Archive | 11:00 pm

Breaking Bad – Season 4, Episode 1

2 Aug

I’m going to do my own little Breaking Bad recaps here, and since it’s just the third week now, I’m going to run back and give my take on the first two episodes of the fourth season so there’s some sense of full-season completion.

Season 4, Episode 1 – Box Cutter

I wouldn't want to be the guy on the right

Here’s something that Breaking Bad does well.  It takes a situation which could easily be boring and predictable and makes it exciting and tense. In this case, the circumstances at the end of the third season and the beginning of the fourth, where the writers have painted themselves into a corner.  Walt and Jesse’s lives are in extreme danger, yet they can’t kill Walt or Jesse this early in the show’s run without dramatically changing the show.  There is a situation that should have high tension, but you already know how it’s going to end; Gus needs Walt to run his meth lab, and Walt, in turn, says he needs Jesse – and the two of them live.

Even though you know what’s going to happen,  Breaking Bad does a great job of making this predictable set of consequences feel both incredibly tense and completely natural. Based on everything we know about these characters and the circumstances they’re stuck in, this feels like the outcome that would come of it.  Gus needs Walt, as it’s been clearly established that without this lab running at capacity all the time, it’s a giant money sink, which Gus can’t afford.

On top of this, when the show ends, even though the immediate tension of the third season finale has been extinguished, as Walt is no longer less than a minute away from dying, the long-term fourth season tension has been set up. Whenever Gus finds a new cook, which could take a long time, but might not, Walt and Jesse are finished, and they have just that amount of time to figure out a plan.

The episode features a fantastic edge of your seat scene. Gus angrily, but calmly, comes downstairs to the lab to deal with Walt and Jesse after finding out Gale is dead, and then kills Victor, who is trying to prove that Walt is unnecessary by cooking the meth himself.  Gus murders Victor in the most cold-hearted manner, silently with a box cutter as Walt, Jesse and Mike look on.  The exact purpose of the kill is unclear; there are a couple of different possible reasons.  Gus may be punishing Victor for getting seen at Gale’s apartment, or he may be sending a message to Walt and Jesse, telling them that they’re this close to death themselves.  Likely, it’s a combination.  The scene gives us a new appreciation for Gus’s cold business sensibility.  Gus’s murder of Victor was at the least disturbing, maybe borderline sociopathic, and even Mike seemed shocked by the sheer manner of the kill.  Watching Gus clean himself off afterwards was priceless.

The scene ended with a nice touch, showing Jesse and Walt using chemicals to destroy the body.  Mike, looking on, asks if they’re sure their method will work. Jesse and Walt assure Mike that it will, showing us an example of how chemistry and Walt can be as dangerous in its own way as Mike’s time-tested methods.

The police investigate Gale’s murder and we get a tight shot of Gale’s notebook, where Gale stores his notes on the meth-making progress (Gale has always been a diligent student).  Walt will be squeezed from both sides this season.  With Gus coming at him from one side, and the police from the other, the question for the rest of the season is who will get to him first?

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – Honorable Mentions

2 Aug

Ranking the Shows That I Watch

As you may or may not know/realize, I watch a lot of TV.  34 programs in fact, I’ve watched a season of in the past 12 months.  I’d taken it on myself to rank these shows, starting at 34 to 1.  First, however, a look at:

Shows That Came Close But Didn’t Make the Cut

Some brief mentions to shows that, for various reasons, almost made it but didn’t:

I want to watch these soon, but haven’t yet:

Cool jackets, but is the skeleton a bit much?

Sons of Anarchy – I read almost nothing but good things, Ron Perlman is just about always awesome, and it comes from the creator of the Shield, another extremely buzzworthy show I’ve never seen.  Compared to The Shield, this has fewer seasons, making it much faster to watch, and my motorcycling friend watches it and I’m eager to talk with him about it.

Treme – It’s created by David Simon, and it has Bunk and Lester Freeman from The Wire. Oh, and Anthony Bourdain is responsible for writing the restaurant sequences. Do I really need anything else? It’s actually good that I don’t, because aside from the people and the great reviews, the intrinsic plot doesn’t sound all that interesting, at first glance anyway.  I’m sure I’ll regret saying that when I’ve watched it, though.

Men of a Certain Age – I didn’t know what to make of this show when it debuted on TNT, but since then I’ve read nothing but good reviews, and heard nothing but good things. I appreciate that it seems to be a concept and an age range that hasn’t been explored as much, and I’ve loved Andre Braugher ever since Homicide: Life on the Streets.  (Update:  sadly, it’d been cancelled – still, I’ll watch the two seasons that exist.)

I’ve seen these intermittently but not enough to rank them:

Fry and friends

Futurama – I’ve kept up here and there with the new episodes – the quality isn’t quite high enough to draw me in to watch it week in and week out, but I have enough fondness for the show to turn it on when I see it, and since it’s Comedy Central, repeats are not infrequent.

Family Guy – It’s crazy to believe that this show, which was cancelled for a couple of years, is now going on its tenth season. I can’t say that the show is perfect by any means, but what I can say is, due to its disjointed, flashback, plot-light nature, even a bad episode is likely to have two or three hilarious parts. That said, I watch it just here and there and on repeats.

Louie – Allow me to be the one out of the loop for a minute. I watched a few episodes of this last year. It was all right. There were some funny parts, and some not so funny parts. Yet, everywhere I read, the show was a work of true comic genius. I think he’s a decent comic for sure – but in the biz he seems to be regarded as the best, and not close. I’ll try it again, but maybe it’s just not my thing.

I watched these shows, but they ended just before the arbitrary cut off I made for this list:

Are we having fun yet?

Party Down – I’ll be honest, I really just added this section to give a much-needed shout out to Party Down, possibly my favorite show of the last five years, which has a critical acclaim to ratings ratio of infinite (or more like not computable – since the ratings were 0, and we all know you can’t divide by that). It didn’t help that absolutely nobody has Starz. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now.  It’s on Netflix streaming and DVD.

24 – I was an early adapter to this show when it started, and it will always have a warm place in my heart, but I was a bit tired of it by the end, and I watched only occasionally. That said, even though I was no longer a regular, I still have good feelings towards it, and don’t think it became so terrible or anything, just a little repetitive and lower down on my priority list.

Lost – I was also just about finished with this show by its last season, but with much different feelings than 24 gave me – anger, confusion, and frustration chief among them. I didn’t even watch most of the last season, constantly meaning to catch up but also constantly realizing I didn’t want to; I finally consented to read Wikipedia entries about the episodes and realized how glad I was that I didn’t watch the season.