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RJ Mitte (#110 of 15)

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 16, "Felina"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 16, “Felina”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 16, “Felina”

Breaking Bad’s series finale, “Felina,” fulfills the implications of last week’s “Granite State,” which restored Walt (Bryan Cranston) to us as a proletariat avenger, and the truly shocking element of this episode is its sentimentality. Writer-director and creator Vince Gilligan, who occasionally appears to forget how far Walt has drifted over the years into the realms of the self-absorbed, crazy, and downright cold-blooded, strives to toe a line that waffles between providing heartwarming closure and often formulaic catharsis. “Felina” offers an abundance of riches despite its flaws, but if fans feel a little hung over this morning after the intense speculation and anticipation, it’s for two reasons: Firstly, the usual unfair reasons with which a series finale has to contend with failing to embody the whims of our private imaginations, and, secondly, because Gilligan briefly boiled much of the ambivalence out of his wonderful series. Or simply: Walt became a good guy unencumbered by the rich ironic context with which Breaking Bad has so often excelled.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 5, Episode 15, "Granite State"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 5, Episode 15, “Granite State”

As Breaking Bad nears its final episode, viewers have become preoccupied with who will live and who will die—an inevitable way of processing a series as it draws to a close, as we can’t help but wonder how a beloved pop cultural institution will consciously account for its ultimate mortality. So it’s probably worth reaffirming that Breaking Bad is less a tale of accumulating death than a despairing study of a character who succumbs again and again to the temptations that arise from his feelings of having been betrayed by a world that can never appreciate his talent and genius. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a pathologically egotistical man, and all of the atrocities he’s wrought have their origins in this mania.

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”

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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”

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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.

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”

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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 12, "Phoenix"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 12, “Phoenix”

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 12, “Phoenix”

What does it mean anymore to be a father? We still roughly know what it means to be a mother. Indeed, we rather know it in our bones. Giving birth, nurturing, caretaking, we get all that. But, increasingly, the notion of fatherhood feels almost taken for granted, as something we’ve constructed up around the male parent to give him something to do. You teach the kids to drive. You make sure they stay on the straight and narrow. You provide for them somehow, guide them in a way to help them realize their dreams, maybe even some of your own dreams. Those pundits who bleat about how the role of the father is disappearing in modern culture aren’t right, not exactly, but what they say sometimes, critically, feels right, as though dear old Dad and the patriarchy he drags along with him is powerless in the face of modernization, even as we know that the smiling benevolence of Father Knows Best was, at best, not always true and, at worst, a complete myth. We respond to deeper urges, then, know, somehow, that to be a father is to hold your baby for the first time and say to yourself, “All right. It’s not all about me now. Let’s see how that changes things.”

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.

Breaking Bad Recap Season 2, Episode 9, "4 Days Out"

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Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “4 Days Out”

AMC

Breaking Bad Recap: Season 2, Episode 9, “4 Days Out”

If Breaking Bad began heading downhill rapidly last week (in a narrative sense, not a quality sense), this week, it lets off the brake, heading into what appears to be the second season’s final act. “4 Days Out,” written by Sam Catlin and directed by Michelle MacLaren, hits a bunch of Breaking Bad’s favorite devices, from the idea of characters trapped in a confined space and forced to deal with each other to a sudden, bitter reversal of fortune that should leave everyone happy but has the effect of making our central character, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) even more miserable than he should be in the first place. It was another exemplary episode in a season full of them, and if nothing else, it sets us up nicely for what is to come. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, drinking in the desert landscape that dominates its running time with a wide-eyed sense for the beauty of the wilderness.