Monday, 28 June 2010

Breaking Bad: Full Measure - The Only Living Chemist In New Mexico

I hate to be to enthusiastic about TV, about 85% is exactly what you think it is. Derivative and cheap entertainment that consumes your enthusiasm for humanity. A further 13% is full of shows that entertain and amuse a given audience in what we'll call a workmanlike manor. But that remaining 2%, well its doing something we've never seen before. I'd stop short of golden age, because I like to assume that to be always in the future, but when television drama, that detestable lowest of the low, is reaching such heights of intricacy, of storytelling and of greatness well, preconceptions can do what they always do and suck it.

Breaking Bad did all of these things and more in its stellar third season, which I'd call nothing less then a masterpiece of the form. The show that started an intriguing curio, a slightly ponderous and quirky enterprise, has matured into a ferocious powerhouse, so rich in character and dramatic intensity that it will be looked at 100 years from now as an example of how right this shit can really be done. And this deceptively simple finale, which drew its intensity and tragedy from character rather then situation and plot, may be the best its ever been. I've never known anything to so consistently exceed my expectations, which are pretty stratospheric at this point. Holy Fuck.

- Breaking Bad rarely explores Walt's past, generally telling our anti-hero's story from the perspective of who he is now, so it was a great trick to show us pre-Meth cook Walt in all his optimistic, happily married glory. This has always been a stylish show, but loved the identical pan through Walt's house then and Walt's house now. He is simultaneously a ghost of his former self and more then he ever was. Depends on your perspective I guess.

- I loved how this episode expanded the universe. Breaking Bad has generally kept things quite contained in terms of personnel, So I loved spending more time with Gus, Mike and Gale this week. It gave great layering to some of the shows minor players. With the possible exception of Marie, there's not a character on this show that isn't ridiculously well-rounded.

- The opening sequence featuring Walt's peace talks with Gus looked fucking awesome. Some real neo-western iconography up in that shit guys. Loving it. Also featured some great value Cranston, nailing the shit out of Walt's don't kill the pragmatist speech.

- I appreciated that Gus didn't buy it though, and made the decision to get rid of Walt once and for all. It would have been a Dexter style cop-out if he had done, and its the kind of thing this show always avoids. Which is part of what makes it so great.

- I love when the show enters 'that was fucking awesome' territory, and Mike the Cleaner rinsing the cartel scouts was certainly that. Jonathan Banks has really made himself an important part of this show in the last couple of weeks. Its such a wonderfully likable yet brutal performance. Great stuff.

- Similarly, props must go to David Costibile for some seriously great work in this episode. I loved him as Gale earlier in the season, and was slightly irritated when he was dropped from the show quietly, but seeing this I get it now. It's amazing how seeing someone sing along in perfect harmony to Quartetto Cetra makes them a much more relatable a character. But Costabile made Gale a genuinely sympathetic presence, a gentle, cultured human being who sure didn't deserve what he got.

- And how he got what he got. If that wasn't the most emotionally charged moment of dramatic tragedy in recent television history, then I'm not seeing some really good shows. Walt's deduction that the only way to save himself from Gus hand is to kill Gale, his other chemist and essentially force Gus to forgive him, in order to keep production from stopping.

- The fact that it came to Jesse, who despite his own protests is very much the innocent of this show. Is forced to kill this man, who is in the grander scheme of things an innocent, which is worse then anything Walt has ever done. Walt's killed people sure, but they were bad guys, Jesse had to look this sweet, harmless man in the face as he pleaded for his life and end it, and no doubt that innocence and basic morality that he's never been able to shake. It was horrifying because of how much it mattered. Aaron Paul is the shit this season, another emmy nomination is surely due.

- " I saved you're life, can you save mine?"

- Cranston got to pull off his very own John Turturro this week, and manically beg for his life in the face of Mike, one by one giving up all things that mattered so greatly to him. When he gave up Jesse, I thought it was for real, rather then the gambit it turned it to be, and boy was that some great acting. Cranston equals god of acting. End of.

- A truly sublime piece of television, that rose to the heights that it did perhaps because of its simplicity. Walt and Jesse have been through a lot together, to the point that Walt is all that Jesse has, and he's willing to sacrifice his innocence for his friend, and Walt is willing to let him do it. That final shot was as heart-breaking and stark as they come.

- Breaking Bad is a show about consequences as much as anything else, and it seems after this finale, neither one of these characters can ever be the same again. They are steadily being consumed by what they're becoming.

Rating: 10/10

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