Thursday, August 9, 2012

Analyzing Breaking Bad's Fifty One

On Sunday night I was reminded of why I think "Breaking Bad" is the best show on television by a superbly written episode aptly titled "Fifty One". I've been thinking about it all week, and it's really one of those dramas where you have to notice everything. You can't take your eyes off the screen because, what's being discussed or what's being shown is always important. So if you're a fan, I'm analyzing "Breaking Bad's" Fifty One (spoilers ahead):
Notice how short the "1" is. Totally a wish on Skyler's part for Walt to just die.
Skyler hates Walt so much that it's both tragic and awesome at the same time
because she can't do anything about it. She sold her soul to the devil now
and there's no going back from that.
1) First off we have this new character Lydia that Mike stopped short in killing. We know she works at Madrigal which was helping Gus' operation by supplying barrels of Methylamine. But who the hell is she really? Mike says she's dangerous and Jesse Pinkman stops him from killing her (which for the record I think is a big mistake). I think Lydia is Gus' wife, and I would trust Mike's instincts. If anything, the dude is a super lethal assassin. But he's loyal. And he knows character. Lydia should die.
Lydia and Jesse. In this scene, they're looking at a tracker on the bottom
of a barrel that Lydia claims the D.E.A. must have put there. Mike thinks
she put it there and wants to kill her for it. Mike kills lots of people in
this show.
2) The arrangement of the bacon on Walt's birthday. I looked back to the season 1 pilot, and they did this ritual only with veggie bacon. Now one year later, Skyler arranges real "cholesterol clogging" bacon on Walt's plate to spell out 51. Only she cuts the "1" in half, symbolism that she really wants him to die this year. That's just frickin awesome. She does correct the "one" at Junior's insistence but takes a piece from his plate. This is the statement, "If you want your father to live through this year, it will take life away from you." Now the beginning episode of this season had Walt alone in a diner arranging bacon on his own plate to spell out "52." So we know he lives a full year, and we have the entire season to figure out what happens up to that point. How does he come to buy the huge gun and what does he intend to do with it?
Skyler sitting on the bottom of the pool, content in knowing that even
though she may run out of breath, it's better than listening to Walt
talk about himself.
Walt is so evil now. And I do kind of feel for Skyler. However, she's just as culpable as he is, being seduced by greed and money and the power that came with that. Her fate and Walt's are irrevocably intertwined the same as Persephone and Hades. Walt is going to hell and Skyler is too. But that doesn't mean she has to like him. That becomes even more apparent in a crucial scene-stealing moment when Walt is going off at the table about how Skyler saved him from the cancer and did this and did that for him. She gets so sickened by it that she just "walks into the pool". She sits on the bottom with her dress floating up around her and is smiling cause she can no longer hear him. That's just amazing.

3) The ticking watch. Jesse gave it to Walt for his birthday present but the end of the episode has a zoom in on the watch and the ticking is very pronounced. I recall an earlier scene where Mike calls Walt "A ticking time bomb". Once again, great symbolism.
Here's Jesse presenting a watch to Walt for a gift. Tick Tick Tick
4) Walt sells the mint green Pacer for fifty bucks. This car has been Walt's stable transportation for four years of this show. It's been through everything with him. The mechanic that fixes it compliments the car and says, "It will probably go another 200,000 miles." You can see the distaste on Walt's face as he savors this information. He immediately offers it to the mechanic for fifty bucks. THIS represents one dollar for every year of his life. I was blown away by the symbolism of that. A year ago, Walt lived in fear of his cancer.  He lived in fear of men like Tuco, Mike, and Gus, and in fear of losing his job because he wouldn't be able to pay his bills. He's a new man, having defeated ALL of his enemies. He's killed people, poisoned children, and outwitted anyone that thought they were smarter than him (including his D.E.A. brother-in-law, Hank). So Walt flushes the old life down the toilet, and embraces the new life by buying muscle cars for both himself and his only son "Junior".

There was so much to think about in this single episode. If you are a writer, I think that you would be well served to take one hour of your time each week and watch "Breaking Bad" and see how masters of storytelling can unfold a tale. It's absolutely brilliant.

So my questions for you (if you watch the show):
1) Do you think Lydia is Gus' wife?
2) Do you think that Jesse and Lydia might be working together or that they might have struck some kind of deal?
3) There's a part of the episode where Skyler is smoking cigarettes heavily. Do you think that the cigarette that Walt has with the poison in it will come into play this season and that he'll poison Skyler? I sure as hell wouldn't be smoking cigarettes around Walt.
4) What do you think Walt needed the gun for in the trunk of the season opener? I've been trying to figure that out for four episodes now.
5) Do you think Jesse should have just let Mike kill Lydia? Do you think she's dangerous?


  1. Sorry, didn't read about the episode because I recently picked this series up on NetFlix and I'm only halfway through season four. (Yes, I can see the end of NetFlix from here!) The show is dark, disturbing, but incredibly engaging. Hopefully I'll be up to speed on this one soon.

  2. This sounds like an awesome show.

  3. Like Alex, I'm just beginning to watch the show on Netflix. So I didn't read your post.

  4. I agree with you, this is an amazing show. I think we are in for a lot of surprises and yes I believe Lydia is dangerous. I have been wondering who she is as well. Good call on the wife, I was thinking sister-inlaw because of the importance the in laws play in this series. I don't think that Lydia is the mother of Mikes daughter though, so maybe a first wife. We will have to wait and see.

  5. Man, I so want to read this Michael, but can't. Just started watching the series last week. The 1st episode literally left me speechless. I'm about 4 episodes into the 1st season, and I can't even begin to say how good it is. I'll definitely come check out your thoughts when I'm caught up, though. :)

  6. How have I never heard of this???? Man, I really need to expand my circle of entertainment, LOL. ;)

  7. I've never watched, but the DJ on my favorite morning show (JohnJay and Rich) is addicted to it and talks about it ALL the time...good to know other people like it, too, and my fav DJ isn't a total wacko. :)

  8. Do they always start the season at the end and then go back to the beginning? That seems annoying.

  9. Sorry, I haven't seen this series yet.

    SO dark. Not my thing... hmmm.

    Uh, your comment yesterday left me speechless. That's not the kind of picture that I usually have taken. I never did THAT kind of modeling. LOL.

  10. This sounds like a great show. Dang, I wish I had time to watch TV these days. I'm missing a lot!

  11. I still haven't started it, actually I haven't watched much of anything lately, but Breaking Bad is at the top of my list to start watching. Oh, and thanks so much for the review! I just saw it this morning. :)

  12. Couldn't read it - haven't watched it yet. I love it that the actor that plays the goofy dad from Malcolm in the Middle (awesome show) plays a regular guy turned drug dealer in this one. The guy (I don't know his name) is so talented.

  13. I love shows that give me a lot to chew on (so to speak).

  14. I've never seen it, but I know lots of people adore it as much as I adore Aaron Paul :) But I know you get me on that one, Mikey :)

  15. I've seen this show among the streaming Netflix offerings, but I've yet to check it out. Maybe one of these days!