Monday, August 12, 2013

BREAKING BAD: 5-9: BLOOD MONEY - REVIEW

Breaking Bad: 5-9: Blood Money
August 11, 2013
47 min
United States (English)

Directed by Bryan Cranston
Written by Peter Gould

Curator's Note: Here in The Film Tome I have always focused on movies, hence the name. However, I've occasionally devoted a section of The Film Tome Report to some of the exciting television we're currently in the midst of or that which has already passed us by. In fact, earlier tonight I did a whole Breaking Bad issue of The Film Tome Report. In the coming months and years I plan to do more writing on television as I get caught up on series I've missed or happen to catch during their prime(time). With the advent of Netflix's original series and the like this is going to become all the more easier to do. Tonight I begin writing on Breaking Bad in a review/analysis form, something I hope to continue for the remainder of this final season.



Blood Money picks up right where we left off. It slowly turns the characters to their respective final directions before throwing us into the lion's den for one of the series' most intense moments to date.

I love the cold openings that this series has now became known for, tonight's was no exception. We get some unestablished shots of teens skating, it's not until we pull back that we realize they're in an emptied pool. It's not just any pool, it's the White Family pool, or rather, what was once the White Family pool. The car from the season's first episode pulls up and the hairy 52-year-old Walt exits. He gets a tire iron from the trunk and therein we see the M60 he acquired before. He uses the iron to pry open the gate barricading the now disowned home that one of the series' few flashbacks once revealed how a young and hopeful couple would raise a family there. Walt goes in. "HEISENBERG" has been spray-painted on the filthy wall. The place looks like an abandoned drug pen. He spies on the kids now using the backyard for a place of recreation. So many events took place back there: The parties with Hank at the barbecue. Skyler's "swim." Walt Jr.'s first drink. Debris from the air crash. Walt's decision to burn his money only to hastily turn it over into the pool. Lily of the Valley... Walt moves through the scarred hallway to the empty bedroom. He collects the ricin from behind the plug outlet. We hadn't forgotten about that. Walt certainly hadn't either. He then looks at himself in the damaged mirror. I have a feeling we're going to see how at least that piece of the home became in a state of disarray. Wherever this Walt is going, and it's a Walt we haven't really met yet, he's got a plan. And he needs a machine gun and a little poison to pull it off. He's going in with a bang, he's going in with a slight of hand. He scares the neighbor stiff. We're scared stiffer. This kicks off what they're calling "The Final Episodes" of Breaking Bad, one of the best television series I have ever experienced.

After the iconic title sequence (and surely it's one of the shortest in television history, meaning more time for the story at hand) it picks up exactly where we left off last September. Hank leaves the bathroom. He is so shaken up by finally connecting the dots that he tells Marie they need to go. The two couples on display throughout the series have been particularly interesting to compare. Hank is now leaving Marie in the dark while Walt straight up tells Skyler the truth when Lydia shows up at the car wash. Lydia is played by Laura Fraser and I have to admit she's the one false note on the entire keyboard of characters in Breaking Bad. Her mannerisms, namely that unyielding voice of entitlement, still hasn't worked for me. In the scene where Walt is ringing her up at the car wash I instead tried to focus on Cranston's physicality. It's fitting how much he is handling and holding himself like Gus Fring. Gus had Pollos Hermanos. Walt has his A1 Car Wash. Both put on a front that would turn bloodhounds away. It's Skyler that demands Lydia to "Go!" She's become a mother bear, notice the shrinking and almost insignificant Walt in the background of that shot. That night she is no longer wide awake in bed with terror. She has become complacent in sleeping with the monster.


In carefully describing Season 5 to others who have yet to experience it I find myself telling them that it's "just so different" from the previous seasons. Time is moving far more rapidly than it ever did before, but that's far from the only factor. The show used to be a dark comedy and now it seems to have lost that completely the further down the hellish rabbit hole that Walt falls. Then enter Jesse, sitting like a fallen king in his is castle while the court jesters carry on a bong-supported colloquy of Star Trek fan fiction. Well, so much for my "no comedy" theory. If this show has taught us anything thus far, the silly and the bizarre are seldom throwaway material. It's often used to foreshadow. The friend I was watching the episode with predicted that Badger's story about someone cheating in a contest only to have their insides blown out  could very well happen to one of the players of this tale. 


Jesse continues to be a ship lost at sea, he knows not what direction to head for shore because the only lighthouses he's had have either fallen or lied. When Walt visits it's revealed that Jesse suspects he put an end to Mike. "Mike's alive," Walt promises. The look that Jesse gives his side of the camera is the most terrified he has ever been. The last we see of Jesse this episode is a literal scene that might as well be a metaphor for all we've seen him do. Dumb decisions, but beneath that, pure intentions. He drives slowly through the ghetto tossing $10,000 stacks into the yards of each home he passes; it's like a kid's early morning paper route. He just needs to get the blood money off his hands somehow.

There's no cooking anymore. I wonder if we've seen the last of it. This time the snappy montage (another staple in the series) belongs to Hank who has turned his garage into his personal DEA office. He's solving a case that he's not ready for anybody else to see. Then Walt drives up and time stands still. This is it. This is it?! How can these two be facing off already? Walt comes in and Hank closes the garage door behind him. Damn! The couch I was sitting on became razor blades. I was on the edge of edge. We've been waiting for the these two to square off once Hank was in the know since the very beginning. Their confrontation here is a display of the best acting I've seen from either Dean Norris or Bryan Cranston. Hank is still shaking off his disbelief but is vehement in his accusations. Walt plays up his innocence with boldfaced lies but cannot hide his menacing rebirth, "If you don't know who I am then maybe you should tread lightly." We get a long shot that ever so carefully pulls back, the two are face to face in Hank's lair. Cut to black. Breaking Bad is back and the end is off to a tremendous start.

What did you think of tonight's episode? Share your thoughts, comments, questions, interpretations and predictions in the comments below! Until next week, tread lightly.

"If you don't know who I am, then maybe your best course, would be to tread lightly."
- Walter White



★★★★★

CONTENT: some language and some brief violence

Updated 8/13/13

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