Monday, September 3, 2012

"Breaking Bad" - "Gliding Over All"

Spoilers for the mid-season finale of Breaking Bad after the jump:

In the episode "Buyout", Walt remarks to Jesse that he's "in the empire business", rather than in the business of simply making money. But money and the type of empire Walt was seeking to build at that point are intertwined, which to me provides the key to his sudden change of heart in "Gliding Over All". For a season that's been designed to show us just how evil Walt's become (although if you ask me, he's been that way for a very long time), the decision to have him finally get out of the meth business couldn't logically come as a result of any shred of decency. No, it had to come as the result of realizing he's built the empire he envisioned, which he does upon seeing the huge pile of money Skyler shows him. In his mind, he's got nothing left to prove.

But his triumph isn't going to last. The biggest event in this magnificent and beautifully filmed mid-season finale is of course Hank Schrader finally finding out who Heisenberg is. We all figured this day was going to come eventually, but the season hasn't really dealt as much with that possibility as it has with other potential sources of Walt's downfall (such as Skyler, Lydia, and the nine guys in prison, among others). So I for one didn't expect this: not yet. Which made the scene all the more effective, of course. As cliffhanger endings go, it's spectacular.

So is the rest of the episode. In particular, there are two montages that are nothing short of astonishing. The first depicts the carefully coordinated prison murders of the ten men (the original nine plus Dan the lawyer) who have knowledge of Gus's business. Plot-wise, this is a bit hard to buy into, which is really my only issue with the episode. Why didn't Hank put the men in protective custody, for one thing? But the sequence itself is still a masterpiece: brutal, disturbing, and unforgettable. It also provides more confirmation that Walter White is a truly evil human being. In two minutes, ten people have been killed—including one man who is burned alive in his cell, in what might be the single most horrifying image I've ever seen on this show— on his orders, and it doesn't bother him in the slightest.

The second—which covers the period in which Walt makes all that money—is perhaps the most brilliant montage in Breaking Bad's history. It contains some of the most visually striking images ever seen on a television screen: such as the transition from Saul pouring himself a glass of wine to a blue liquid being poured by Walt and Todd in the lab, and the smooth cut from Skyler drinking out of a red mug to Lydia doing the same. The editing is faultless, and the use of "Crystal Blue Persuasion" as background music is perfect. "Gliding Over All" isn't quite a flawless episode of television, but this scene is. It might be the best thing the show has ever done.

I wish I could talk about some of the episode's other great scenes (or the probable return of Walt's cancer, which will play likely play an important role next year), but I just don't have time for a longer review right now. So I'll close with my brief opinion on these first eight episodes as a whole. Overall, I thought they were brilliant, with last week's installment being the only one with any major flaws (and it was still good). Hopefully I'll have the chance to write about the second part of the season on a weekly basis next summer, because it seems pretty clear that the series is gearing up for an absolutely riveting conclusion.

Episode Grade: A
Season Grade (So Far): A


  1. My only complaint, in an otherwise fine episode) was that there wasn't enough Jesse.

    To me, Jesse is the heart of the show, and any scene with him and Walt has brought us fireworks. Sadly, Jesse's only scene in the episode was pretty unsatisfactory (in my opinion).

    Oh, and Walt's cancer is probably back (which could've been a factor in why he decided to quit if proven true).

  2. Excellent point. I think it's definitely a factor. Didn't have time to get into that, unfortunately. I was lucky the finale was on Labor Day weekend, actually. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to write anything about it at all.

    And now the long wait for the final eight episodes begins . . .

  3. Oh, and a friend of mine suggested that Walter left the book out on purpose as a scare tactic for Hank.

    I don't agree, but its a nice theory (In my opinion, it was just Walt being careless, which we've seen a lot of this half season).

    Oh, and as someone who watched the show on Netflix and played the next episode immediately after, watching it on tv and then waiting a week later for the next episode was such a drag.

    Oh, and here's a Breaking Bad meme that I thought was hilarious: