by: L.P. Hanners
In preparation for the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad (and our weekly recaps!) we equip you with everything you need to know before the August 11th premiere…..
When comparing film and television there are two big differences that are readily apparent. The first is that films have bigger budgets; therefore they have the propensity to be more flashy. The other is that the cinematography is more complex, and therefore more interesting. The first point is derived from the fact that films generate far more money than television shows. The latter point, in regards to cinematography, is a difference whose gap has been steadily closing over the last decade.
Elements of the motion picture experience started penetrating into television when channels started producing original programming in HD format. Embracing the format meant embracing the aspect ratio, 16:9, also known as “widescreen”. Naturally, shows started to look like movies because of this. But extensive testing showed that audiences still wanted their television shows to look like television shows despite all the extra screen space now available. It wasn’t until HBO and AMC started producing original programming that television dared to be as visually engaging as film. The first show that AMC1 produced, Mad Men, broke the rules using few close-up shots. The result was Hitchcockian in appearance. AMC’s second production, Breaking Bad, went for the jugular,and boldly abandoned well establish television rules for those of motion pictures. The creators utilized ideas rarely seen on television, expressionistic shots that represent reality, rather than aiming to reproduce it2. And from the opening shot of the pilot episode as pants fall from the sky in slow motion, it’s obvious they aim to be as creative as possible when it comes to what you see. Breaking Bad consciously tries not to look like television, and few shows have allowed cinematography be such a major character. Not only did Breaking Bad look unfamiliar to anything else seen on television before, but with its unique color palette and wacky point of view shots, it subtly grew to become its own genre: Television Noir…
This particular era of television comes to an end on September 29th when the final episode of Breaking Bad airs. This fact alone has made the past nine months bittersweet, and because the show is so great, it’s more bitter than sweet. And it is now that we must prepare for the end, the roller coaster ride that is the final 8 episodes of one of the greatest television dramas ever concocted. Let us begin with what we do know, and from that we can possibly begin to see where we may be going. To start, we have been given the episodes titles, and the corresponding writers and directors of the final eight.
Upcoming episode guide…..
August 11, 2013: Episode 55 “Blood Money” Peter Gould3 / Bryan Cranston4 (The description of the episode has been released and reads: “As Walt and Jesse adjust to life outside of the business, Hank grapples with a troubling lead.”)
August 18, 2013: Episode 56 “Buried” Thomas Schnauz / Michelle MacLaren (“While Skyler’s past catches up with her, Walt covers his tracks. Jesse continues to struggle with his guilt.”)
August 25, 2013: Episode 57 “Confessions” Gennifer Hutchinson / Michael Slovis (“Jesse decides to make a change, while Walt and Skyler try to deal with an unexpected demand.”)
September 1, 2013: Episode 58 “Rabid Dog” Sam Catlin / Sam Catlin (“An unusual strategy starts to bear fruit, while plans are set in motion that could change everything.”)5
September 8, 2013: Episode 59 “To’hajiilee” George Mastras / Michelle MacLaren (“Things heat up for Walt in unexpected ways.”)6
September 15, 2013: Episode 60 “Ozymandias” Moira Walley-Beckett / Rian Johnson (“Everyone copes with radically changed circumstances.“)
September 22, 2013: Episode 61 “Granite State” Peter Gould / Peter Gould (“Events set in motion long ago move toward a conclusion.”)7
September 29, 2013 Episode 62 “Felina” Vince Gilligan / Vince Gilligan (“The series finale.”)8
We also have been gifted with a series of promos that send chills up the back of your spine. One in particular stands out, a haunting foreshadowing of what may lie ahead. As a time-collapsed reel of New Mexican landscapes flash before us we hear Walter White reciting the sonnet Ozymandias (Also the title of the upcoming Episode 6 of Season 5b) by Percy Bysshe Shelley. What is very telling about this is that Ozymandias explores the nature of evil, and many believe its central theme is the inevitable fall of king’s and empires. Sound familiar? The clip was directed by Rian Johnson9, who also directs an upcoming episode that shares this poem’s title. During a very recent cast interview with the New York Times, Vince called the episode his favorite of the whole series.
During Comic-Con, the 2 minute cold opening for “Blood Money” was shown. In it, Walt revisits his now abandoned and former residence, retrieves the ricin, and says “Hi” to his neighbor who is visibly terrified. Thus, we are reassured of what we all knew to be true – that things will certainly fall devastatingly apart.
Hank is in the driver’s seat now. He will surely be conflicted, and will need time to come to grips with the fact that Walt is Heisenberg. But let us not forget that Hank has always been right – about Jessie, and Gus, and now about Walt. There is evidence to cause one to hypothesize that Hank teams up with Jesse in some manner10, and that Jesse may end up in prison. But predicting anything that may occur this season isn’t an easy task, a waste of time even. But Hank’s role in the fate of the White family, Jessie, Todd, Lydia, and Saul cannot be stressed enough, a fact highlighted by a recent Dean Norris quote stating: “This season is Hank’s revenge!”
Other pertinent information as we prepare for End Times……
– It was revealed last week that Charlie Rose has a cameo in “Granite State”.
– Gilligan has confirmed that there will be a ‘conclusive’ finale that will tie up loose ends.11
– “This season slaughters every past season. We’re burning every bridge, but we’re not being dark just to be dark. It just plummets.” – Aaron Paul
– “I suggest you strap on a helmet AND a diaper — because it’s going to be one hell of a wild ride.” – Vince Gilligan
Do not get it twisted, this half season is going to be action packed. It’s going to be fast paced and a lot will be going on. It is going to be so far from your typical season of a regular television drama where the plot builds and climaxes in the final two episodes. No, the foundation has been built in the first part of the season leaving us already in the thick of it. What we will be dealing with all season is the fallout of from the entirity of Walter’s decisions and actions. The cast and crew from Breaking Bad are in the midst of a publicity tour for the final season that finds them on panels and magazine covers, and constantly with a microphone directly in front of their collective face. In unison they are spreading the same message, and that is, simply put – buckle up for the ride of your lives!
- AMC shoots film as opposed to digital, their philosophy being: “We are American Movie Classics and even our original programing is going to feel like film, cinema, movies, and we want it to look that way.” They also use prime lenses on Breaking Bad, which are all but extinct these days. [↩]
- Much of the credit, in terms of Cinematography, must be given to the series longtime Cinematographer Michael Slovis, who modestly credits the writers bold storytelling for his success yet is as gifted as they come. [↩]
- Writer [↩]
- Director [↩]
- Note: Every season of “Breaking Bad” has featured an episode whose title contains an animal name. [↩]
- The title of the episode is the name of a Navajo reservation just west of Albuquerque. [↩]
- The Granite State is a reference to New Hampshire. Last season’s episode 1 was also a reference to ongoings in New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”? [↩]
- “Felina” is an anagram for “finale” and also is related to the word feline. Also, it is also the title of a Marty Robbins song “Feleena (From El Paso).” It is part of a trio of songs about El Paso in which Feleena plays a major part as a love interest. The song states that the hero hides out in New Mexico. [↩]
- Director of Looper, and he’s also the director of Season 3’s “Fly”, one of the greatest episodes of the series. [↩]
- There are a series of photographs of Dean Norris and Aaron Paul on set together. [↩]
- “I think what we’ve accomplished is a satisfying ending. There’s probably some happiness and some sadness going hand in hand,’” Gilligan toldThe New York Times earlier in July. [↩]