It’s already the season one finale! It’s a weird finale, strangely staid and anticlimactic, probably because the writer’s strike unexpectedly reduced the number of episodes. However, like many finales, it’s emblematic of the show in general–with moments of brilliance and moments that made me fully cringe.
Plus, blue meth!
Season 1, Episode 7 “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”
Summary: Walt tells Jesse about his new deal with the scary distributor, and Jesse is not pleased. Since Walt understands nothing about the drug business, he has severely overpromised the amount of meth they can give to Tuco each week. Since he’s dying and has nothing to lose, he’s still nervy enough to ask Tuco for a “capital investment” and promise him even more meth the next week. Walt comes up with a new chemistry-heavy plan for making a larger amount of meth, and then another chemistry-heavy plan to steal the necessary supplies. They cook a bunch of the now-iconic blue meth (!), sell it to Tuco for a shit ton of money, and then watch in horror as Tuco beats one of his lackeys half to death for no reason.
Meanwhile, Skyler discovers Marie’s shoplifting. No one cares.
Jesse, on why he’s selling his house: “I got two dudes who turned into raspberry slushy and flushed down my toilet. I can’t even take a proper dump in there.” Amazing.
Bryan Cranston’s acting, especially during the dispiriting visit to the doctor and his (possibly final) message to his unborn daughter. I probably don’t say it enough, because I despise Walt as a human, but that’s nothing against Cranston. He works beautifully with what he’s given.
Jesse making fun of Walt for planning a drug meet at a sketchy scrapyard. “This is like a non-criminal’s idea of a drug meet. ‘Oh, I saw this in a movie, look at me.'” More of this self-aware humor, please!
Jesse’s adorable reaction to Walt’s new meth production plan.
Marie’s obnoxious baby shower video. Usually I don’t buy Marie’s brand of terribleness, but even relatively normal people are awful at baby showers, so I’ll give it a pass this time.
Skyler’s fake enthusiasm about Marie’s absurd white-gold baby tiara.
The cheery realtor trying to cover up the smell of the meth lab in the basement.
Walt and Jesse’s dumbstruck faces after Tuco beats the shit out of one of his henchmen.
Walt groping Skyler in public while the DEA and school administration talk about the lab break-in and poor Hugo. And that’s after she tries to push his hand away, but he keeps going without her consent. So much cringe.
And then it only gets worse from there. They have sex in their car, Skyler asks breathily, “Where did that come from? And why was it so good?”, and Walt responds, “Because it was illegal.” This dialogue is an embarrassment.
Marie’s dumb shoplifting plotline. Seriously, WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS. I’m sure that the writers thought it was a very profound exploration of the motives behind illegal behavior, but Marie is such a non-entity, you could cut it out completely and nothing would be lost.
This is an okay episode on its own, but as a finale, it’s lacking in punch. Last week’s episode would have made a much more climactic season-ender, if they had known ahead of time.
The general talkiness of the episode. Breaking Bad shines in little nonverbal moments, like Walt and Jesse making those “oh shit” faces at the end, and thrilling set pieces, like the introduction to Heisenberg last week. The show falters when it relies on (often hamfisted) dialogue, like Skyler telling Walt she would leave him if he were a criminal, or Walt’s annoying little rant about how alcohol used to be illegal and “who knows what will be legal next year?” (which is not only pretentious, but also reminds us that POC are constantly thrown in jail for things that actually shouldn’t be illegal, while someone like Walter probably would get off scot-free).
It’s the end of the first season, which is as good a time as any for a gut-check. I can see why people like this show: Breaking Bad is funnier than I remember (and just as well-acted), but I’m still not a convert. If it leaned further into its often-thrilling genre elements, it could be remembered as one of the “greats” of the crime thriller genre, like Justified, which has some humor and focus on character but a pulpy heart at its center. If it had better dialogue and character development, then it could be a Mad Men–an almost unimpeachably well-written show, even if it is ultimately a toxic male fantasy. But as it is, it’s too convinced of its own prestige to be consistently exciting, and too driven by genre cliches (the one-dimensional nagging wife, the scary Latino drug dealers) to be consistently prestigious.
But that being said–bring on season two! I’m still open to being proven wrong, and I would never quit before I got the chance to see Krysten Ritter.
Next week–that stupid in media res plane crash. God help us.