Tag Archives: Jesse

Breaking Small (or The Revenge of the Tighty Whities)

 

It’s been a rough year for Breaking Bad junkies.

First, we had to go cold turkey when the finest drama on television concluded its remarkable run. Then Aaron Paul starred in the abysmal Need for Speed. Bryan Cranston took a forgettable role in Godzilla (though he redeems himself playing a legendary screenwriter in Trumbo). And we won’t discuss  Metastasis, the Spanish-language remake of the series that turned out muy mal.

METASTASIS spa

Even the Vince Gilligan-helmed Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad, lacks the tension (though not the dark absurdity) of its source material. Besides, Season Two doesn’t even begin until 2016.

But like a rush of Blue Meth to the market, a show has emerged from BB‘s ashes that not only takes its cues from the dusty drama; it eerily parallels the spectacled odyssey of Walter White.

Say hello to Fargo, Season Two.

Violent, gory and grinning with a wicked sense of humor, Fargo has established itself as the finest crime drama on television. And by avoiding the sophomore jinx that beset shows like The Killing and True Detective, Fargo towers as TV’s best “anthology” series, in which plots and, sometimes, entire casts, reset with each new season.

Such was the challenge of Fargo, which won 10 Emmys last year. But instead of mimicking the first season, which was really an homage to all Coen Brothers films (Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo is a reinvention of No Country for Old Men‘s Anton Chigurh) antonchigurh, Fargo instead tips its cap to something just as sinister, but more New Mexico-centric.

Consider:

  • A touch of suburban evil. A mild-mannered protagonist (Jesse Plemons) tries to live a quiet, domestic life, but finds he has a knack for the macabre (even in tighty whities). Unlike Walter White’s “molecular dissolution” of victims, Ed Blomquist chooses to turn the unfortunate into hamburger. overalls
  • A son struggling with physical disability: Walter White Jr. (R.J. Mitte) suffered from cerebral palsy; in Fargo, young Charlie Gerhardt (Allan Dobrescu) copes with a crippling, as-yet-unnamed condition that resembles muscular dystrophy. cerebralpalsy charlie
  • A Bob Odenkirk past. He was a founding father of Breaking Bad and the first Fargo, playing a deputy in 10 episodes. saul
  • Location as character. New Mexico played as big a role as any character in Breaking Bad, much like Minnesota deserves a screen credit in Fargo.
  • The death bell. Breaking Bad‘s uncle Hector rang a bell whenever hell broke loose, much like the bell that scores Fargo‘s soundtrack when a body winds up metabolically challenged. bell

 

Of course, Fargo need only sustain itself for one season, requiring just a sixth of Breaking Bad‘s endurance record. And there’s always the risk of the show running out of gas by season’s finale.

But ask any diehard Breaker if they’d take even a nostalgic sliver of the crime classic’s heyday, and you’ll get a resounding, uniform response. toddnjesse

Ding ding.

 

 

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Say My Name (Four Times)

Technically, this story contains spoilers to a show some unfortunate souls have yet to see. If so, read no further. However, in this Twiteration, any plot point not revealed 30 minutes after a show airs constitutes less a ‘spoiler’ than an ‘archaeological find.’

 

First, a firm and earnest caveat: I am perhaps the planet’s most ardent fan of Breaking Bad, and it remains my favorite show of all time (though Mad Men, considering its subject matter, may be the greatest). So I realize this is blue meth heresy.

But the fifth and final season pales in comparison to the first four, and, however slightly, tarnishes the show’s legacy.

That’s not to say the fifth season wasn’t awash in genius. Todd and “Ozymandias” should take their rightful place as two brilliant offspring of their (crystal) Glass parents. “Ozymandias” may be the most tense, melancholy and heartbreaking 42 minutes of television.

But consider the first four seasons as a whole: It was unique in that it a) Turned middle class rage inside out and b) Paid attention to the grisly, pesky details of death.

Walt was the ultimate nerd anti-hero. And who was the show’s greatest villain? Fast food manager Gus. Our relatable hero? Jesse, a skinny junkie who sucks at math. It took three episodes (its first shows) to dispose of two bodies, blasphemy for a crime drama.

And remember: Vince Gilligan and writers weren’t sure whether the show would be picked up for a fifth season, so he wrote the fourth-season finale, “Face Off,” as a prospective show-ender.

And what an ending it was! Never has a book seen a more elaborate final chapter. Walt, ever the chemist, luring Gus into one more bump from the one dope he could not resist: vengeance. Gus and Tio’s final, wordless exchange. That Walt simply provided users the tools of their destruction (much like his meth to junkies) proved a perfect, explosive finish, as did the upbeat-yet-bittersweet postscript of the poisonous depths Walt was willing to plumb.

But overdue popularity made a fifth season (and its drawn-out cash-in over two years) inevitable.

And let’s be honest: The fifth season didn’t match the previous in subtle decadence.

For one, the fifth season finale is terribly derivative of the fourth: Jesse, imprisoned in a lab, forced to cook for evil dealers while an armed Walt with uncertain motives arrives for the showdown.

The fifth-season nemeses, as well, lacked that unexpected villainy. Aside from Todd and Lydia, our evil-doers are white supremacists with prison records and swastikas tattooed on their necks. Not hard to hate — or spot, in a run-of-the-mill crime story. Our fifth season cliffhanger is a dying killer on the lam with nothing left to lose. It can turn out only one way.

And to have Walt’s cancer return was a misstep. It made his death a certainty and his life a waste. Walt needed to die from the life he’d chosen (even if it’s by Jesse’s or Skyler’s hand), not from the genes he inherited. His dramatic turn on Jesse, from protector to predator, strayed the what were always the show’s true addictions: Jesse’s need for a father fix; Walt’s high from dealing it.

Of course, this is to critique a Monet. That the show invited such fine-toothing, debate and dispute is to testify to its greatness.

And yes, I still know your name. You’re that high school chemistry teacher. The one with the doting-but-watchful pregnant wife and the high school son with Cerebral palsy that you’re desperately trying to still impress.

You’re Heisenberg.

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