Breaking Bad: ABQ (2009)

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain about the prevalence of coincidences on Breaking Bad. After all Lost, one of my favorite shows of all time, served them up one after another to an increasingly incredulous audience. But Season 2 ends with a big whopper, the kind that flirts with viewer outrage. Perhaps too much of a splashy ending?

I had posted my thoughts on the previous episode, Phoenix, much earlier, on Google+, and Ben Hamamoto wrote in response:

I was curious what you thought of the episode that followed it, particularly because you mentioned the level of coincidence in Phoenix. Slightly-hard-to-believe things occurred in BB since the beginning, but the season 2 finale takes it to a totally different level. (I’m assuming you’ve seen it at this point, but, just in case, I’ll try to stay vague.) Given the level of coincidence, the directness of the metaphor/moral implications, and the surreal nature of the resulting imagery, I feel like the show was sort of willingly breaking from reality to make a point. Which isn’t a bad thing, I think it worked out, but I found it really striking.

Point taken, but it’s bothered me — viewing this again from the perspective of someone who’s watched ahead a bit — that the ending doesn’t haunt the characters, and in that sense, the weakens the catastrophe’s moral impact. Indeed, there’s not much more reference to the death at the end of “Phoenix” either — Jesse is devastated, the poor thing, but Walt’s complicity isn’t making him lose sleep at night.

Which may be precisely the point. Perhaps the audience wouldn’t have wanted to see a tormented Walt in any case. We hear that Jane was born in Phoenix — hence the previous episode’s title — but Walt is the person who is truly reborn, like a phoenix, as “the bad guy.”

Nonetheless the ending functions as the revelation of a season-long tease, namely the surreal, black-and-white nightmare prologues that seem to spell the worst for our felonious duo. Clever, but not quite a cliffhanger. We do see the father-son relationship between Walt and Jesse deepen, with Jesse’s feelings of guilt inevitably heightened, I’m assuming, in Season 3. The sky falling or not, the real season cliffhanger here — which brings us back to the domestic core of Breaking Bad — is what happens to Walt and Skyler now that the other shoe has dropped.


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