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Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 14, "Ozymandias"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 14, “Ozymandias”

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and his team of writers have proven yet again their facilities for subversively manipulating the familiar narrative contours of the crime melodrama. After all the anguish and duality, the parallels and rivalry that have been carefully established over the years between Hank (Dean Norris) and Walt (Bryan Cranston), the former is ultimately shot in the head like a winged dog, in a manner probably befitting any number of people who’ve gotten on the wrong end of Uncle Jack’s (Michael Bowen) path.

Walt’s expectations, which cannily mirror the audience’s, are such that he assumes a member of his inner circle can never truly buy it unless he wants them to, and last night’s “Ozymandias” toed a powerful line in providing Hank a death of real stature that still somehow managed to feel poignantly random. Hank’s death was tragically puny, and the pairing of those seemingly contradictory words goes a long way in explaining the impressive range of emotions that “Ozymandias” stirred. Many of us assumed, and probably hoped, that the final series showdown would be between Walt and Hank, a way of ironically maintaining the sanctity of family while simultaneously destroying it. But our lives rarely provide us with carefully orchestrated waves of pleasure and closure upon our demand.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 13, "To’hajiilee"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “To’hajiilee”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “To’hajiilee”

A becoming narrative cleanness is settling into Breaking Bad as it nears its conclusion. While the show’s exceptional writers have proven themselves ahead of me at every turn, it’s probably safe to say that Walt (Bryan Cranston), Hank (Dean Norris), Jesse (Aaron Paul), and their various respective significant others are probably about to have their lives flipped open and torn apart once again, this time by Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen), the malevolent specter who represents the shadowy cartel of gangsters that Walt turned to in order to orchestrate those prison executions earlier in the season. Is Uncle Jack the man that Walt may eventually visit with that huge phallic piece of weaponry we saw him buy from an arms dealer at a cafe in the season’s first flash forward? It’s anyone’s guess, but Jack fits the image of the kind of Big Bad that such a weapon would appear to be suited for, as it obviously invites associations with gangster films, particularly the legendary climax of Brian De Palma’s Scarface, in which Al Pacino’s titular hood mowed down seemingly hundreds of killers with a similar gun.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 12, "Rabid Dog"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “Rabid Dog”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “Rabid Dog”

“Rabid Dog” explicitly broaches a question that Breaking Bad fans have probably been pondering for a while: How far will Jesse (Aaron Paul) have to push Walt (Bryan Cranston) before the latter tries to kill the former? In “Confessions,” Walt’s ability to corral Jesse back into his fold of influence appeared to have been definitively shattered by Jesse’s discovery of the truth behind Brock’s poisoning. Jesse was last seen dousing Walt’s living room with gasoline, and “Rabid Dog” picks up immediately where that sequence left off, with Walt stalking Jesse through the corridors of his own home. The plastic gas canister is sitting on the living room carpet, and Walt draws the gun he fished out of the carwash vending machine last week, clearly ready for his association with Jesse to reach the ultimate breaking point.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 11, "Confessions"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Confessions”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Confessions”

“Confessions” returns to the theme of the dangerous fragility of crushed American masculinity, which has always been Breaking Bad’s grandest concern. Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Hank (Dean Norris) are both struggling working-class men who’ve recently experienced unexpected surges of great power with Walt’s advent of the “Heisenberg” master criminal, but the latest episode in the series appears to pave the way for a circular narrative structure that will return the men to their stifling humble origins while potentially destroying everything and everyone else in their wake.

For Walt, of course, his cancer’s return began this humbling, which culminated last week with the image of Skylar (Anna Gunn) cradling Walt like a child in their bathroom after he collapsed. Well, maybe. Walt appears to be growing confident again, particularly when his titular “confession” is revealed to be a brazen threat to frame Hank. Viewers can be forgiven for initially falling for Walt’s deception, as his steadying weariness over the course of this season, while always exploited for its maximum capacity to manipulate others, has also often appeared to be legitimate. Walt’s original suggestion to Skylar that he turn himself into the authorities, which he voiced while sprawled out on that bathroom floor, appeared to carry real notes of exhaustion that weren’t just physical, but mental, spiritual, and emotional. The Heisenberg monster appeared to be running out of guises to assume.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "Buried"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Buried”

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Buried”

Last week, battle lines were irrevocably drawn in “Blood Money.” Hank (Dean Norris) knows that Walt (Bryan Cranston) is Heisenberg, and Walt now knows that Hank knows. This week’s installment, “Buried,” opens with a quick update on Jesse (Aaron Paul) that telegraphs the episode’s final zinger and then returns us to Walt as he’s leaving Hank’s garage. The western motif is even more explicit this week, as there’s a prolonged image of the men sizing each other up in the tradition of a classic gunfighter duel. (Hank’s garage remote even cheekily resembles a six-shooter from a distance.) Hank lowers the garage door, which serves to literally and figuratively divide the men with an unavoidable degree of finality.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 9, "Blood Money"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Blood Money”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “Blood Money”

“Blood Money” kicks off the second half of Breaking Bad’s final season with probably the most startling pre-title sequence in the show’s history, which, as fans will know, is saying something. A car idles along a suburban street as skateboarders glide and swoop up and along a steep curved, paved surface. A gaunt, bearded Walt (Bryan Cranston) climbs out of the car and opens the trunk, revealing the huge gun he purchased at the beginning of the season. The audience knows, then, that they’re witnessing another provocative glimpse of the near future that directly anticipates whatever end awaits American TV’s most dangerous and formidable ex-chemistry teacher. Walt enters the hollow shell of a home, and the camera follows him as he makes his way through the rooms, which are littered with trash and riddled with graffiti. We see that someone, most prominently, has spray-painted “HEISENBERG” across what was once a living room wall and it becomes clear: This was once Walt’s house, and the skateboarders are enjoying themselves in what was once his pool.

Film Society of Lincoln Center, AMC Present “Breaking Bad Cast Favorites” and Viewing Marathon

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Film Society of Lincoln Center, AMC Present “<em>Breaking Bad</em> Cast Favorites” and Viewing Marathon
Film Society of Lincoln Center, AMC Present “<em>Breaking Bad</em> Cast Favorites” and Viewing Marathon

With Breaking Bad on the march toward its final episodes (the second half of season five premieres August 11), the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and AMC are marking the occasion on August 1 and 2 with “The Perfect Batch: Breaking Bad Cast Favorites,” a viewing event to be co-presented by the society and the TV network, and feature guest appearances from actors Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Dean Norris, and Bob Odenkirk, as well as series creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan. Each participant is set to engage in a Q&A and share his or her favorite episodes from the series. On August 1, the Q&A moderator will be New York Magazine TV critic, RogerEbert.com editor-in-chief, and The House Next Door founder Matt Zoller Seitz. On August 2, Emily Nussbaum, TV critic for The New Yorker, will take up moderating duties. All conversations will reportedly be live-streamed at filmlinc.com, before finding a home at amctv.com. Tickets for the event go on sale at filmlinc.com at noon today, and are priced at $15 per conversation.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 2, Episode 13, "ABQ"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 13, “ABQ”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 13, “ABQ”

Chain reactions are the miniature explosions that drive most of the hard sciences, particularly chemistry, where you usually know the links and bonds that are going to be formed between elements but there will occasionally be something unexpected that pops up as a byproduct. We’re all linked at a rather primal level, the same elements making up all of us, as well as all of the other living things we share the planet with. Chain reactions, though, are the stuff of good drama, too—this affects this, while this affects this, and the two results are added together into one, big result. Good drama is a lot of things, but one of the things it is is chemistry, a collection of chain reactions that add up to things we’ve seen before but occasionally come together in unexpected ways. But one of the elements used in drama is the element of coincidence. Indeed, it’s hard to have a traditional narrative structure without some level of coincidence (even the idea that these people would necessarily come together to make the cast of our story involves coincidence on some level), but coincidence is the easiest thing to abuse in the dramatist’s toolbox.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 2, Episode 10, "Over"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “Over”

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 10, “Over”

If there’s one thing I find a touch annoying about Breaking Bad, it’s that the show will occasionally lean on a too-easy symbol or two. It doesn’t do this incredibly often, but it will every so often use some mundane object to make a Larger Point about What’s Wrong with the Characters, and while the show is getting better at it, it often has the stink of something you might find in a too-proud-of-itself short story in a college lit journal. On a first viewing, I thought the idea of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) foundation on his house being full of rot was one of these over-obvious symbols. Walt’s built so much of his life now on an empire of lies that the conceit of his own house literally not being in order felt too much like the parable of the wise man building his house upon the rock. After a second viewing, however, I’m not so sure. There actually might be more there there to this symbol than first meets the eye.