Breaking Bad in the Movies, on TV, and in Music

Bryan Cranston at the Academy Awards this past weekend

Cranston at the Academy Awards this past weekend

Bryan Cranston, aka Walter White, has had a very busy weekend.

Many of us might have noticed him at the Oscars this past Sunday for his major role in the movie Argo, which won the coveted best picture award as well as best adapted screenplay. In the film, Cranston played CIA manager Jack O’Donnell. In reading the script for the Argo, Cranston said that “It all starts with the written word and when actors read something that’s this intense and descriptive and visceral, we gravitate to it.”

This isn’t the first time however that Cranston has been involved in a best picture level movie. In 2007, in fact, he played a supporting role in Little Miss Sunshine, which was also a best picture nominee.

In addition to his major role in Argo, Cranston narrated the Discovery Channel’s one –hour special, titled “ARGO: Inside Story,” which aired this past weekend about the real-life events behind the movie. This special is an update to the Discovery Channel’s 2002 original broadcast documenting the event, and it is only fitting that they brought in Cranston to add his narration to it.

heisenbergNot only has Cranston touched the media of movies and television recently, but also the medium of music. According to Rolling Stone, wildly popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM) group Above and Beyond has released a preview of their upcoming and long-awaited new mix, Anjunabeats Vol. 10., with one of the most buzzed about tracks being titled, “Walter White.” At many of their recent promotional concerts for the new release, the British trance group has referenced the Breaking Bad show while playing the track. “This one goes out to Walter White…aka Heisenberg,” announced Tony, one of the members of the trio, to a crowd of thousands of fans a few weeks ago. As we know, Heisenberg is the name Walt uses in his drug dealing business. Many fans have expressed their excitement that Above and Beyond has drawn a connection from the show to their music, even if it is just through the title. It’s another win for Breaking Bad.

Season 2, Episode 4: Down

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Jesse at the end of his rope

The title of the episode really captures where the characters are at right now in their lives; “down.” I think this episode has been one of the darkest that I have seen so far, in that the characters are dealing with the intense repercussions from their actions. Even though no drug dealing occurs in this episode, the events and issues that the characters struggle with are probably the most dangerous, because they deal with the individual demons of each character, and the volatile relationships between each of them.A recurring theme in this season, as we see in this particular episode, is the tattered pink teddy bear. Just like the season premiere, the episode opens with a black-and-white scene where we see the pink teddy bear as the only colored object floating in a swimming pool. This time, however, we get to see a bit more of the scene as a person in a hazmat suit scoops the bear out of the pool and places it next to a number of items in plastic evidence-like bags laid out in a line. The last item in the line is a pair of glasses that eerily look like those that belong to Walt. This extra clue into this scene only prompts more guesses into what this foreshadowing might mean for the rest of the season.

In my previous post about the season premiere, I had guessed that the teddy bear would end up being a present to Walt’s unborn baby, and that he would use the bear to smuggle drugs and further conflict his two different lives. Now, however, as we see the man in the hazmat suit, it seems that the teddy bear might be a part of something even more sinister and unpredictable. Maybe the bear still does come as a present to Walt’s child, but lands in the pool as a result of a meth lab explosion. Could members of Walt’s family be hurt or even killed if a scenario like this happens in the season? I can’t wait to find out.

As I mentioned in my first post about the season 2 premiere, this teddy bear shares similar connections with the legendary “girl in red” from Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. Both the teddy bear and little girl are the only objects shown in color in the black-and-white scenes they are shown in. Both seem to be ominous symbols, as the teddy bear is tattered, missing an eye, and being handled by a man in a hazmat suit, while the girl in red is seen at the end of the movie lying in a pile of corpses.

Just in this episode alone we see how dark the situations have gotten for the main characters. Jesse is kicked out of his aunt’s house by his parents, who basically disown him. As he desperately tries to call his friends for a place to stay, he comes to realize that no one is truly there for him. Jesse sees that the one friend who does offer to let him stay has completely moved on from the life that Jesse leads. He has a nice house, a beautiful wife and son, and is a committed father. When his friend is forced by his wife to retract his offer of letting Jesse crash for a few days, Jesse peacefully leaves, jokingly saying how his friend’s life must suck. Truly, this is a life that Jesse could have possibly had if he had not gotten involved in drugs. Jesse finds that he is completely alone. His motorcycle bike is stolen as a hobo looks on saying that “that sucks.” Jesse is looking into the face of someone he might soon become. After falling through a port-a-potty and breaking into his old trailer. Jesse hysterically cries himself to sleep wearing one of his gas masks to cover the smell of himself. He has hit one of his lowest points in the series so far.

Walt is also at one of his lowest points. Although he tries to make up for what he has done to his family by cooking big breakfasts and offering to take Skyler out, his family, and particularly Skyler, have turned their backs on him. Skyler barely speaks to him, often leaving the house and just saying she is going “out” with no hint to where she is going. Walt has tried to explain why Skyler thought he had a second cellphone, to which Skyler simply walks out of the house and drives away. Walt Jr has taken on the nickname “Flynn” instead of going by his father’s name, which is something that Walt takes offense to immediately.

skylerThe tension really comes to a head when Walt asks Skyler to talk to him. They sit on opposite ends of the couch as Walt tries to deliver a “sincere” apology for his actions over the course of his cancer diagnosis. To this, Skyler acknowledges Walt’s apology but has no reply and asks if that is all. It’s clear that this apology has done nothing to change Skyler’s disgust for her husband. To this, Walt blows up, begging Skyler to ask him the questions she is holding back. He swears that he is not having an affair, but Skyler is clearly past this point, to Walt’s dismay. She is on to Walt. She knows there is something going on. She looks Walt straight in the eye and asks him to tell her what has been going on. Walt stares straight-faced back at her and denies that there is anything going on. This is a huge breaking point for the two of them. For a second, I thought Walt might just confess to her…it was that clear that not doing so might finally end their relationship. It seems as if Walt has finally picked the money and drugs over his family.

As Skyler begins to leave the house after this confrontation, Walt runs outside and sees Jesse’s trailer, which he stole from the tow lot, outside his house. He lets Skyler drive away, and he furiously confronts Jesse for coming to his house. It gets so intense between them that they begin physically fighting, with Jesse nearly choking Walt to death. Jesse stops and the two lay on the floor of the trailer panting.

Walt then invites Jesse into his house, where he gives him half of his money and even offers Jesse breakfast. It seems that the most stable relationship that Walt and Jesse have in their lives is with each other. The drug dealing has made it so that everyone in Walt and Jesse’s life have turned away from them, so that now all they truly have is each other. It is a very interesting and complicated dynamic between them. One of the things I am really looking forward to on the show is how their relationship develops for the future. Will they remain partners and even friends? Even after Jesse nearly kills Walt, the two seem to continue where they left off, and even seem more affectionate to one another. Maybe they have both realized how alone they really are now in the world, and look to each other for some type of companionship, even if it is just through drug dealing.

In the last scene of the episode, we see Skyler hesitantly lighting a cigarette. Skyler, who has seemed to be one of the most responsible and rational characters on the show, has also reached her lowest point. Always putting the needs of her unborn baby first, we see her succumb to her stress and depression over the situations with her family. As she takes her first drag from the cigarette, we instantly see the pain vanish from her face, and she thoroughly enjoys her break from the world. The last person we thought that would hit near rock bottom officially has.

Season 2, Episode 3: Bit By A Dead Bee

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Having just barely escaped from not only Tuco’s wrath but also Hank’s detection, Walt and Jesse bury their gun and set out into the desert. As Walt hitches a ride for himself, Jesse asks him if he thinks his next, and apparently elaborate, plan to return to his family will work. Walt responds that it will, although we do not know any details of this plan yet. In the next scene, however, things become almost a little bit too clear. Walt ventures into a supermarket, takes all of his clothes off, and walks around naked making it look like he is in a stupor.

bb-episode-203-photos-590-284x184Next thing we see is Walt in the hospital, looking at a painting on the wall of a woman standing on the shore with her children, waving goodbye to her husband rowing away on a boat. Then, Skyler and Walt Jr. walk in and have an emotional reuniting with Walt.  This painting will serve as an important constant and theme in the episode, and will be focused on again two other times.

Meanwhile, Jesse stakes out his house with a friend while the cops search the perimeter of his home. Since Jesse’s car was at Tuco’s house at the time of the shootout, the DEA suspects that he is tied to Tuco’s drug ring in some way.  Once the police leave, Jesse and his friend go into his house and clear out all the meth lab equipment and store it in another location until the heat is off him. All though this process, we see Jesse slowly starting to unravel. His stress level is obviously through the roof, and he can barely keep calm for more than a minute. Now with the evidence of the meth lab out of his house, Jesse instructs his friend to call the DEA from a payphone and tell them of his location at a motel. Now, Jesse wants to get caught by the police so that they will bring him in for questioning and clear his name from the incident, as well as any trails that could end up leading to Walt.

At the motel, Jesse hangs out in a room with a prostitute named Wendy. While Wendy snorts drugs, Jesse waits nervously and feverishly as he knows that the DEA are about to bust in through the door at any second. When they do, Hank snidely greets him and takes him in for questioning.

In the next scene, we are shown the painting from the hospital for the second time. While Walt briefly looks at the picture, we see that he is being evaluated by a psychiatrist. Walt tries to assure him that he is fine, but the psychiatrist firmly states that they have to determine what it is that caused the “episode of amnesia” so that it will not occur again. After failing to dissuade the psychiatrist from pursuing the matter, Walt decides to confess about the faked episode because this information is protected under patient confidentiality. He tells the psychiatrist that he had simply just needed to get away from everyone, and that is why he faked having amnesia. When the psychiatrist asked why he ran, Walt lists all of the reasons why his life is so depressing: his illness and impending death, his son’s cerebral palsy, his family’s financial troubles, their unexpected baby on the way, his teaching job that he is extremely overqualified for, and all of his colleagues surpassing him in every way. After this, Walt replies, “And you ask why I ran?”

Back at DEA headquarters, Hank has brought in Tuco’s wheelchair bound uncle to help identify Jesse as being involved in Tuco’s drug ring. With only the use of a bell to communicate, the old man glares hatefully at Jesse for trying to kill his nephew. Jesse fears he is done for. To his surprise, however, the old man does not identify Jesse as knowing Tuco, and Jesse is subsequently released. Jesse calls his dad, telling him he is zeroing in on a job doing data entry and asking for a ride. His dad says he is too busy, so Jesse instead goes to the waffle house with Wendy the prostitute.

Back at the hospital, Walt gets a call from Jesse, who updates him on everything that happened. He also tells him that the DEA confiscated the over 60 grand of Jesse’s drug money that he had left in his car at Tuco’s house. When Walt says they need to get back to cooking, Jesse is surprised and asks, “You seriously still want to cook?” Walt replies, “What has changed Jesse?” and hangs up. Even after everything he has been through with his life and family being in danger as well as being severely close to being exposed, Walt’s focus is still on cooking more meth in order to keep making more and more money. At this point, it is absolutely clear that Walt’s values have completely become centered on money, rather than his worried family.

ep-3-4That night, Walt remembers that he left all his drug money in a box of diapers in the baby’s room at his house. Worried that Skyler might uncover this, he breaks out of the hospital and sneaks into his house. After hiding the money behind an air vent, a light goes on in the hallway and Skyler sleepily walks by into the kitchen. As she pours herself a bowl of cereal, Walt Jr. also walks into the kitchen and asks if she is alright. She is clearly very upset and stressed, and they comfort each other as Walt watches from behind the door of the baby’s room. This sad scene serves as a foreshadowing for Walt of what his family is going to be like without him, even though now, as Walt has not been very present within the family as it is. Upset by this, Walt sneaks back out of the house and goes to a bus stop, where he sees one of his “Missing” posters that Skyler had put up. He gets on an empty bus and stares sadly out the window, seeming to reflect on what he has done to his family because of his actions.

Walt sneaks back into his hospital room, roughly jabbing the IV needle into his skin like a small punishment to himself. Then, he looks back at the painting for the third and final time in the episode. As the wife and children in the painting wave goodbye to the husband as he rows away in his boat, Walt to will soon have to say goodbye to his family. As Walt becomes more and more distant from them, it seems that he has already begun this process of his departure from their lives.

The next day, as Walt is being released from the hospital, Hank stops by to see how he is. He shows Walt and Walt Jr. the gift that his fellow agents gave him for taking down Tuco: a glass casing of Tuco’s silver grill. While Walt shudders at this, Walt Jr. is fascinated by the whole DEA operation. Standing side-by-side, Hank and Walt Jr. look more like father and son than Walt and Walt Jr. do.

Finally arriving home, Walt announces how glad he is to be back. Later that night, Walt makes a joke about his naked episode of amnesia. In bed, Walt turns to Skyler and says, “I’m still here. I’m still me.” At this, Skyler confronts him about the second cellphone, which Walt denies. She turns over, shuts off the light, and goes to sleep. Walt, who had leaned in to kiss her, does the same.

Season 2, Episode 2: Grilled

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ep2As we could have expected, Walt and Jesse’s escape from Tuco was simply wild. The episode starts off with Jesse’s red car bouncing up and down, an image that is also shown again at the end of the episode. The plot starts off with Hank debriefing his DEA team about their raid on Tuco’s drug hideout, where they were able to nab nearly all of Tuco’s drug partners, but no Tuco himself. Hank pumps up his team getting them to cheer “Hell Yeah!” that they are going to catch Tuco, while Hank admits to his partner when he walks out of the room that they are never going to find him. Meanwhile, Hank is also committed to finding Walt, who has officially “gone missing” as far as his family members know.

Hank goes to meet with Skyler and Walt Jr. at their house to talk to a private investigator who will try to locate Walt. As Skyler explains her last encounters with Walt before he disappeared, she mentions that the last thing he did before he abruptly left during their conversation in the bathroom was get a phone call which he did not answer. Hank and the private investigator walk outside and discuss that it’s possible that Walt may have a second cellphone. They agree to investigate this detail further, as having another cellphone that your family doesn’t know about is not usually a good sign when that person suddenly goes missing.

We then see Walt and Jesse panting and sweating as they are trapped inside the trunk of Jesse’s red car that was shown in the opening scene of the episode. In a daze, Walt imagines that Skyler has opened the trunk as she looks down at him smiling saying “I understand.” Yeah…let’s hope that’s how she reacts when she finds out what’s been going on, Walt. Coming to his senses, Walt realizes that it is Tuco that has opened the trunk and he pulls him out and throws him on the ground, while Jesse yells and threatens Tuco.

ep-2-5Eventually the three of them end up at Tuco’s house, where his crippled elderly uncle resides and communicates only with a bell that is attached to his wheelchair. Tuco tells Walt and Jesse to empty their pockets, which is when Walt calmly and cautiously pulls out what might possibly be their only way out of their dangerous situation—the risin. Tuco grabs Walt and asks if he can trust him. He then mentions how all his friends have been caught by the DEA raid, except for Gonzo, who he has also not been able to reach by phone. Though we know this is because Gonzo is dead after he got pinned between two cars while trying to dispose of their crew member that Tuco had beaten to death, Tuco is convinced that this is because Gonzo ratted him and his crew out to the DEA. He then goes on a rampage about how betrayed he feels by Gonzo, stabbing his knife repeatedly into a cutting board as he describes how he is going to cut out Gonzo’s heart. This terrifies Walt and Jesse as they too await what their fate might be at the hands of Tuco. After calming down, Tuco explains his plan to bring Walt to Mexico with him and set him up in a large facility where he will be able to cook tons of meth for them to sell. He makes it clear that Jesse is an expendable member of this operation, and he might kill him at any minute since he is not needed for the cooking. In an effort to save him, Walt makes it clear that he needs Jesse as a business partner in the operation.

When Tuco says that he needs to get high, Jesse pushes him to snort the risin, which he markets to him as their new product with a special ingredient. Right as Tuco is about to snort the risin, he asks what the special ingredient is. As Jesse smiles excitedly and says that it is chili powder, Tuco’s face drops and he says that he hates chili powder, throwing the risin (and Walt and Jesse’s hopes) on the ground.

Meanwhile, Skyler, Hank and Marie are conversing about Walt’s disappearance. Marie blabs to Skyler about Walt’s second cellphone and the group continues to try to unravel the mystery surrounding Walt’s actions. Marie suggests that maybe Walt is “addicted” to marijuana after using it for therapy and possibly owes a lot of money to his drug dealer. Hank decides to visit Jesse’s mom and ask about his whereabouts. She says that she has spoken to him in months and has no information for Hank. In what will turn out to be a life-saving move for Walt and Jesse, Hank asks if Jesse still owns his red car, which his mother confirms. Hank runs calls an agent to find the location of the car.

Back at Tuco’s place, there have now been two failed attempts to poison Tuco, one by trying to get him to snort the risin and the other by putting it in his food which Tuco’s seemingly unresponsive uncle manages to foil. Tuco, after finding this out, begins beating Jesse and is about to kill him when Jesse hits him with a rock and manages to grab his gun and shoot him in the stomach. As Tuco lies bleeding but still alive, the Walt and Jesse see a car coming, thinking it is his cousins. They hide in the yard, as none other than Hank pulls his SUV into Tuco’s driveway. As Tuco gets up and faces Hank. The two have a shoot-out and Hank kills Tuco. Walt sees Hank emerge from the shoot-out and instantly gets up and runs away, with Jesse following behind him. The episode ends with the eerie dinging of the bell from the uncle’s wheelchair. Once again, Walt has managed to not only survive, but continue to keep his drug life a secret.

Season 2, Episode 1: Seven Thirty-Seven

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This episode, entitled “Seven Thirty-Seven” after the $737,000 Walt still needs to fully support his family, opens with a grim black-and-white scene of an eyeball floating in what appears to be the White’s family pool. The eyeball slowly makes it way into the pool filter, and we see that (thankfully) it is not a human eyeball but one belonging to a pink teddy bear also floating in the pool. The teddy bear is the only object shown with color in the scene, similar to the movie Schindler’s List in which the red coat of a young girl is only colored object shown in the mainly black-and-white movie. From what I’ve read about the future episodes of the show, this pink teddy bear will serve as a recurring theme through the coming seasons. I am definitely looking forward to finding out what this tattered pink teddy bear has to do with Walt’s drug deals or his family. My first guess was that it would come as a present to Walt’s future baby, but that he would have to end up using it to smuggle drugs, further conflicting his two very distinct lives as a family man and drug dealer. That might be too obvious, however, and I have learned that you can never really predict anything with Breaking Bad, so we will see where this goes.

Next, during a drug deal with Tuco, Walt and Jesse watch him mercilessly beat one of the members of his crew for speaking out of turn. This ultimately leads to the man’s death, of which Walt and Jesse are witnesses. When Walt returns home, he is noticeably shaken by the event and cannot hide his feelings from Skyler. He is so out of it that he begins to force himself on her and only snaps out of it when she screams and hits her head on the refrigerator, smearing her avocado mask on the door. After Walt stops and goes outside, Skyler confronts him, relatively calmly, saying he cannot take out his pain and frustration from his illness on her. This is the point where I think to myself, “Skyler…wake up.” Although Walt has been pretty good at hiding exactly what it is that he is involved in, he has not been able to hide the sheer fact that he is constantly out of the house at places unknown to her all the time. That fact that she has not angrily or hysterically confronted Walt yet, followed him, or simply sat him down and asked “No, seriously, where the hell have you been?!” is confusing and annoying to me. I’m waiting for her to have more of a reaction to what is going on.

In one of the next scenes, this reaction finally occurs…but not with Walt. When Hank comes over unannounced asking Skyler to call her sister back and that Marie really needs support for her stealing problem, she snaps. She yells sarcastically that, yes, Marie is the one who really needs the support, not herself for dealing with her late pregnancy, Walt’s illness, as well as his recent mysterious and distant behavior. She goes on about this while Hank just stares back at her speechless…Finally. Nice job, Skyler. Now, why don’t you go figure out why your husband is acting so weird and creepy! I think it’s about time.

Back to Walt and Jesse- After seeing Tuco murders his crew member, Jesse decides to buy a gun. He tells Walt that they have to kill Tuco before he kills them for being witnesses to the murder. Walt asks Jesse how exactly he plans to kill Tuco. Jesse lays out an ill-conceived plan, realizing that he can’t even open the gun to see how many bullets it holds. Later, Walt comes back with another plan of poisoning Tuco with ricin, and they decide to go with this idea.

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While Hank is at a crime scene, he sends Walt a picture where it looks as if Tuco murdered his other crew member who was present at the drug deal. Walt and Jesse think that this means they are definitely next on Tuco’s list, so they split up and both plan to leave town. Jesse grabs his stash of money and drives off, while Walt goes home. He finds Skyler and is about to confess to her about the danger they are in, when he sees headlights outside. He abruptly leaves Skyler mid-conversation and walks outside, seeing Jesse in the front seat of his car. Walt asks him what he is doing there, then sees Tuco in the backseat with a gun. Tuco orders Walt to get in the car, and they drive off. The episode ends and we are left wondering how Walt and Jesse are going to survive this one. When Walt thought Tuco was coming for them, he took Jesse’s gun to protect his family, but then hid it in a box of diapers in his house…meaning that, as far as we know, neither Jesse or Walt have a gun on them. I didn’t catch if Walt had the risin with him, so perhaps if he does they can use this to kill Tuco. Either way, I’m sure Walt and Jesse’s showdown with Tuco will be just as crazy and unpredictable as everything else that happens in this show. Breaking Bad has so far delivered.