The Atlantic Wire has turned to two recappers who've never seen Breaking Bad before to put fresh eyes on what some have called the best show on television. Here's what the show looks like to them.
Last night's episode offered a little bit of clarity and a whole lot of questions. (One of which, "Am I under arrest?", was the hashtag standout of the night.) I was relieved to finally figure out that Skyler was aware of Walter's criminal activities — this had been frustratingly unclear. But my biggest question was — and my colleague Philip will expound on this more—why was everyone whispering so much? Why couldn't I hear what they were saying in that clearly super important bathroom scene? Also, what, for example, was that lady — okay, I looked up her name, and it's "Lydia" — up to and why was she wearing heels? Here's a rule of thumb: if you're headed to meet with meth kingpins in the desert, wear flats. You'll be able to run if need be, and your heels won't sink into the sand. It's just a practical choice. Also, I don't know, but it's probably not a great idea to be left alone in an subterranean drug laboratory, though things seemed to work out fine for Lydia even as a massive gunfight raged above.
I'm interested to see more of Jesse, who has been all but mute these past two episodes, but whose character has inspired some of the most striking images, like the opening bird's-eye shot of Jesse prone on the spinning merry-go-round. Hopefully the show-ending cliffhanger of Jesse sitting silently in the police station interrogation room means that we'll see —and hear—more of his character, though who knows if I'll even understand what's going on.
One would think that a television show widely hailed as one of the finest in recent American history would be able to hire some decent sound technicians. You know, people who understand how to use microphones and then mix the sound so that it's audible to viewers. The visual aspect of television is important, but the addition of sound to those moving pictures was one of the great innovations of the last century, and one that we should fight to preserve.
I understand and acknowledge that I came to this show late. That perhaps people who've been watching it for longer than I have trained their brains to pick out strangled mutterings such as those emanating from Walter White as he lay prone on his bathroom floor. I understand why the characters would be whispering: The Whites (did Walter's wife take his name? I don't know!) now know that they are in Hank's crosshairs. Fine! Whisper! Maybe someone is listening! But why in God's name were Hank and his wife whispering in their own kitchen the next day? In my limited experience, furious early-morning disputes rarely decrease in volume over time.
@JesseDavidFox I finally had to cave and throw on captions for that bathroom scene.— joereid (@joereid) August 19, 2013
Another curmudgeonly assessment: #amiunderarrest, promoted over a commercial break, is a stupid hashtag. When are you supposed to use that in non-tragic circumstance? That sort of "Twitter engagement" only encourages equally idiotic hashtags from "brands" hoping to glom onto the success of the show. Like this, which the liquor company paid to promote into my timeline.
Sponsored tweet: "Yes officer, I drank #toliveloveandloot. #amiunderarrest?"
Breaking Bad is obviously intentional about its extension into the real world, so I mapped the latitude and longitude that Walter memorized after burying the drums full of money in the desert. The location? The studio at which the show was shot. A little Easter egg for viewers! But it all feels so gimmicky, so blatantly self-aware of its role as The Hot Television Show of the Year. So eager to nudge you in the ribs as it takes advantage of that fact.
Then there's Aaron Paul, himself a master of the emoji-laden promo tweet. Aaron Paul has six more episodes to act for the first time this season. During the first five seasons of the show, it is possible that Aaron Paul was one of the greatest actors of his generation. If that's the case, his decline has been sudden and sharp. He may want to consider taking it out of neutral; even catatonia has been played better.
The story continues apace. It is engaging. But, with the exception of Bryan Cranston, it feels like a television show. I thought it was supposed to feel like something more. I concede, of course, that I may have missed some important dialogue.