Walt and His Spoils
If Breaking Bad as a whole has been an experiment—as Vince Gilligan famously put it, “about a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface”—then Season Five has been an experiment within that experiment: Can you a character continue to be compelling after he has ceased to be sympathetic? In other words, how do you relate to Scarface?
When discussing Season Four, I wrote that Walter White had long since passed the point of being morally defensible, but even that season humanized him in many ways: There were still moments of love between him and his wife; he still faced an adversary even more ruthless than he was; his connection to Jesse still felt sacrosanct. With the conclusion of Season Four, though, it was clear that there was nobody Walt was unwilling to hurt for his own gain. Continue reading »
What we read while definitely NOT working for Bain Capital…
Mad Men’s recently wrapped-up fifth season was possibly its best season yet, and at least its best since season two. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the most ambitious season thus far because it dealt most directly with morality—and was the least preoccupied with subject of happiness.
Most of the time, Mad Men is all about happiness: Is happiness an illusion? Is it ever sustainable? Are the things that make people happy the same? Etc. This can be compelling, but it tends to get self-indulgent and repetitive quickly.
What made Season Five so different, though, was that it took as its starting point the idea that Don Draper, the perpetually self-loathing protagonist, was actually happy. He was finally in a happy marriage; he had a cordial relationship with his ex-wife and he was getting along with his kids; his company was relatively safe, and his relationships with most of his co-workers were good. This was so jarring to some viewers that they seemed intent to find problems where none existed. Every fight with he had with Megan supposedly hinted at the faulty foundation of the marriage—even if the fight was minor and they made up afterwards. People seemed completely unwilling to accept the idea that Don could be happily married and generally content; it was so unlike the Don we were used to. Continue reading »
The Gang of Four
“It’s super important to me that people stay interested in Walt. It’s not quite as important to me that people continue to root for him” —Vince Gilligan
When did Walter White become a “bad guy”? If the pilot is to be believed, then he originally “broke bad” when he first decided to start selling crystal meth. But that probably doesn’t hold true for most viewers—he had just learned he was dying and his motives were noble, so we were all rooting for him.
Walt’s first murder was self-defense, and even his second was only done to protect himself and his family—he was in anguish when he realized that he couldn’t let Krazy-8 go. So most of the audience would probably forgive him for that, too. There are similar extenuating circumstances for most of Walt’s early sins—his lies to his family and the deaths he caused. For a very long time, it was easy to make excuses for Walt’s behavior. Continue reading »
It’s time for my third annual installment of this laboriously titled NPI feature! And, man, was compiling this year’s list difficult. Not only is this fall season following an unusually impressive summer in TV, with Breaking Bad, Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Pretty Little Liars, and Rivals all airing solid to great seasons, but the shows premiering over the next few weeks do not look especially promising. After all, does Whitney Cummings really need two new shows? As usual, some old favorites are off the list, either due to a decline in quality (Dexter) or senescence (Friday Night Lights). In their place, though, are shows I am not at all confident in labeling “exciting.” Anyway, with all that hedging out of the way, on with the list:
10) Hope Solo on Dancing With The Stars Premiered September 19 on ABC
For normal people, who don’t have the same crush on Hope Solo that I do, this probably isn’t that exciting. And while I won’t be watching DWTS, I will be looking up Hope’s performances on YouTube… Continue reading »
What we read while looking into possible Richmond recruiting violations…
What we read while eating a variety of fried foods in Rick Parry’s tent…
What we read while the Indians were mathematically eliminated…
Am I the only one who thinks Don Draper made the right choice? As Chuck Klosterman tweeted the day after Mad Men’s Season Four finale: “There’s always social pressure to disagree with Don Draper’s personal decisions.” This is oddly true in a way that’s not true of other television protagonists. In a television landscape that is littered with antiheroes, including serial killers, drug dealers, and mob bosses, Don seems to anger the audience the most for, basically, being a bad husband.
It is true that Don can be a rather lousy significant other—even during a season in which he wasn’t married he somehow managed to find a way to cheat, spurning Dr. Faye Miller, his primary love interest this season, to propose to his secretary in Sunday’s finale. This choice angered many fans, since Faye had become such a popular character and, well, we don’t know all that much about Megan the secretary (as Roger says when Don announced the news, “Who the heck is that?”).
And yet this choice is a great illustration of all the things Season Four did right. Continue reading »