Monday, March 11, 2013

Meth Monday: Bringing the Funny

Breaking Bad can be seen as a kind of modern day voyage into the heart of darkness. Over the course of five and a half seasons, Walter White has progressively made choices, usually quite consciously, that have led him to abandon the moral and ethical strictures which govern civilized behavior, and each choice has successively eroded a bit more of his conscience. In other words, Breaking Bad is a dark show. As viewers and human beings, however, we can't take too much unrelieved grimness without changing the channel or going insane, so even the Icelandic Sagas have jokes in them, and Willie the Shake was far from being the first scribbler to throw in a wise-cracking gravedigger or two to lighten things up a bit. Like all great dramas, Breaking Bad uses comedic relief to break the tension and give us the chance to laugh out the darkness a bit, and nowhere, Readers Mine, do Gilligan and Co. do this more wonderfully than they do with "Buyout" (5.06) and The Most Uncomfortably Hilarious Dinner in TV History.

Jesse (Aaron Paul) endures dinner with the Whites in "Buyout" (5.06).
In Season 5.1, Walt and Skyler are waging a very cold war. In the midst of this conflict, Jesse and Mike are trying to convince Walt to sell out for a cool $5 million and get out of the meth business, but Walt is having none of it. As another move in the war with Skyler, and to demonstrate why he's so determined to keep making meth, Walt invites Jesse to have dinner with them, though Jesse desperately wants to leave.

Walt follows is an extended scene of such extreme social discomfort that it is literally laugh out loud funny. Walt and Skyler sit at opposite ends of the table, staring at each other as they rapidly drink down their wine and liquor supply. In between the two of them sits Jesse, drinking a tall glass of ice-water and trying desperately to break the tension with small talk. Aaron Paul's eyes, which dart back and forth, and his long drinks of water as he tries to hide behind his glass, are as perfectly timed as his attempts to engage Skyler in conversation on everything from green beans to frozen dinners to the car wash. Sitting across from Junior's usual spot, Jesse is in the symbolic position of a kid trying to pour oil on the waters between parents who are viciously arguing with each other via the old Silent Treatment.

Sky brings the dinner to an end by asking Walt if he's also told Jesse about her affair and then stalking off with her wine bottle. Jesse can't even look at Walt and feigns an intense interest in the wall behind Skyler's vacated chair.

Walt: "You know my kids are gone?"
Jesse: "Thank God."

As Walt reveals an increasingly callous attitude to human life, even that of a child, and as he becomes fully determined to become every bit the monster Gus Fring was, all in the service of proving that he is somebody,   no matter the cost, this brilliantly comic dinner scene throws a dash of humanity and much needed humor into the mix, enabling the viewer to rest, for just a moment, before encountering the next bend in Walt's darkness.

That's it for this week, Readers Mine. Short and sweet, I know, but Dale and I are on a thirty-day push to get the draft of Seasons 1 - 5.1 plus extras into ECW Press for copy-editing by 1 April, so most of today was spent with line edits and annotating Season 5.1. Don't forget to check out Dale's "Walter White Wednesday" this week, and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest Breaking Bad news, as well as a healthy serving of whatever the hell crosses my mind during the day!

1 comment:

  1. Let Jesse Pinkman show Marco Rubio how to uncomfortably drink water!