23 July, 2012

Guest Review of BREAKING BAD 5.02: 'Madrigal'

Shawn returns to guest write a review and this time his will be the only one because I am dying from the black plague. So enjoy his opinion! Note, his thoughts do not necessarily represent those of the crazed staff of writers at whateverthisis. Nor is he held to any standard in writing. ENJOY!

Serialized shows like Chuck or Breaking Bad focus on one character and create a journey that allows the character to evolve from one person to another. Along the way different people enter their orbit and are affected by the decisions they make over the journey. Everything is from their point of view and so every decision they make and every choice they choose has an effect on the story going forward. It is an incredibly intimate storytelling method and it creates the biggest problem for a show..... what happens when the main character reaches the end of the journey set in the beginning? What happens when everything was about that protagonist/antagonist and outside characters and story was not developed as well? What happens when the main character is at the top and master of all he survey's? What happens when an NBC or AMC decide that they will renew your show even though the odds of that happening was the same odds as world peace?

I think there are 2 very major reasons (and a few minor ones too) why this season of Breaking Bad has not been up to its usual greatness, the first being that Vince Gilligan created in the first 4 seasons a story of Walter White becoming Scarface and at the end of season 4 that journey was complete. He has said in various interviews that the end of season 4 could have been a great series finale and that Walt's journey had been complete. Now this is the same thing that happened to CHUCK, Season 1 flowed well into 2 and season 2 flowed well into its best season 3....at the end of 3.13 or 3.19 that was a potential end of the series, Chuck went from boy to man to spy to hero and along the way got the girl. Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz like Vince Gilligan thought this was the end and created endings to the journey's of their leader with the thought that the end was nigh. Vince Gilligan had every right to make the same call, if anyone witnessed the AMC - Mad Men contract negotiation war....they would know that there was a chance that if AMC would fuck with Mad Men than what would they do to Breaking Bad? and so the question arises, what does a show like Chuck or Breaking Bad do when they get renewed and were not expecting it? you get weak seasons 4 and 5 of Chuck and you get a weak season 5 of Breaking Bad thus far. That brings me to my second point, with everything being about Walt or Chuck...how do you move a show forward when the characters were at their highest point? I mean are we now going to see character regression, progression, contrivances, bullshit?

After the jump we shall delve into what I liked and what I found problematic about this episode and season thus far.

"Madrigal" continues the domino effect of Walt killing Gus, Gus' Office is checked and bank numbers are found and employees are rooted out by the DEA and certain employees get nervous and take hits on on the other employees and a German executive commits suicide on a toilet! None of that would have been a problem on any other show but this is Breaking Bad. Would Gus have really left his Bank account numbers and passwords on a picture frame? or would he have left the laptop full of evidence in his legal business? would Gus have done any number of these stupid things when we have come to know him as such a perfectionist? Vince Gilligan has said that getting an unexpected renewal means they have to start the story from scratch and they have done that but they have taken a lot of shortcuts to ramp up the tension and that is not Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad is methodical and takes its time and plays the long game....this is unsettling to say the least. This makes Mikes decision to join Walt and Jesse feel contrived and bullshitty...Gus exposes Mike and all his fortune doing something Gus would never do and so Mike is forced to do something Mike would never do because of something Gus would never have done and now we can continue the story of Walt, Jesse, Mike and Saul owning the South's Drug trade! Awesome!

That rant aside there are some very good moments in this episode. Jonathan Banks was brilliant as Mike in this episode, just fucking fantastic. His minimalistic approach to acting allows us to slow down and see a man who is weary and tired and frustrated with all this bullshit that is happening all around him. He has Walt being an unpredictable piece of dynamite waiting to go off at any time, he has the winging bitch whose name I have forgotten taking out on him and all his guys and he has Hank grilling him and cracking wise with him and calling him by his first name even though he did not give Hank permission to do so. His humanity of not killing Lydia because she has a daughter and he has a granddaughter was a nice moment for our wise guy and I look forward to where this goes next.

Walt and Jesse had few scenes in this episode but they were good ones. Aaron Paul just keeps breaking my heart with his phenomenal performance as Jesse, when he broke down and started crying about how he was sorry for being stupid...I got to say Walt's death cannot come soon enough. Walt continues to manipulate and connive and keep Jesse under his thumb and as Mike keeps saying...Jesse should just run as fast as he can from the man who knocks.

So a weak second episode that is for sure, and a very shaky start to the final season. I am a sucker though for shows like these that swing for the fences and try their best even though they are under constant threat of cancellation. Chuck withered off and limped into the sunset due to having to create 50 different series finales, Breaking Bad has had to create at least 3 series finales and I do feel for the show runners when they are caught between a rock and a hard place...a studio and network who are trying to nickel and dime everything. I have hope that Breaking Bad will get better and look forward to it doing so....until then adios.

Episode Rating 75 out of 100

--Shawn Mahone


  1. I actually liked this episode.

  2. I apparently liked this episode more than Shawn.

  3. On the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast Vince Gilligan said his writers spent 3 weeks per episode working out all the kinks and making sure everything is perfect. Other shows do not get that, not by a long shot and so I thought with that amount time they should have avoided the issues I brought up, Lydia erked me more than I let on, I did not think it was an awful episode just not Breaking Bad awesome.

    Anyhow, one mans opion.

    1. I thought what they got right, they got really right and overshadowed more of the nagging problems. I'd have given it 88 out of 100.

      But I do agree that Mike's decision was contrived. But most of this series is written this way. It seems like every important decision is tied up this way. There are no happy accidents of actual life. Everything lines up.

      Don't use a car bomb? You will later because nothing goes to waste on this show (which is how I figured out last season's finale before I watched the episode). So, ask Mike to join you? See a meeting in a diner about killing people? No worries, they will both work things out where Mike joins the crew.

      Once you start to notice these things, the show will rarely, if ever, surprise you.

  4. Breaking Bad got renewed for season 4 and 5 and they weren't expecting to?

    is that the truth?

    1. I don't know about a season 4 since that's when I started watching new episodes. But a 5th season was pretty much a lock once the show did well in the ratings. However, this show shoots its entire season before airing, so they had no idea what would happen in that regard.

    2. Mad Men and Breaking Bad's ratings have improved year on year but they still suck compared to cable standards. I mean in the early going Mad Men's rating's were under a million (I think). Compare these ratings to The Walking Dead and you see that being renewed was never a certainty, though being Emmy winners would definately help. The AMC, Lionsgate and Wiener war must have had an effect on Breaking Bad too during season 4 but on the plus side Vince Gilligan comes across as a much nioer guy than Matt Wiener, Matt Wiener comes across as a guy who needs to be punched in the face, lol, repeatedly. So maybe AMC went easier with Sony, you never know.