Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Breaking Bad: Bullet Points - Make Sure To Really Hit The Cancer

Don't forget the dipping sticks.

- I think the most exciting thing about Television as a form of story-telling is that it has an in-built allowance for you to go off the map. There's the bigger picture, the mandate of what usually do, and what the audience expects of you. None of these elements can be ignored or passed over, but the exciting part comes in finding ways to expand on what an episode of your show can be. Breaking Bad has gradually become a show more deeply immersed in its plot, these experimentations and permeations on what is usually done are more vital for the show now then ever, considering that we are fast approaching the endgame. And Bullet Points, while not as notably rebellious as say 'Fly' or 'Four Days Out', was a subtler spin on the status quo, but one that was every bit as interesting.

- Bullet Points seem to take on directly how an episode of Breaking Bad is structured. There's the teaser, and then the A plot, the B plot and the C plot and usually runners involving minor characters and they usual play out in tandem throughout the episode. This creates a sense of forward motion in a way that best suits this show, because the simultaneous escalation of events, however unrelated help to ratchet up the tension. This is nothing new. What Bullet Points did was plays things out in segments, and the 4 stories of the episode, Skylar and Walt convincing Hank and Marie over the gambling story, Walt discovering Hank is onto Gale, Walt trying to find a way to save Jesse from himself and Gus deciding what to do about Jesse's slide into nihilism, came one after another, making each feel like it's own contained story, as opposed to the accumulative narrative the show usually goes for.

- It's episodes like this that make you realize how incredibly important structure is to a show like this, and how different these moments feel when played at a slower pace. It's not like Bullet Points didn't do its share of heavy lifting in terms of the plot, but playing out without cutaways made each sequence feel more significant, and have a great sense of gravitas. The opening scene of Walt and Skylar discussing just how they were going to tell their story to their family was a fantastic piece of writing, that seemed to both seemed to let you know how awesome it was and yet felt entirely organic. Seemed to serve as a great acting setpiece for Anna Gunn, giving a performance so much better than everyone seems to think, and a great comedic setpiece for Cranston, who hasn't got to be this funny on Breaking Bad for a while.

- The moment where he looked sarcastically down at his feet at Skylar's instruction was particularly choice.

- The moment where Walter apologized to Skylar for all he'd put her through and then took it back under the pretense of rehearsal was COLD-BLOODED. But awesome.

- The Dinner sequence was a bit more sporadic. Dean Norris continues to do some incredible work, but a couple of things felt a little too on the nose here. The video of Gale singing Karaoke was probably much funnier in conception or possibly in a different cut, but Walt's somber reaction didn't allow me to laugh at it because, as ridiculous as it was, this was a good-hearted man who Walt had by proxy killed, and that made it get stuck in a sort of awkward place between funny and tragic.

- Similarly the scene in which Hank and Walt go over Gale's notebook, was a little hit and miss. The tension it tried to play out of the moment didn't really work, in spite of its cleverness and the moving way Hank mourned the fact that he never got to put the cuffs on Heisenberg. I liked the Walt Whitman resolution to the W.W Problem (Call-Backs are the best aren't they) its just when the music went up and we were supposed to feel that Walt was in the shit, well I never quite bough that. Great scene otherwise though.

- As is the tendency these days, things began to kick up a gear once the episode became about Jesse, who after being absent for the episodes first half, became its lead in the second. It's pointless to say because every time you do, the subsequent week just makes you redundant, but Aaron Paul did some of his best work in the series to date in this episode. Just the sense of brokenness, the way he showed that Jesse has reached a point where he no longer gives a crap about anything. Emmy all over.

- The scene in which Walt forced him to reenact his murder of Gale step by step, was both a perfect example of how little Walt gives a shit about Jesse's actual soul or feelings, and a moment of incredible intensity from Paul.

- Matched by the way he called Mike's bluff on murdering the hobo who jacked him was awesome, both because it was a moment where Jesse got to be smarter than Mike, and also because it showed how fearless he is at this point. As Mike drives him off to some unknown destination at the end of the episode, you believe that he doesn't care, and we probably comes to the end of the Jesse falls apart narrative.

It's been fun, and some seriously great stuff from Paul, the second episode of this year is amongst my favorites of the whole run and this year it's hard to say that the show's lead isn;t Aaron Paul .

- A small moment of Gus, who hasn't appeared since his tour-de-force in the premiere. His absence has been used well. This a paranoid ass season.

- I believe Walt Jr had two scenes in this one instead of the usual one. Hit the big time.

- Almost forgot to mention, but that was a mind-melting teaser. A terrific reverse-expectation action scene, ending with a moment of gore to shoot for the cheap seats. Mike's annoyance at getting part of his ear shot off is the funniest thing that's ever happened in this show genius.

- An intriguing experiment in episodic structure, and perhaps something that non-writer nerd might find distracting as opposed to rewarding, but this kind of stuff is right in my wheelhouse, an experiment that added to the development of the big picture as opposed to detract from it, with an increased focus on character and less on pace. Nifty

Rating: 8/10

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