical condition, but it's not clear how long exactly, so it's hard to say when all these different events are taking place. Cranston's performance helps to sell the most important moments, particularly the final Forster scene where Walt offers him ten grand to just delay leaving for an hour. This is Walt at his absolute lowest point, having failed to manipulate Saul or Ed, and even his own son won't play along with his desperate scheme to get money to his family. It was widely discussed how the show could have ended with "Ozymandias" last week, but it also could have ended here, with Walt's spiritual defeat.

For those who wanted to see Walt end up in prison, his miserable life in hiding is a good approximation. He starts out full of plans, full of determination to smite his enemies and gain the upper hand once again. However, he finds himself powerless and without recourse, fuming while the world moves on without him, but too afraid of bringing worse consequences on his head to "leave the reservation." The snows of New Hampshire provide a great contrast to the New Mexico desert, an alien landscape Walter White is wary of traversing alone. So his plans fall apart. The cancer eats at his strength. The loneliness gets him. Heisenberg goes dormant. And after Flynn rejects him, you can understand why Walt would think the only way out is turning himself in.

But the rest of the episode sets up far too many unanswered questions and unresolved plot threads that still need to be paid off, and we've already seen that "Breaking Bad" is very good at making things pay off. So Lydia's bloodthirst and Skyler's endangerment will have to be addressed. And Jesse's situation and the threat hanging over Brock will have to be addressed. And the fact that Walt is barreling back into town apparently having no idea about either situation is not an outcome I was expecting. I believe next week's extra long finale is going to go quickly, because though "Granite State" also ran an extra ten minutes, it didn't feel any longer than usual.

I have no idea what's going to happen next, and at this stage I'm doing my best to keep from speculating or trying to set any expectations. "Breaking Bad" has already given us two potential endings that have addressed most of the things I wanted to see before the series ended, and now it's going for a third. Hopefully there's a final Jesse and Walt confrontation ahead, but I don't want to even guess at how it's going to play out.
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Spoilers ahead.

All I could think as I finished this episode was that people were going to be debating the meaning of the dog in the last shot for ages. That's because "Breaking Bad" has cemented itself in these past few episodes as one of the television greats. It was no mystery what was going to happen – there have been commentators making very accurate predictions all week, about who was going to die, what would happen to Jesse, and so forth. The crux is the execution. It's in the little turns and character moments, the performances, and the show's now-familiar idiosyncrasies. It's not that fact that the big developments happened, but so many and so fast, and it was terrifying to watch each domino fall.

The cold open was a flashback to the beginning of the series, a blunt reminder of how far the characters have come, but all too soon we were back in the firefight. I can already hear the complaints about how it was unrealistic that Hank wouldn't be blown to smithereens in an assault like that, but I appreciate that it allows for Walt's doomed last ditch attempt to bargain for Hank's life, which of course only results in Walt giving up one of his last bargaining chips, and Hank ("My name is ASAC Schrader") being shot in the head anyway. I love that Hank knows and accepts what's going to happen, while Walt still thinks he can control the situation if he can just come up with the right thing to say. But the decision's already made.

Walt's barrels of money falling into the hands of Jack's gang (I refer to them as such to avoid the Nazi v. White Supremacist debate), but Jack leaving Walt with a single barrel of money was unexpected. It's a reminder that the villains in "Breaking Bad" tend to be complicated souls, and if we had more time to spend with Jack, we'd surely get to know those complications better. All we have here are some hints, not entirely satisfying ones, but still indicative of the character having the potential to be more interesting. Todd, however, we've gotten to know, and he just keeps getting creepier. Ever polite, ever softspoken, ever helpful, heaven help us if her ever decides he doesn't want to be somebody's stooge anymore, and strikes out on his own.

And poor Jesse. Poor, poor Jesse. Walt blames him for everything going sour, and orders his death to his face this time. And to twist the knife, we finally get the Jane reveal. Of course, Uncle Jack still needs a meth cook, so Walt only ends up damning him to the hell of a new meth lab. The scene where Todd takes him to cook has very little dialogue, but so much is conveyed through the images – Jesse's bloody face, the grated pit, the handcuffs and leash, and finally the photograph of Andrea and Brock. Throw in Todd's completely unperturbed demeanor, and it's gut-wrenching. In a different episode, this would be the most shocking moment of the night, but then we go catch up with how Walt's family has been handling the news of his reported arrest.

Nobody predicted what was going to happen at the White household, and I wonder if the cliffhanger might have been designed to deflect some of the speculation. Everyone was so concerned with what would happen to Hank and Jesse, the developments with Skyler and Junior were unexpected. Junior had to find out sometime, and it was a probable outcome of Walt's arrest, but who guessed Marie would be such a key player in the decision? And since Skyler' alignment with Walt against Marie and Hank, I thought she's passed the point of no return. But no, she still has limits. "What's one more?" was okay when it was Jesse, but not Hank.

Whatever happens in the finale, the White household confrontation scene was the one I'd been waiting for. Walt trying to bully and cajole his loved ones into following orders, Skyler calling him out and having her horrific epiphany – Go Anna Gunn! – and then the misdirection with the cel-phone, the ultimatum, the knife fight (I was dreading/anticipating a fatality right there on the newly replaced rug), and finally Walt confronted with the sight of Skyler and Junior treating him as the threat, the bad guy, the unwanted intruder. And his first instinct, in the face of this rejection, is to ensure the one member of his family he hasn't alienated remains on his side.

The baby grabbing struck me as repetitive at first, but it does show Walt hitting rock bottom. Then it gives him a chance to show that he isn't a complete monster, and still has his family's best interests at heart. The phone call to Skyler suggests that he may be able to find redemption in the next two episodes. His snarling, played-up confession provides her with an alibi, and serves as a goodbye and apology too. It's one of the show's very best scenes, and Bryan Cranston is just fantastic. By the time Holly was found in the firetruck, I was on his side again.

And while there wasn't much to laugh about this week, I love that the creators still got in that whimisical bit with Walt rolling his barrel of money through the desert, plus a bonus ironic song choice.

And Rian Johnson. Just, Rian Johnson.
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Today I'm writing about two completely different spinoffs that have just been announced, and two makes a trend, so there's my excuse to lump them together. The first, which has been all over the news, is that the "Breaking Bad" spinoff about shady lawyer Saul Goodman is officially a go at AMC. "Better Call Saul" is reportedly going to be a prequel series, though the extent of the involvement of the core creative talent of "Breaking Bad" is not yet clear. The second is potentially bigger. Warner Brothers and J.K. Rowling are returning to the "Harry Potter" universe with an adaptation of Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

Spinoffs are tricky things. They're not inherently problematic, but there have been lots of bad ones over the years. It's hard to say at this point if either of these new spinoffs will be successful, though I think both have a relatively good shot. Television shows that spin off a minor character tend to do better than direct sequel series. The most successful spinoff in recent years has been "Frasier," which followed the erudite bar patron we first met on "Cheers." There has to be a significant degree of separation between one show and the next, and "Frasier" worked so because it put the main character in an entirely new context that stood on its own. There were a few crossovers over the years, but none of them making much impact on the show. Compare this to "Angel," which had a lot of difficulty establishing itself separate from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" until the later seasons. Many of the most interesting bits of these early years were crossover stories.

"Better Call Saul" looks promising because it has the potential to expand the little world of Saul's law office in some different directions. Walter White is only one of his many clients, as the show has alluded to, and Saul didn't become a shady lawyer overnight. "Better Call Saul" will likely be another dramedy, but there's enough flexibility with the premise that it could conceivably be a straight comedy. I'm a little wary of them going the prequel route, because Bob Odenkirk isn't getting any younger and it creates a limitation on where the series can go, but then it also significantly reduces the ties to "Breaking Bad." Walt and Jesse wouldn't be able to make appearances in any significant way, though others like Mike and Gus might. We'd also be able to get into Saul's personal life - all those ex-wives and secretaries would finally get names. I expect we'll be getting a better picture once "Breaking Bad" ends and we find out if Saul survives the series or not.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" will almost certainly attract a lot of attention because J.K. Rowling is involved, and the original book is part of the canon "Harry Potter" universe. However, this project strikes me as a little riskier. The "Fantastic Beasts" book is only 42 pages long, intended to be a recreation of a textbook on magical creatures commonly used by the students at Hogwarts. The film will follow the adventures of its author, Newt Scamander, as he travels the world having encounters with the fantastic beasts. It'll be set about seventy years prior to the events of "Harry Potter." I imagine the first film would do very well, as Rowling herself has agreed to write the script and it would benefit from the Potter series' sterling reputation. However, Warner Bros. very clearly wants another franchise, and that's where things get tricky.

One of the elements that made "Harry Potter" so successful was that it was finite. It built up to a big finale and then stopped. Warners, who made so much money from the eight-film franchise, has been trying to figure out a way to keep capitalizing on its success ever since. "Fantastic Beasts" is their answer. Getting Rowling to script the first movie cements their credibility, and then they can take subsequent installments wherever they want. However, there's a lot of risk here. There's not much by way of a pre-existing story since the book was really just ancillary material for the Potter series. This will be Rowling's first stab at screenwriting, and there's no guarantee that she's suited to it. We've seen a lot of "Potter" clones come and go over the years. Also, an open-ended franchise will lose momentum a lot quicker.

The idea of these two spinoffs holds a lot of promise, but we'll have to wait and see what the execution looks like. I can easily imagine a worst case scenario where "Better Call Saul" comes out too wacky or "Fantastic Beasts" turns out to be another generic CGI action-fest. But with the right people involved, maybe Saul Goodman could be the next Frasier Crane and Newt Scamander could be the next Harry Potter.

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Spoilers for all episodes that have aired so far.

I was a little worried for the first half of this episode, which seemed to be taking its sweet time deciding where it wanted to go. After some table-setting exposition scenes with Lydia and the Aryan Brotherhood, Hank and Gomez pumping Huell for information was a bright spot, but then Walt pays an awkward visit to Andrea and Brock. This encounter is especially problematic because it only serves to underscore how awfully underwritten Andrea has been. She's a little too obliging when Walt comes to visit - surely she's not that naive considering her history. So much time was spent on these little set-up and establishing moments, even though I knew that "Breaking Bad" didn't have many episodes left, I expected this one would end uneventfully, having maneuvered all the characters a little closer to the positions they would need to be in for the big showdown we all knew was coming.

And then Jesse makes a phone call.

There are apparent dead ends all over this hour, but they aren't dead ends at all. Huell doesn't know where the barrels are, but he does provide enough information for Hank and Jesse to fake out Walt and get him to lead them to the money. Walt decides to call off the hit on Jesse, but Uncle Jack shows up anyway because he needs Walt to cook for him. The only move that was really foiled was Walt's visit to Andrea, because Hank intercepted the call, but I'm not sure if that one might come back next week in some form or another. This was a really smartly plotted episode, where it looks like we're only getting smaller developments at first: Walt agreeing to cook meth again, Hank taking Huell out of the picture, and the money barrels becoming important. But like so many previous episodes, suddenly the situation changes in an instant and we're in the desert with Walt getting arrested. And then the Aryan brotherhood shows up armed to the teeth.

Hank has apparently learned his lesson after getting outplayed by Walt so badly in the last few episodes. Here he and Gomez and Jesse pull off two elaborate fake-outs, the first to fool Huell into thinking he's on Walt's hit list, and the second to find Walt's stash. And it goes so beautifully that I knew something had to be up. Being able to handcuff and Mirandize Walt was a moment of glory that was hard won, but also comes much too early in the season to have any finality. When Hank called Marie to tell her the news, I had the sinking feeling that he was already dead, his arc played out and his usefulness to the story ended. Of course we won't know for sure until next week, thanks to the boldest cliffhanger the show has probably ever done. I've seen a few TV shows end mid-gunfight like this, but never so abruptly.

Walt's actions were the most fascinating this week though. He knows he's defeated in the desert, and gives up without a fight, with hardly a word of protest. Did he call off the hit when he saw that it was Hank driving up with Jesse? Or did seeing Jesse face to face make Walt realize that he didn't want to be responsible for his death? Earlier, he spells out for Jack that he considers Jesse family and wants him taken out painlessly, but fumbles as he tries to explain why he's ordering the hit. Should he have realized that the barrel photo was a fake? Possibly, but Walt in panic mode has always been prone to making mistakes, and he's still berating Jesse on the phone for being stupid, underestimating him again. It was a nice irony that Jesse's acting skills and Walt's emotionally manipulative appeals, surely caught on tape Hank and Gomez, will likely be what puts Walt away in the end.

And then there's Todd, creepily crushing on Lydia and making "marginally" better meth than Declan that still fails to live up the the Heisenberg brand. (Branding also comes up with Skyler and Walt Jr., working at the car wash.) Todd's utter nonchalance when he gets the call from Walt is chilling. And when he learns that it's Jesse who's the next target, someone he's worked with in the Vamanos scheme, still nothing. In fact, he's right there at the end, behind one of the cars, blasting away at Hank and Gomez.

So the question remains, who survives next week? Walt, definitely, because Jack and Todd still need him to cook. Jesse still has a lot of unfinished business with Walt, so he'll get away too. We got a taste of their inevitable final confrontation tonight - Walt calls Jesse a coward, Jesse spits on Walt, and passions are running high. Hank - I give him a 50/50 chance. You could still do a lot with Hank, but that phone call felt an awful lot like a goodbye. That leaves Gomez as the most likely casualty.

Next week Rian Johnson's back in the directing chair. Boy, oh boy.
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Spoilers ahead, but you knew that by now, right?

After three episodes of escalating tensions, capped off by that cliffhanger with Jesse and the gas can last week, "Rabid Dog" cooled things down a little. Sure, tensions are still running high, but this week was all about establishing where all the pieces are on the chess board are, and coming to a new status quo. The machinations of the writers are more visible, and the story briefly resembles a more conventional procedural, capped off by a great little outdoor set piece that shows off more of picturesque Albuquerque.

The first half of the hour features Walt scrambling to regain his footing in a crisis, his least Heisenbergian appearance in a while. The lies are bumbling, and they don't work. Junior assumes he's lying to cover up symptoms of the lung cancer, and an increasingly perceptive Skyler eventually gets the truth out of him. And then she demonstrates exactly how far she's broken bad – demanding that Walt go live up to his "I am the danger" pronouncement, and embrace the use of euphemisms to deal with Jesse. Though these scenes aren't nearly as showy and complicated as the last half of the hour, they're fantastic. The conversation between Walt and Junior by that ominously meth-blue hotel swimming pool made me wish the powers-that-be had given R.J. Mitte more to do before now.

Last week was all about how Jesse finally broke free of any remaining loyalty to Walter White, but this episode made clear the extent that he's still under his former partner's power. Teaming up with Hank was an expected outcome that previous episodes had set up pretty well, but Jesse has no illusions about what the DEA is capable of. After sleeping off the rage and coming face to face with Agent Gomez and a camcorder, he immediately starts doubting their plans. He knows they have no evidence and no case, and he's not keen on serving a new master when he's still trying to escape the previous one. Moreover, Hank clearly doesn't have his best interests at heart, perfectly willing to let Walt kill Jesse if it gets him the evidence he needs. Fortunately Jesse shows he's smart and paranoid enough to slip out of one of Heisenberg's traps – even if it wasn't real.

As for Walt, this is the second time Saul has suggested getting rid of someone Walt considers family and the second time that Walt has resisted. His insistence on talk over action looks increasingly foolish as events unfold. And while Jesse is terrified of reprisal for pouring gasoline all over the White's living room, Hank makes the convincing case for Walt still harboring some kind of feeling of responsibility for Jesse. Even if Hank doesn't believe it, and is just trying to get Jesse to do what he wants, Walt's actions suggest that this reasoning is correct – up until he makes that fateful call to Todd. Jesse finally poses too much of a threat to be protected, in Walt's eyes, the most significant development of the hour. Sure, Jesse cluing in Hank and Gomie keeps them in the game, but he's not really on their side. Jesse's still out for his own revenge.

The second half of the episode being told entirely from Jesse's POV perhaps signals a shift in the narrative from Walt to Walt and Jesse permanently. We now have two protagonists that are in opposition to each other, who are equally compelling. As far along as Hank has come, you really couldn't call him the equal of Walt in any sense. Jesse, however, has suddenly taken charge of his own destiny and seems to be a couple of steps ahead for once. He has the compelling history and the ties to Walt that could make him the final, and most challenging adversary Walter White has faced yet. I assumed Hank would be the last big bad of the series, but considering how far Walt has fallen, it makes sense that we've come all the way around to Jesse, the last real good guy, being the last obstacle.

Finally I want to talk about that little interlude with Marie and her therapist. Her fixation on poisons and deteriorating mental state seem to suggest that she's about to do something drastic. Or maybe she's supposed to serve as a basis of comparison to those around her – she's thinking about poisoning people, but unlike Walt she wouldn't actually go through with it. Well, for now anyway. That awkward scene where she and Jesse are on opposite ends of the hallways shows how far apart she still is from that world. I wonder if in future weeks she might start edging a little closer.

And Badger's a "Babylon 5" fan! Please let there be more fanfiction ahead.
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Spoilers for everything up through this episode. And we have some doozies this week.

Let's talk a little bit about Jesse Pinkman. The title of next week's episode is "Rabid Dog," and it's no secret anymore who that's referring to, after one of the most visceral cliffhangers that "Breaking Bad" has given us in a while. Jesse's been a passive player since he quit the business after the train heist, directionless and adrift. Tonight he's no longer passive. He's been given purpose, a reason to finally unleash his building rage. Hank tried to give him that reason, but in typical Hank fashion was too eager and too transparent. As jaded as Jesse's become about Walt, it's easy to forget that the two of them do have a long history together and Jesse is nothing if not loyal, especially against an old and familiar enemy.

And he nearly let himself be shipped off to Alaska out of that loyalty. After finally calling Walt out for "working" him, Jesse essentially forgave him for killing Mike. He once again let Walt manipulate him with a show of paternal affection and concern, in the same way Walt manipulated Junior earlier in the episode. I love that the writers got us to invest in the possibility of Jesse's escape, the most appealing option he's been given after weeks of guilty purgatory. And at the very last second, the dog abandoned at the side of the road finally put two and two together. I thought the truth about Brock (and or Jane) was going to come from Hank, but Jesse putting it together himself is far more satisfying, and turns him into a wild card with his own agenda. I think he might still team up with Hank at some point, but right now Jesse's rage is burning way too hot for him to be thinking rationally.

Aaron Paul was the MVP of the hour, the first time this season he's really been given substantial material to work with. With the beard, he looks so much older and more haggard this year, but Paul's still as intense and vulnerable as ever. I love it when he gets to play off of Bryan Cranston in Heisenberg mode, and we got one of the best of their confrontations tonight. Their relationship has been warped from the start, but it can still be touching. Bob Odenkirk was also in rare form, the closest we got to comic relief in this episode as the increasingly nervous Saul. I found it tremendously upsetting to see him on the receiving end of real violence. Even though Saul is a ratfink and an enabler for Walt, he's essentially a bystander who stays out of the action. Then again, it was a great way of upping the stakes. If Saul could end up covered in blood, anybody in this show could be next.

Hank, meanwhile, has been outmaneuvered. He strikes out yet again with a potential witness, Jesse this time, and Walt's latest tactic represents a new low that caught me by surprise. The taped confession is another narrative feint, revealed to be a threat after the stony taqueria meeting between the Whites (wearing light clothes) and the Schraders (in dark clothes). This is possibly the most frightening thing that Walt has done yet. He's not threatening to kill Hank, but to destroy his life – his reputation and livelihood – and shamelessly twisting the facts to do it. The message is clear: if Hank is willing to destroy his family, Walt's taking Hank down with him. Hank and Marie watch the video in shock, much in the same way that I'm betting most of the audience was. And of course when we see Walt, he doesn't seem bothered at all by the enormity of the lie, and I like that it's suggested that this is why his performance on the tape is so convincing. Note that it's clearly weighing on Skyler, though.

So Hank's been temporarily stonewalled while Walt deals with the immediate threat from Jesse next week. We also can't forget about Todd and Uncle Jack, who made a brief but threatening appearance at the beginning of the episode. Todd is yet another loose end that could implicate Walt in major crimes that he's forgotten about, one who is proving worryingly loose-lipped. It'll be interesting to see how this storyline ends up affecting Walt, which seems peripheral for now, but won't stay that way for long. Finally, though Walter Jr. has reappeared, he still doesn't know about Heisenberg. However, they've built up the reveal to the extent that it's got to be a major plot point in the weeks to come.

Finally, one of this week's random pop culture reference is Hello Kitty, a beloved symbol that depends on the harmonious interaction of White and Pink. That's kinda fitting, yo.
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missmediajunkie: (Default)
Spoilers for everything up through this episode! I mean it!

First, one of the reasons I love "Breaking Bad" is because it introduced us to Michelle McLaren. That wonderful, silent pre-credits sequence with the old man and the trail of money is a fantastic little mini-movie that shows off her directing skills. The desert drive with Walt, the hallucinatory digging scenes (with barrel cam!), and the trip to the giant pile of money in the storage unit also stand out as fantastic moments.

Now let's get to what happened this week. So far nearly everything I've predicted about what was going to happen episode by episode has been completely off. "Breaking Bad" keeps accelerating far faster than I think it will. So sure, I figured that Marie would find out eventually, and she and Hank would try to get Skyler to turn against Walt, but not this fast. And I certainly wouldn't have imagined that it would end with Marie turning on her sister and trying to run off with Holly. Between Hank's overzealousness and Marie's utter lack of sympathy and kleptomania, Skyler's been backed into a corner.

Now the biggest quibble I had with the episode: do Marie's actions make sense? She's the least major developed character in the whole show, and it felt like her anger and feelings of betrayal erupted out of nowhere, which I expect was by design to some extent. If you go back into earlier seasons, and all the times that Skyler and Walt lied to and endangered the Schraders, which Marie references, it does provide some explanation for the depth of Marie's hurt. Still, I can't remember Marie ever being so quick to resort to violence before – not that Marie's really been put in situations where she's gotten the chance to display such tendencies – and I'm not sure I fully buy it. Kudos to both actresses though. Best fireworks of the hour, even with the massacre in the last few minutes.

I also figured that Todd and his relatives were going to be back in charge of the meth cooking operations soon, but I didn't think they'd be seizing control so directly and so fast. Lydia continues to be a great comic figure, a ruthless operator with absolutely no stomach for the actual workings of the meth trade – the inappropriate high heels! – but is at least smart enough to make friends with the right reprobates. The same is true of Walt, who quickly sends Saul's guys to fetch the money, and then gets to re-enact the most painful parts of one of my favorite under-appreciated Stephen King short stories: "Dolan's Cadillac." He takes the money and buries it in the desert alone, and then pays the price for it physically.

I love that the show takes the time to give us a comedic interlude with a pair of minor characters, similar to last week's "Star Trek" fanfiction monologue with Skinny Pete and Badger. This time it's Huell and Kuby going Scrooge McDuck with the pile of money, and weighing the pros and cons of absconding with the stash to Mexico. As dark as the show has been getting, it's still got its sense of humor. Jesse zonked out on a playground roundabout, the awkward hug in the diner, Hank talking his way into the interrogation room, Jesse leading Lydia out of the massacre zone, and the punchline to Skyler trying to convince Walt that she's still on his side – it's black humor, but it's effective.

Now, the one thing I more or less got right was that Jesse's guilt would put him in a position to become an informant for the DEA against Walter White. The first half of the show was so emotionally charged, that even though we saw Jesse in the cold open, I completely forgot about him until Hank hears about his arrest at the DEA. It's a great bit of plotting, since much of the episode was about how Hank blows two chances at getting Skyler to cooperate, and then makes the stakes explicit in the kitchen scene with Marie. Jesse represents one more shot at redemption at the last minute for him, and at the same time he's one of "Breaking Bad's" common loose ends that will only bring more trouble for Walt.

The battle lines have been drawn – Skyler has thrown in her lot with Walt, and is now enabling his bad decisionmaking. Marie is similarly pushing Hank toward further confrontation. It was too quick, perhaps, but the momentum is so strong and the performances are good enough that I'm not too bothered by it. Jesse's a giant question mark. And as with last week, there's one major playing piece who didn't show up in this week, but will surely be pivotal in episodes to come: Walter Jr.

See you next week, assuming I don't get sent to Belize.
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missmediajunkie: (Default)
This is my first attempt at blogging specific episode write-ups for a televisions show. "Breaking Bad" only has eight episodes left, making its final half-season ideal for this experiment. Spoilers ahead for the whole show that has aired so far. Let's do this thing.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Hank would put the pieces together so quickly and we'd get a major confrontation between Hank and Walt at the end of this episode. Things had to start escalating quickly in order to get us to the flash-forward Walter White who pulls up to his destroyed family home in the pre-credits sequence and frightens the lady next door just by saying hello. That sequence promises the audience two things - first, that Walter White is going to be outed to the public as Heisenberg, his name and reputation forever tarnished, and second, that we're going to get some loose ends tied up. The biggest loose end from last year, the ricin cigarette, is retrieved from the remains of Walt's bedroom, but who is it intended for?

"Blood Money" spends most of the episode checking in with all the major players left on the board and where they stand. We pick up right where we left off with Hank in the bathroom, who is so affected by his revelation that he has a panic attack driving home. Luckily this provides him the cover to start working his new lead in private, including a new variant on the cook sequence - a case file review montage. It's also a clever way to review Walt's major crimes so far, giving us a brief look back at Gus and Gale and even the grainy surveillance video of Walt and Jesse's first methylamine heist. Hank is so tight-lipped throughout the episode, barely saying a word to Marie, enduring a frightening trip to the hospital, silent during the case file review, and evasive in the face of a newly menacing Walt. So his physical attack is a wonderful, jolting surprise. Dean Norris and Bryan Cranston get to face off in a way I wasn't expecting to see for at least a few more weeks.

After all, there were plenty of other major developments in this episode. After Badger and Skinny Pete regale us with their plans for a "Star Trek" pie-eating-contest episode (extra points for the high level of nerdy details), Jesse tries to figure out how to get rid of the five million in "blood money" Walt gave him. This leads to a quick visit with Saul, and then what may be the most important conversation that took place this week - Walt trying to persuade Jesse that Mike's still alive. Jesse is willing to agree with him, as he's agreed with Walt in so many other similar conversations over the years, but clearly he's not buying Walt's version of events. The next time Walt tries to sell him a lie, I expect Jesse's going to call him out on it. He's not quite there yet, but the guilt is getting to him. I hope we get to see the repercussions of Jesse's Robin Hood escapade next week.

Twitchy Lydia also showed up briefly, to try and entice Walt to come back to work for her, giving the Whites a chance to demonstrate their newfound loyalty to each other. Walt shows he's willing to be honest. Skyler reciprocates with a show of protectiveness. The whole car wash scene was delightful, the way Skyler was unexpectedly insightful, the spiel about complimentary coffee, and Lydia continuing to do a terrible job of keeping a low profile while conducting nefarious business negotiations. However, this also seems to telegraph that one or both of the Whites may not maintain this new status quo for much longer. Walt's empire building tendencies have shifted to new money-laundering car washes for now, but I expect him to backslide quickly.

I didn't expect Walt's cancer back so soon, but then it was worth it to allow for some big season premiere fireworks, but still keep Hank at bay. For now Walt has forced Hank into a standoff, with perhaps his smoothest and most devastating Heisenberg argument yet. Walt has been here so many times that he knows how to handle these confrontations now, and his assuredness is terrifying. The other two storylines set up in this episode are probably going to see the most progression for the next few weeks. Events are still in the early stages of being set in motion, and we've got a ways to go yet before we get to Walt and the ricin cigarette in the flash-forward.

After all, one major character was nowhere to be found in this episode: Todd. Jesse Plemmon's name is in the credits and he's all over the marketing materials so we know he's got a significant part to play this season.

Have an A1 day, everybody.
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missmediajunkie: (Default)
The new season of "Breaking Bad" is almost here, and if you haven't noticed already, the buzz is really getting to me. I'll be blogging each of the last eight episodes individually on the Mondays after they air. I figured a good way to kick the whole thing off is to write up my guesses for what is going to happen. Instead of making, small, indivudual predictions, I'm just going to take the episodes titles and corresponding vague summaries that have been released so far, and expand on those. Think of this as a mixture of fanfiction and wild speculation for your entertainment. Very fake spoilers ahead.

Episode 509 -- "Blood Money": As Walt and Jesse adjust to life out of the business, Hank grapples with a troubling lead.

That sounds self-explanatory. Walt dallies with home improvements, but becomes bored with the lack of excitement and decides to go back into the meth business after Lydia makes him an offer he can't refuse. Jesse is dealing better, growing closer to Andrea and Brock, and having gained new employment. Let's say he's taken Mike's old job at Saul's purely for the comic potential. Meanwhile, Hank grapples with how to investigate Walter and whether or not to tell Marie.

Episode 510 -- "Buried": While Skyler's (Anna Gunn) past catches up with her, Walt covers his tracks. Jesse continues to struggle with his guilt.

Are we finally going dig into the past of Skyler White? At this stage? Or is the blurb referring to Ted's death? Well, whichever it is, it means trouble for Skyler, which means trouble for the Whites. I'm guessing "Buried" refers to both literal and metaphorical items, so I predict someone from Skyler's past unexpectedly shows up - somebody inconsequential like an aunt - with the news of someone's death, revealing some old wounds. Perhaps Skyler has been left some property. Perhaps theis property is in New Hampshire. Walt is back in the meth business again, so he's lying to Skyler again. Jesse has a run-in with bicycle kid's parents, and the guilt starts eating him. He falls of the wagon, gets high, and monologues in front of Gale's tombstone.

Episode 511 -- "Confessions":Jesse decides to make a change, while Walt and Skyler try to deal with an unexpected demand.

The unexpected demand could come from several sources - Lydia and the Czechs demanding more product, Todd and his relatives demanding hush money, or maybe the remains of the cartel demainding allegiance. I'm going to go with Todd and the Aryan Brotherhood becoming the major thorn in Walt's side, at least at this point in the season. What unexpected change is Jesse making? I'm going to guess one of two things happen, maybe both. One, that he marries Andrea and makes the new family unit official, thereby upping the stakes on all of his future actions. Two, he makes an anonymous tip to the DEA that leads to him becoming an informant for Hank.

Episode 512 -- "Rabid Dog": An unusual strategy starts to bear fruit, while plans are set in motion that could change everything.

I'm going to guess we get shorter scenes in the first few episodes where Hank confirms his epiphany, and this is the point where he actively starts moving against Walt. What is the unusual strategy? I'm guessing that it refers to whatever solution Walt came up with to keep his meth empire going and his enemies at bay. Let's say he cedes control of some of the operations to Todd, perhaps setting him up as a phony kingpin as camoflauge for his own movements. Todd, of course, is not as easy for Walt to control as Jesse was, and soon Todd and his uncle and his uncle's Aryan Brotherhood friends are plotting to cut Walt out of the business.

Episode 513 -- "To'hajiilee": Things heat up for Walt in unexpected ways.

I'm looking forward to an epic power struggle between Walt and the Aryan Brotherhood that happens to coincide with a DEA raid on their operations intended to nab Heisenberg. This results in most of the Brotherhood in prison, but Walt escapes thanks to SCIENCE! and goes on the run. Let's say Todd gets away too, to keep things interesting. Marie finally finds out the truth about Walt around this point, and has to weigh warning Skyler against staying loyal to Hank. Skyler eventually learns about the raid from someone else, packs the kids in the Aztek and attempts to pick up Walt, but can't find him. So she leaves for New Hampshire (The Granite State) without him, leaving a note with Saul.

Episode 514 -- "Ozymandias": Everyone copes with radically changed circumstances.

Walter White is on the run, and finally has to come to grips with his meth empire and the rest of his life crumbling around him, like the empire of the titular Ozymandias. Lydia gets arrested, cutting off his distribution network. The cancer comes back too, because how could it not? I'm guessing this only comes up at the end of the episode, though, once it looks like Walt is out of immediate danger and on his way to join Skyler and the kids in New Hampshire. We'll also get to check in the Hank and Marie, whose relationship is in crisis in the aftermath of the raid, and Jesse, who Todd tries to shake down for Walt's location. Jesse does learn where the Whites went, either from Walt directly, or from Saul. Between working with Saul and Hank, I expect that this is roughly when Jesse finally finds out about what Walt did to Brock and/or Jane, and he passes along Walt's whereabouts to the DEA/Todd as payback.

Episode 515 -- "Granite State": Events set in motion long ago move toward a conclusion.

After a quick timeskip ahead a few months, we see how the Whites are doing in New Hampshire, perhapes getting a peek at what life might have looked like for them if Walt hadn't broken bad. Walter Jr. isn't adjusting so well, perhaps, after learning the truth about his dad. Sadly, the happy times are cut short when the Aryan Brotherhood finally tracks them down and we learn the reason for that flash-forward scene with Walt on his 52nd birthday, heading back into Albuquerque with the BFG in his trunk. My guess is that Skyler or one of the kids gets wounded or even killed in a botched ambush, prompting Walt to put the Heisenberg hat back on, and go back to New Mexico to put his enemies in the ground permanently.

Episode 516 -- "Felina": The series finale.

The long-awaited face-to-face confrontations between Walt and Jesse and Walt and Hank happen. Will Walt win? I'm going with both yes and no. He'll get the upper hand somehow, but it will be a Pyrric victory. Specifics? Oh, let's say that Jesse and Walt agree to team up one last time to take down Todd. Jesse gets a chance to kill Walt as payback, but doesn't take it, resulting in his own death. After nearly dying in the desert, Walt lets Hank arrest him, and learns that Marie left. Ironically, Walt gets out on compassionate release after only a few months, thanks to his deteriorating condition. He dies in the hospital with only a therapy cat as his final visitor. Yeah, I'm going bleak.

We'll see if this bears any resemblance to what actually happens in a few more days. Happy watching!
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