Breaking Bad's intense fifth mid-season finale reminds viewers that despite the illusion that each of us may control our destiny the hand of fate is always upon us, and that she may have other ideas.
AMC' s Breaking Bad along with Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire,& The Newsroom has delivered yet another 21 century passion play that excites thought patterns while visually thrilling millions of retinas within the mass medium which today's media critics are now calling The New Television.
The episode is titled Gliding o"er all a line from the pen of American poet Walt Whitman whose basic premise is that during our journey through this mortal coil not only do we each experience death but also in ways which perhaps we may or may not be aware of are responsible for the untimely demise of other beings on a planet which in darkest space appears blue but which may indeed be fading to grey.
Those familiar with thespian art are aware that in order to sustain the watcher's attention with written material which may be disturbing the challenge is to endow performance with essence of humanity ; this device evokes sympathetic involvement with the character.
BreBa's Executive Producer Vince Gilligan revealed this raison d'etre as writing room mantra in a 2009 interview with The Star- Ledger's Alan Sepinwall.
"You're going to see that underlying humanity, even when he's (Walter White/Heisenberg) making the most terrible devious decisions.....- so you say "All right I'll go along for this ride, I don't like what he's doing but I understand and I'll go with it as far as it goes."
Gilligan is an alumni of David' Chase's brilliant Soprano's creative team, Chase is known as a tough taskmaster who began his career as a drummer in the tough rock and roll New York City club and concert scene. After decades cutting his teeth as a screenwriter on scripts now used as teaching devices in modern media studies for hit programs such as Steven Cannell's The Rockford Files Chase was known for advising aspiring creative types;
"I'm not running a writing school here so make sure you know what you are doing before you come aboard."
It's obvious Gilligan had similar sentiments when he assigned Canadian born WGA nominee producer and actress Moira Walley-Beckett (Eli Stone) to pen this episode.
Walley-Beckett teams up with fellow Canuck and Primetime Emmy nominee helmer Michelle MacLaren (X-Files, The Walking Dead) to deliver a stunning and stellar result that blew my mind without imbibing the Honey Boo Boo Child's "go-go" juice.
Together they cleverly employ cinematic devices like flashbacks and montage to foreshadow the future while remembering the past all the while imbuing the texture of the performances with what can only be described as uniquely feminine intuition.
The overall powerful effect is not unlike Kirk Vonnegut's hapless hero Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five; the watcher hungrily devours the vid like Frito corn chips as he becomes "unstuck in Time".
The male meme presumes that human beings are "Masters Of The Universe", ; but it's also true that deep in his heart of hearts every little boy knows that after the fact your mother knows that you wet the bed.
BreBa is produced and set in Albuquerque, New Mexico. MacLaren's visual interpretation of a striking desert beauty with it's relentless unending sunshine and stifling heat juxtapositions with the lurking menace of the sinful machinations of the protagonists often scheming behind darkly lit interiors and meticulously clean environments providing a rigidly stark contrast for the watchers.
In the first season antihero Walter White (Bryan Cranston)(an Everyman) is diagnosed with incurable cancer(inevitable mortality).
As a method (transformation) to ostensibly protect his family's future (immortality through descendancy) the former high school teacher embraces the only skill that he has left, scientific knowledge of chemistry (Magic) to produce crystal methamphetamine ( false illusion of spiritual evolution).
It should be noted that if you have not yet seen this episode you may wish to discontinue reading this article as the remainder may contain "spoilers."
One of the many significant themes of this episode deals with the personality split suffered by WW who has symbolically killed himself to create an alternate identity named Heisenberg who is always capable of what Elvis Presley and the Memphis Mafia labeled "Taking Care Of Business " or TCB.
It is quite obvious as the mid season finale opens the exterior human shell which once housed both personalities is now imbalanced .
WW is dormant (sleeping) while demonic Heisenberg employs TCB techniques to eliminate what has been alluded to in past episodes as "legacy expenses".
Because the numerous identities of the legacy costs are unknown to Heisenberg and his
now unwilling co-conspirator Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) because of the "retirement" of former security chief Mike (Johnathon Banks) a reluctant holdover from the Gus Fring (Giancarlo Espesito) era of the entrepreneurial franchise who was mistakenly dispatched by a panicked WW.
In naming his anti heroes Mr Pink (man) and Mr White Gilligan sends a knowing wink to fellow auteur's Quinton Tarantino and Roger Avary's Reservoir Dogs.
Heisenberg then contacts the only source available Lydia (Laura Fraser)a seemingly physically perfect corporate power broker and single mother who is hip to the fact that if they are looking to eliminate loose ends her life is most likely also in jeopardy.
So she channels the power of the "begone dull care/greed is good" tenant of capitalist philosophy to offer an international solution to H's ongoing distribution problem, along with the source of his legacy costs.
H then uses Todd's (Jesse Plemons) familial uncle to enlists a security team who may or may not be motorcycle enthusiasts similar to the organization employed by The Rolling Stones in Altamont to clean up the security problems in a particularly brutal "music video" which rival's Oliver Stone's finale to "Scarface"
Gilligan again nod's to fellow auteur Stone as he has been often quoted as saying,
"Walter White is Scarface."
This episode also utilizes a sharp series of match-cuts to illustrate the ongoing "day in a Life" of the new cartel where the mass production of poison for profit is nefariously illustrated using the music vid genre set to Crystal Blue Persuasion which as every refugee from the 60's will recognize as a "slow dance" during the high school hop and at the time a then AM radio staple.
During the 60's there was much scrutiny of pop song lyrics as subliminal drug references.
The tempest in the teapot began with some genius on a slow news day ciphered that Peter, Paul & Mary's "Puff ,The Magic Dragon" was an allegory for cannabis use or " a trip" as it was then known.
Shondell, an acknowledged christian abstainer at the time was accused in the ensuing witch hunt that CBP along with another song he had written Crimson & Clover were designed to corrupt the youth of America; an allegation he many times publicly denounced.
It is amusing that the controversy has come full circle, and more than likely if such a product
were produced that some cunning distributor would name it after the tune.
This time around Shondell will receive a a handome publishing royalty!
As Elton John once said "Don't Shoot the Piano Player"!
But I will digress.
Enter WW's wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) and sister in law Marie(Betsy Brandt) and a decision for the White's to give the nuclear family a final go.
Skylar then reveals to H a secret that she has been keeping which magically triggers the interior death of H and the symbolic resurrection of Walter White.
To celebrate the nuclear family reunite.
Following the most memorable of family dinners WW's brother-in-law local DEA head honcho Hank Schrader( Dean Norris) makes an enlightening discovery that brings new meaning to the phrase "restroom literature".
As a result our dogged anti hero is "up to his neck in it".