Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad: Ozymandias (SPOILER ALERT)

What a knock out of an episode...really poetic on every level.  Many of you have been asking me what I think is going to happen and each Sunday my email box is filled with Breaking Bad predictions/breakdown  rather than what it SHOULD be filled with: session requests. This is what you ask for, so don't say that I don't spoil my readers...

"The Reaction has begun"--flashback

The first shot is a flask with some liquid coming to a boiling point, which is literally what we are getting here in episode 514, is the boiling point to the entire series.  We are taken back to Walt and Jesse's first cook in the desert.  The first thing Jesse says to Walt is "What next?' Walt replies dismissively "we wait", then Jesse explains the entire core of the episode we are about to see: " You don't have 8 anal things we got to do first?"

This is also where Walt has started to change into Heisenberg, but he doesn't even know it yet. We watch him mutter his excuse, practicing as he is trying to get up the hill, to get reception to call Skyler. We hear Walt lie to Skyler for the first time about where he is when he is cooking and she is busy delicately packing a statue of a crying clown that is supposed to be Walt's favorite, which she sold.  The symbolism of the crying clown is what Walt has chosen to do at this moment--to start a life of that dualism: the bad and the good in one.  Its ironic she is excited about making "$9 more than I paid for it", when there will be 80 million dollars buried by Walt in the spot he is speaking to her from in the future. On this spot they also choose the name of their daughter, Holly.  We are here to tie up loose ends, Walt is know if anything for being methodical and not leaving anything to chance, those "anal things he has to do first". This episode will also be one of those"before" and "after"  the "reaction" that they started with their first cook, and now we are just left with the product of lies and tying up the loose ends from the transformation of Walter White into his mega alter ego Heisenberg.

"Do what you got to do"

It is in this same spot one year and some change later--the Neo Nazi crew Walt hired to kill Jesse show up and have a shootout with the DEA agents who have Jesse in their custody. Gomie is dead--and Uncle Jack's crew is going to have to kill Hank because he is DEA.  Walt pleads for Hank's life, and is willing to give up all the money he has worked so hard for, only if Hank lies, and promises for him not to tell the truth.  Hank's says to Walt in true asshole Hank fashion "You want me to beg? You are the smartest guy I ever met, and you are too stupid to see, he made up his mind 10 minutes ago"--Uncle Jack shoots Hank dead before he can finish saying "do what you got to do". Hank chooses to not LIE and go along with Walt's plan, even if it costs him his life; he was a man who died with dignity and not like sellout coward.  Walt has a complete breakdown--realizes that Hank's blood is truly on his hands--all of his actions have caused this, and not even 80 million or Walt's intellect can stop it.

"Jesus!? What is with all the greed over here? It's unattractive"

Uncle Jack does not miss a beat, and figures that the EXACT coordinates Walt gave him to find him are meaningful, and gets his crew to dig up the cash.  Uncle Jack's crew buries Gomie and Hank in the ditch the money was in, which means that there are exact coordinates for where the bodies are; this might come into play in the next couple of episodes.  Uncle Jack leaves Walt one barrel of money, since he doesn't want to be greedy, and spares him out of Todd's respect for Walt--who suggests he should get out of town and leave it at that. . Its funny that Uncle Jack understands how much money he just took from Walt, its enough he can spare a whole barrel and that is STILL enough and fair enough for Walt.  It is what Jane would have called a "DBAA" tax--Don't be an asshole" meaning Walt we are leaving you just this much, don't be an asshole and come for us.  This whole building an empire business for Walt has always been about the baddest asshole on the block.  Uncle Jack has become the baddest asshole--and he is telling Heisenberg to "retire" basically--for that asshole to get lost. Walt demands Jesse Pinkman be killed--Uncle Jack agrees to if they can find him.

"I could have saved her, but I didn't"

The crew drag Jesse from below Walt's car, he has been hiding under there the entire time, and since Walt was on the ground having a meltdown he spotted Jesse--and since Jesse broke the cardinal rule of badness: you do not rat--Jesse is about to feel the full wrath of crossing Heisenberg. Walt is in so much pain, blames Jesse, and is mad that Jesse got the better of him, and that everything is falling apart--he doesn't hesitate to agree to Todd's suggestion to find out what he told the DEA, and then kill him.  At this point, Jesse would be better off being shot in the head--Todd is going to torture him before he kills him.  Walt pretty much gives the OK nod, but he then just to spite Jesse tells him about Jane, and how Walt watched Jane die, and he did not do anything.

And speaking of Jane, wow--Walt here has tied another loose end, he has confessed his first REAL moment of badness. The death of Jane, was the first death Walt caused to someone that "crossed" him, not just someone he was defending himself from (i.e. Krazy-8, Tuco).  If you think about the real severity of this cause her father Donald Margolis, the air traffic controller to be so distracted by her death--that two planes collide and kill hundreds of people. This was Walt's real "breaking bad" moment--he caused a chair reaction from not doing the right thing.  You could argue before that his bad actions were motivated by reacting to these new experiences--but when he maliciously did not do the right thing--an explosive reaction of events happened that really made Walt into Heisenberg.

Walt then gets into his car and takes a moment, turns the rearview mirror to the spot where the money was buried/Hank/Gomie are now buried.  He turns on the car and speeds off with his barrel of cash, and not before long he runs out of gas, another consequence of the shootout. This is also reminiscent of him ending up on the road in the first episode, being dug out of a ditch in the RV after the Krazy 8 incident.  Finally in a greatly timed moment of comic relief Walt is rolling down his barrel of cash in the desert, towards a house with a beaten up truck, past what look like the pair of pants he lost out in the desert in the first episode.  He then buys the truck off the old Native American man in the desert, which is a juxtaposition in age to the young Native American tow truck driver that helped them out of the ditch in the first episode.

"I am forcing myself to remember you are my sister"

Have you ever seen Marie wear anything that was not purple?  She decides that today she is going to wear the symbolic color of widowhood: BLACK, today of all days for this scene, when she is about to confront Skyler with the truth.  Then we see Skyler on her cell phone (in an all white outfit, mind you) trying to reach Walt while Walt Jr. is listening intently, and helping out customers at the counter.  Marie walks into the car wash (thinking that Hank is alive and caught Walt, and he is being booked) insists that Skyler and her go into the her office and talk.  Marie confidently tells Skyler what she thinks is the truth: the DEA has Walt "dead to rights" and have Jesse to corroborate the truth, and that this is over and Skyler looks down in shame/worry but looks semi relieved that she gets to tell the truth. Like Hank's scene with Walt in the garage,  Marie does not trust Skyler and does not recognize her who she is--but this is Skyler's opportunity to be saved and do the right thing all she has to do is destroy the confession Walt made that implicated--and doing the impossible: to expose Walt to his son and for Walt Jr. to know the truth because he deserves that--this is of course the thing Walt and Skyler have been at all costs avoiding to do.  They have taught their son certain values and morals, that they themselves were completely breaking under his nose--and he is a moral compass, what he thinks is the control subject--you compare the product of this reaction the Breaking Bad experience has been and Walt Jr is the only character who hasn't shown us a duality, or a lie--because he was the only character who hasn't shown us anything bad about himself--besides being mean to his mom because he is a teenager.

"Let's Cook!"

We see Jesse in an underground exterior cell, kept in chains, beaten badly-as Todd promised.  Todd has a history with Jesse and is looking to "flex his muscles" as you can recall in the "Buyout" episode, where they take care of the kid Todd shot in a very methodical manner they are used to disposing of bodies.  Todd was clear that his Uncle Jack was well connected, and we also know that Todd is a psychopath. Things do not look good for Jesse--Todd comes down and Jesse seems to have confessed to him where the location of the videotape he shot for the Hank is still at his house--he has put Marie in danger. Then Todd takes him to this old airplane hanger turned into a superlab with the Vamonos Pest equipment Jesse collected with Walt for their lab.  Todd the chains him to a dog run, like a little meth monkey: Jesse Pinkman has been owned.  He walks across the hanger to see a photo of Andrea and Brock--Todd has to say no words, we know what he is going to do with Jesse--at this point death would have been a better fate than this. The hubris on Jesse is honestly the thing that breaks my heart the most--he was blackmailed into this remember that Walt threatened to expose Jesse as Cap'n Cook if he did not help Walt out and just got caught up in being a meth addict and not having money, and kept trying to get out. When he had that FINAL out through Saul, he could have left and avoided this whole mess--but he came back because of what Walt did--Jesse was tired of Walt winning--just like Hank, he didn't want to see Walt's lies keep flourishing--at a great cost to himself.  Things took the MOST horrible turn as they always do for Jesse, but all I can hope is that in the next two episodes Jesse is free--because he doesn't deserve this.  As much as I think its hot to have Aaron Paul tied up in ankle chains and handcuffs--I don't want that for Jesse Pinkman--not with that big heart of his and with all that he has suffered through because of Walt--this cannot be the end for him. (Please Vince Gilligan--you cannot be this cruel...)

"If this is true how could you keep this a secret?
 I mean how could you? Why would you go along?"

It appears that Skyler has told Walt Jr. the truth about everything, and of course Walt Jr. cannot believe it because it really tears down his whole world.  I have never really liked his character much because he is so sheltered, but that is the purpose he served--he is the moral compass that keeps showing us what we already know: if this is true then you have been lying to me; and since you are a liar--how can I believe you?  This pretty much sums up the moral of the show--of how morality and truth work.  Really the tautological statements Walt Jr. makes reach at the core of what is wrong with Walt from the beginning: the lies are going to destroy the very thing you are trying to save.  The means he used to do what he did are going to destroy the end because nothing good comes from lying--because the truth is what it is--it is what occupies space and time--and it is what the experience is made up of--the lies of anything and anyone will always be subject to the logic of truth.
In the car on the way home Walt Jr. really drive the point home that by hiding Walt's reality Skyler is just as bad as by lying about it--that if what she is saying is true: she is just as bad as he is for covering up for him with more lies--for accepting those lies and that life even if it was so that Walt Jr. wouldn't find this truth out.
They get home and find the truck from the desert, and Walt frantically packing up bags and insisting that they get out of town as soon as possible.

"I need both of your right now to trust me"

This is the moment of truth, Walt Jr. confronts Walt about what is going on, and Walt is just barking orders and not giving any clear explanation of what is going on, when asked about Hank he hesitates and puts off giving any answers, including what happened to Hank, and he is asking his family to take him on his word--which isn't worth much because he is a liar--Skyler knows she has to press on about Hank because there was no way Walt could get out of the pickle he was in, so she knows something is wrong. Instead of answering he just brings up the money and what they have to do. This is the Heisenberg Modus Operandi: do what I say, how I say it because I say so, but avoids the consequences by ignoring all the concerns and problems of other people. Skyler can only assume that Hank is dead, and because of the circumstances and what he is asking, that Walt must have killed him (which is causally true but not directly true.) Walt starts to lose it because its still too soon, and just the fact Hank is dead, is devastating news--I mean I wanted Hank to win!

   "What the hell is wrong with you, we are family!"

Still Walt doesn't explain anything and insists on having them leave no matter what--at all costs.
Skyler finally takes a stance and grabs a knife and then she gets in between Walt and Jr.--(the camera shot was lined up so that it looks like she is going to stab Jr. in the stomach but instead she gets in between Walt and tells him to Get out, to not say one more word and to get out, and she stands up to him and slices his hand.  She has finally realized that his is her moment to do turn things around, that it is not too late for her, to do the right thing--she will fight Walt with a knife to get what she wants, Walt is just trying to avoid getting stabbed, then have this traumatizing scene where they roll around and try to fight over the knife, Walt begins to pin Skyler down with the knife pointed away from her until Jr gets involved and wrestles Walt away from Skyler.  Walt yells "What the hell is wrong with you, we're a family" --Walt Jr. protects his mom  by shielding her and calls the police and LIES: says that Walt is the one with the knife, that he is crazy, dangerous and might have killed somebody. It at this moment that Walt realizes he has lost everything and there is nothing he can do. Walt grabs Holly and backs the truck into the car dragging it into the street to make a get away--as Skyler runs frantic trying get Holly back. I am really glad that Walt Jr. stepped up when it came time to be a man and protect his mom, he really did grow up in the matter of hours--being told the truth and shown the reality but having the clarity of mind to do the thing we have all been wanting to do: call the cops on Walt.

"I built this, me alone. Nobody else"

Walt is at a public restroom bathroom, changing Holly--who keeps crying for "mama" as he is trying to instill "dada" in her.  It further reminds him of what he has lost and what he is doing--he cannot logically run with this baby--and I am sure he does not want a life of a fugitive on the run for his daughter.  He holds her tight, and has that look of a plan going on in his eye. We then cut to Skyler with the police setting up an Amber Alert, while Marie is still in disbelief that Walt could have gotten away while still in handcuffs, she seems like she still has some hope that Hank is alive, since Walt said nothing--just wanted to get away.  Walt calls the house and gets the machine--demands that Skyler pick up the phone in a very commanding voice, like she is used to taking orders from him.  She picks up and asks where Holly is, and he ignores her and asks if the police are listening in--she lies--but we know Walt is too smart to believe that, and its also part of the out he is giving her.  He is calling her to intimidate and berate her like an abusive husband--talking to her like she doesn't do as she is told, and that she is being disrespectful, defiant and disobedient. He says he has been warning her for over a year--meaning that her action were part of an emotional blackmail--not voluntary as we know it to be.  He tells her he took Holly to teach her a lesson, further saving Skyler from the repercussions of her decisions and actions--Walt is making it seem like Skyler has been a victim by mocking her and also made his final descent into the Heisenberg character that we know him to be--he went to the extreme because that is all he has left to save anything--Skyler.  It was the most cruelest and gut wrenching words with the intention of being kind--he is being cruel so she can get away with it if he can't. He warns her to not end up like Hank, and she insists on knowing.  Walt plays the evil card by saying that Hank is gone forever, and its because he crossed Walt--even if it is family, but he doesn't answer anything directly because he is not telling the truth and for once its to implicate himself rather than others. He is crying and his glasses are steaming up from hurting those who he loves and has done all this for--but he knows it is all lost for him.  Skyler begs him to come home, and he says "I still got things left to do" then hangs up breaks the phone--and puts Holly in a fire engine rig with her address pinned to her.

We see Walt waiting at the spot where "Saul's guy" picks you up to take you to a new life...Walt gets in and drives off...

Finally let's discuss the title of the episode "Ozymandias", which is a reference to Percy Shelley short poem which reflects on the apparent rise of power of an empire and its evident decay.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Heisenberg is the parallel of Ozymandias--
From how most people know about Heisenberg, is through someone telling them about Heisenberg. Only a couple people who who Heisenberg is, remember the Heisenberg song? That is how the tale of Heisenberg is told--by a traveller from an antique land, Mexico is the parallel ancient land, and these storytellers tell you the story of Heisenberg.

The "two vast trunkless legs of stone" paint a picture of stability now "shattered", "sunk" face lies near the legs. Meaning that the statue has been broken and "beheaded" for sometime--like how you behead a King.  This is parallel to the situation Walt is in, everything he worked for is gone--he over time will have nothing to show for all that has happened, like all great Kings who build empires who think that their power has any say whether it can stand the test of time and power. The thing about men hungry for power is that there is someone hungrier than you for power. Walt's empire is about to be ripped away from him by men more hungry for power than him, and more evil--willing to do more, Uncle Jack and his crew.

The visage of the statue " whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command" tell us that Ozymandias was a tyrant much like Walt when he is in full Heisenberg mode.  The frown on this large stature mirrors the crying clown statue Skyler is selling for small profit, that shows up in the flashback scene, small and well protected--a statue figure representative of Walt since it is his favorite piece. Now this large statue in the poem to paralell his vast decayed empire by the end of this episode--in the same space the character arc and is at now--and the only way to go is down, because that visage is sunk into the sand--in a desert much like the one this is all taking place on.

The sculptor in the poem whose passions read is Walt, "he is the one who built this, nobody else" this great Empire like a statue, and created this statue to be a decree of power, and his story like the statues words state the irony and the truth about the empires; he did build this empire but at the cost of his actions that mock his intentions and his heart that fed on this greed to terrorize anyone who opposes him, but that man is gone--yet the only thing that stands is the ruins the sculptor left, not the empire that was built.  Walt is left with nothing--like that empire its all gone, but the mess he made is there and that is all there is to show from it.  He has lost his family, but he all he has left is a broken home, much like the broken statue.

 This episode not only was one of the most emotionally draining and traumatizing episodes of all time in any TV show, any where (even the shocking "Red Wedding" in Game of Thrones. I am also kind of afraid to watch the final two episodes--I could barely breathe after his episode and it threw my night off until I went to bed.

Til next week--two more left!

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