Breaking Bad – Live Free or Die
Breaking Bad’s back! Boo yah! That seemed to be the general consensus of the Internet in preparation for this premiere; the final return of the once unknown show now one of the year’s biggest events, a fact that the episode itself seemed to be entirely unaware of. Unlike last year’s Face Off Live Free or Die was utterly unlike the movie with which it almost shares a name: it was small, quiet and deceptively uneventful. Yes it had some action, some tension and some stakes but in the same sense that a procedural does: it asked a question, then it answered it and put the whole thing away, clean and closed off.
Instead of starting anything too new the show and it’s characters spent most of this week’s hour simply cleaning and cataloging the mess left after the apocalyptic climax of last season; we even see Hank observing the studded grey/black scene of the Super Lap explosion in a contamination suit, like some sort of astronaut or lone survivor. If this were any other cable drama then this would have been totally expected, expected from the finale of last season, the action having taken place in the penultimate hour instead. A structure set in place by a show that also had an episode by the name of Live Free or Die Hard, that also had a character lam in New Hampshire, a show that was referenced specifically and by name during this very episode. Though its not the guys at Bada Bing that you leave the episode thinking about, it’s another gangster entirely.
See Breaking Bad is a show on its own unique plane, structurally it does whatever it feels like doing, and so it stuck the slow episode in the event slot, knowing full well that it wouldn’t bore anyone away. Because unlike all other shows it opened, rather than closed, with the cliffhanger, the shocking twist. Frazzled future Walt buying himself a big gun, a little friend, and only then jumping back and putting him in a position to need to use it. We’ve been hearing for years how Gilligan planned to turn Mr.Chips into Scarface but only now does it seem that he meant that literally, that the once mild-mannered man would go out finger on the trigger of a machine gun.
That once strange seeming sentence does make a lot of sense now though, now that Walter White has miraculously lived long enough to see himself become the villain, and what a villain. Walt has always been vain and cocky but only now has he really believed the big things that he says. And why shouldn’t he? He’s been making these massive claims, these big bets and the world keeps spinning in his favor, calling him correct. For now he is happy on top of the world, quite literally so. He sees himself as higher even than Tony Montana did; in his mind he doesn’t just control these people, he is able to give the contrite few absolution. He thinks himself a god. What he doesn’t seem to understand though is that every time the coin lands on heads the odds of it next coming down tails actually increase. That the closer you get to being Scarface, the closer you get to being dead… Or worse, Ted.
The show itself though seems set to continue its streak of brilliance all the way through until the end as technically speaking this small, minor episode still blew the rest of the field away with its construction. The actors, writers, directors and DOP’s often get a lot of praise for their work, as they should, but I’m quite happy in saying that this is probably the best edited show that I have ever seen. The way that they set the scenes together in sequence is just so stunning: watch, no feel, the cuts when Mike returns from Mexico or the way Walt’s tidying of suspicious matter syncs it’s pace with the music. It’s magic.
Because of that level of quality and the fact that it is a show better felt than over analyzed, one that really reveals itself to you in the moment ( though maybe not the moment that you were expecting), I’m not sure if it is ideal to try and write weekly reviews, even ones as vague and rambling as my own. It doesn’t mean that I’m not watching, that I don’t care; in fact it’s really the opposite, this show is so good that I don’t want to do anything to risk ruining it in the slightest. I don’t have Walt’s hubris, I’d like to think I can appreciate a good thing when it comes and Breaking Bad always was and if this episode is anything to go by always will be one of the very best.
Tl;dr: Breaking Bad‘s back! Boo Radley!