Monday, March 18, 2013

Meth Monday: Season 5A Retrospectives

Hello, Readers Mine! I hope this Meth Monday finds all of you hale and hearty and not, you know, strung out on crystal meth or desperately hoping your brother-in-law the cop doesn't figure out what your other job is. By the way, all of the clips below are the property of AMC and Sony Pictures, but I found them either on YouTube or Vimeo, so no copyright infringement is intended.

In rewatching Season 5A of Breaking Bad, one thing that has really stood out is the reflective nature of the episodes, most particularly "Gliding Over All" (5.08). The episode opens on a close-up of a common house fly, which Walt is watching thoughtfully as it crawls about on top of the desk lamp in the office of Vamanos Pest. The fly recalls the tremendous Season 3 episode "Fly" (3.10), Walt's long night of the soul, in which he wonders how things could have gone so terribly wrong, and which includes this incredible scene, where a sleep-deprived, sleeping-pill addled Walt almost slips up and tells the truth to Jesse, and does actually apologize:

"Fly" is perhaps Walt's last chance to redeem himself, a pivotal moment where he can choose to turn around and walk back into the light, or continue to move deeper into the darkness. Walt chooses the darkness, and the cold open of  "Gliding Over All" sees him remembering that long night in the now destroyed Superlab, only now it is truly too late. Gus is dead, and Gale, and Mike's body is actually in his trunk waiting to be dissolved, his relationship with Jesse seems to be over, and his marriage and family are all but an illusion. There is no turning back now, and all the flies in the world aren't enough to rouse Walt's conscience.

Throughout the episode, different characters repeat lines from earlier seasons, the painting of a man rowing out to sea and away from his wife and child that hung in Walt's hospital room in "Bit By a Dead Bee" (2.03) shows up again in the seedy motel where Walt plots mass murder with a group of white supremacists. The same sequence of shots which formed the famous black and white cold opens of Season 2 are repeated in color to open the final pool-side White-Schrader dinner scene. Perhaps most intriguing, however, is the camera-work in the long "Crystal Blue Persuasion" montage rounding out the middle of the episode:

If you watch carefully, you will see every iconic angle and shot associated with Breaking Bad appear at some point in the montage: POVs, up-and-through,  exterior time-lapse, accelerated motion, transitioning by moving behind and out from objects in the foreground, forced perspectives, jump cuts, low angles, high angles, close-ups, shot to shot transitions, etc, etc. The entire sequence is a love song to the tremendous cinematography used from the very beginning of the series, and is beautifully done.

      This deliberately heavy use of self-referential nostalgia throughout the episode leads in to the series changing moment of Hank sitting on the White's toilet and opening up Walt's inscribed edition of Leaves of Grass, and one final flashback:

I hope you enjoyed the time for thoughtful reflection on 4.5 seasons of groundbreaking, incredible television and a storyline more intricate and thoughtful than almost any other, because staring in July, Readers Mine, everything changes.

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