Breaking Bad: seasons 1 & 2 Recap and Review (spoilers)


Note: this program is for mature audiences only. Therefore, this post, which contains direct quotes from the show, may contain some profanity.

Introduction

Considering this show is into it’s 5th season, one can rightly ask why the heck I would bother writing about it. Short answer would be I can’t help myself. I started watching it two weeks ago and it’s safe to say have become addicted to it. So I created this page to vent my thoughts regarding the first two seasons (which I’ve finished as of this post) in case other fans would like to discuss it. Keep in mind, I’m taking it for granted that readers here have either seen the show or intend to see the show. I endeavored to recap the major events but simply can’t cover everything. Hopefully, there’s enough to start a discussion should anyone wish to talk about this phenomenal show.

Mind you, it’s gritty and I would in no way want my kids to watch it. But it is not gratuitous. Except in how the writers seem to love to torture Jesse (Aaron Paul’s character). But he plays the woobie so well I’d  have serious qualms if they hadn’t exploited that potential (a mistake a certain doctoral procedural made; ending without ever giving a certain blond doctor- whose actor’s name also happens to be Jesse- the drama his character was begging for.) That aside, I cannot stress how fantastic the writing is. Everything seems to have been planned down to the tiniest detail. Characterization is off the charts amazing, the casting is phenomenal, and the plot is edge of your seat exciting. Vince Gilligan has truly brought a remarkably original, entertaining, at times horrifying, but undeniably addictive show. As of this post, the lead Bryan Cranston has won three consecutive Emmy nominations and the supporting actor Paul has just won his second. This is one of the shows where I’ll be purchasing every single season on DVD, study the heck out of each individual episode, and hope the genius of the writers will rub off on me. Honestly, it’s a screenwriter’s dream. In a way, I’m glad I only now discovered it, because otherwise I’d be so completely obsessed I probably wouldn’t get anything done trying to do each episode justice. I’d probably end up with 20 page reviews for each. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was spared that insanity and am left writing this from pure memory (except the quotes, which I’d noted) after zipping through the first two seasons.

Synopsis

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is an overqualified science teacher down on his luck in every sense of the word. He has a disabled child with Cerebral Palsy (Walter Jr., played by R.J. Mitt) and a pregnant wife (Skylar, acted by Anna Dunn) who is a stay at home mother. In charge of bringing home the bacon, Walt supplements his meager teacher’s salary by working part time in a car wash suffering the indignity of washing his students’ cars. His fiftieth birthday is celebrated with his friends and family, but his thunder still manages to get stolen when Hank (Dean Norris), his successful DEA brother in law’s latest drug raid is highlighted on television. But the straw that breaks this camel’s back comes in the form of a medical diagnosis: inoperable stage three lung cancer.

Knowing he has neither the funds nor the insurance to treat his terminal illness, Walt doesn’t tell his family and instead gets the idea to cook drugs, specifically meth. The decision no doubt came as a result after Walt saw his brother in-law’s feature on TV, and the huge pile of money Hank had confiscated during the drug bust. Intrigued, Walt goes on a ride along with Hank as they go to crack down another druggies operation. At the scene, Walter sees a man escape and recognizes him as Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), one of his former students. Walter later approaches Jesse and offers him a deal: he let Walter in on his drug racket, splitting everything 50-50, or else Walt will turn Jesse in.

Review

It’s the beginning of a not so beautiful friendship. Nevertheless the interaction between the two is riveting. In the pilot, Jesse and Walters first attempt to sell big goes wrong leaving Jesse knocked out and Walter gassing the two distributors in self defense. But when it turns out one of the men, Krazy 8 (Maximino Arciniega) is still alive, the the former teacher and student duo are left questioning what to do with him (episode Cat’s in the Bag).

Walter: “What is his reputation for violence?”

Jesse: “Well, um, he did try to kill us both yesterday so there is that.”

Walter: “What I’m trying to say is he’s a distributor, he’s a businessman, he is a man of business! It would therefore seem to follow that he is capable of acting out of mutual self interest, yes? ”

Jesse: “What?”

Walter: “Do you think he is capable of listening to reason?

Jesse: “What kinda reason? You mean, like dear Crazy 8 if I let you go do you promise not to come back and waste my entire family, no Columbian neckties, that kinda reason? Nah, man I can’t say I have high hopes where that’s concerned.”

There is also the question of the dead body that they have to get rid of. It made for possibly the most morbid, and simultaneously funniest scenes I’ve ever scene on television:

Walter: “We have got a body in that RV and its getting warmer outside. We have to do something about that soon and in a way that no one will ever know. Now that last part is very important. Therefore it seems to me that our best course of action would be chemical disincorporation. Dissolving in strong acid.”

Jesse: “Oh man, that’s messed up. You’re not serious. You serious! Well whose gonna do that! Don’t look at me.”

Walter: “I guess we’ll do it together.”

Jesse: “No, Mr. White I’m no good with dead bodies!”

Walter decides that one will deal with the dead body while the other offs their mobster.

Walter: “In a scenario like this I don’t supposed it is bad form to just flip a coin.”

Call me sick, but as macabre as this was I was practically rolling on the floor with laughter the entire time. Also a riot? Walter sends Jesse to buy a plastic bin to dis-incorporate the body in. Jesse comes back empty handed because “No store in town sells a bin big enough for a body.” Walter’s reply?

Walter: “I don’t suppose you could buy two binds,” makes sawing motion, “legs in one, torso in the other.”

The expressions of disbelief on Pinkman as he watches his former teacher plot to commit and cover up murder is hilarious. As are his replies: “Ugh, god. I don’t suppose you can kiss my ass!”

XD

Of course, in the Breaking Bad universe calling the cops is out of the question as they’d be turning themselves in as well. Morally, one could attempt to justify the murder seeing as how Crazy 8, the drug dealer, was just as ready to kill Walt. It was a case of dog eat dog.

Their buyer dead, Jesse settles for selling off the drugs in small doses. But dying Walt doesn’t have the time for that and pressures/degrades Jesse into finding a distributor willing to buy in bulk. Jesse does but his ill luck is said distributor, a crazy by the name of Tuco beats him to a pulp when Jesse tries to collect the money he and Walt are owed.

When Walter hears about it he visits Jesse in the hospital and proceeds to visit Tuco (Raymond Cruz) himself to collect his money, plus extra for “my partner’s pain and suffering”. He then goes on to make a deal with Tuco to sell him drugs on a regular basis.

Jesse is ticked off Walt would do business with a psycho like Tuco and his fears are legitimized when Tuco beats an associate of his for nothing to death in front of them. Later, the DEA busts Tuco’s operation. The desperate dealer kidnaps Jesse and Walt, first suspecting they snitched on him and then decides he’ll use them to move his operation out of the state. They manage to wound him and escape.

Once again, the two are left without a buyer until Jesse gets the plan that the two of them become distributors. Walter is at first skeptic and makes fun of the idea of Jesse being a warlord like Tuco but the plan works out when the younger man enlists his friends who in turn enlist their friends to sell the product. Things are going smoothly until once again Walter’s greed/impatience has him pressuring Jesse into something he doesn’t want to do. When some druggies hold up Skinny, one of Jesse’s distributors and steal some of his drugs, Walter hands Jesse a gun and tells him to “deal with it”, get a reputation that will keep that stuff from happening. A nervous Jesse finds the wife/husband team’s home and waits for them to arrive so he can scare them into paying him. The presence of their young child has him drop his guard down and the two overpower him.

But the situation changes once again when the wife kills the husband for calling her a skank by dropping an ATM machine on his head as he was trying to break into it.

What I find interesting is that Walt tried to contact Jesse and tell him “That thing I told you to do, well forget it,” which I understood to mean, in a moment of conscience, he no longer wanted Jesse to kill off the people who mugged his runner. This is supported by the fact that, after Jesse tells him the “problem” is taken care of and the guy is dead, Walt is at first horrified, then profoundly relieved that it wasn’t Jesse that killed him.

On the other hand, being glad that Jesse didn’t commit murder doesn’t necessarily mean Walt is all too concerned about Jesse’s emotional well-being. It could just be he realized killing the druggies risks his and Jesse’s operation being found out by the police. The fact that Walter isn’t concerned about Jesse himself is supported by the fact that he wasn’t too interested when Jesse divulged that he can’t sleep, that he keeps hearing the sound of the ATM crushing the man’s head and seeing the blood. The only concern Walt had was how inconvenient to him it was that Jesse started using drugs again (to get the horrible experience out of his head).

This emotional detachment of Walt’s could also be to blame behind Jesse’s subsequent spiral into drug use. Jesse’s friend Combo gets killed on the street, after, (again, due to Walter’s insistence, and against Jesse’s wishes) the two expand their drug trade onto other gang’s territories. When Jesse tells Walt about Combo’s death, Walt  answer is “Which one was he?” Jesse responds “I can’t believe you just said that to me.” This should have been Walt’s first clue that Jesse was mourning his friend’s loss. But instead of his partners emotional well being, Walt is concerned with their business “setback”: the fact that all the other runners quit out of fear and arranges for his Jesse’s sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) to find another way for them to sell their drugs.

Walt also drops the ball when he fails to recognize, or even delve into Jesse’s relationship with his new landlady and girlfriend Jane (Krysten Ritter).  Walt’s first clue should have been Jesse wanting to go to a museum. Cause, seriously? Jesse and museum are two words that don’t go together. Walt’s second clue was more obvious: how Jesse cussed out Walt when he guessed that his girlfriend was a stripper; vehemently denying the older man’s contention strongly enough that Walt actually apologized. But even Jesse throwing a beaker at Walt when he called Jane his “junkie girlfriend” enough for the man to see how attached Jesse was to Jane.

It’s really tragic. Had Walt been there for Jesse when he lost Combo, Jesse wouldn’t have needed to turn to meth. And it was only after Jesse started using that Jane (18 months clean) got back on drugs as well. She might not have OD’d.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.Let’s go back a bit. After Combo’s death and Jesse’s friends scare off selling the drugs, Walter (through Saul) makes a deal with a big time distributor Gustavo (Giancarlo Esposito) to take their drugs off their hands and out of state. The deal almost doesn’t happen when Gustavo guy catches sight of Jesse as he is high on meth. Walter tells him his people are his business and when the guy asks why Walter keeps Jesse around he tells him “Because he does what I say and I can trust him.”

This was foreshadowing, if I ever saw any, as was Gustavo’s reply to Walter: “You can never trust an addict.”

The plot hint is quickly realized. When Walter refuses to give Jesse his share of the dough (he tells him he’ll get it once he’s clean) Jesse vents to his girlfriend Jane who then blackmails Walter into giving up the cash. In a classically tragic lover’s scene, the two plan to take the cash and run from Walter and Jane’s concerned father to New Zealand, Jesse’s idea, “where Lord of the Rings was taped”. You just know this happy ending isn’t happening, even as the two vow to get clean for themselves, not cause people think they should. But the lure of the drugs proves to be too much…

Meanwhile, Walter stops for a drink at a bar where he unknowingly meets Jane’s father. Walter talks about his “nephew” who won’t listen to him and he doesn’t know what to do. Jane’s father shares that he has a daughter and that you have to stick with your family.

It is a rare moment of emotion from Walter as the words obviously stir him. Perhaps enough that for the first time viewers realize he actually cares about Jesse. The man stops by the kid’s place to talk. Jesse and Jane are both lying on their sides, completely out of it due to drug usage. Walter tries shaking Jesse awake, so that Jane (who was lying on her side) is turned to her back. She vomits and starts choking. Walter moves to help her then stops, no doubt thinking with her death all of his problems with Jesse would go away. He watches her die, not knowing this is the daughter of the man he just shared a drink with.

Jesse is devastated when he wakes up and calls White. Walt tells him to calm down and calls their lawyer Saul who sends over a “cleaner”, Mike (Jonathan Banks). Mike gets rid of the drug evidence and slaps a traumatized Jesse into attention, forcing him to repeat the story he’ll tell the authorities: that he woke up and found Jane dead and he knows nothing else.

Walt waits for Jesse to return his calls and when he doesn’t asks Mike to give him a location on Jesse. He finds him in what can only be called “slums” and despite how dangerous the place is Walt ventures in to find Jesse. In the best scene of the show so far, Jesse clings to him and tells him he killed Jane. Walt emphatically tells him he didn’t. Jesse then goes on to sob, much to Walter’s shock, that he loved her. That she was the only thing he ever loved.

One question presents itself: if Walter had known how much Jane meant to Jesse, would he have saved her? Methinks no. I think it would have given him more incentive to get rid of her, knowing the sway she had over his pawn.

But what if Walt had known that she only got back into drugs because of Jesse? That she actually tried to get him to go to meetings with her? Come to think of it, what if Jane *had* introduced Jesse to her dad, back when he wasn’t a regular drug user.

Sigh. It doesn’t matter. But the angst is perfectly in tune for this type of show.

Also in tune? In making his money, Walt lost his family. Season two ends with Walter setting Jesse up into rehab, Walter himself undergoing surgery after his tumors shrink 80 percent, and him being in remission. Also, Walter has made enough money to provide for his family the rest of their lives. But his long absences and the lies him made to explain them finally catch up with him and Skylar leaves him. Even worse; Jane’s father, who is a radar technician for airplanes, goes back to work while still grieving and a mistake in coordinates has him accidentally crashing two planes into each other, right on top of Walter’s home. Karma’s a bitch, and I must say I enjoyed watching her subject Walt to her wrath.

Now about Walter’s wife…

Anna Dunn is a wonderful and ridiculously attractive actress. And while she had a fit over the knowledge that he husband smoked weed (which he admitted early on in the show when she asked him how he knew Jesse; he named him as his supplier) I am no longer quite so sure that she’d be so unforgiving regarding his drug trade. The woman found out that he boss at work siphoned off close to a million dollars. But not only didn’t she turn him in (he’s an old friend/flame?) she came back to work the next day despite telling him that she can’t be a part of his theft.

Would she be as lenient to her husband?

Hard to say. It doesn’t help that her brother in law (whom she obviously respects) is a DEA. People normally have tunnel vision; quick to forgive faults in people they love. Which begs the question: does she love Walt?

I think she did, before his lies and disappearances and emotional detachment ruined their relationship. It’s also pretty clear she’s started caring more about her appearances for her boss’s sake (I’m sorry, but the cleavage enhancing work clothes she wore were in no way for professionalism’s sake).

There is also a sense of empowerment that comes when people start making their own money. The affect Walter’s new “business” had on his libido can be seen on Skylar as well. But while his lust was directed to his wife, hers was (unconsciously, mind you) directed towards her boss, Ted. She and Walt were already emotionally separated by that point, if not officially. And her discovery of his lies was just the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Could it be that the only healthy relationship in this show is that between Marie (Skylar’s sister, played by Betsy Brandt) and her husband Hank? Marie is a hospital technician (x-ray, I think) and her husband Hank is the big shot DEA with an ego matched only by the size of his beer belly. Skylar describes Marie as a kleptomaniac spoiled bitch who always has to be at the center of attention. It seems a fair description in context (Marie had stolen an expensive tiara to give to Skylar as a baby gift and refused to admit to the crime when confronted). Hank is just as conceited as Marie. As well, he seemed to have a huge disregard for human life, at least those humans he consistently busts for drugs. He poses with corpses and was given a gift of a perps gold teeth-caps in a paper weight. And yet, a near miss hit with said perp (Tuco) had him through the gift away into a river. Viewers see him suffering PTSD and that humanizes him. Especially after he witnessed the infamous Turtle scene with perp/snitch Tortuga (Danny Trejo) while he was stationed over the border. His emotional distress, as well as his kindness towards his wife, and sister in-law’s family earn him bonus points despite his (sometimes insufferable) personality.

Looking at the big picture, one sees Walt as being a good man embittered and disillusioned by the very qualities people love in him. It seems like he lost quite a big opportunity for greatness in his past; was punished by losing out on a company’s share after he broke up with his then partner/girlfriend Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) Obviously, he never fought for his share and it’s too late now. So basically, his line of thinking is that being a straight arrow certainly never got him any money so now, seeing as he has nothing to lose, he’s working on the other end of the spectrum.

This could account for his rage once he found out that he still had more time than he thought to live. Perhaps, thinking he was dying excused/justified his actions. Living, he has no such conscience-easer.

But it turns out he doesn’t need it anyway, as he still needs to make money for his treatment.

Walter stated, to Jesse, that his reasons for making/selling Meth was “I woke up.”

How long will Walt be a drug dealer? I still have more seasons to watch so I’m guessing till the show is over. Also, until the show is over, I’ll be waiting for a second wake-up call from Walt. Which really, all he needs is to watch Scarface, to get. But then there’d be no show…

Best Quotes

“Are you smoking weed? Oh my god. Wait a minute, is that my weed? What the hell man?! Make yourself at home why doncha?”-Jesse, to Walt.

“No store in town sells a plastic bin big enough for a body.” –Jesse, to Walt.

“I don’t suppose you could but two bins, and ugh *makes cutting motions* legs in one, torso in the other.”- Walt, to Jesse in response to the above.

““Ugh, god. I don’t suppose you could kiss my ass?!” Jesse’s reply to above.

“So uh, how did it go?” Jesse, on if Walt killed Crazy 8.

*Coughing sound*

“You didn’t do it?! He man we flipped a coin! We flipped a coin!” Jesse, on Walt’s delay to kill Crazy 8.

“My name is Skylar White, yo. My husband is Walter White, yo. And he told me everything.”-Skylar to Jesse, referring to Walt’s lie on how he knows Jesse; told her he sells him meth.

“Seriously?” -Jesse, in response to the above, thinking Skylar knows about “everything” (drugs, dead body, man they’re about to kill).

“Yeah, Yeah, lets go to your house yo. Makes perfect sense. Let’s completely screw up your house so you don’t ever want to spend another night in it, sure why not. Then housabout we send over my psycho bitch wife to break your balls and threaten you. God, that would be hilarious. And then, yo, the killer in the basement, the one who is completely my responsibility, hell let’s just let him live down there. Just, I don’t know make sure to feed him like, three times a day. It’s been really amazing. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I always dreamt about melting bodies.” Jesse, ranting a conversation between Walt and himself as he got rid of the body.

“Whatever it is Walter, I’m afraid to know.” Skylar, in answer to Walt on if she’ll stay if he explains his lies to her.

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About reviewbrain

Screenwriter, independent producer, compulsive critic, editor, artist, language lover, student of life, pacifist, parent. View all posts by reviewbrain

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