And so it has returned. The show all the Emmy voters automatically vote for as if it was ENTOURAGE, DEXTER, or DOWNTON ABBEY. Shows that once they become part of popular culture don't even need to be watched, or be of any measurable (or unmeasurable) quality to earn the highest praise.
In the case of BREAKING BAD the praise is at least still reasonable if not unbalanced by the hyperbole surrounding its perceived quality.
It is THE show of cool. Like the new STAR TREK or THE AVENGERS or what AVATAR was before it was suddenly no longer cool to have loved it (had AVENGERS made $800 million domestically, you could count on it suddenly becoming uncool to like it).
What I'm saying is that BREAKING BAD is good. It is sometimes really good. Even great a bunch of times a year. But it's not MAD MEN great. It's not THE WIRE awesome. It can't touch LOST or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or DEADWOOD or ROME or GAME OF THRONES. I know hardcore fans of this show freak out anytime someone points this out because it is still "cool" to like it, and so suggesting otherwise may slowly contribute to wearing off that shine. But don't worry about it. The show is safe from criticism. In fact, I bet this will be the only "negative" review of the show.
However, this isn't a negative review. More of a general and personal observation about the hyperbole surrounding the show.
I think it needs to be said:
It has excellent performances.
Fleshed out characters.
Sometimes totally forced story lines.
That final point is what bothered me about this episode. The effort to use a super-magnet to wipe out the data from a computer that can ruin all their lives felt like it only worked because the script said it should. There wasn't much organic about those sequences. It's all just too... "cool." And then of course Walt's overinflated ego-trip causes an unintended result where the police suddenly find new evidence that will obviously lead them to him down the line.
Too cute. And I bet most of you loved the shit out of it.
Where the show continues to exceed is in demonstrating the deconstruction of a once decent human being in Walt, and how he drags anyone along with him.
Walt is the top dog now and in his mind he can do no wrong. Also, everyone exists to serve him now that he has bumped off the mighty Gus. All plans work because he has thought of them. No one tells him it is "over" until he says it is. And he "forgives" his wife for acting to protect their family without talking to him about it.
Walt is the hunter and everyone else is his food chain.
Walt is king.
Walt is god.
And everyone is either condemned or forgiven by him. Perhaps this episode should have been called "You Are All My Playthings." It is the kind of thing that makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck and why Bryan Cranston earns every Emmy award he will ever receive for his performance. Walt is terrifying because he doesn't have the logical level or self control that Gus had. Walt is a loaded and cocked shotgun with a hair-trigger. He is going to go off eventually. We just have to wait to see in whose direction he is pointed when it happens.
As for the rest of it, the episode opens up with one of those scene teases that this show can do due to shooting the season before airing (most shows shoot a few episodes before the season airs), so we get a glimpse into future Walt and to wonder about whatever his need for weaponry means down the line. We also learn it is his 52nd birthday, meaning two-years will have passed since the series started whenever we get to this point in the season (finale?).
I should also mention that I enjoyed the way the show handled the recap of last year's final episodes and delivered the exposition of what happened in-between, by having Walt Jr. break it down for his dad in child-like excitement. Writers wrestle with how to effectively handle exposition all the time and this was a smart way to do it.
Sadly, Jesse isn't the focus of this episode which may be part of why I wasn't overly impressed by it. He is my favorite character and any time he is used as surface I tend to feel a bit disconnected. After all, it is Jesse who is the heart and moral compass of the show. And one could argue that Aaron Paul is the best actor as well.
At least he came up with the magnet idea. Though King Walt probably forgot that already, thinking that it was his idea all along. Power!
If I had to rate this episode, and a secret message behind a photo the police would otherwise have missed says I do, then I'd give it:
85 out of 100
I don't get washed up in the hype. This wasn't close to one of the show's best. It was good with a lot of potential for what is to come.
But still insanely superior to that shitfest that is BURN NOTICE. Holy shit... I watched all of the new season episodes of that show this weekend. What a piece of melodramatic bullshit. OVERACTING MUCH?!
Just thinking about it is making me want to score this episode higher.
So... what did you think?