Well, if last week was all about Hank, this week was all about Skylar…at least for me. I was riveted and, yet, left wanting more – just what is going on inside her head? At this point, I’m not entirely sure if she’s protecting Walt, protecting herself, or just caught up in momentum that she can’t escape. But when Hank told her that she would no longer be Walt’s victim, I was struck not only by how wrong that language was for describing her, but also how incapable I was of coming up with something better. Hank can list all the reasons why Skylar is a victim, and they’re all true. She was emotionally manipulated, faced borderline physical abuse and certainly emotional, feared for her safety, and so on. But in the end, all those reasons don’t quite capture why Skylar has and continues to go along with this plot. Walt has been utterly corrupted by power; Skylar, I wonder, has perhaps become, or is becoming, corrupted by the thrill of her own success. She got the carwash going. She hid all the money. She figured out that Hank’s got nothing. She might not be great on the spot when crisis hits like Walt is, but give her a few hours to mull things over, and she’s as much the brains of the operation as Walt. Perhaps all these years being married to a(n unacknowledged) genius has left her wanting her own smarts acknowledged too. I don’t know – do you guys have any further thoughts on her motivations here…because I’m still trying to figure them all out?? Read the rest of this entry »
It’s both incredible and somewhat sad to be discussing the final episodes of Breaking Bad. What a twisty turn it’s been!
There’s so much in this episode, so I’ll focus on a few comments and questions.
I think the psychological dimensions of the show — always present in Breaking Bad — reached a (literal) crescendo with this episode. The depiction of Hank’s realization of ‘who’ Walt is was incredible, as was the final showdown between them (Hank’s closing the garage door, Walt’s last words, etc.). Read the rest of this entry »
What a finale! I’ve chosen the line from the Joni Mitchell’s, Both Sides Now, as the title for this post because – wow! – what a brilliant choice for a closing song for this episode. Certainly we had a set of characters searching for love and finding themselves punished by their efforts (Pete’s mother (!), both Ted and Peggy, Roger’s family failures all around – with his first set of kids and with Joan, even though he gets to be with Kevin and, really, Pete too, forced to say good-bye to his daughter while she sleeps…or lies dead…I wasn’t quite sure?! Didn’t she look kind of dead to you??). But it’s the final lines of the song that pick up Don’s story so perfectly: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down but still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.” After the first season moved away from the “who is Don Draper?” mystery, I wondered how crucial that story would be for the rest of the series. This season, via Bob Benson (who I’ve quite grown to like and hope sticks around for the final season) and his mysterious unfolding, we’ve returned to Don’s early self-creation. The slow seeping out of Don’s foundational lie has been so artfully done – in years of broken relationships, selfish decisions, a hubris that creates his own downfall and, finally, the shaking hands that reveal what we’ve all known all along but just couldn’t admit: Don’s a legitimate alcoholic, not just a cheery drunk. So the idea that it would come to a dramatic point when he’s asked to pitch a chocolate bar (!) felt so ludicrously true to me that I almost held my breath. Read the rest of this entry »
I loved this episode’s bookends – with Don, in the fetal position on the bed, then the couch, having disappointed quite possibly the two most important women in his life (Megan, then Peggy). At least Peggy has the wisdom Megan lacks, and can call him out on what a monster he’s being. Megan seems willing to put up with being continually tossed aside by her husband (him changing the channel on her soap opera may have been a bit heavy handed there!). But in the same way Betty knows that Don is at home getting drunk (and Megan has no idea), Peggy too is able to call him out on his crap. Still, I’m left wondering just what it is about Peggy and Ted that bothers Don so. Sure, he mentored her, and she’s his proudest protege. And I’ve never really thought Read the rest of this entry »
How many times is poor Sally going to walk in on adulterous sex? She may not have made it to second base herself yet, but if there were a category in the Model UN on various sexual acts and positions, she’d be on the Security Council. It hardly helps her budding sexuality that each encounter is so loaded with lies, shame, and deceit. Or at least it didn’t seem to help the young Dick Whitman’s ideas of sex. Can someone please call Dr. Edna? Read the rest of this entry »
While I know so many people were up in arms about the confusion of The Crash two weeks ago, I have to admit, it was this one that left me a little adrift; perhaps it’s because we were moving between coasts, I felt left somewhere in the Midwest, not quite sure what was going on. With something like The Crash, I can settle into the artistry of it, expecting not to have too much of a narrative payoff. But whenever Mad Men tries to do a ‘narrative’ episode, I find myself wondering: “so what?” Narrative movement just isn’t what this show is really “about,” and so while I didn’t dislike this episode, I can’t say I was all that into it either. I like it when the guys go to LA with their suit jackets and experiment with new girls and new drugs – but this trip out West wasn’t all that different than other trips out West the show has done. Although it was kind of awesome to see Roger get punched in the balls, and now we know that Carnation gets overly emotional about a cross-country time difference, the only real movement we saw was Don’s psyche opened up for a moment by hashish (is that hope or fear that Megan could be pregnant again, and just why would he feel haunted by the private he befriended in the season opener?). But I’m not convinced we had to go to LA to see that. But I suppose, who cares about LA when we could have Joan stepping into total success or total failure? Read the rest of this entry »
This week was a reminder of just how formally beautiful Mad Men can be, plots, characters, and visual clues layered in symmetrical folds, creating a perfect origami swan of symbolic excellence! The connecting thread (to mix my metaphors) was the strange couplings – the connecting halves of disparate and sometimes perfect pairs – that wove their way through every plot point. Peggy names the theme when she yells at Don for pretending that he and Ted are not involved in a passive-aggressive odd couple routine, determined to divide the newly united SCDPCGC into teams: “sometimes you are the same man.” Megan echoes this later that night at dinner when sharing her frustration at trying to make Chloe and Colette into recognizably different people (and did you think for a moment that Megan might have gotten her part precisely because she could do that hammed up French accent so well?!): “they are two halves of the same person, driven by the same desires.” Perhaps precisely because he heard that speech from Peggy a few hours earlier, Don requests they skip the dinner Megan just cooked and “turn on the tube.” Thank god that Megan finally acknowledged how boorish and distant her erstwhile committed spouse has become, but more on the Don/Megan dyad in a moment. Read the rest of this entry »