Monday, 27 August 2012

The Loss of Another Hero - "Say My Name"

This week's breaking bad continued the season's runaway pace, ramping things up towards a presumably chaotic and monumentally cliff hang-y season finale. Come with me after the jump, friends, as we break down episode 7.

The first thing that struck me about this episode was the incredibly blatant use of darkness in the opening scene, Walter negotiating with the other guy whose name I don't know (but whose voice I like). We've seen this before, with every scene in Walt and Skylar's house in particular seeming like the lightbulbs are exploding as Walter passes them, Beelzebub style. But this particularly struck me with its scale, that our erstwhile hero's descent into darkness is something so stark and magnificent that nature itself is following in his path.

From the outset of the episode, Walt's ego is clearly the focus, from his hardline negotiating (with both the drug guys and Jesse), his bragging about the quality of his product (again), and the Mike situation (more on that to come). But, for me at least, the "Say my name" line stood out about everything else. Normally, that's a line only used in porn, and that's clearly how Walter feels - he's going to fuck everyone, and he's going to get PAID.

The contrast in Jesse and Walter's sympathies is again a focus in the episode, with Jesse attempting to at least be pleasant to Skylar in the car wash, and obviously being disgusted at Walter for the way he talks to her (though honestly, I can't blame him).

Also, right, I just noticed how the cars are reflective of their owners - Mike's old towncar is awesome and understated, slow and steady. Walt's old boxy green number reflected Walter White, the character - conservative, sensible, unassuming, now his Mustang shows Heisenburg - all dangerous, dark, capable of reaching terrifying speed in no time.

As always, the "break-up" scene between Walt and Jesse showcases the absolutely supreme acting talent and chemistry Cranston and Paul share. And, as always, it gives greater credence to the good / evil dynamic between the characters, with Walt trying to guilt Jesse into taking the money, and Jesse (mercifully) taking the high road.

The Hank / his boss dynamic in the episode also got me thinking about a theory I heard the other day about Hank ultimately being the hero of the whole series, and it's been an exercise in misdirection the whole time, we've been focusing on the wrong "hero". I kinda think that, with him being so involved in this case and getting it in the neck from the boss, he might lose his job, but win the war, so to speak.

Found the Todd thing interesting. With him working so hard, taking diligent notes, refusing pay for cooking with Walt until he gets it right, is the wrinkle going to be that we ought to sympathise with him for killing the kid, that all he wants to do is, legitimately, work really hard for Walt? Or is he just a mental / genius who'll blow the whole thing up? Also liked that Walt seemed like a teacher again in that scene, and was very pleased with that observation until I looked it up and EVERYONE had noticed.

And then the last 10 minutes. Poor, poor Mike. When he saw the cops and we realised he couldn't say goodbye to his granddaughter, well that just broke my heart. Somehow, in spite of being a ruthless, calculated hitman, Mike's relationship with Kaylee always elevated him to someone we always wanted to do well. I hypothesised a while ago that Mike was the anti-Walt - not only physically (mirror images, with Mike's white goatee against Walter's dark), but in terms of being selfless, and being a much better granda than Walt is a father.

It was an uninspiring end for a character who was loved, but no longer needed. And in Mike's death, we learned a little more about Walt - he still doesn't realise he is the bad guy. In his admission that he could have got the names from Lydia, and that he was "sorry", he wasn't fooling the audience, only himself. He only shot Mike because he dared question his ego.

There are only two characters left in the show who will do that to Walt - Jesse and Skylar. In next week's (semi-) season finale, we'll find out if there are still two remaining.

In the mean time, let's shut the fuck up and have a moment to think about Mike, the way he would have wanted - in peace.


  1. Fuck sakes... I was raging about Mike, though I guess everyone was...

    Seeing him at the park when the cops were near his granddaughter, first time he's ever shown an inch of fear really hit me

    fucking Walt needs a serious fucking slap in the jaw, and I reckon that's exactly what's gonna happen by the end of the season, everything's building towards it, Jesse and Skylar are both living in fear of him, Mike's Guys are no longer gonna haul their collective wheeshts, plus Landry (Todd) is a loose cannon, he could go off again, though he's obviously keen to learn... either way I'm predicting that come the seasons end, we'll be left with a broken Walt, pitying him again, and I reckon that's one of the best things about this show, it can completely override your own sense of logic; you can/could hope Mike was gonna come out on top in spite of the fact he's a cold blooded pro, we've all flipped on Walt, who up til this season has been our hero, and we're even putting Todd's child murder out of mind cause he looks like a good apprentice to Walkt now? This show is mental manipulation at its finest

    Also, meant to say the last week, when Walt was crying in Hanks office and Hank quoted the Dark Knight back at him as words of support ("The night is darkest just before the dawn"), that was fucking hilarious. Hank is the king.

  2. As I say, I think Hank might end up being the actual hero, and we've just been watching from a skewed angle.

    Also, right, I'm not sold on Todd. Think he may be planted from the other drug "team" or something. Walt certainly shouldn't have let him take so many notes, that can only go badly, even if it turns out he's not a mole or whatever

  3. Your man on Grantland said the same thing about Hank as well but I don't buy it. There's no such thing as five seasons' worth of misdirection. Your show lives and dies with your central character and how everything else reacts around him. Anything Hank gets up to is tertiary at best. "Actual hero"? As opposed to Walt The Big Fucker? Once you've eliminated the impossible (redemption for Walt The Big Fucker), whatever remains (Hank being dead on for kicks), however improbable (it's not even at all improbable) must be the truth. He's A hero, by default, because, well, what're your other options?

    I stopped seeing Walt as a hero a long time ago. He's an asshole. As soon as he killed The Bitch In Apartment 23, any hope of redemption was out the window. Last week's episode made it easier to hate him because it was Heisenberg from start to finish, but this week saw glimpses of that split personality seep back in. The balance is still in Heisenberg's favour but Walter The Teacher popped up, Walter The Persuasionist popped up (and blew up) and Walter The Husband made another (final?) attempt at civility with his shite wife. I don't know why he still bothers. That she figured so little and the kids not at all says a lot about their relevance to the show. Let's put it in related terms: Cancer + family = Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad - Cancer + family = Breaking Bad, still. Kudos, Vince Gilligan. The real misdirection was in the seasons that preceded it. We're now watching The Godfather without realising we were watching The Godfather Part 2 all along.

    Good call on the Mike/ Walt thing. "Battle of the Baldos", I less eloquently than you turned to my brother and triumphantly guldered when they had their confrontation.

    Oh, and hey, way to spoil the episode in your TITLE, Luke!

  4. You don't think that Hank could save the day? Like, he kills Walt without much fanfare, and that's it? I can see it happening.

    Also, we knew Mike was dying, for one, and TWO, I ONLY NAMED IT THAT BECAUSE OF YOUR BLOG, TIT